Ethics as the Key to Overcoming Biased Policing

Scott L. Johnson, Buffalo State College

Biased policing remains a problem in law enforcement. Many discussions of biased policing suggest the best way to overcome the problem is through increased guidelines mean to control police discretion. However, research shows that guidelines and sanctions do not appear to be effective means of controlling police discretion or changing agency cultures. Loyalties and/or fears among officers prevent whistleblowing and sanctioning of the behavior when discovered. These complicated issues lead this research to conclude that the problem of biased policing will only be overcome by an assertion of a new police ethic. Police ethics would provide the most effective means of redressing most of the bias in law enforcement. This paper articulates a theory of racial profiling as an example of biased policing and also hyupothesizes an ethical argument designed to overcome the problem in police agencies.

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Updated 05/20/2006