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1. Write a 500-word essay on what you feel is the greatest ethical dilemma police face today.
The introduction of digital technology in law enforcement to support police functionality has raised ethical issues. Today police use digital technologies, including electronic tools, devices, systems, and resources that help to generate and process data, store data, and monitor events. The vast increase in data availability about individuals has enabled the police to access more data due to internet use and connectivity to social network platforms. Digital policing has made it easier for the police to contact the public, utilize digital intelligence and evidence, and transfer material to digital format.
Despite the benefits that digital technology has offered the police in their operations, it has also raised ethical concerns. The ethical principles under which digital technology operates include legality, accuracy, openness and transparency, fairness, embedded in good governance, and accountability. The principles are considered concepts of proportionality under which the police should consider policing decision-making (“Digital Policing: The Ethical Issues Arising from Digital Policing,” 2019). However, ethical digital policing principles pose a series of ethical dilemmas to police officers.
One of the examples of digital technology dilemmas in policing is the traffic cameras. The traffic cameras have been upgraded by introducing sophisticated technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), and Algorithms. The traffic camera system is used in recording evidence of traffic violations in busy intersections. When a vehicle is captured by the system violating the traffic laws, the system generates a fixed penalty ticket and sends a notice of intended prosecution (NIP) to the owner. The traffic camera system puts most police in a dilemma as it does not consider its decision making based on the ethical digital policing principles that guide police decision making. For instance, the traffic camera system does not consider external factors such as traffic conditions or weather that might be considered by the police in decision making. The traffic camera system also does not incorporate reasoning behind the exceeding of the state-mandated speed limit and other factors such as age, gender, race, or any other relevant explanation in its decision-making process (Peny, 2012). Although the system is developed to enforce the preserved fairness in law enforcement, it puts the police officers in a decision-making dilemma, especially in situations where there is relevant explanation or consideration.
Another example that demonstrates the digital technology dilemma in policing is associated with the use of comms data, which can provide details of the location and duration a phone or computer has been used without exposing its contents. In one incident, the police were investigating mass access to child abuse imagery, where the images stored illegally on an organization server could be downloaded (Rozenberg, 2015). The police applied the comms data to locate and seize some of the computers and phones that had accessed the data by tracing their IP address. However, the police found that the computers seized did not download any of the images but belong to the routers that had been hacked using a botnet. Such incidence creates a dilemma to law enforcement with the consideration of the legality principle that involves a consideration of consent to be given as opposed to obtaining a warrant for seizing and search. With other issues such as data security and privacy having a significant impact on digital technologies, the police are set to face more dilemmas in their decision making when interacting in digital policing.
“Digital Policing: The Ethical Issues Arising from Digital Policing.” (2019). Retrieved from https://southyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/app/uploads/2020/01/Digital-Policing-Ethics-Final-for-PAB-1.pdf
Peny, J. (2012). Technology Ethics for Law Enforcement. American International Journal of Contemporary Research. 2(2). http://www.aijcrnet.com/journals/Vol_2_No_2_February_2012/15.pdf
Rozenberg, J. (2015). Police face new ethical dilemma in increasingly digital world. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/law/guardian-law-blog/2015/jan/12/police-ethics-digital-internet-technology