The Ethic of Care Principle in Community Policing


Law enforcement agencies have been criticized for their inability to quell crime due to the prevalence of unfair practices. The targeting of minority communities and the resultant loss of life due to the ruthless application of the law has alienated the police from the communities they serve. Consequently, people distrust officers and are unwilling to provide information that would facilitate the identification and eradication of illegal transgressions. The ethic of care perspective offers insight into how this worrying trend can be changed. Forging relationships that prioritize morality’s emotional and virtuous elements is essential for effective policing in minority communities riddled with crime.

Ethic of Care Perspective

The ethics of care approach is premised on the idea that moral actions are centered on interpersonal relationships and goodwill as a personality trait. It emphasizes the relevance of responding to individual needs to avoid the prevalence of indifference or moral blindness (Banks, 2019). In essence, living well is caring for people with whom an individual forms relationships. The proponents of the theory argue that women are less dependent on rules and principles compared to men and are therefore likely to resort to concrete instead of abstract reasoning (Banks, 2019). It differs from normative moral theories such as deontology and utilitarianism, which demand that the moral agent is unemotional. The latter theories define moral decision-making as a logical and rational process that focuses on universally objective statutes. However, the care ethics theory includes emotions such as compassion and care in its definition of morality.

The Chicago Police Department

The ethics of care perspective is majorly focused on caring for others. It evolved from the need to aid individuals incapable of caring for themselves. It is a system that governs human relationships and facilitates the strengthening of positive interactions. This concept has numerous applications in law enforcement, particularly in areas with high levels of crime. In areas such as Chicago, police officers are often involved in non-assault civil and domestic disagreements with the aim of resolving the conflict. However, the evident racial divide and the apparent targeting of black and brown neighborhoods have raised some concerns (Goudie et al., 2021). The ethics of care perspective posits that officers who choose to help an individual in need do so out of compassion and not because they are duty-bound. Targeting people of color when executing search warrants, as is the case in Chicago, is not an effective way of offering help to people in need (Sneed, 2021). Therefore, officers must be cognizant of the fact that keeping the peace by facilitating consensus and understanding rather than formally pressing charges may be the most ethical way to resolve conflict.

The ethics of care perspective highlights the fact that disagreements should be dealt with compassionately while fostering healthy relationships. Therefore, law enforcement agencies should focus on building connections with the community. It should be noted that settings where crime is prevalent present a variety of challenges to police officers tasked with keeping the peace and maintaining security for residents. Building rapport is the first step in ensuring that issues are identified in good time and resolved amicably. The Chicago police department’s handling of a ShotSpotter alert in which a 13-year-old was shot and killed demonstrates the poor application of the ethics care perspective (Goudie et al., 2021). A review of the data on responses demonstrated that the police reported no crime in 86% of the cases identified by ShotSpotter (Goudie et al., 2021). Despite the fact that the application is highly effective in detecting gunshots, police officers in Chicago are apparently incapable of apprehending suspects or collecting evidence of a crime. This demonstrates the depth of the disconnect between the law enforcement agency and the people in the community.

The Chicago Police Department must institute specific measures that are informed by the ethic of care perspective. First, the officers must focus on building a meaningful relationship with the community. The unlawful targeting of minority communities must be addressed. In addition, the department’s resources must be used to address the challenges that predispose individuals to gun violence rather than making arrests and shooting unarmed civilians. By understanding the root causes of crime, the department will help individuals in need and eliminate the need to engage in crime. Avoiding the persecution of minorities will eliminate their desire to arm themselves and prepare for inevitable police brutality.


The ethic of care perspective has numerous applications when policing a minority community with a high crime rate. Determining the right way of caring in specific contexts is particularly challenging. It is vital to employ reasonable and morally suitable emotions when making decisions. Therefore, rather than aggressively attacking a suspect, officers should focus on understanding the reasons behind the person’s behavior. It is worth noting that the actions an individual takes are inextricably tied to their relationships with people around them. The police should strive to develop trust and grow the people’s confidence in their ability to offer protection and solve pertinent issues in the community. Instead of concentrating on whether or not the verdict made is unbiased, the moral agent must consider the fact that they are required to aid powerless individuals.


Banks, C. (2019). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice. SAGE Publications.

Goudie, C., Markoff, B., Tressel, C., Weidner, R., & Fagg, J. (2021). Chicago police do not report crimes after 86% of ShotSpotter gunfire alerts. ABC Eyewitness News. Web.

Sneed, R. (2021). OIG report: Chicago police disproportionally target minorities in search warrants. WGN9. Web.

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DemoEssays. "The Ethic of Care Principle in Community Policing." December 26, 2022.