Criminals testifying for the Prosecution

Bakersfield College **We aren't endorsed by this school
Sep 19, 2023
Uploaded by kennethhardin on
Criminals Testifying for the Prosecution 1 Topic #4: Criminals Testifying for the Prosecution National University CJA 453: Ethics and the CJ System Criminals Testifying for the Prosecution Questions regarding the ethics of prosecutors or law enforcement utilizing criminals as informants or prosecutors using them to testify in criminal proceedings on behalf of the people has been around as long as the act itself. Some believe that there are too many moral questions
Criminals Testifying for the Prosecution 2 when law enforcement or prosecutors work with types that are deemed unsavory, while others see this as a necessary means to an end and that criminal informants/witnesses are simply a tool that is being used for the greater good. I myself have personally witnessed this moral conundrum firsthand when I worked in undercover Narcotics. Obviously working with confidential informants was a major part of the job and we interacted with them daily in order to obtain our goals. At the same time the Captain of the overall investigations division, which Narcotics fell under the umbrella of, felt that we were opening up potential moral and ethical doors that law enforcement as a whole should not open. This Captain made his feelings known on numerous occasions that cops were cops, criminals were criminals, and there was no in between. In this Captain's view there was no moral gray area, it was as simple as black and white, good and bad. While there are two extremes to nearly every question in life, there are also often larger gray areas in between. As with this Captain's view, there was no room in law enforcement for "cavorting with the enemy" as I have heard him say it. There are also those that take it to the extreme on the flip side of the argument. I also knew an officer that got himself into a lot of trouble and was being investigated for protecting a violent gang member on gun charges because he was a "good informant". Unfortunately this officer faced some very severe consequences and tarnished his reputation because he made some poor decisions without properly considering the consequences. Perhaps he got too close to the informant and simply used the fact that he was a useful tool as an excuse, or perhaps he just didn't want to lose the informant because he knew the informant was facing significant prison time and would not be available on the streets? Either way, this officer took his relationship with the informant too far with terrible ramifications, both personal and professional.
Criminals Testifying for the Prosecution 3 In dealing with confidential informants or witnesses that are involved in criminal activity it is of the utmost importance to constantly monitor one's own morals and weigh the decisions you are making in the course of your duties. Not only must the professional constantly examine the morality of their choices, but also their motivation behind such choices and to what degree they are willing to go to, along with the potential outcomes of said actions. In other words where does the law enforcement professional/prosecutor draw boundaries? I believe that this is where Aristotle's virtue of prudence comes into play and that this particular virtue is where many informant handlers find themselves in questionable situations. "Etymologically, the word prudence derives from the Latin prudentia , which means wisdom, foresight, i.e., the ability to 'look ahead' to make informed decisions." (Farmer, 2022). Informant handlers and prosecutors that lose sight of what is ethically and morally right run the risk of sacrificing too much for their informants or criminal witnesses in exchange for the information they are seeking to aid in their investigations. When this happens they fail to weigh the pros and cons in working with criminals to achieve their goals and may suffer ethical and legal consequences. The prudent investigator/prosecutor that works with criminals that have intelligence they want carefully considers the choices they make and their ramifications while seeking justice, rather than the satisfaction of closing a case or obtaining a conviction at all costs. The two law enforcement officials I described represent either end of the extreme in regards to the morality and ethics of police informants, but what of the gray area that I believe most of us operate within to some degree or another? I often describe ethics as a largely gray area depending on the situation (within reason of course, there are some ethical questions that are much more obvious than others.) When describing this I talk about how some shades of gray are darker, and some are lighter, meaning some are closer to black than they are white or vice versa.
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