CJUS 530 Final essay

Final Essay


Liberty University Online


Police officers have the power and authority to deprive a citizen’s freedom. Therefore, police officers are held to a higher degree of integrity, honesty, and ethical standard than civilians. Honestly displays an officer’s moral context and dishonesty displays the lack thereof. Police dishonesty causes public distrust. The public relies on officers to be honest and have integrity in order to successful complete the main goal of law enforcement, to protect and serve. Intentional falsification can be detrimental to society, accused defendants, the officer, and his or her department as a whole. Dishonesty creates a ripple effect creating larger disrupting waves to society. Police officers’ statements carry so much weight. It can be the determining factor of a successful conviction, or a wrongful conviction if the officer falsified the evidence and/or the statement. Thus the magnitude effect police honesty and dishonest can have. Two specific Supreme Court cases broke ground and set the foundation for holding police accountable in falsified practice and testimony, Brady v. Maryland and Giglio v. United States. These two cases and their alike subsequent cases set the mode of what can happen if departments do not take the ethics of truth firmly within their department policies and hold their officers accountable for dishonesty practices.


It is critical to explain deception in law enforcement. Situations in law enforcement are almost never black and white, most of the time they are full of gray areas. One of these gray areas includes the topic of deception. Deception by police officers is an aspect of the job, but only is it appropriate under certain circumstances. Often times this type of deception is found within interrogation and undercover practices. “Police will tell lies to uncover the truth; they will deceive, fabricate, and manipulate until the suspect surrenders-methods that are all perfectly legal” (Khasin, 2009, p. 1030). However, this type of deception can cloud moral discretion for some and may be practiced beyond such interrogation/acceptable practices. There are also different types of lies in law enforcement; lies that breach and violate public trust and department policy and there are lies that do not breach (Atstupenas, 2016). Lies that breach consist of; defensive/self-protective, aggressive, pathological, and omission. Lies that generally do not breach consist of; white lies, humorous, and justified by investigative necessity (Atstupenas, 2016). The concern within this essay are the lies that breach and violate public trust and department policy.

The are many actors in the involvement in the cycle of an officer’s lie; the officer, possible fellow officers, the agency, the prosecutor, the judge, and the public. Controversy develops when dishonest practices are acceptable and condoned by the agency and the courts. This type of condoning can lead some officers to believe continuing dishonesty is acceptable. This can create a multitude of issues. It is not solely up to the department and administration to excuse this behavior, judges and prosecutors should be held to their duty of calling our such practices. “One of the strongest reasons that police lie in court is the simple fact that judges allow them to get away with it” (Dorfman, 1999, p. 465). Some prosecutors feel when they disclose exculpatory evidence, it can lead to the discontinuation of cooperation with police and may lead the prosecutor to lose their case. This goes to show how the ripple effect of a lie can impact many members of the criminal justice system and society. It is imperative for a department to set policies and procedures on dishonesty to hopefully prevent such negative circumstances from happening.

Effects of Termination

As with matters in law enforcement, there are many gray areas, this includes the decision of disciplinary action or termination in the event of an officer lying. Lying is a continuum and it is up to the managers on how to react. There is a form of lying that is appropriate for termination. Lying in court testimony, falsifying probably cause for search, seizure, and/or arrest are serious lies. These types of life “may be subject to legal sanctioning and/or departmental punishment” (Hunt & Manning, 1991, p. 55). When a lie is so grave it can bring on legal sanctioning, it should begin with departmental punishment before legal sanctioning begins to deepen. Doing this will show creditability of the department by holding the officer accountable for misconduct. In some situations, these types of lies can lead to a conviction of an innocent person. The defendant is perceived as someone who broke the law and must serve a sentence. The defendant would lose their job and freedom. How is it acceptable the lying officer does not experience the same loss? It is not acceptable or fair. In circumstances such as this, it is fair the officer is terminated. The effects of termination will not be pleasant for the officer, family, and the department. The loss of income will greatly impact the personnel’s family however it is a consequence of the serious misconduct.

Unfortunately, many of times officers are allowed to keep their jobs when caught in serious lies. The lies continue. Then a grave incident may occur, and the media catches wind of the situation and then the department is held accountable of employing a wrongdoing officer. In these situations, it can be prevented by terminating the officer from the first known serious lie. Departments may lose officers who completed their tasks and duties every day, however they will not lose a good officer. A good officer would know to never make such a mistake under the color of law.


The type of lies that qualify for termination include; malicious, intentional, deceptive conduct and it will forever tarnish an officer’s creditability (Noble, 2003). In law enforcement there is no second chance to make up for the misconduct (Noble, 2003). If a department decides to continue employment for the officer, their creditability will tarnish as well. The department will be viewed as untrustworthy and crooked. One bad apple can completely ruin the reputation and creditability for the entire organization. However, it should not be solely up to the department to hold such misconduct accountable. Prosecutors and judges should not sweep it under rug either. A police officer’s testimony is what provides most evidence in a criminal case (Dorfman, 1999). Since Brady, it is the duty of the prosecutor to disclose an officer’s personal file to evaluate any past dishonesty practices. It is up to the court whether the defense presents this information. The court should not be tempted by political power and popularity to hide such misconduct. This will allow trust to build in the criminal justice system.


Policy should reiterate the effects of dishonesty and display the possible ground for termination. It should be explained to all officers, effectively and adequately, the policy and code of ethics of honesty the department values and the weight it holds. Within the policy, it is key to educate the “difference between deceptive conduct and deceptive misconduct” (Noble, 2003, p. 92). A clear line should be established of sanctioned lying (illegal) and prohibited lying (appropriate for undercover) (Spector, 2008).When recommending this policy to an executive it should be explained the effects of misconduct and the power of their decision. The willingness to deal with an officer’s misconduct for the future years is up to the manager (Noble, 2003). A question the chief of police should ask is, “whether he or she can stand in front of the community and defend the department’s position” (Noble, 2003, p. 102). This question holds a lot of weight and can make the decision easier of whether termination due to officer misconduct is fair and will keep the department credible. This will aid in creating an effective policy.


It is imperative an officer holds integrity and honesty to the highest level, for it is the root to all decisions and actions. A police officer has the power to deprive one’s freedom. A police officer also has the power of whether he or she goes about the daily duties in an honest manner. However, a police officer should not be given the power and privilege of keeping one’s job if deceptive misconduct is proven. Intentional lying that is also sanctioned lying should not be given a second chance, and termination is the best suited consequence. There should be no tolerance for this behavior in a police department. A police department that decides to keep officers who act in such misconduct will unfortunately have a bigger price to pay than if they were to terminate the officer to begin with. This type of lying should not be swept under the rug and hidden by the blue line. “For nothing is hidden that will not manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17, ESV).


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