Six articles addressing police ethnocentricity, subculture, historical evolution, dual-court system and roles of courtroom workgroups, correctional goals, and prison privatization are summarized, and the related Christian and biblical worldview discussed. The articles demonstrate that ethical and moral dilemmas are numerous in American law enforcement and criminal justice systems. A discussion of the related Christian and biblical worldview indicates that police officers and judicial officers encountered moral and ethical dilemmas that challenged their work and sometimes spoilt the reputation of the institutions when morality and ethics were violated.
The criminal justice system in the United States is faced with numerous moral and ethical challenges that place practice in conflict with Christian and biblical worldviews. Law enforcers face several ethical dilemmas when performing their duties, often presented by the institutional, systemic, and organizational structures of the police departments and courts. The following articles highlight some of the areas where ethical dilemmas abound. Article summaries and the associated Christian and biblical worldview are discussed.
Police Ethnocentricity, Subculture, and Historical Evolution
Pardesi, Mangi, and Pardesi give a brief account of the evolution of the police and discuss the various attempts to control the behavior of rogue and overzealous police officers. This article titled “Judicial attempts to control police behavior in the United States of America” was published in 2013 in the International Research Journal of Arts & Humanities, and addresses at length the previous attempts to deter errant police behavior using the judiciary. The authors note that police officers endeavor to use searches and arrest to deter crime by obtaining evidence that can be used to convict an offender or deter criminal behavior extrajudicially (Pardesi, 2013). To deter this behavior, the courts in the United States have created rules that disallow the admission of illegally acquired evidence in court proceedings and the requirement for a warrant before a suspect can be searched. However, Pardesi, Mangi, and Pardesi (2013) conclude that these restrictions have not changed or reformed the behavior of police because the illegal use of searches persisted in addition to the easy access to search warrants without proper justification for their issuance by the judges. In the end, failure to control the overreaching behavior of police officers has provided them with the opportunity to be unethical when preventing crimes and deterring criminals.
Silver et al. authored an article titled “Traditional police culture, use of force, and procedural justice: Investigating individual, organizational, and contextual factors”, which was published in Justice Quarterly in 2017. This article discusses the traditional police culture, and the moral and social identities it promotes, its two subcultures, and the individual, organizational, and contextual factors that influence adherence to either of the subcultures. Silver et al. (2017, p. 1280) reveal that the two most dominant subcultures of police officers are the “management cop culture” and the “street cop culture”. Additionally, the use of force and support for procedural justice characterized the traditional police culture. More specifically, Silver et al. (2017) found that line offices endorsed the traditional police culture to a greater extent than their managers. Similarly, organizational factors like the department’s size influenced the adherence to traditional police culture, with line officers in large police departments endorsing the traditional police culture more than those in small police departments in counties and municipalities. Besides, an interesting finding from this study was that police officers in departments in the southern states, especially African American ones, supported the use of force less and procedurally just practices more. I the end, Silver et al. (2017) concluded that adherence to traditional police culture deterred attitudinal changes towards procedural justice and the use of force among American police officers.
The Christian and biblical worldview related to police ethnography and culture indicates that police officers should strive to act godly by being fair and considerate of the weak and poor. However, the police subculture of violence and seeking convictions using forcibly-obtained evidence places police work at cross-purposes with Christian principles. Therefore, police officers often encounter moral dilemmas when required to use force.
Dual-Court System and Roles of Courtroom Workgroup
Mullenix published the article “The (surprisingly) prevalent role of states in an era of federalized class actions” in Brigham Young University Law Review in 2019. She interrogated the jurisdictional tension in the dual-court system in the United States in which the federal and state courts has sought to gain more jurisdiction in different cases, and particularly. The article addresses how state courts have continued to adjudicate complex cases despite the deferral courts having more mandates over such matters, particularly when they involve parties from different states. The author uses the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) of 2005 to demonstrate how attempts to federalize class-action lawsuits had failed (Mullenix, 2019). Although the law sought to enhance fairness using the concept of diversity jurisdiction, state courts have continued to adjudicate complex cases, such as class action ones, provided the decisions of the Supreme Court aid them. In practice, the state courts are protected against federal judicial encroachment, while state attorneys have been empowered to take cases on behalf of the states’ citizens.
Rudes and Portillo published the article “Roles and power within federal problem solve courtroom workgroups” in the Law & Policy journal in 2012. The article addresses the evolution and the increased prevalence and popularity of problem-solving courts in the American judicial system. Rudes and Portillo (2012) acknowledge the expansion of the jurisdictions of the American court system from their traditional decision-making role focused on the individualized adversarial approaches towards a contemporary collaborative team-based system. They argue that courtroom workgroups intend to solve problems by introducing the “ethic of care” in a therapeutic approach to individuals accused of medically-related crimes like substance abuse and abuse (Rudes & Portillo, 2012, p. 403). However, they reveal that although these collaborative teams, comprising probation officers, prosecutors, medical treatment providers, social workers, defense attorneys, and judges, help rehabilitate criminals with chronic issues, their influence in decision-making is not equally distributed. They note that probation officers influenced the work-groups’ and federal courts’ decisions more than the other members therein.
The Christian and biblical worldview related to the dual-court system and courtroom workgroups require that police officers demonstrate fairness in the administration of justice. However, the tension between the jurisdictions of the federal and state courts, and the decision-making influence of the different team members in courtroom workgroups may undermine the fair application of the law by the American criminal justice system, creating ethical dilemmas as to who should be tried in which court and why some members of the court workgroups are more influential than others, when the court system is supposed to treat all cases and accused equally under similar laws.
Correctional Goals and Prison Privatization
Cooper, et al. published “Hidden corporate profits in the US prison system: the unorthodox policy-making of the American Legislative Exchange Council” in Contemporary Justice Review in 2016. Their article discusses the privatization of American prisons among other issues handled by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) a nongovernmental organization that claims to protect the interests of businesspeople in the United States. The authors claim that ALEC uses unscrupulous means to formulate and push legislative bills that favor the corporate world to the disadvantage of the average American citizens (Cooper, et al. 2016). They reckon that the bills that ALEC-formulated bills that had been enacted into law favoring private prison providers. These laws reflected the misuse of prison privatization, including expanding its population to create demand for private enterprises. In this regard, the authors present the major ethical disadvantage of privatized prisons as that of making profits from punishment.
Mehigan and Rowe, in their article “Problematizing prison privatization: an overview of the debate” published in 2012 in the Handbook on Prisons, discuss a broad range of issues related to the privatization of American prisons, including its benefits and detriments. The benefits include providing high-quality and cost-effective correctional services, accommodating the high number of incarcerated individuals, reducing government involvement in the promotion of free markets, and promoting innovation (Mehigan & Rowe, 2012). Contrastingly, the detriments include introducing profit motives into the correctional services, supporting mass incarceration, particularly of minor offenders, usually of ethnic minorities, and promoting unfair competition practices by engaging few selected service providers.
The Christian and biblical worldview related to correctional goals and privatization of prisons require the application of restorative grace in addressing criminality and law enforcement. However, racial profiling by American law enforcement and administering of sentences disproportionate to the offense persists in the American criminal justice system. Minority groups are overrepresented in American prisons, which justify privatization as a solution for overcrowding. Similarly, the goal of correction is to rehabilitate the offenders, although the criminal justice system appears to favor the punitive approach, thus presenting ethical dilemmas to the judicial and law enforcement officers.
The American law and criminal justice systems presented officers with numerous ethical and moral challenges. The police and judicial officers faced many ethical and moral dilemmas that could compromise their faiths and damage the reputation of their institutions. However, by understanding the sources of such dilemmas, the officers can perform their duties ethically without compromising the quality of their performance or the outcomes of their actions.
Cooper, R., Heldman, C., Ackerman, A. R., & Farrar-Meyers, V. A. (2016). Hidden corporate profits in the US prison system: the unorthodox policy-making of the American Legislative Exchange Council. Contemporary Justice Review, 19(3), 380-400. https://doi.org/10.1080/10282580.2016.1185949
Mehigan, J., & Rowe, A. (2012). Problematizing prison privatization: An overview of the debate. Handbook on Prisons, 356-376. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203118191-25
Mullenix, L. S. (2019). The (surprisingly) prevalent role of states in an era of federalized class actions. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2019(6), 1551-1622.
Pardesi, Y. Y., Mangi, A. A., & Pardesi, M. Y. (2013). Judicial attempts to control police behavior in the United States of America. International Research Journal of Arts & Humanities, 41(41), 217-219.
Rudes, D. S., & Portillo, S. (2012). Roles and power within federal problem solving courtroom workgroups. Law & Policy, 34(4), 402-427. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9930.2012.00368.x
Silver, J. R., Roche, S. P., Bilach, T. J., & Bontrager Ryon, S. (2017). Traditional police culture, use of force, and procedural justice: Investigating individual, organizational, and contextual factors. Justice Quarterly, 34(7), 1272-1309. https://doi.org/10.1080/07418825.2017.1381756