Loyalty, Ethics and "Whistle Blowing": Confronting Corruption in the Volatile World of Law Enforcement

This ethics-related case focuses on documented corruption in a county sheriff’s department. While such corruption is, unfortunately, not unheard of, this occurrence was initiated and conducted for an extended period of time by the highly respected county sheriff himself. The sheriff, who had served for many years, had been quite successful in modernizing the department and building a reputation of integrity for himself and his department. That his sterling reputation led to his election as head of the State Sheriff’s Association, made his subsequent fall from grace even more damaging.

The case follows the actions of a senior member of the department who is faced with the dilemma of coming to suspect that the sheriff’s actions are not only unethical, but also unlawful. He must then balance the question of loyalty versus ethics, but also consider his own future as he seeks to arrive at a personal and professional course of action to best deal with what he perceives to be an ever worsening situation in the department.

The case is appropriate for use as part of class discussion or for completion of a case analysis exercise, for which a model approach is provided.