Theorists and Philosophers for Law Enforcement Ethics Training

    Ethics trainers often cite theorists and philosophers. Three philosophers popular among contemporary
    ethics instructors are cited below.                                                                    


    Categorical imperatives are unconditional commands, binding on everyone at all times. Kant said,
    "Always act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a at all times. Kant said, "Always
    act in such a way that the maxim of your action can be willed as a universal law of humanity." (1)
    a universal law of humanity." (1)
    of humanity." (1)

    One interesting application of the universal categorical imperative, with a law enforcement twist, is the
    maxim;  "Always tell the truth." Although this is an admirable and applicable maxim in most situations, for
    the undercover officer who's success depends on pretending to empathize with criminals, the maxim
    does not apply. Notwithstanding the exceptional circumstances presented in undercover situations,
    Kant's beliefs are followed and taught in many law enforcement ethics training courses.
    (1) Hinman, L.  M.  (2001). Immanuel Kant and the Ethics of Duty, University of San Diego    (on-line
    PowerPoint) Retrieved April 19, 2003 from    


    Lawrence Kohlberg was a Harvard Professor in the 1970's. Contemporary ethics training courses
    sometimes use his theories of six stages of moral development as a training tool. The six stages are
    briefly described as follows: (1)

    Kohlberg's theories were challenged by Carol Gilligan who observed a male-orientation to the stages.
    Gilligan said that Kohlberg's theories were biased against women.

    (1) Barger, R. N. (2000). A Summary of Lawrence Kohlberg's Stages of Moral Development, University    
    of Notre Dame. Retrieved April 18,2003, from


    Carol Gilligan was a student of Lawrence Kohlberg who challenged his theories. She identified differing
    ethical orientations between genders. In her book, In a Different Voice, she stated that while men think in
    terms of justice, focusing on equality and oppression, women think in terms of caring and relationships.
    According to Gilligan, the care focus is predominantly female. The care focus addresses ideas of
    detachment and abandonment, and it's ideal is attention and response to need. (1)

    According to Gilligan, the two moral voices represent different ways of viewing the world. Gilligan said
    that the differences in genders with regard to the two orientations does not mean that one is morally
    superior to the other.

    This difference between men and women, and the importance of the female voice, was recognized in
    law enforcement long before Gilligan. In 1924, New York City's first policewoman, Mary E. Hamilton,
    authored, The Policewoman: Her Service and Ideals. (2) Predicting the future of police work she wrote:

    From a small isolated group, women protective officers will rise to
    take their rightful places beside the men, cooperating with them, so that
    society may have the full benefit of a woman's point of view in solving
    those difficult problems that threaten the life and safety of mothers and
    children, the vital threads of the social fabric. (ibid. p.200)

    Ethics trainers should carefully consider various cultures, genders, and socioeconomic views.
    Accepting diversity, and teaching with diversity in mind, is important part of training for ethical behavior.
    (1) Gilligan, C. (1982). In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development.
    Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Retrieved April 19, 2003, from

    (2) Hamilton, M. E. (1924), The Policewoman, Her Service and Ideals. New York: Frederick A. Stone Co.

Obedience & Punishment
Individualism, Instrumentalism & Exchange
"Good Boy or Girl"
Law & Orders
Social Contract
Principled Conscience
Ethics Training for Law Enforcement