Why law enforcement is losing the public’s trust in America
Five years ago in October 2011, as I was completing my MBA dissertation, I suggested law enforcement in America was on the brink of a crisis equal to the crisis the United States financial industry faced in 2008 where the survival of the banking system hung on a thread of trust nearly destroyed by the unethical behavior of the industry’s leaders.
Perhaps the most important lessoned learned in 2008 is this type of unethical behavior is easily explainable when leaders in a particular industry do “not subscribe to the stakeholder approach;” requiring complete transparency.
A cloak of secrecy
For the past five decades police officers, prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges have conducted business shrouded in a cloak of secrecy virtually unquestioned by anyone outside of the legal system. Yet in the wake of the prominent police shootings of Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and Philando Castile the public is demanding explanations.
In a system of justice where the public’s trust is placed in the checks and balances established in the judicial system itself, the integrity of those involved is supposed to be above reproach. Ultimate trust is bestowed upon the police officers who enforce the laws, the attorneys who handle the case, and ultimately the courts who hear the case and pronounce judgment.
A process with a systematic integrity problem
Unfortunately, just a cursory review the United States Supreme Court records reveal this is a process with a systematic integrity problem bordering on complete moral failure. This is both preventable and unnecessary; if each component within the judicial system would conduct themselves with the highest of ethical standards and rigidly follow their respective ethical oaths. 1
In the next four weeks, we are going to analyze and offer these four simple solutions for correcting many of the issues causing the loss of public’s trust in law enforcement and our judicial system
- Public’s expectation that each component in our legal system appropriately self-police by enforcing their respective Code of Ethics.
- Prosecutors must follow the provisions of the 1963 Supreme Court ruling in Maryland v. Brady case.
- The need for Open Prosecutorial records.
- Removal of the Public Disclosure Exemption of public employee personnel disciplinary procedures.
The solutions are simple but implementation will prove to be much more problematic. According to Sir Robert Peel, the ability of police services to function appropriately in performance of their duties requires the publics’ approval of law enforcement actions. Decades ago, individual police officers recognized that their badge was a symbol of the public’s trust and, as a result of that trust, their personal motivations, attitudes, biases, and prejudices were subject to intense public scrutiny. This fact, which is not fully appreciated by some officers today, was fully disclosed to all of them upon their affirmation of the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and is the basis of any type of self-policing and the foundation of my next article.