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Ethics & Laws


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  • Ethics & Laws

    Hello everyone!

    I am seriously thinking about pursuing a career in law enforcement. However, I have a question for all you current police officers.

    Are there any laws you feel are wrong? If so, how do you feel about enforcing these laws? If not, if there were laws you thought were wrong, how would you deal with it?

    I was just wondering how some of you feel about possibly enforcing something you believe is wrong/unconstitional/etc upon someone else.

    Thank you for your time in both answering my question and protecting me from all the crazy people!


  • #2
    Not a cop yet, but I have plenty of experience to answer this.

    Seatbelt and helmet laws. BS. I might use them as PC to stop a vehicle, but I would not write a ticket for them.

    As for criminal laws, I like most of them. But in a few cases a person may have violated the letter of the law and not really deserve to go to jail. That's the beautiful thing about discretion. With a few exceptions, cops aren't required to take action every time a law is broken.



    • #3
      Seatbelts and helmets helped prevent me from having to remove T/A victims from a car or the street, while they lay there in two or more chunks.

      Some laws make sense, after a time and a few bad accidents.

      But overall, although an officer does not not give up personal opinions, still the laws must be applied in a even-handed fashion.

      Jim Burnes


      • #4
        Unless those victims had gotten a seatbelt or helmet ticket a few minutes before the accident, the laws didn't prevent anything. Laws or no laws, people make their own decisions.

        From the tone of your post, it's not even the life-saving aspect that you like about the law, just the fact that your accidents were easier to investigate than if they had been fatal. Laws are supposed to protect people and society from others. Laws are not supposed to protect people from themselves, or cops from having extra paperwork.

        And laws are not enforced even-handedly. A murder investigation takes many many officers and support staff to complete. A seat belt violation takes a single officer. And when manpower is short, departments make the decision to overlook the seatbelt violation and focus on the murder. We have to set priorities. If a time comes when there is absolutely nothing else I can do with my patrol time, I'll look for seatbelt violators. Even then, I think a lecture would have a greater effect than a citation.

        For the record, I think it's pretty stupid to drive without your seatbelt on. I always have mine on, but not because the law says so.



        • #5
          There actually IS a difference between types of "laws." For example, traffic laws are actually "regulations," imposed by the state to cover the driving "privilege." Most (but certainly not all) violations of the "driving rules" are infractions.

          An officer has quite a bit of discretion on what he decides to enforce or not enforce in reference to traffic "laws." Of course he has discretion in enforcing some other laws as well.

          However, when it comes to serious violations, aka "felonies," the officer has little choice there but to enforce the law. If he fails to do this, he is guilty of dereliction of duty.


          • #6
            I don't think the insurance industry should subsidize whatever life a guy has left after getting into a crash on a donorcycle while not wearing a helmet. As far as the seatbelt thing, mandatory seatbelt laws save lives. There's no doubt about that. The only way that extra percentage of people will wear a seatbelt is if there is either the threat of being stopped, or the threat of losing some money, or both. If cops don't write tickets, and the public knows they won't, more people will die. I really couldn't care less about them dying, but I don't like the thought of having to pay to support them for the rest of their lives when they can't hold a job or even breathe on their own in some cases.

            [ 11-09-2002, 10:53 PM: Message edited by: Frank Booth ]


            • #7
              Oregon Mike, check your PM.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Oregon Mike:

                From the tone of your post, it's not even the life-saving aspect that you like about the law, just the fact that your accidents were easier to investigate than if they had been fatal.

                Naw, it's the life-saving aspect of the helmet and seatbelt laws I really like. It's the times I had to help remove body parts that resulted in my increasing my response to those who refuse to wear seatbelts or helmets, thereafter. There were even people whom I stopped to issue verbal warnings regards the helmet law (because it is a minor ticket after all), that later in the year I would find had killed themselves in traffic. Of course, the choice is always with the person.

                I just found that as the years went by, my response to those laws became more strict. But it had nothing to do with ease of investigation efforts.

                Regards being even-handed: I mean for the individual officer, laws are enforced for all citizens, even though it may be the officers personal opinion that such laws may need to be reviewed or scrapped. The administration of course will set certain restrictions or priorities, but that is not what I alluded to by the prase 'even-handed'.

                Jim Burnes


                • #9
                  Yes, there are some laws with which I disagree. I try to remember that my job as a police officer is not to formulate the laws. My job is to enforce the laws that have been enacted by the people or their elected representatives. I try to do this in a fair and impartial manner.

                  As an example, I am opposed to narcotics laws. Because of this, I don't make a great many proactive narcotics arrests. However, I try to do a good job when I respond to radio calls involving narcotics problems. I also try to handle narcotics problems as they develope in my area. Finally, I will investigate narcotics charges if they arise during the course of an arrest I am making for a different matter or if narcotics activity becomes readily apparent while I am present.

                  I think that the important thing is to try to separate your rolls as an employee and as a citizen. You can enforce laws with which you disagree and still vote your conscience.

                  [ 11-10-2002, 12:58 AM: Message edited by: Underdog ]


                  • #10
                    Underdog, your post in particular helped a lot. I agree with you on the narcotics laws. I also agree with what you said about keeping your civilian life seperate from that of your job. I am now more excited about becoming a police officer. If nothing else it will be a good experience for me. Hopefully even a launch into the world of politics... But I'm getting ahead of myself.



                    • #11
                      I'm always happy to help. Good luck.


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