Unfortunately, the unethical behavior of employees occurs in any field of activity and leads to negative consequences. In some cases, people do not realize that they are behaving unethically towards other people, but such acting is deliberate in most situations. However, the unethical behavior of the police is more serious and harmful as people who have to represent the law and justice lose the trust of citizens. This paper will study the case of false arrests of people by Miami-Dade County police officers to demonstrate an example of unethical and illegal police behavior.
In this case, three officers were charged with false arrests of citizens on the orders of the police chief. Chief Atesiano ordered Officers Fernandez and Dayoub in 2013 to arrest a 16-year-old teenager for four unsolved burglaries, although there was no evidence against him (Caron, 2018). Later, similar orders to arrest a man for burglaries on false charges were repeated two more times, and Officers Fernandez, Dayoub, and Ravelo detained innocent people (Caron, 2018).
The reason for this unethical and illegal behavior was Chief Atesiano’s desire to reach a 100% clearance rate. At the same time, Chief Atesiano put pressure on the officers and forced them to choose black citizens for false arrests (Caron, 2018). However, Officer Fernandez sent a letter to the city manager about the “bad” arrests, which helped initiate an investigation and punish those responsibly.
This situation presents several cases of unethical behavior of the Chief of Police and Officers. First, Chief Atesiano displayed extremely unethical and illegal behavior both towards his subordinates whom he was pressured and towards citizens who would be falsely sentenced to imprisonment just out of his desire to boast of a better clearance rate. At the same time, Chief Atesiano felt protected due to the power that he could use against the officers.
There are many reasons to justify the unethical behavior of police officers, from the false belief in the benefits of unethical actions to moral injury; however, none of them explain the behavior of Chief Atesiano (Papazoglou, & Blumberg, 2019). The Chief was guided only by his interests to show high performance, although he violated laws and threatened the freedom of innocent citizens because of this desire.
The unethical behavior of the officers manifested itself in following orders and concealing the conspiracy. This behavior of officers can be explained by the theory of displacement of responsibility, which suggests that they were arresting innocent people and did not feel unethical because they followed the Chief’s order but not their own decisions (Papazoglou, & Blumberg, 2019). However, Officer Fernandez took responsibility and reported violations to the city’s authority. Another unethical feature that needs to be highlighted is that black men have been falsely arrested, demonstrating bias and deepening discrimination in the police force. Thus, this case shows how the unethical behavior of bosses can spread and influence subordinates who are also forced to participate in it.
The police actions, in this case, also refer to violations of the criminal law. False imprisonment is simultaneously related to tort and criminal law; however, the activities of the police, in this case, are considered criminal. Such actions belong to the invalid use of legal authority, since the officers deliberately and voluntarily arrested people, although they knew that they were not guilty and there was no evidence against them (“False imprisonment,” n.d.). In addition, one of the officers used force on a handcuffed man, which is also illegal and unethical. Consequently, the officers violated the criminal law and received prison terms.
Moreover, this unethical behavior also violated the constitutional rights of citizens who were falsely arrested. First, the officers violated the Fourth Amendment by unnecessarily arresting people. This amendment protects US citizens from unreasonable arrests, searches, and seizures since the law enforcement officer must have reasonable beliefs for these actions. However, since the officers obeyed the order and knew in advance that they were making false charges, their actions infringe the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The officers also violated The Fourteenth Amendment as they ignored part of the first section forbidding them to deny to any person the equal protection of the law. In addition, they broke anti-discrimination laws by targeting black men on their charges. Thus, the constitutional rights of falsely arrested citizens were violated.
In conclusion, this situation with the false arrest of citizens demonstrates unethical behavior of police officers, which also violates US constitutional and criminal laws. At the same time, although the chief of police bears the main responsibility for the crime, since he put pressure on subordinates, the officers also showed their unethical behavior by following orders and hiding the conspiracy. However, if the action of the officers can be explained by external reasons, the police chief was guided exclusively by his interests and profit motive. Nevertheless, despite any reasons, this situation demonstrates that unethical behavior of the police is unacceptable since abuse of power leads to harmful and often dangerous consequences for society.
Caron, C. (2018). Three Florida police officers are sent to prison for false arrests. The New York Times. Web.
False imprisonment. (n.d.). Web.
Papazoglou, K., & Blumberg, D.M. (Eds.) (2019). Power: Police officer wellness, ethics, and resilience. Academic Press.