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August 17, 2023

Ethical Dilemma in Law Enforcement

Ethical Dilemma in Law Enforcement. You are asked in your oral interview if you would report your field training officer, a 20-year veteran, for taking a candy bar from the local mini-mart during a late-night security check. The mini-mart clerk said nothing to the officer when he left. What would you do? Explain why and support your actions.


Law enforcement professionals face numerous challenges on a daily basis, from maintaining public safety to upholding the law. However, sometimes they find themselves confronted with unexpected ethical dilemmas that test their integrity and decision-making. In this blog post, we will explore a hypothetical situation where an officer is faced with the choice of reporting their field training officer, a 20-year veteran, for an alleged act of theft during a late-night security check at a local mini-mart.

The Scenario

During a routine security check, you observe your field training officer, a highly experienced veteran in the force, taking a candy bar from the mini-mart without paying for it. Surprisingly, the mini-mart clerk does not raise any objection. Now, you are faced with a difficult decision: Should you report your respected colleague’s misconduct, or should you overlook it?

The Importance of Upholding Ethical Standards

Before diving into the possible courses of action, it is essential to understand the significance of upholding ethical standards within the law enforcement community. Maintaining public trust and confidence is crucial for effective policing. Deviating from these ethical standards can erode public faith and cast doubt on the integrity of the entire law enforcement profession. It is the responsibility of every officer to ensure they act in a manner consistent with their sworn duty to uphold the law.

Possible Actions and Their Justifications

Report the incident

Choosing to report the misconduct demonstrates a commitment to upholding ethical standards and maintaining public trust. By reporting the incident, you contribute to preserving the integrity of the profession, regardless of the seniority or experience of the officer involved. This action emphasizes that no one is above the law and sends a clear message that misconduct will not be tolerated within the ranks.

Seek guidance from a superior

If you find yourself uncertain about the appropriate action to take, it is wise to seek guidance from a senior officer or supervisor. Discussing the situation with someone who has more experience can provide valuable insights and help you make an informed decision. They may be able to offer advice on how to address the issue while minimizing potential negative consequences.

Engage in a direct conversation

Before resorting to formal reporting channels, you may choose to confront your field training officer directly. Approach the conversation with respect and express your concerns about the incident. This approach allows for open communication and the opportunity to clarify any misunderstandings. However, if the officer denies the misconduct or fails to address your concerns adequately, reporting the incident may become necessary.

Ethical Dilemma in Law Enforcement

Support for my Actions

Upholding the Law

Reporting the incident aligns with the duty of a law enforcement officer to enforce and uphold the law, even within the ranks of their own colleagues. By addressing misconduct promptly, you actively contribute to maintaining the integrity of the law enforcement profession.


Acting professionally involves making difficult decisions that prioritize ethical standards over personal relationships. By reporting the incident, you demonstrate your commitment to professionalism and reinforce the importance of personal accountability within the law enforcement community.

Long-Term Impact

Turning a blind eye to misconduct, especially by senior officers, can foster an environment that condones unethical behavior. By reporting the incident, you help establish a culture of integrity and accountability, benefiting both the department and the community it serves.


Ethical Dilemma in Law Enforcement. Ethical dilemmas can be challenging, particularly when they involve reporting a respected colleague’s misconduct. However, as law enforcement professionals, we must remain committed to upholding ethical standards, maintaining public trust, and holding ourselves and others accountable. By choosing to report the incident, seeking guidance, or engaging in a direct conversation, you demonstrate your dedication to the principles that underpin the law enforcement profession. Remember, integrity and ethical conduct are essential corner stones of effective policing, and your actions can have a lasting impact on the integrity of the profession. Use APA referencing style.

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