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This paper explores and serves as a reaction to the notion of ethics and one’s personal philosophy. Personal beliefs and ethics will be discussed as well as how ethics can be subjective; and the difference between personal and professional ethics. The intermingling of personal and professional ethics will also be shown and how personal belief systems can be put into practice in a professional environment. Ethical theories will also be included.
We often use the words moral and ethical often and interchangeably when speaking about good vs. bad and right vs. wrong. However, what do these words really mean? The widely accepted answer is that ethics in the study of right and wrong and good and evil. Although, this may not hold the same meaning for everyone. We normally hold true that ethical people do the right thing while unethical people do not. Since ethics can be subjective, a further definition to capture the notion of ethics is that they are a group of personal beliefs about right and wrong that can vary on a personal level. Personal morals also coincide with ethics, it is part of a personal philosophy. There are also many different environmental factors that can influence personal ethics. Some of these factors include upbringing, life experiences, professional experiences, familial and influence from others, religion, and so on. A person’s personal ethics may not always be the same as broad, societal ethics. However, a group or subgroup can also have varying ethical values (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2015).
I personally have an ethical code that I try to live by in my own personal life. My personal ethical philosophy may also differ from others due to my professional life. A career in law enforcement leads some to have very different views of justice and ethics. Police officers are given guidelines as to what is considered ethical and unethical in the form of legislation and laws. Law enforcement is supposed to consider the community as a whole as well as that society’s laws and regulations when determining their ethical values. Our ethics as law enforcement are supposed to take everyone’s well-being into account. There are certain circumstances in which my own personal ethics may not coincide with my professional ethics
that are sometimes forced upon me due to my position. However, I still carry out my professional duty when I am required (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2015).
Outside of my professional life, I hold a set of ethical values that I live by that have been shaped by my parents, upbringing, childhood, and of course my professional life. Law enforcement officers’ ethics are very strongly influenced by their professional experiences especially in adulthood. When considering the three contexts of justice: personal, social, and criminal justice, I believe that my personal views are very heavily influenced by my criminal justice experiences. Therefore, I feel that my personal ethical beliefs and views in general usually vary from the normal and typical social views. When debating ethics I try to gain perspective, understanding, and maintain critical thinking due to the fact that ethics can be so subjective. This process of facing ethical dilemmas is often referred to as “gaining wholesight.” This creates a vision in our minds that involves our thinking and feelings and how we can work to gain insight to solve these problems for the common good (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2015).
While there are many different types of ethics to include medical, social, and environmental, the ethics that I deal with the most in my profession as a police officer are moral ethics. Most decisions that I have to make involve some type of moral dilemma or acting on immoral or unethical decisions that others have made. As in my personal life, I try to maintain oversight and gather a foundation of understanding with every situation. When considering ethics it is important to have an overall understanding of the people involved in the situation. For example, was a person killed in self-defense? Did a person steal because their children are starving? Furthermore, consider what is the role of the police officer and what traits do we look for in a police officer? I feel a well-rounded officer is the best officer. However, today’s society
is demanding too much of the social worker role from the police when in some cases the crime fighter is needed. This is especially true due to the fact that society heavily influences the police and how they are viewed. Police officer’s morals and the decisions of whether their decisions are moral or not is often heavily influenced and decided by people who lack perspective and understanding (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2015).
As we know, ethics and morals are debatable and understanding a situation can change the view of the morality of that situation. I often ponder why certain people do certain things and what drives their sense of right and wrong. I also wonder why certain people seem to have no sense of any ethical values and seem to have a severely different standard than mainstream society. When considering these questions I also considered some of the main theories of ethics. In the Normative ethical approach, not only is the focus on what is right vs. what is wrong but this theory asks what are the basic fundamentals of right and wrong and what characteristics right and wrong have in common. I find this to be a useful approach as understanding a trend in ethical or unethical behavior may help provide some answers as to how certain people have such opposite views of what is ethical. The Utilitarianism approach judges an act in terms of the consequences associated with that action. Actions are judged in terms of whether they produce pleasure or pain; and an ethical action will bring about the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of people. I do not tend to find this approach to be the most feasible as there are many situations where the moral or ethical action would not produce the greatest pleasure for the most people. I have experienced many situations in law enforcement where the moral decision results in the majority of those involved in the situation not being the recipient of pleasure. In these cases the greatest number of people are those committing the injustice. Lastly, the
Deontological theory of ethics is one that relates most directly to law enforcement. This theory focuses on duty and the obligation of actions as opposed to the consequences of those actions. However, on the same token the area that Deontological theory is lacks insight where there are situations that may have conflicting duties or obligations (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2015).
In conclusion, we can see that morals and ethics exist on many different levels to include personal, societal, and within sub-cultures. Many people have different sets of ethics for their personal lives and professional lives. However, these ethics can also coincide and conflict at times. Each of us has a personal philosophy that we live by and personal ethics that are apparent in many of the decisions that we make and the actions we take. There are many factors that influence a person’s ethics and many theories that exist to examine good vs. bad. Overall in ethics it ultimately comes to one question, is something good/right or bad/wrong?
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