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Investigation Is Lawful and Ethical

There are some issues that need to be settled prior to the commencement of an investigation, including the following:

  • • The investigation must itself be lawful and ethical; for example, an actual complaint needs to have been made or intelligence come to light that is sufficient to warrant investigation.
  • • The investigator needs to have been properly authorized to undertake the investigation; for example, the investigation must not have been embarked upon for personal reasons.
  • • The terms of reference of the investigation need to have been established. An investigation should not go beyond its terms of reference.

Note that an investigation might be undertaken that, strictly speaking, is lawful but unethical. Although not unlawful, perhaps it is being pursued as part of a vendetta, or for some other ethically unacceptable reason.

Compatible with Public Interest

There is a legitimate public interest in the investigation of complaints of police wrongdoing. This is so notwithstanding the fact that the wrongdoing in question might in large part consist of harm done to some particular individual rather than the public at large—as when police assault a suspect. On the other hand, there is also a legitimate public interest in the investigation of complaints of police wrongdoing in which no harm is done to any individual. Police wrongdoing that needs to be investigated because it is in the public interest to do so, even though the wrongdoing in question need not harm any individual, include some forms of police corruption, such as the acceptance of bribes. Moreover, many complaints do not pertain to police misconduct but to police incompetence or the low quality of service provision by police. There is a public interest in having police organizations that provide high quality service, hence the importance of the scrutiny and, if necessary, the investigation of such complaints.

 
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