Ethical Justice
Chapter Fifteen:
Whistleblower is a generic term used to describe
someone that reports misconduct within their own
agency or institution; or, as described in Miethe (1999;
p.11): “an employee or former employee who reports
misconduct to persons who have power to take
 This includes reporting breaches of administrative policy,
professional ethics, professional responsibilities, and also
violations of the law.
The Professional Obligation to Report
Many CJ professions have an explicit obligation to
report any misconduct they have direct knowledge of.
These obligations may be a function of professional
ethics, agency policy, or the law.
 In some CJ professions, failure to report may be
considered a form of professional misconduct or
dereliction of duty.
For an ethical CJ practitioner, the obligation to report
misconduct exists whether there is a specific mandate
or not. However, the personal, financial and
professional repercussions for reporting misconduct
are not generally favorable to the reporter.
Employment Contracts
The majority of CJ practitioners sign employment
contracts. These contracts likely contain confidentiality
agreements, and non-disclosure clauses, that preclude
communication of any kind about active casework,
internal matters, or employee activities. Restrictions
may also be places on the dissemination of information
that reflects negatively on the employer.
Employment Contracts
The Unites State Supreme Court holds that (Garcetti,
et al. v. Ceballos, 2006):
 “When public employees make statements pursuant to
their official duties, they are not speaking as citizens for
First Amendment purposes, and the Constitution does not
insulate their communications from employer discipline.”
Therefore, government employees who are in a
position to have direct knowledge of, and an applied
understanding, of misconduct do not always have
freedom of speech. They are contractually bound to
report such violations strictly within their chain of
command and are also contractually bound to refrain
from speech that harms the image or effectiveness of
their agency.
Whistleblower Protections
OSHA - United States Department of Labor’s
Department of Occupational and Safety and Health
 OSHA maintains a Whistleblower Protection Program that
enforces provisions of more than twenty whistleblower
statutes protecting employees who report violations.
 Rights afforded by these acts include: worker participating in
safety and health activities, reporting a work related injury,
illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes.
Whistleblower Protections
Government Funded Research
 All institutions receiving research funds from Public Health
Service agencies must have on file an assurance form with
the Office of Research Integrity ensuring that the institution
has in place policies and procedures for dealing with
allegations of misconduct.
Paul Coverdell Forensic Science Improvement Grant
 Forensic examiners working for crime labs or law
enforcement agencies that receive Federal funding are meant
to enjoy immunity from employer retaliation when acting as a
Whistleblower Protections
Varied Coverage
 The protections offered at the state and federal levels vary on
the precise definition of whistleblower. Each state defines
whistleblower differently and affords them different conditions
of protection.
Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012
 Signed into law in 2012, this legislation is intended to reform
protections for federal employees seeking to report
misconduct, fraud and illegality.
Whistleblower Protection is
Whistleblower protection is theoretical because
agencies and institutions don’t always understand,
abide, or enforce required whistleblower protections.
Loyalty is a quality that is highly regarded by many
criminal justice employment cultures.
 The law enforcement culture in particular is defined by the
requirements of utter loyalty to not only an agency, but to
fellow officers – referred to as “the code of silence”.
Repercussions of blowing the whistle include social
ostracism by coworkers as well as retaliation from
management in the form of blacklisting, demotion, and
sometimes dismissal.
Whistleblower Protection is
Whistleblower Retaliation
 According to Dehaven-Smith (2011), retaliation against
whistleblowers tends to have the following characteristics:
 It often originates at the very highest levels of
 Officials are often willing to commit felonies in an effort
to retaliate against whistleblowers;
 Retaliation is sometimes designed to place people’s
lives at risk;
 Retaliation is usually devastating for the victims; and
 When retaliation has been exposed, the laws protecting
whistleblowers are not strengthened, nor are the
retaliators usually punished.
Suggested Reforms
Reforms must take place in criminal justice leadership
and culture.
This means the hiring and retention of ethical
employees, and the sanction or expulsion of anyone
Laws would not have the desired effect because they
are incapable of changing fundamental professional
Hard Earned Advice
The authors’ provide the following advice when dealing
with whistle blowing challenges:
Read your employment contract
Read your agency/institutional policies and procedures
Read your state laws
Read your federal laws
Find a trusted mentor and seek advice
Document everything related to your concerns in order
to back up your complaint
7. Put your complaint in writing
Hard Earned Advice
8. CC the Complaint to multiple supervisors to create
transparency and accountability
9. Involve unions when necessary
10. Determine who has oversight
11. Take it up a level
12. Hire a lawyer before taking legal action
13. Consider contacting a local politician
14. Consider contacting the media as a last resort
15. Consider civil litigation