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Law enforcement officers bear a critical responsibility that encompasses offering legally required services to the public. In their line of duty, the prerequisite for them to gain public trust includes maintenance of good personal conduct, honor and integrity. As such, these officers get discouraged from exercising any practices that would otherwise make them expect special treatment being the members of society. Hence, their code bars them from accepting any form of favors, gifts, or gratuities regardless of their size, while in their line of duty. The core reason being such actions can be interpreted the way that the officers may have become compromised while making the right decision when performing their duties. However, the notion attracts diverse opinions from various stakeholders. Some may argue that ethics depends on the character of an individual and his/her ability to make the right judgment on a subject.
The aim of this research work is to investigate the subject regarding gratuities in law enforcement. In this case, a detective at a Local Police Department will be interviewed. The core focus will be on the departments, gratuities, the detective’s opinion, and the breaches of ethics that can arise from such gifts. During the research work, an officer from the New York Police Department (NYPD) is interviewed on his opinion on the subject matter. However, to avoid appraisal from the department as well as to allow objectivity when answering to the questions, the name of the officer in question remains concealed.
NYPD Policy Relating to Gratuities Acceptance
According to the NYPD patrol guide, officers are forbidden from accepting any form of reward, gift, gratuity or compensation for services offered to the public in the course of their official duties. Again, the law prohibits them from soliciting for such favors for personal gains. The legal framework on this is similar to that governing most of the public servants in the State of New York. Except presents made to individual officers, any gift valued or totaling above $1,000 presented by a single giver has a mandatory legal requirement to be reported. Much of the regulatory framework responding to such actions can be found under New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics laws number seventy-three and seventy-four (New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics). On the one hand, rule seventy-three covers the individuals under prohibition including current and former state employees and officers. On the other hand, rule seventy-four provides the code of ethics for these individuals.
The police department does not in any way apply any informal policy regarding the acceptance of gifts from the public. In fact, the law enforcement body does require its officers to avoid such instances that would most likely lead them into awkward situations.
Basic Arguments against Acceptance of Gratuities
One of the foremost reasons why the taking of gratuities by public officers should be avoided is the public opinion. Government departments are the institutions meant to serve members of their community in a fair and objective manner. The people get to trust these bodies when they believe that equal chances are accorded to them in dealing with their grievances (Andrews, 2004). Thus, the successes and relationship of government agencies and the citizens benefit from a mutual trust association.
Situations that may lead the members of the society to feel as if one party is favored over them will heavily erode that trust. Gifts, favors, and gratuities to public officials tend to appear as attempts to influence the impartiality of an officer from a citizen’s perspective. As such, government officials ought to avoid such behaviors that would lead to poor public perception. Regardless of how much genuine the gratuities may appear, the public will always interpret them as corruption schemes meant to seek favors (Coleman, 2004). Again, the donor may be expecting some favors as well.
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Risk of Slippery to Corruption
The line between corruption and gratuities to public officers gets thinner over time. A relationship may have begun as an appreciation to the officer from a member of public. However, that can likely turn to favors, which would require the official to reciprocate. In fact, the onset of most corrupt activities within the public sector originates from presents given to them. By nature, humans respond to favors with a similar act. Again, at times, the accepting officer may not have the wrong intentions. However, the giver may have a concocted idea that the actions by the detective will lead to him/her getting some favors in the future (Fitch, 2011). Therefore, the more a person gives, the higher will be his/her expectations.
Although the officer has the right to refuse such requests, such gratuities may create a false friendship between donor and receiver. Hence, on the one hand, the officer can easily get involved into allowing illegal activities or blinding the law. On the other hand, the roles can reverse where the giver can have all the right intentions, but the receiver misinterprets the offer. That means the public officials getting the perception of the gift as a must from the public for them to perform their duties. Over time, that would evolve to these officers soliciting a bribe to undertake the responsibilities accorded to them by the state. As such, gratuities may appear as a recipe for hidden corruption that can prove difficult to win against (Curtis, 2013). That becomes the case when people fail to distinguish when a present has been given from an occurrence of a bribery act.
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Interview with a NYPD Police Officer
From the interview with the police officer, he stated that small gratuities could be allowed in their line of duty. The officer mentions that such little benefits would serve as building blocks in a constructive social relationship. According to him, such a relationship has the significance of encouraging the public to get familiar with the law enforcers. In turn, that would create an opportunity for them to collect the necessary intelligence, as well as understand the problems of a given society. However, he also believes that such gratuities should not become so common, especially, when coming from the same giver. In his argument, he holds the opinion that when such small presents become a habit, they can end up forcing one party to compel itself to satisfy the individual interest of the other. Thus, in his opinion, when the relationship gets to such levels it ought to be terminated.
Gratuities can become harmful or helpful depending on their size and nature or situations under which they are offered. While large gifts may deeply impact on one’s judgment, small presents may not pose such a threat and can help in molding better interactions between the public and the law enforcers. Further, both nature and length of time can raise suspicion. Although the gifts may not always mean expectation of favors, they should be avoided as much as possible, so as to maintain the public trust that remains vital for government operations. Further, prolonged small-offers can lead to corruption in the end. A case in question with such small gratuities turned to corruption allegations involving NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly relations with assistance from Harvard Club (Rashbaum, 2010). The commissioner had bribery accusations leveled against him, resulting from taking a sum of money exceeding $1,000 and failing to report the arrangement.
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In brief, the relationship between law enforcers and gratuity acceptance can be viewed from different perspectives. Although some small gifts may not be considered as entirely harmful to public order and arrangement, they pose some threats. Hence, the acceptance of gratuity should remain minimal or forbidden where possible. State officials may require using other methods of getting the public to trust them as opposed to an avenue that can lead to bribery and thus loss of confidence.