Every criminal justice profession and association has “codes” of ethics, “canons” of professional responsibility, “statements” of values, “principles” of conduct, “standards” of practice, and “oaths” of office, along with “pledges”, “vows”, “maxims”, “credos”, “prayers”, “tenets”, and “declarations”. Some are directed to God; others to superiors or the profession; and still others to society as a whole. They all make promises that people commit to keeping as a standard of performance.
A code of ethics if it is to be used for occupational purposes, must set a standard above ordinary morality. Otherwise there’s no need for a code of ethics at all. This is especially relevant to police work where it’s going to take more than just a commitment to being an ordinary, decent human being.
A VISION OF ETHICAL POLICING
The ethically ideal police system would be one with integrity and nothing puzzling about it (i.e., there would be no corruption nor misconduct). There would be no us-against-them and no disrespect for the limits of the law or how it’s enforced. Everything done in private would be just as if it was done in public. Mistakes would be treated as learning opportunities but there would be less of them because of widespread adherence to the values of probity, propriety, restraint, reasonableness, and caution. Recruitment, selection, and training mechanisms would be flawless, with promotion on the basis of merit, no one being without ample supervision and the organization giving its personnel whatever resources they need to perform their work better. There would be “open door” policies to the public, academics and the media. Nothing the police do or how they do it would come as a surprise to anyone.
The commitment to a code of ethics is unconditional. You don’t lower your ideals (or revise your mission statement) just because circumstances in the environment have changed. The true test of character is keeping your faith in the face of adversity.
THE POLICE CODE OF ETHICS
There are few professions that demand so much moral fiber as policing. Police stand in “harm’s way” not so much against enemies with bullets but against enemies skilled in every form of trickery, deceit, feigned ignorance, and deception. That’s why the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics published by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, stands as a spirited reminder to the higher order of this calling:
* As a Law Enforcement Officer my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.
* I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare or others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department.
* Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the performance of my duty.
* I will never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force or violence and never accepting gratuities.
* I recognize the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith and I accept it as a public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession…law enforcement.