Ethical Issues Related to the Criminal Justice System: Police Brutality


The dictionary defines ethics as principles that are moral and are used to govern individuals’ way of conduct, or the manner in which an activity is conducted. Ethics have an impact on how individuals make their choices and go about with their lives. Their main focus is what is best for people and society. Over the years, a crucial component of the criminal justice system has been ethics. Aristotle, a philosopher, was the first individual to systematically study ethics, in his works, he studied moral judgment ethics. The ethics of moral judgment became the cornerstone of most criminal justice systems in the world. The system comprises three components, the courts, corrections, and law enforcement. Each component deals with perpetrators at various points of their criminal histories. Each part has the capacity to operate independently or in tandem to avert, adjudicate, and penalize crimes. Having a clear understanding of some ethical issues that are related to criminal justice system will help to ensure that members of the criminal justice system are face with less dilemmas in their day-to-day work.

To accurately address the needs and requirements of its population, a criminal justice system must have a set of moral norms. The reason for the system’s existence is to ensure bad behavior is punished and the appropriate compensation for the losses that the victims incurred. Whether that involves compensating victims for financial losses or assuring people that the abusers, assailants, deceivers, and perhaps other felons have been safely taken off the streets. Ethics are vital in the criminal justice system since they ensure that justice is applied fairly to both the offender and the aggrieved. Without ethics, legal systems and law enforcement systems would be unable to justify their actions.

Purpose of the Study

Today, there are many ethical issues almost everywhere, they bring principles and morality systems into conflict. Unlike most disagreements, which are capable of being settled with objective truths and factual evidence, ethical dilemmas are much more personal and susceptible to interpretation. This study focuses on law enforcement ethical issues, predominantly on the use of necessary force in their line of work. Understanding ethical concerns in the criminal justice system, especially the police unit, will help individuals to assess and question any assumptions that are left unaddressed in the courts and law enforcement fields.

The duty of law enforcement personnel is to uphold the law on the ground, their main responsibilities are patrolling the streets, catching lawbreakers, and controlling crime ensuring that it is to a minimum. Law enforcers are often faced with making difficult decisions in their line of work on a daily basis (El Sayed et al., 2019). It is therefore crucial that a law enforcement officer should have a proper understanding of both members of the public rights and the criminal law, this will help ensure that officers do not infringe on people’s rights while they carry out their duty. Law enforcement officials are expected and compelled to act in accordance with the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s definition of ethics of law enforcement. This 1957 code of ethics frequently causes ethical challenges for those who serve to defend the law (Allan, 2018). Some of the ethical issues related to law enforcement include profiling, acting impartially, off-duty life, upholding the law while observing rights, and the use of necessary force.

The purpose of this study is to focus on the ethical issue of necessary force in the law enforcement department. The Black Lives Matter campaign draws attention to the public’s concern about police officers using excessive force. The campaign aims to hold officers responsible for any and every instance of excessive force used (Phelps et al., 2021). Every police officer is authorized to use force when required to enforce the law, however, an officers’ use of force is not always justified. The police are faced with this ethical issue mostly when dealing with individuals who are not compliant. This paper aims to connect the sources of information on the use of force policies in law enforcement among the police. This will contextualize the research topic, assessing the level of police brutality, if present.

Literature Review

An article written by a non-profit organization, Campaign Zero that examined the use of force policies, their necessity, and how they should be used in law enforcement. The guidelines are reviewed to determine the necessary ones that can be used for the people’s good to reduce police violence. The authors evaluate each policy and the departments that heed them and those that ignore them (Engel et al., 2020). The policies placed under the microscope include the use of deadly force, the limits under which officers should act when combating criminals, regard to these criminals’ lives and wellness, and the lethal levels of the weapons carried by officers.

The conclusion is that officer is ought to use all possible options and alternatives before resorting to violence. These policies protect all citizens, officers, and criminals alike. Any occurrences of violence must be recorded in a database, and officers should hold each other accountable to avoid crossing any lines. As the wise saying goes, be your brother’s keeper. Another correction would be to ensure that those officers engaging in unnecessary violence are dealt with accordingly to make an example for the rest. Early intervention programs are needed immediately an officer has several reports of excessive force in a quarter. Such officers should undergo retraining under a supervisor to ensure the situation is handled before it is too late and there is a homicide to solve.

This work aims to improve the de-escalation tactics among officers to limit the use of force. Statistics of innocent victims of police brutality keep rising, and various governments have employed different methods of determining the same. Other than revising the existing policies on police violence, another approach would be to work on the officers themselves. This means that the police officers can be taught to regulate their need to use force by integrating social training. Police-citizen encounters can either escalate towards high emotion and use power or away from such mechanisms (Scott Wolfe, 2020). This social training aims to train officers to take control of the situation, leading it away from the necessity of using force.

According to the Bittner theory, officers can only take control when they can read people, making them “a careful craftsman.” This is useful in employing social skills that coerce the citizen into a calmer and more submissive state. However, expertise is not the only requirement because an individual must have exclusive to form solid habits of better social interactions. The training program used in this research insisted on Tact, Tactics, and Trust was developed to improve social skills among soldiers in Iran and Afghanistan. The training teaches communication skills, honesty, emotional control, maintaining a rapport, and similar skills necessary in social interactions. These mechanisms aim to de-escalate and give all the command to the officer.

The disagreement can be solved, and the officers can enforce the law. This article aims to evaluate the ethics existing in using force among police officers. It analyzes past occurrences of excessive force and the response by the relevant authorities. It explains the role of law enforcement and the limitations under which officers should act, ensuring there is no injudicious use of force. There are different levels of power allowed to an officer, but they should utilize their critical analysis skills to help them choose wisely. It supports the use of force continuum among officers instead of waiting to follow orders from superiors. This means that officers need training on how to regulate force depending on the circumstance of police-citizen interaction. The categories are cooperative, resistive, assaultive, or those who pose a threat of severe bodily harm to the officers or themselves (Jocelyn & Pollock, 2011). Depending on the situation at hand, the officer can decide on the necessary procedure to be followed. Less-lethal technologies are encouraged among officers to ensure officer security while enforcing the law without causing harm to any citizen.

This article analyzes the cases where excessive force has been used and whether the issues have any connection to race. The authorities must regulate the use of force among police officers. Still, this paper focuses on determining the relationship between the use of power and the race of the citizens involved. Statistics decided that about 14% of white police officers use excessive force in black neighborhoods (Hoekstra & Sloan, 2022). Black and Hispanic civilians are five times more likely to experience a police shooting than white civilians. These numbers show that race does matter when it comes to using force among police officers. Numerous cases have been reported over time, indicating that minorities are in danger of suffering due to the color of their skin. These articles are relevant to the topic of discussion, analyzing the entire scope of police ethics and the existing policies on the use of force in police-citizen confrontations.


In the analysis done in this study, the study of use of force policies is the main focus. The data collected in the study has been gathered from all kinds of sources all over the world. All possible similarities or even differences of the policies in different departments is collected and thoroughly compared to obtain a full contextual analysis of the matter. Campaign Zero is a big contributor or the data used in the study of use of force policies. It is a non-profit organization that was started to aid in revising policies all over the country and supporting police accountability for any recorded brutality cases. Since most governments and authorities fail to record this important information on police brutalities, organizations such as Campaign Zero keep the police honest with those records. Campaign Zero has created an online recording database of all the use of force policies in place across the United States. They record all counties and states and the procedures taken in case of police violence cases.

In this study, we used a subset of the data that is stored in this database as a sample to create a pattern that is existent across the larger dataset worldwide. The study took the data provided by Campaign Zero to understand that police officers should hold each other accountable to lower the occurrences of violence. Similarly, the database showed that an effective way to reduce police violence would be to retrain officers who were reported to be violent. Another option would be to include less-violent training in police training academies to form less-violent habits in police-citizen interactions. This online database is a reliable set of data collected from the police departments, hospitals, and communities state-wide.

We obtained similar information from scholarly articles that have been written over time to support the reducing of police violence. The scholarly articles are readily available all over the internet to support the regulation of use of force policies globally. Another relevant source that was confronted was the Graham v. Connor case against the US Supreme Court that happened in 1989. After the encounter between Graham and the officer who was in charge, graham filed a suit claiming that excessive force had been used. Majority of the people who heard this case leaned on the 14th amendment to make their decision, ruling that the officer did not use excessive force. However, according to the 4th Amendment of rights, the officer did not have sufficient cause to stop and search Graham, let alone arrest him while causing injuries in the process. This case was taken to the Supreme Court and this is where they ruled that the officer had violated the 4th Amendment Bill of Rights in the altercation. The supreme court required that in the future, all officers should ensure to determine the reasonableness of the use of force. It would require the officers to carefully assess the situation to avoid intrusion of the 4th Amendment rights while enforcing the law as required.

We designed codes to assess the ways by which these policies may be enforced. The ruling made by the US Supreme Court is still vague because “reasonableness” is relative to each different officer that may find themselves in a similar situation. The codes ensure that the policies are examined to determine their effectiveness and the scope under which they operate. These codes also help to notice the difference in policies across the states, showing details of language, tone, clarity, and communication to show the power they have against police brutality. The policies are different and occupy different spectrums, ranging from specific details of what should not be done to guidelines on the steps to take in certain situations. These codes include:

  • Mental Health- This code ensures that the policies include discussion of mental health of the civilians, and how an officer should approach the situation.
  • Reasonableness- All policies are required by the law to state that the situation requires officers to determine the reasonableness of the use of force.
  • De-escalation- These tactics must be mentioned in the policies to allow the officers to take control of the situation for everyone’s safety and wellbeing.
  • Verbal discussion/warning- the policies mandate an officer to verbally warn the civilian against use of force to prevent any harm.
  • Alternatives- The policies should state that all alternatives must be exhausted before violence becomes an option.
  • Prejudice- all policies must be free of bias to enact the law accordingly.
  • Resistance level- The resistance levels of the civilians should be stated, and the protocol to be followed in any of the events.
  • Proportionality
  • Moving vehicles- All policies should have restrictions on shooting at moving vehicles, ones that allow the law to be upheld while protecting the people.
  • Chokeholds- Dangerous chokeholds are banned globally and that should be clear in the policies.
  • Fleeing civilians- Protocol should be set on what to be done if a civilian/suspect flees the scene from the police.
  • Interventions- Policies must specify the requirements of a civilian or officer that intervenes when there is use of excessive force.
  • Force levels- the force levels to be used by officers should be regulated by the policy.
  • Human life- All policies must dictate the preservation of human life in any altercation.

Results and Findings

Ethics in the police force are constantly being enforced to ensure that officers follow the law, even when implementing it. These ethics include self-control, the capacity to engage in action, respect for authority, and courage. Across the states, there is a lack of substantial description, restrictions, and limitations across the states under which the policies should guide the officers, apart from the Graham v. Connor case (Obasogie, 2017), which dictates that the use of force should be used be reasonable. The policies omit specifications in cases needing force continuum, de-escalation tactics, and exhaustion of all possible alternatives. In the absence of the relevant guidelines when using force, the laws remain broad and useless in helping determine the best decisions for officers to make in various situations.

It also provides loopholes for the defense of guilty officers, providing them with the excuse that the policies are unclear and insubstantial. As specifications, all procedures should universally engage in police-citizen encounters’ resistance levels and force levels. For example, the Austin Police Department is vague in its policy declaration because it refers to the Graham case and specifies force and resistance levels (Mooney, 2019). However, it neglects to include further assessment or visual aids to help understand an officer’s requirements (Obasogie & Newman, 2017). The Chicago Police department is a picture of the best ways to approach the situation of the use of force in policy-making (Ba & Grogger, 2018). It involves a force model that depicts how an officer is required to behave in any unforeseen circumstance.

The New York Police Department is also ahead in this sector. It focuses on de-escalation and encourages all officers to gain citizens’ voluntary cooperation and explore all possible alternatives to avoid violence. Such steps should be mandatory for all departments for uniformity and better law enforcement. The black population is about 13% of the entire population, but blacks are shot and killed twice the rate of white people. Over 95% of the hit Americans are male, making the gender imbalance extremely glaring (Hinton et al., 2018). Accurate statistics are difficult to obtain because many governments fail to publish this data. After all, it is seen as a failure on their part. In the USA, the past several years has had severe cases of unarmed black people killed by police officers like George Floyd, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and many other victims. Protests in Iran in 2019 caused police to shoot unarmed protesters, including about 23 kids (Revkin, 2022). This is just a tiny sample taken out of the many incidences involving police-citizen confrontations.


De-escalation is the most preferred mode when engaging in police-citizen encounters unless the citizen participates in high-risk activities that may cause harm to themselves or police officers. All alternatives should be exhausted before any individuals cause injuries to each other. The force continuum is encouraged to allow the police officers to practice their intelligence and social interaction training. The police officers can gauge the seriousness of the situation at hand and the most appropriate course of action to be taken. However, all must take caution to ensure that the police officers do not cross the boundaries drawn by the law when it comes to using force. The conclusion drawn is that part of the cause of police brutality is the policies written down for using energy in the field. The loopholes in these policies allow for aggression and unnecessary force on civilians, increasing the number of mortalities per year. This is not to say that police brutality is solved when these policies are corrected, but rather that a large proportion of it can be solved in this way. The discovery of this should warrant cracking this field as research continues to uncover more weaknesses in the system.


Police violence that fills the statistics worldwide is supported by the vague unsubstantial manner by which the policies are written. When these officers seek answers on the right way to do things, all they can acquire is an unclear description of the policies under which they should act in different situations. Targeting this at an early stage ensures that all officers undergo all the necessary training, including the new social interaction training for their good and the nation’s good. The policies in these fields can also be specified and made more descriptive to act as guidelines for the officers in their confrontations with citizens during law enforcement. Authorities have to make active efforts to ensure that the system shifts to less use of force and decreased severity. The existing policies lack life-preservation techniques and minimize harm when police confront citizens.

A solid public health crisis may occur if such aggression is allowed in the states. Police violence also causes bodily harm to the victims and severe trauma repercussions. The health sector will continue to be burdened by these victims unless the police force corrects the stray officers and revises the policies that have been put in place. The use of force must be regulated correctly, not completely done away with, because some individuals still need a little coercion to submit to authority. In conclusion, the analysis of the study shows that the policies put in place to control the use of force fail to go the extra step to include life preservation means and minimization of harm techniques. By viewing police brutality as a public health sector crisis, the entire country will be engaged in regulating the use of force used on civilians by the police. This article calls for concrete action to ensure safety when police-citizen encounters. The governments should incorporate social interaction training and less-lethal weapons to achieve security in police-citizen confrontations.


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DemoEssays. 2023. "Ethical Issues Related to the Criminal Justice System: Police Brutality." March 10, 2023.

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DemoEssays. "Ethical Issues Related to the Criminal Justice System: Police Brutality." March 10, 2023.