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Ethics in Criminal Investigations

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Autor:   •  August 22, 2011  •  Term Paper  •  1,007 Words (5 Pages)  •  2,479 Views

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Ethics In Criminal Investigations

Kaplan University

William Walker


Ethics are a major part of all law enforcement activities from the criminal investigation right up to prosecution of the crime. During a criminal investigation the first thought that an investigator should have is to examine his own biases because going into an investigation without an open-minded approach can lead to bending the collected facts of the case to a predicted, and often time's wrong outcome. In this criminal investigation course I have learned about all types of crimes, the two I wish to discuss and the ethical dilemmas that could arise surrounding them are arson and burglary.

First what is arson and what is burglary? Arson can be defined as the willfully and maliciously setting of a fire for any unlawful or improper purpose (New World Encyclopedia, 2008). Burglary is the unlawful entry into any structure for the purpose to commit a crime inside. It does not require physically breaking and entering, and unlike robbery which entails force to gain another person's property most often the victim is not present (Find Law, 2011).

So having defined the two types of crimes there are some ethical considerations that must be addressed when investigating these crimes. The main ethical considerations in arson cases include the proper collection of correct evidence and it's labeling from the rest of the fire debris (Risper, 2011). The same can be said for burglary cases the proper collection of evidence is a key component to effective prosecution of the crime. Some specific ethical issues when investigating these crimes include political motives, for instance investigators should not manipulate evidence in any way as to promote a certain political platform or position. They must at all times approach the crime scene without political or personal interest at heart. Another ethical issue that can interfere with an investigators duties in handling burglaries or arsons is bias as I mentioned earlier. These biases can be racially motivated or based on gender, sexual orientation and even religious preferences. Also investigators may have a possible conflict of interest that can hinder his or hers ability to be objective and fair in their approach to the crime and collection of evidence. Say the investigator may be related to the suspect, the temptation to protect that suspect can lead to the suppression or manipulation of evidence. Finally in cases of burglary privacy can lead to ethical issues because the investigator is often required to go through the victims home or personal space for evidence and clues, so they must ethically respect the victims privacy and not discuss with others the victims personal belongings or assets. Investigators just like journalists have an ethical obligation not to turn the victim's misfortunes into a media spectacle (Farley, 2011). In order to reduce these ethical problems involved with investigating these two types of crimes investigators should avoid alliances with those who have goals that are inconsistent with an honest and unbiased investigation. They should be truth-seekers instead of trying to make cases remembering that it is more important to protect our innocent than to prosecute the guilty. They should not damage their credibility and that of the department they work for the sake of trying to look good or compete for credentials. Also investigators should always bear in mind that their opinions have the power to put people in prison,


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