Ethics in Law Enforcement

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Table of contents
Ethics in Law Enforcement
1st Edition
Steve McCartney, Rick Parent
Steve McCartney and Rick Parent
Table Of Contents
Front Matter


Ethics in Law Enforcement








Unless otherwise noted, this book is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported License also known as a CC-BY license. This means you are free to copy, redistribute, modify or adapt this book. Under this license, anyone who redistributes or modifies this textbook, in whole or in part, can do so for free providing they properly attribute the book as follows:

Ethics in Law Enforcement by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent used under a CC-BY 4.0 international license.


Additionally, if you redistribute this textbook, in whole or in part, in either a print or digital format, then you must retain on every physical and/or electronic page the following attribution:

Download this book for free at http://open.bccampus.caUnlink


If you use this textbook as a bibliographic reference, then you can cite the book as follows:

McCartney, S., & Parent, R. (2015). Ethics in law enforcement. Victoria, BC: BCcampus. Retrieved from http://opentextbc.ca/ ethicsinlawenforcement/


For questions regarding this licensing, please contact opentext@bccampus.ca. To learn more about BCcampus Open Textbook project, visit http://open.bccampus.ca

Image Cover: Scales of Justice-Frankfurt Version by Michael Coghlan used under CC BY SA 2.0.

Ethics in Law Enforcement by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Introduction.1. Introduction

The police are essential to democracy. By ensuring that no person is above the law, the police protect citizens from victimization. Through the enforcement of the law, police ensure that no individual or group violently asserts its will over public order.1 


Learning Objectives



  1. Debate the major arguments concerning the importance of ethics in law enforcement.
  2. Distinguish the issues relating to morals, ethics, values, ethical codes, ethical standards, and ethical dilemmas.
  3. Contrast individual and organizational values and responsibilities.
  4. Analyze an ethical dilemma.
  5. Contrast issues that include decision making, discretion, and the structure of accountability.
  6. Differentiate between organizational and individual misconduct and issues related to consequences and liability.
  7. Using critical thinking, evaluate the moral issues related to a course of action including the resolution of an ethical dilemma.



In this book, you will examine the moral and ethical issues that exist within law enforcement. This book will also familiarize you with the basic history, principles, and theories of ethics. These concepts will then be applied to the major components of the criminal justice system: policing, the courts, and corrections. Discussion will focus on personal values, individual responsibility, decision making, discretion, and the structure of accountability. Specific topics covered will include core values, codes of conduct, ethical dilemmas, organizational consequences, liability, and the importance of critical thinking. By the end of this book, you will be able to distinguish and critically debate contemporary ethical issues in law enforcement.

Introduction.2. About the Book

The creation of Ethics in Law Enforcement is a part of the B.C. Open Textbook project.

The B.C. Open Textbook Project began in 2012 with the goal of making post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing student cost through the use of openly licensed textbooks. The BC Open Textbook Project is administered by BCcampus and funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education.

Open textbooks are open educational resources (OER); they are instructional resources created and shared in ways so that more people have access to them. This is a different model than traditionally copyrighted materials. OER are defined as teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others (Hewlett Foundation). Our open textbooks are openly licensed using a Creative Commons license, and are offered in various e-book formats free of charge, or as printed books that are available at cost.  For more information about this project, please contact opentext@bccampus.ca. If you are an instructor who is using this book for a course, please let us know.

  • 1

    Caldero, M. and Crank, J. (2004) Police Ethics: The Corruption of Noble Cause, Second edition. Mathew Bender and Company.

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