Discuss utilitarianism and deontological ethics.

Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy. Though not fully articulated until the 19th century, proto-utilitarian positions can be discerned throughout the history of ethical theory. Though there are many varieties of the view discussed, utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the morally right action is the action that produces the most good. There are many ways to spell out this general claim. One thing to note is that the theory is a form of consequentialism: the right action is understood entirely in terms of consequences produced. What distinguishes utilitarianism from egoism has to do with the scope of the relevant consequences. On the utilitarian view one ought to maximize the overall good — that is, consider the good of others as well as one’s own good (The History of Utilitarianism, n.d.).

Deontological (duty-based) ethics are concerned with what people do, not with the consequences of their actions. Do the right thing. Do it because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t do wrong things. Avoid them because they are wrong. Under this form of ethics you can’t justify an action by showing that it produced good consequences, which is why it’s sometimes called ‘non-Consequentialist’. The word ‘deontological’ comes from the Greek word deon, which means ‘duty’. Duty-based ethics are usually what people are talking about when they refer to ‘the principle of the thing’. Duty-based ethics teaches that some acts are right or wrong because of the sorts of things they are, and people have a duty to act accordingly, regardless of the good or bad consequences that may be produced (Duty-based ethics, n.d.).

2. Discuss the different categories of unethical police behavior and provide an example of each. How do these unethical actions impact the policing profession?

There are many levels of behavior and acts committed by law enforcement both on duty and off that can be considered misconduct. These acts can be categorized as ranging from the minor errors in judgement, to the blatant intentional victimization of honest law abiding citizens as well as the Police Misconduct & Corruption 2 Lieutenant Robert H. Garrett criminal element. No matter whom the victim may be all forms of misconduct and corruption damage the integrity of the profession. The minor incidents, if left unchecked ultimately lead to more serious acts of misconduct that can result in a culture of corruption within an agency and a lack of trust by the community. Misconduct is defined as the intentional wrongdoing or improper behavior. Some of the acts that are often committed by law enforcement can be those such as; accepting gratuities in exchange for special treatment, accepting bribes, stealing from both citizens and criminals alike, and at its worst, physical harm inflicted on innocent people. Whatever the specific behavior, it undermines the faith given to law enforcement by the communities they serve. In addition, it is a betrayal of the trust that law enforcement officers are supposed to have with each other to ensure their safety

Police misconduct is also referred to as “police corruption” because both involve the violation of police department rules and regulations. Police misconduct sometimes involves law enforcement officers who violate state and federal laws, as well as the civil rights of the citizens they are sworn to protect. Examples of police misconduct include the excessive use of either physical or deadly force, arresting people based on discrimination, physically or verbally harassing people, or being selective with the laws they enforce.

Types of Police Misconduct

There are numerous types of police misconduct that officers can engage in, and they do not have to be on the job in order to be guilty of misconduct. Some examples of police misconduct include:

  • Bribing lawmakers – Some officers will try to persuade officials to either pass or keep laws that work to give the police excess power.
  • Selective law enforcement – An example of police misconduct of this sort would be to arrest someone simply because the officer “dislikes” him for some reason. Similarly, an officer choosing not to punish someone he doeslike but who should be charged with a crime is also selective law enforcement. The officer is “selecting” which laws he will enforce, and which ones he won’t, rather than treating everyone fairly under the law.
  • Witness tampering – Witness tampering is one of the more common types of police misconduct. This behavior concerns an officer who attempts to either change a witness’ testimony, or prevents a witness from testifying in a criminal or civil proceeding.
  • Noble cause corruption – This is a situation wherein the officer wrongly believes that a positive outcome justifies the bad behavior that was engaged in to get that positive result. In other words, the ends justify the means.
  • False confessions – Some officers convince individuals to give false confessions, convincing them to plead guilty to something they did not actually do. This behavior may be engaged in so as to protect the person who is truly guilty of the crime.
  • Racial profiling – Racial profiling is the use of someone’s race or ethnicity as a justification for suspecting him of committing a crime. For instance, assuming a man must be a terrorist because he’s Muslim, or assuming a black man driving an expensive car must have stolen it.

Other types of police misconduct include:

  • False arrest
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Police perjury
  • Using a police badge to gain entry into events, take advantage of discounts, etc.
  • Taking drugs or drinking alcohol while on duty

3. Discuss civil liability under Federal Code 42 U.S.C. Section 1983.

In the U.S., people are guaranteed certain civil rights. In fact, if a state actor uses the legal system to deprive someone of their constitutional rights, the person may have a cause of action against them in the form of a civil rights lawsuit. More specifically, 42 U.S. Code, Section 1983 provides a civil cause of action against the person responsible. If a governmental police department, in contrast to a private security company, was involved in the recently widely reported removal of a passenger from an airplane, there is a possibility, depending upon the specific facts, of a successful Section 1983 lawsuit that would impose liability upon that governmental entity. Police action may extend liability for injuries such as assault and battery to government in addition to private individuals and businesses.



The History of Utilitarianism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). (n.d.). Retrieved from

Duty-based ethics. (n.d.). Retrieved from

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