Proposal for an essay research


Professional Ethics Proposal for Essay

Is It Ever Ethical To Lie If You Are A Police Officer?


The objective of this proposal is to determine whether it is ethical for a police officer to lie. Basically, lies may happen in all the stages during the detecting process; interrogation, investigation, as well as court testimony. When a police officer tells lies, he risks eroding the public confidence and could create an insight of police force as being similar to fugitives and felons. Using various ethical perspectives and Western Australia legislation, the essay seeks to establish whether there is an ethical justification for lying.


Deception by police officers according to Forrest and Woody (2010) raises important legal and ethical questions, especially because of the increasing justice miscarriages attributed to false confessions. In view of Ciske (1999 ), lying is considered effective provided that the lie is believed by the deceived and the credibility of the deceiver remains intact. Police cannot be allowed to lie in a moral society or use deceiving tactics, which are considered unethical against those accused or suspected of committing a crime (Skolnick, 1982). Using Skolnick and Leo (1992) study, the essay exhibits how lies from police officers is increasingly becoming morally puzzling, complex and subtle. Still, deception as mentioned by Kleinig (1987), is not new in the work of police officers. Deception has become part and parcel of police work during the interrogatory and investigative stages.

Normally, police interrogators utilise deceiving techniques so as to get confessions from offenders, but these techniques encroach upon the moral values of law enforcement (Janofsky, 2006). Critics of police deception as cited by Cain (2015) argue that allowing law enforcers to use lies while interrogating the suspects is a slippery slope because it can make police officers to lie when testifying in the court of law or during application of search warrant. Kant argued that it is an ethical duty of a person to others to be truthful or not to lie (Mahon, 2006). By reviewing
Korsgaard (1986) and Varden (2010) studies, they essay demonstrates why lying has been classified by Kant as an act of violating the perfect duty to oneself.

Basically, telling lies is morally wrong because it corrupts the ability of the person to make rational and free choices. Therefore, when a police officer tells lies, he negates the part of him, which offers him the moral worth. Furthermore, when telling lies the police officer robs the suspects’ freedom of choosing rationally. People can value themselves as well as others as ends rather than means, and this according to Kant can be achieved by not lying (Mazur, 2015). Telling lies is ethically incorrect according to virtue ethics because it is not virtuous in nature (Hill, 2012; Paul et al., 2008). Lying is considered to be morally acceptable by the utilitarian ethics, but only when the outcome minimises harm or maximises benefit (Connolly, 2009). Therefore, police can lie as long as the outcome benefits the society to a greater extent (Roberson & Mire, 2009).

Still, absolutists in the police force would refuse to lie, depending on rather on a deontological argument, wherein the outcome of lie is inconsequential (Kassimeris, 2016). Therefore, lies are unethical since they are dishonest means to the ends (McCartney & Parent, 2015; Semrad et al., 2015; Lee, 2010). Lying can result in public disquiet since the police officers will be violating the unwritten democratic policing social contract and would be infringing the democracy itself (Keane & Bell, 2015). The essay draws some evidence from the Old Testament, which states categorically that nobody should bear false witness (Rowe, 2014).

Lying according to the deontological philosophers as cited by Levine and Schweitzer (2014) is immoral since it infringes the right to truth, which is a sacred value. On the other hand, utilitarians believe that the ethical justification of lying relies on the outcome. Currently, criminal offences in Western Australia are governed by the Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913. Therefore, all wrongdoings are contained in this legislation (Gans, 2011).

The legislation prohibits the creating of false belief, which includes lying. Therefore, when a police officer lies in the court of law, he/she is amenable to falsification charges under the Criminal Code. In Australia, no federal or state legislation openly allows the police officers to lie. In other countries like the US, lying by a police officer is allowed so as to allow the law enforcement to work effectively (Alpert & Noble, 2008; Agorist, 2016).


In conclusion, the utilitarians believe lying can be justified if the outcome minimises harm and maximise benefits. However, lying violates the sacred value of being truthful and robs people the freedom to choose rationally. Even though the police officers can lie in certain circumstances, the essay demonstrates why it is ethical obligation to remain honest and trustworthy as well as maintain the highest integrity level.


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