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Noble Cause Corruption and Police Ethic

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 68 Issue: 8 Dated: August 1999 Pages: 1-10
Bob Harrison M.S.
Date Published
10 pages
This analysis by a police chief focuses on whether noble cause corruption, an unstated norm in police conduct that supports illegal actions that violate citizens' rights for moral considerations, should take precedence over the individual's right to freedom from such behavior.
The police are the constituted authority for the lawful use of force in society. However, a central issue is how police officers can maintain an appropriate balance between governing others and controlling themselves. Situations arise in which one undeniable good conflicts with another undeniable good. Officers thrust into arbitrating between these conflicting goods may fall into corrupting the public trust to which they are sworn, not for personal gain or revenge but in an effort to fulfill a noble sentiment arising from the conflict endemic to the human condition itself. However, the dilemma of noble cause corruption is not problematic. Government refrains from coercion and intimidation to accomplish its ends because the society it serves deserves a legal system that remains consistently just. Police officers who use unlawful means damage the system they represent and denigrate themselves. Actions framed as noble cause corruption may arise from an individualistic perspective; an alternative approach focuses on a concern for civic virtue at the community level and results in police officers who treat others equally. Figure and reference notes