23 Mar 2015 16 May 2017
Generally, all professional jobs in the civilized societies are carried out within the framework of a given Code of Conduct that is well known and understood by all employees as well as the employer(s). In simple terms, a Code of Conduct refers to a set of ethics which regulates the behavior of each an every employee with a view to safeguarding the good reputation of the profession in question.
Policing is a highly respected profession worldwide which mainly involves enforcing and maintaining Law and Order in the society; after all it is common sense that any society that does not abide by the principle of the Rule of Law is regarded as barbaric and anarchical. Whistle blowing in the uniformed organizations like police forces has tended to attract more attention from scholars of varied academic background such as political science, history, law, sociology and psychology.
This paper seeks to find out who are whistle blowers, what they do, and the ethical dilemmas that face them while executing their duties particularly in the profession of cops (Police Officers).In doing so, the paper shall find out how various scholars and thinkers defines the term whistle blower(s), what are their main duties as professionals, the kind(s) of environments in which they operate and finally look at the ethical issues that face them while conducting their duties.
Even though the etymological origins of the term whistle blower we get clear picture from the words themselves. According to Trauman, N (2009), the term whistleblower is not an old word. To him the term is a direct professional abuse to those who do whistle blowing because they are determined persons with courage to bring corruption to an end. The term he argues refers to a person(s) who exposes secrets in the workplace in order to bring out professional malpractices such as; assaults, corruption and negligence among others. Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006) On the other hand define whistle blowing as the work of calling attention to the wrongdoing occurring in the organization.
Even though the culture of people coming to the fore to expose bad and unlawful actions traces its roots to the earlier decades, it was in the sixties that practice became widespread as professionals braved destruction of careers and even losing their lives (Truatman, 2009). Other scholars defines Whistle blowing as an attempt by an employee or a former employee to disclose what he or she believes is wrong doing in or by the his or her organization. What must therefore be emphasized is that whistle blowers especially in the police forces do their work at thee cost of great danger. In short, whistle blowers are individual professions who refuse to turn a blind eye to corruption despite the eminent danger of endangering their jobs lives and careers.
Yang, S.K (2009) points out that many people are usually reluctant to become whistleblowers in most organizations. Yang argues that his argument is anchored on the premise that whistle blowers tends to be regarded by their workmates and their bosses as traitors and snitchers to other coworkers in the organization,especiaaly in the uniformed careers such as policing. On the other hand, Trautman (2009) argues that whistle blowers are viewed as who has betrayed the loyalty of their fellow cops.
In his article titled “Cop Whistle Blowers: Despicable Traitors? “ Trautman (2009) argues that whistleblower's job involves forcing corruption into the eye of the public. It is however important to note that their claims are not usually made in broad and general terms obviously because it involves parties with conflicting interests some of them driven by greed and the deadly get-rich-quick desires.
It is therefore legitimate to argue that it is a job that requires someone with the cunning it usually requires. Yang, S.K (2009) adds that whistle blowing is a job that requires great courage and personal integrity. It is a job that involves going against the pressure of their colleagues and supervisors to expose dishonesty.
In summary, Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006) argues that whistle blowing entails reporting wrong doing to superior authorities, refusing to participate in work place wrong doing, testifying in legal proceeding and leaking evidence of wrong doing to the media. It is however important to note that whistle blowing goes in to the private sector but in the government by its very nature of being expected to be open and transparent revealing unethical and illegal actions is particularly important
Examples of Whistle Blowers in the American History
In the developed world Trautman points the New York City Frank Serpico as the first person in the American History to gain widespread fame as a police whistleblower. This was because of his courage and absolute refusal for instance to go with a system of payoffs lying, bribery and theft marked him for alienation and danger. Yang (2009) on the other hand regards Jeffrey Wigan who blew the whistle a former employer's lies about the danger and addiction of smoking as yet another example of a person synonymous with whistle blowing in the recent times.
Just like it was mentioned earlier, whistle blowers do their jobs at the cost of great peril. For example in the above case, Jeffrey Wigan suffered greatly for his courageous act. He was divorced by his wife and he needed the protection of the armed guards around the clock. To add salt to the injury, he lost his job ending up as a high school teacher.
While responding to the press later Jeffrey expressed this dislike of the term whistleblowers arguing that it suggests you are tattle-tale or disloyal. However according to him he was not disloyal to the bit since people were dying and therefore he was responding to a high order of ethical responsibility. Jeffrey shares his idea of the term with Trautman who argues hat the term does not give enough respect to a person who truly deserves it. He therefore suggests that the best terms moral hero for that is exactly what they are.
In short, civilized societies in the west and America where ethical issues and moral values are highly respected, whistle blowers both in the corporate world and the uniformed organizations like cops may gain great fame at least in the short-term despite the obvious dangers involved like in the case of Jeffrey Wigan. Jeffrey Wigan and Frank Serpico therefore can be regarded as few individuals who rose above all others in the name of integrity in the American. In the next section of the paper we shall look at the major ethical dilemmas that face whistleblowers in their work.
Considering that whistle blowing is torn between competing loyalties it involves an ethical dilemma .According to Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006) whistle blowing has to do with ethics because it involves a persons understanding, at a deep level, that an action his organization or workmate is undertaking is harmful. Whistle blowing also call upon virtues such as courage since standing for principles can at times be punishing.
Although in the developed world laws are there to protect the whistle blowers, people who feel threatened by the revelations can mistreat the whistleblower to the extent of marginalizing or forcing him out of the public office. In some occasion however the role of whistle blowers has catapulted people in to higher offices thereby earning respect of the constituents.
What must be emphasized is that whistle blowers undergo retaliation to the extent of being fired or vilified. And since societies recognize the need to report wrongdoing and corruption legal structures especially in the developed world has been developed to, protect the whistleblower.
Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006) further argues that when a person encounters wrongdoing in the public sphere, his first step should be to use the organization's internal whistle blowing mechanisms.Proffessor William Black , who was himself a whistle blower when he worked as a Savings and Loans regulator in the 1980s argues that in the public sector whistle blowers face the unique problem in that their disclosure may constitute a crime. In such a case, a dilemma can occur if the ongoing misconduct is dangerous and there is no hope the abuse can end without whistle blowing Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006).
Since governments have straight forward line of authorities, people who see wrong doing in their places of work should start with mechanisms that the organization has set since they provide the best chance for a good solution Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006). That is, one should start with the immediate boss and move up the chain of command. For example, if a councilperson has a problem with the city staff she or he should go to the city manager. Meaning that before an employee whistle blows on wrong doing in his or her organization in the public he or she should try using the organizations internal mechanisms. Thereby protecting the reputation of the organization first and foremost, those of the employees and also denying competitors a chance to soil the organization for their own advantages.
According to Nadler, J and Schumann Merriam (2006), government bodies should encourage internal whistle blowing so that actions are taken before the illegal contracts are authorized, unethical behavior becomes the front page news ,public's money is squandered or aquifers has been polluted. An internal mechanism should be laid down to ensure that problems are sensed miles away. This, we should note applies not only to the public sector but also to the private sector which should establish internal mechanism so that problems are solved within the organization before employees feel that it is time for seeking action from outside Ravishankar, L in an article titled “Whistle Blowing in a Business Context” has provided some suggestions on how to encourage internal whistle blowing which also applies to the government bodies. Some of them include creating a policy to guide whistle blowing on illegal and unethical deeds that has formal ways of reporting violations such as hotlines, get embracement of the policy from the top officials and that all reports on illegal actions should be immediately investigated and followed without failure.
In addition, laws for protecting whistle blowers should be instituted and developed so that morally upright employees may not be afraid of reporting wrong doing and corruption. Such a legal frame work should provide an enabling environment in which employees who strongly believe in ethical order in all civilized societies can be able to protect their professions and thereby safeguard the welfare of others without fear or favor. What whistle blowers should however remember is that they should always determine whether the conduct they are exposing they involves real wrong doing or mere case policy disagreements.
So that in as much as a given council or board member's views and opinion differs on a given issue they should remain secret as long as the problem involved does not rise to the level of misconduct. In short, leakers or whistle blowers should always be persons of great courage and personal integrity. They should not at all be witch hunters or gossipmongers out to look for personal gains and fame.
It can not be disputed that whistle blowing is a widespread practice both in the private sector and the public sector the police force as well as the private sector. It is job that involves employees within the given in the act of exposing wrong doing such as corruption, negligence, abuse and assaults. Some scholars look at the profession as an example of ethical dilemma seen whistle blowers are viewed by their colleagues as traitors.Consequently,whistle blowers are frequently retaliated to the extent of being sacked or vilified.
Yang, S .K (2009) Whistle-blowers puts MACC on trial Retrieved on September 3rd from http://www.sapp.org.my/mkini/0990822.html
Chasin, B.H (1997). Inequality and violence in the United States: casualties of capitalism .Michigan: Humanities Press Trautman, N (2009). Cop Whistleblowers:
Despicable Traitors? Retrieved on September 3rd from http://www.commuterssourc.jiglu.com/discussions/messages
Bouza, A.V (1990). The police mystique: an insider's look at cops, crime, and the criminal justice system. Michigan: Plenum press
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