(Chapter 13 – 15)
Criminal Justice Administration and Professional Ethics in
the 21st Century
Every member of the criminal justice system is involved in a vital and noble profession. When employees take the
oath of office, they accept a responsibility to carry out the will of the majority of all people and to protect the rights
of all people. As summarized in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, members of the criminal justice system are to
“ensure justice” and promote “domestic tranquility.”
With these responsibilities, law enforcement personnel are given powers of arrest and the power to use force
when justified. Judicial personnel are given the power to remove from society those found guilty of crimes. Corrections
personnel have the power to imprison and carry out the order to put offenders to death. Criminal justice personnel
have the power to deprive people of their liberty within the limits set by the U.S. Constitution and the courts. They
are a reminder that we do not live in a complete democracy. In our republic form of government, each individual gives
up some liberties so that the majority can have maximum freedom in a complex society.
Members of the criminal justice system play an important role in preserving the delicate balance between
maximum freedom and individual rights. With these responsibilities and powers, the people of our country expect
criminal justice employees to have strong professional ethics.
Criminal Justice Professionalism
All criminal justice employees have several elements in common:
• They have discretion—the power to make decisions that can deprive others of life, liberty, and property,
• They have the duty to enforce the law,
• They must accept that their duty includes the duty to protect the constitutional rights that are the cornerstone
of our legal system—specifically, due process and equal protection, and
• They are public servants, meaning that their salaries are paid by the public. (adapted from Pollock 2007, 6–7)
Discretion is an important power that allows the police to decide whom to arrest and when, allows prosecutors
to decide whom to charge, allows judges to decide whom to convict, and allows correction officers to decide how to
punish. Citizens demand that those who make these decisions adhere to a higher standard of ethics. Even in the private
lives of criminal justice professionals, citizens expect higher standards than they expect of most others. For example,
if a criminal justice employee gets drunk, abuses his spouse, does not pay his bills, or commits even a petty theft, the
incident will most likely be headline news. If these figures do not live exemplary lives, how can they be trusted to
make ethical decisions in carrying out their public duties?
Principles of Public Service Ethics
1. Public service. Public servants should treat their office as a public trust, using the power and resources of public
office only to advance public interests and not to attain personal benefit or pursue any other private interest
incompatible with the public good.
2. Objective judgment. Public servants should employ independent objective judgment in performing their duties,
deciding all matters on the merits, free from avoidable conflicts of interest and both real and apparent improper
3. Accountability. Public servants should ensure that government is conducted openly, efficiently, equitably, and
honorably in a manner that permits the citizenry to make informed judgments and hold government officials
4. Democratic leadership. Public servants should honor and respect the principles and spirit of representative
democracy and set a positive example of good citizenship by scrupulously observing the letter and spirit of laws
5. Respectability. Public servants should safeguard public confidence in the integrity of government by being honest,
fair, caring, and respectful, and by avoiding conduct that creates the appearance of impropriety or that is otherwise
unbefitting a public official.
Source: Adapted from Josephson Institute of Ethics, Preserving the Public Trust. Available
Criminal justice administrators are expected to ensure that these professional and ethical qualities are manifested
in all their employees. When the police chief, state attorney, judge, and warden take their oaths of office, they are held
accountable to the people for instilling and maintaining these qualities within their public organization. This is why
criminal justice administrators can lose their jobs if their employees are unprofessional and unethical. With this in
mind, we will now explore the meaning of professional ethics.
What is a profession or a professional? Profession can be defined as “an occupational category requiring a stategranted license, and generally involving greater conceptual input than manual labor, i.e., the learned professions: law,
medicine, theology, and higher learning” (Dictionary of American Criminal Justice, Criminology, and Criminal
Law 2005, 207). A person employed in a profession can be considered a professional. Schmalleger and Smykla (2006)
have described professionalism in the corrections field as:
commitment to a set of agreed-upon values aimed toward the improvement of the organization while
maintaining the highest standards of excellence and dissemination of knowledge. In addition to having
knowledge and skills, professionals must present humanistic qualities: selflessness, responsibility and
accountability, leadership, excellence, integrity, honesty, empathy, and respect for coworkers and prisoners.
It should be remembered that a major undertaking at the beginning of the 20th century was to make the criminal
justice system more professional. In fact, the pursuit of professionalism was the driving force behind the development
of the contextual themes of criminal justice administration. Here, a century later, the pursuit of professionalism is still
a major issue. A century of experience has fostered a different perspective. Today, from an Eclectic Perspective,
professionalism includes all five of the contextual themes. At the beginning of the 20th century, professionalism meant
being more effective and efficient through specialized Organization Functions approaches. Today, as then,
professionalism requires standards; however, professionalism in the 21st century includes a humanistic approach with
the community as well as with employees.
Professions require standards and usually an advanced level of education. Certainly, members of the judicial law
profession meet this definition. However, what about the police and corrections officers? Let us explore the law
enforcement and corrections fields of criminal justice in regard to professionalism.
Standards for Law Enforcement and Corrections
Most law enforcement agencies and some corrections agencies have state boards that set standards for entry-level
employees. In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA)
recommended that a Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST) commission be established in every state. Today,
most states have commissions that have set standards for recruit training. A number of states have developed standards
for special duties (i.e., detectives, juvenile officers, supervisors, and even police executives). These types of standards
must be established for all law enforcement agencies to meet the qualifications of a true profession.
Accreditation has become an important process in professionalism. In 1979, four law enforcement agencies (the
International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum, the National Organization of
Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the National Sheriff’s Association) established the Commission on
Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). The program is voluntary. Costs can range from $6,000 for
small departments to $25,000 for larger agencies. Standards numbering from 500 to 700 have to be met, depending
on the size of the agency. More than 500 agencies have undergone the process by which they demonstrate that they
meet these standards. Some states have established their own standards and a process of accreditation, including
California, Colorado, Idaho, Kentucky, New Hampshire, New York, and Washington. Although accreditation is
optional, it provides for a professional status with other benefits, including fewer lawsuits and citizen complaints,
stricter accountability within the agency, and lower liability insurance costs. In fact, some cities require that their
police departments become accredited because a growing number of municipal liability insuring companies require
In 1978, the American Correctional Association pioneered correctional accreditation. In 1999, it developed a
national Commission on Correctional Certification and an online Corrections Academy. Just as accreditation provides
the opportunity for facilities to be recognized, certification provides a means for correctional staff to be recognized as
professional correctional practitioners.
All three criminal justice branches require employees to take an oath of office. Exploring these oaths can provide
insight into the professional standards required in the various occupations. These ethical standards have been
incorporated into the oaths of office for police officers in almost every state. Some departments call their ethical
standards “core values statements.” The FBI Core Values Statement reminds us that “rigorous obedience to
constitutional principles ensures that individually and constitutionally we always remember that constitutional
guarantees are more important than the outcome of any single interview, search for evidence, or investigation.” It is
important to remember that protecting individual rights did not become a part of an officer’s sworn duty until the latter
part of the 20th century. (The author, as a consultant, has found a few policing agencies that still have not included
this important duty in their oath.) Also note that the FBI Core Values Statement recognizes that unchecked power can
become corrupt: “Respect for the dignity of all whom we protect reminds us to wield law enforcement powers with
restraint and to recognize the natural human tendency to be corrupted by power and to become callous in its exercise.”
Federal Bureau of Investigation Core Values Statement
The strategic plan for accomplishing the FBI’s mission must begin by identifying the core values which need
to be preserved and defended by the FBI in performing its statutory missions. Those values are: rigorous
obedience to the Constitution of the United States; respect for the dignity of all those we protect; compassion;
fairness; and uncompromising personal and institutional integrity. These values do not exhaust all the goals
we wish to achieve, but they encapsulate them as well as can be done in a few words. Our values must be fully
understood, practiced, shared, vigorously defended, and preserved.
Observance of these core values is our guarantee of excellence and propriety in performing the FBI’s
national security and criminal investigative functions. Rigorous obedience to constitutional principles
ensures that we always remember that constitutional guarantees are more important than the outcome of any
single interview, search for evidence, or investigation. Respect for the dignity of all whom we protect reminds
us to wield law enforcement powers with restraint, and to recognize the natural human tendency to be
corrupted by power and to become callous in its exercise. Fairness and compassion ensure that we treat
everyone with the highest regard for constitutional, civil, and human rights. Personal and institutional
integrity reinforce each other and are owed to the nation in exchange for the sacred trust and great authority
conferred upon us.
We who enforce the law must not merely obey it. We have an obligation to set a moral example which
those whom we protect can follow. Because the FBI’s success in accomplishing its mission is directly related
to the support and cooperation of those whom we protect, these core values are the fiber which hold together
the vitality of our institution. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2011)
The Police Code of Conduct, used by most law enforcement agencies today, is presented in Table 13.1. It
includes “ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice,” a phrase that was first included in the code in the
1980s. Also included is reference to “personal–professional capabilities” and a reminder that “police officers must not
receive private or special advantage from their official status” (The International Association of Chiefs of Police,
1992). These are professional and ethical standards of which employees must continually be reminded.
Figure 13.1 provides the Corrections Code of Ethics recommended by the American Correctional Association.
It is important for criminal justice administrators to ensure that the oath of office is thoroughly discussed with new
employees and that employees sign a copy for their personnel file. Signed copies document the accountability that
employees have to these ethical standards.
Educational Requirements for Law Enforcement and Corrections
In addition to standards, a profession should have educational requirements, and law enforcement and corrections are
most lacking in this area. This is despite the fact that August Vollmer first introduced the idea of college requirements
for police officers in 1917. In 1973, the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals
recommended that “every police agency should, no later than 1982, require as a condition of initial employment the
completion of at least 4 years of education (120 semester units or a baccalaureate degree) at an accredited college or
university” (National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals 1973, 369). This report
commented on the fact that the undergraduate degree of the 1970s was equivalent to the high school diploma at the
beginning of the 1900s. The high school diploma requirement was set for police officers as part of the professionalism
effort of the early 1900s, but police agencies failed to keep up with the times. The report stated, “Police, in their quest
for greater professionalism, should take notice [of upgrading educational requirements]” (National Advisory
Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals 1973, 367).
Most law enforcement agencies still have not set a college degree as a hiring requirement. Research finds that
officers with higher education have higher motivation, are better able to utilize innovative techniques, display clearer
thinking, have a better understanding of the world, and are overall better able to perform today’s policing duties
(Hayeslip 1989, 49–63). Educated officers have been found to be less authoritarian, less conservative, and less rigid
and legalistic (Dalley 1975, Finchenauer 1975, Taylor 1983). Kenney and Cordner (1996, 277–306) further report
TABLE 13.1 Police Code of Conduct
International Association of Chiefs of Police
The primary responsibility of the police service, and of the individual officer, is the protection of the people of the
United States through the upholding of their laws; chief among these is the Constitution of the United States and its
amendments. The law enforcement officer always represents the whole of the community and its legally expressed
will and is never the arm of any political party or clique.
The first duty of a law enforcement officer, as upholder of the law, is to know its bounds upon him in enforcing it.
Because he represents the legal will of the community, be it local, state or federal, he must be aware of the limitations
and prescriptions which the people, through law, have placed upon him. He must recognize the genius of the American
system of government which gives to no man, groups of men, or institution, absolute power, and he must insure that
he, as a prime defender of that system, does not pervert its character.
Article 3. Duty to be Familiar With the Law and with Responsibilities of Self and Other Public Officials
The law enforcement officer shall assiduously apply himself to the study of the principles of the laws which he is
sworn to uphold. He will make certain of his responsibilities in the particulars of their enforcement, seeking aid from
his superiors in matters of technicality or principle when these are not clear to him; he will make special effort to fully
understand his relationship to other public officials, including other law enforcement agencies, particularly on matters
of jurisdiction, both geographically and substantively.
The law enforcement officer shall be mindful of his responsibility to pay strict heed to the selection of means in
discharging the duties of his office. Violations of law or disregard for public safety and property on the part of an
officer are intrinsically wrong; they are self-defeating in that they instill in the public mind a like disposition. The
employment of illegal means, no matter how worthy the end, is certain to encourage disrespect for the law and its
officers. If the law is to be honored, it must first be honored by those who enforce it.
Article 5. Cooperation with Public Officials in the Discharge of Their Authorized Duties
The law enforcement officer shall cooperate fully with other public officials in the discharge of authorized duties,
regardless of party affiliation or personal prejudice. He shall be meticulous, however, in assuring himself of the
propriety, under the law, of such actions and shall guard against the use of his office or person, whether knowingly or
unknowingly, in any improper or illegal action. In any situation open to question he shall seek authority from his
superior officer, giving him a full report of the proposed service or action.
The law enforcement officer shall be mindful of his special identification by the public as an upholder of the law.
Laxity of conduct or manner in private life, expressing either disrespect for the law or seeking to gain special privilege,
cannot best reflect upon the police officer and the police service. The community and the service require that the law
enforcement officer lead the life of a decent and honorable man. Following the career of a policeman gives no man
special perquisites. It does give the satisfaction and pride of following and furthering an unbroken tradition of
safeguarding the American republic. The officer who reflects upon this tradition will not degrade it. Rather, he will so
conduct his private life that the public will regard him as an example of stability, fidelity and morality.
The law enforcement officer, mindful of his responsibility to the whole community, shall deal with individuals of the
community in a manner calculated to instill respect for its laws and its police service. The law enforcement officer
shall conduct his official life in a manner such as will inspire confidence and trust. Thus, he will be neither overbearing
nor subservient, as no individual citizen has an obligation to stand in awe of him nor a right to command him. The
officer will give service where he can, and require compliance with the law. He will do neither from personal
preference or prejudice but rather as a duly appointed officer of the law discharging his sworn obligation.
The law enforcement officer shall use his powers of arrest strictly in …
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