Divided Loyalties: Ethical Challenges for America's Law Enforcement in Post 9/11 America

By Brown, Cynthia A. | Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Winter 2011 | Go to article overview

Divided Loyalties: Ethical Challenges for America's Law Enforcement in Post 9/11 America


Brown, Cynthia A., Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law


The martial trend within American police agencies may have begun nearly twenty years prior to the events of 9/11, but the terrorist attacks and a decade of military conflict since bear significant responsibility for the widespread, integrated militarization of our nation "S law enforcement. Military appearance, tactics, operations, weaponry and culture, including the rise and normalization of police paramilitary units, are all components of the country's post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts and contributors to what may be viewed as an identity crisis among police officers. The crisis of identity arises when officers become torn between their sworn duty to protect and serve the community consistent with the tenets of the U.S. Constitution, on the one hand, and the national call to arms in the "'war on terror" on the other. The tension experienced by many arises when officers must decide which interest receives their loyalty and which standard guides their choice of decision. Unfortunately, the increased militarization of America's civilian police force is impinging upon the professional ethics of its officers.

I.   INTRODUCTION

II.  MILITARIZING AMERICA
     A. The Evolution of America's Militarization
     B. The Infusion of Militarization Across Society
     C. Just War Theory on the Streets of America

III. BLURRING THE LINES OF POLICE DUTY
     A. The Traditional Role of American Police
     B. The Revised Role of American Police after 9/11

IV.  PAYING THE PRICE FOR DIVIDED LOYALTIES

V.   CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

From inception, organized civilian police forces have been distinguishable from the military--a design of deliberate distinction. Because early opponents feared civilian police forces would, in fact, be an extension of standing armies acting as secret spies, limiting individual freedoms and perpetuating governmental abuses, the introduction of an organized crime prevention body enabled with government authorized coercive power was quite controversial. Compared to increased crime, though, new police forces were eventually perceived as the lesser evil, and with reduced resistance, the creation of civilian police agencies quickly spread across America. Recently, the progression of the paramilitary character of the nation's civilian law enforcement and, conversely, the increasing law enforcement character of the military forces abroad, (1) have provoked new heights of criticism within professional, academic and secular circles.

A nascent realization is that America's law enforcement today may be confirming, in some respects, many of the original concerns of those opposing civilian police forces. Nearly two centuries since they were first voiced, issues like repressive criminal laws, abuse of governmental authority, and infringement on citizens' rights are sparking debate and being revisited. The blurring of the constitutional and statutory principles that established a bright line dichotomous model separating armed military forces from domestic civilian police is engendering a bevy of critical appraisal, not the least of which concerns law enforcement's digression from its professional code of ethics.

The author hypothesizes that a significant expansion of militarization in America, particularly including normalizing the use of military-style tactics in mainstream police functions, undergirded by the theory of just war, is largely responsible for increases in unethical decision-making by police officers. (2) Deluged by martial rhetoric, fear, and constant threat of harm, many law enforcement officers find themselves conflicted when confronted by choices between professional ethics and their supposed obligations to wage "war" on any number of valid concerns--crime, drugs, terrorism. This article considers what impact enlarged militarization and the "just war" tradition may be having on those sworn (3) to protect and serve. Part II of the article proceeds with an overview of the evolution and eventual expansion of militarization within the United States and an introduction of just war theory. …

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