Ethical justification for police lies 1



Is it ever ethical to lie if you are a police officer?

The police officers play a very critical role in our societies. The role of maintaining law and order requires utmost honesty and faithfulness. The general duty of a place person involves several stages towards ensuring law and order. Some of the critical steps involve detection, interrogation and giving testimonies in the courts. These series of functions require the best from the police officers who are charged with the duty of ensuring that law and order are ultimately kept. The question, however, concerns the ethical environment within which these officers operate. Is it justifiable under the various ethical frameworks for the police officers to lie? This paper intends to determine whether there exists any ethical justification for the police officers to lie (Spinoza, 2001).

Every State officer in charge of performing duties on behalf of the community needs to observe ethics as the major guiding codes. Ethical; practices, therefore, implied the just and moral practices with an outcome aimed at improving the condition of oneself and others. Ethical judgments and practices within the police officers need to advance the moral aspects of their operations and improve the service to the community. Various scholars have differing opinions and arguments regarding the ethical practices in police service (Badiou, 2002). However, the paper intends to stand on three basic ethical frameworks and determine if lies used by police officers are justified within this framework. The various ethical framework intended in this paper include Consequential Framework, Duty Framework, and Virtue Framework.

Ethical Justification for place officers to use lies under the ethical framework

Police officers bear a heavy burden of assisting the community in ensuring that law and order are maintained. They purposely bear the role of ensuring that those who break the law are arrested and brought to book. Therefore, they bear the faith and trust of the entire community on their shoulders. Despite this level of responsibility, police officer’s plunge themselves into using lies especially in the course of their duties. Some lie at the interrogation stage, some at the inspection stage while others lie while giving testimonies in the court of law. This trend has however been on the increase in the modern times (Bonhoeffer & Tödt, 2005). The underlying concern, however, is on any ethical justification for the police officers to use lies while performing their duties. There are various ethical approaches which help determine the ethical or otherwise for police officers to lie.

The Utilitarian Approach

The Utilitarian Approach remains as one of the widely applied ethical approaches in making decisions. It aims at providing guidance to a course and stream of the decision-making process. The proponents argue that it is necessary to weight the outcome of our actions before making decisions. The outcomes may either be positive or negative and may likewise affect the community (Knapp et al., 2015). Therefore, the determination of the final outcomes of a particular decision determines the kind of approach taken. Utilitarian Approach, therefore, argues that it is better to engage in actions which have a common good and outcome to the community. The ethical actions need to provide most good and also reduce harm as much as possible.

Whenever police officers lie, the outcome affects the community and the person under investigation. Usually, telling lies by people held in higher positions of responsibility such as police officers have more bad and good. Such actions create much harm and little good to the processes of investigation, interrogation and also when giving testimonies at the law courts. Lies are normally intended at deceiving the interested parties to the case. Whenever the police officers use lies, the entire process of justice will be jeopardised since the 3outcomes from the case will be compromised. Therefore, this approach argues that the use of lies, especially among police officers, is not justifiable under ethics due to the harm it causes in the community (Barton, 2003).

Duty-Based Approach

The society obligates various individuals with different roles and functions. These roles are normally intended towards improving the conditions and the existence in such communities. The police officers are normally charged with the sole duty of maintaining law and order in the community. The ancillary duties towards achieving this role include the processes of interrogation, investigation and appearance in a court proceeding to give testimonials. The process of achieving law and order depends entirely on the kind of ancillary duties performed, the nature of performance of such duties and the intention of the police officers in the process of carrying out his duties (Tunick, 1998).

Duty-Based Approach argues that ethical actions need to be part and parcel of one’s duties. They need to be followed precisely because it is our obligation and duty. The police officers need to behave ethically since its part of their duty to observe ethics. Telling lies by such persons in the course of their duties does not amount to ethical behaviour. This is because lies have an ultimate cause of harm as compared to good. Honesty, on the other hand, intends to meet good and justice from the process of law and order. The Duty-Based approach disqualifies that telling lies is not part of the duties of the police officers. They need to follow the exact processes and requirements of their duties from which telling lies never feature at all (Sandler, 2008).

Justice Approach

Justice advocates for fairness in dealings. It demands that the process of seeking the truth need to be fair to all parties involved. Courts normally take justice ass their guiding principles. Ethics, likewise, regards the Justice Approach as one of the greatest determinants of ethical behaviours. In many cases, justice, and ethics converge at a common point. The point of convergence is that where the outcome benefits both parties in a case or in a process. Justice Approach argues that the outcome of every action need to ensure that all parties are well heard and considered equally (Barsky, 2009).

The police officers are bound by ethical codes to ensure that that the pursuit of law and order remains just on all sides. This bidding dictates that the actions of these officers need to promote airplay on both the parties in a tussle. Telling lies implies that the police officers either intend to fix the victim in the case or exonerate themselves (Beer & Business Expert Press, 2010). However, the process of justice requires fairness and is normally keen at ensuring that all parties are equally regarded in a particular case. Therefore, this approach argues that telling lies amount to the contravention of ethical codes and requirements. Telling lies would benefit one party or disadvantage the other in a typical case. This paper, therefore, argues that the police officers need not use lies in their duties since it contravenes this approach (Treviño & Nelson, 2011).

Several ethical frameworks have been used to justify the behaviour of people in the society. These frameworks create an environment which controls the behaviour and also assess if a particular outcome influence the society negatively or positively. The police officers, equally, have a duty under the doctrine of ethics to ensure strict adherence to the ethical codes. Their actions are normally weighed in the ethical balance (Lozano, 2001). According to many scholars, some actions as telling lies may benefit the police officer out of a tussle. However, the following ethical frameworks prove how telling lies fail to meet the criteria of ethical conduct and outcome.

Consequential Framework

The consequential framework focuses on the future effects and impacts of behavior. It aims at considering the people affected by one’s actions and the manner in which these actions affect them. This framework underscores the possibility of an amazing array of behaviours in the society. Therefore, it considers the particular actions which are desirable in promoting good in a situation and the ultimate consequence of such actions in producing the best (Arjoon et al., 2012). The general rule of thumb, in this case, is that every action needs to maximise on good and reduce the bad. This approach normally considers the outcome of one’s action especially in a case involving many people. Some people normally benefit from some actions while other remains disadvantaged by such actions (Hugman, 2005).

The use of lies by police officers normally intends to achieve a particular good especially for the police officer or for the person under protection. Scholars argue that most police officers resort to lies to either protect themselves or protect another senior person implicated in a case (Walton, 2003). Therefore, they use lies as a cover up mechanism. In this case, the consequence of their actions means good as per their perception. However, the bigger picture of telling lies among the police officers brings a sharp contrast with kind of notion. This is because the actions of the police affect many people in the society. Additionally, police activities include various parties who normally expect the best outcome from such police practices (Hillner, 2000).

This framework argues that every individual need to maximise good from the consequences of his actions. Observations of ethical standards and practices are one of the ways through which people improve and make good the outcomes of their actions. Telling lies consequentially trivialises the position of the other party to a police case. In a large perspective, it compromises the process of maintaining law and order and achieving the results as expected by the community (Pletz, 1999). Therefore, this framework argues that it is unethical for the place officers to use lies due to the unfortunate and negative consequence of such a practice.

The Virtue Framework

The virtue framework focuses on the establishment of an individual character and the outcome of such characters. People have different personalities, characterises, perceptions and emotions. All these determine the kind of decision and actions in which they engage. The principle of virtue advocates for rightful doing under all circumstances. It is an inherent character trait which pushes a person to engage in moral and justifiable actions. Virtuous people are those who aim at engaging in actions which create well to oneself and other people. Therefore, virtuous acts are normally justifiable under the doctoring of ethics (Weiss, 2014).

The virtue framework considers the characters, personalities and the actions of the place officers. These police officers are obligated to ensure that the society remains under law and order. Incidentally, they are expected to ensure maximum adherence to the codes of ethics, doctrine of morality and to ensure that they follow the same law and order. Such practices, however, depend on the character traits of an individual. The greatest concern whenever the police officers use lies is the intention regarding telling of these lies and the expected outcome from such a practice (Allen, 1976). Virtuous person aims at improving the lives of others and mean no harm to them. Therefore, morality and ethics act as the guiding practices for such people. Essentially, virtuous approach interrogates the reason as to why the police officer resorts to telling lies and the objective intended from such lies (Ahmad, 2001).

The framework argues that telling lies contravenes the doctrine of morality and virtue. The good characters of a person are not shaped by the lies told and the ill intentions from such acts. Police officers who engage in telling lies fall short of these doctrines due to their insecure motives, ill intentions and their immoral actions. Under this framework, the use of lies by the police officers fails to meet the ethical justification standards. It equally falls short of the doctrine of virtue and morality as expected in the society (Schwartz, 2013).

The Duty Framework

The duty framework concerns the kind of duties and obligations shouldered upon an individual by the society. Several positions such as that of a police officer stem from the need to improve the existing conditions the society. The community depends on the duties of these place officers in order tom promote law and order. Therefore, this kind of expectation requires the police officers to observe ethical and moral practices at all levels of their duties. Ethics guide the actions and practices of the police officers making them in tandem with the expectations of the society (Drummond & Embree, 2002).

This framework normally requires the best out from the police officers. It requires that ethics need to be observed as a part of the duties shouldered on the officers. Essentially, it advocates for right doping as an ordinary part of the duties and obligations of a person’s duty. Telling lies by the police officers has never been part of the duties of these officers. There are normally required to maintain law and order and incidentally to behave ethically towards achieving such societal expectations (Sheeran, 1993). The immoral practices such as telling lies in the course of their duties fail to capture the main roles of the officers.

Therefore, this framework argues that telling lies fail to be part of the duty of a police officer and therefore need not be practised. The nature of the duties of these officers equally prohibits the use of lies to advance their activities. The entire Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913, which governs Western Australia, requires utmost diligence and honesty in the practice of the police officers. Telling lies is not part of these rules and therefore fails the test of ethical justification (Brown, 2003).


The nature of functions and various roles carried out by the police officers require utmost care and diligence. It further requires honesty and faithfulness. The essence of these requirements corresponds to the societal expectations and the influence of the police officers in the society (Chidwick, 1994). This burden requires them to operate in adherence to ethical practices and requirements. Practices such as telling lies fall short of ethical justification. This has been substantiated by the ethical frameworks used in the above sections such as duty Framework, Virtue Framework, and Consequential Framework.


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