An Ethical Approach to Forensic Professionalism

The concept that we are all human and capable of making mistakes ... that is not unethical.. What you do when a mistake is uncovered is the ethical part..

—Source unknown


Forensic science is a diverse profession that commonly interacts with many other high-profile professions. In exploring the various pressures associated with forensic science, law enforcement, and the judicial system, one can appreciate how professionals might experience professional turmoil. The pressures associated with each profession are multiplied when the interaction and overlap of those cultures are considered as shown in Figure 2.1. Throughout the text, we will look at each individual professional culture as well as the overlapping portions that may create ethical dilemmas.

In observing the interactions between professions and potential problems, consider how this knowledge may be used to prevent future issues? Knowledge of what has happened in the field, awareness of what could happen, and employing actions to prevent future occurrences by challenging people to look for opposing perspectives, maintaining the highest level of professionalism, and education for all practitioners are a good start. Although those reading this may have the highest personal and professional morals and ethical perspectives, the test strives to provide additional knowledge necessary to observe colleagues. It is quite possible, and hopeful, that you will take a closer look at coworkers, the forensic science professional culture, and the standards to which professionals are held (by agencies, professional organizations, accreditation requirements, etc.) and question the actions, motivations, and perspectives involved. The observation may cause empathy for an alternative perspective or create more questions. It is important to remember as we study the concept of ethics that misconduct is not black and white. When dealing with ethics, we are most concerned with the gray area in between the black and white matters; it is not about right or wrong, as much as it is about what is more right or more wrong in a set of

The way professional cultures relate and overlap may create ethical dilemmas

Figure 2.1 The way professional cultures relate and overlap may create ethical dilemmas.

circumstances. Unethical or immoral people fall under the concept of black and white, whereas the issues that occur in the field do not always represent right or wrong as much as they represent the space between. People who are inherently unethical will hopefully be weeded out by the many systems of checks and balance that are part of the forensic science profession. The examples that represent the more concerning situations involve people who make bad decisions, who do not handle actions following decisions appropriately, or who do something that is wrong and get caught up in the lies. This chapter explores the options for building a solid ethical future for forensic science.

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