Law Enforcement Codes of Ethics as Training Tools

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Ethics is not definable, is not implementable, because it is not conscious; it involves not only our thinking,
but also our feeling.
- Valdemar W. Setzer
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Dr. Frank Kardasz

The duties and responsibilities of law enforcement officers require that they maintain high standards of
conduct. In his 1930 preface to The Policeman's Manual (1), George Chandler, the first Superintendent  of
the New York State Police wrote:

    Police is one of the most important developments of civilization. The detection and prevention of
    crime is not an exact science. It is an art. A policeman is only a citizen who has chosen to be the
    servant of the public, one having no more and no less rights than any other citizen. The more
    intelligent he is, and the more he knows of police work, the less will he be an autocrat. He will realize
    his limitations, will know that a democracy is only as strong as its majority, and that in our country
    government is with and by the consent of the governed. He will realize that he must work along
    prescribed lines, that he can not be used by any persons or organizations to coerce a citizen, or to
    settle personal grievances, or enforce private ideas of morality, but should give the maximum of
    protection with the minimum interference with the lawful rights of a citizen. Penology, or the art of
    punishment, is not for the policeman. He must not be interested in what happens to a prisoner after
    the prisoner is brought to justice and has received his sentence. This is not his affair. Whether 'an
    eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' is right or wrong is not for a police office to decide. His work
    must be of such a high character that all who come in contact with him must realize that he is a
    trained officer having as his ideal the fact that obedience to law is liberty.

Most law enforcement agencies have a code of ethics. Officers normally swear to the code upon joining the  
service. Codes of ethics are sometimes used as a teaching tool by instructors who ask students to write
their  own personal code of ethics. The exercise encourages students to reflect upon proper conduct.
Developing a  personal code of ethics is now a popular educational endeavor. One entrepreneur even
created a private business revolving  around training others to write their own codes of ethics. (2)

Codes of ethics have evolved. Here is an example of a code of ethics first written in 1957 and still in use by
some law enforcement agencies: (3)

    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 of 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 a 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.

References:

(1) Chandler, G. F. (1930). The Policeman's Manual: A Standard Guide to the Latest Methods and Duties of  
American Police New York: Funk & Wagnalls. vii-viii.

(2) Reynolds, A.  (2003). Civility in Self-Promotion: Write Your Own Code of Conduct. (Web Page),  Retrieved
April 30, 2003 from http://www.andreareynolds.com/ethics.html

(3) The Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics. (2003). (from the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics, unrevised,
1957).  Retrieved April 29, 2003 from http://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/cje/html/lece-u.html

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The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has revised the code of ethics. It is now called an
oath of honor instead of a code of ethics.  

    Ethics Toolkit

    What is the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor?

    Police officers take risks and suffer inconveniences to protect the lives, defend civil liberties, secure
    the safety of fellow citizens, and they endure such risks and tolerate such inconveniences on behalf
    of strangers. Consequently, police work is one of the more noble and selfless occupations in society.
    Making a difference in the quality of life is an opportunity that policing provides, and few other
    professions can offer.

    A public affirmation of adhering to an oath of honor is a powerful vehicle demonstrating ethical
    standards. To be successful at enhancing integrity within an organization, leaders must ensure the
    oath is recited frequently and displayed throughout the organization as well as ensuring ethical
    mentoring and role modeling are consistent, frequent and visible. The following Law Enforcement
    Oath of Honor is recommended as by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as symbolic
    statement of commitment to ethical behavior:

    On my honor,
    I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust.
    I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.
    I will always uphold the constitution my community and the agency I serve.

    Before any officer takes the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor, it is important that he/she understands
    what it means. An oath is a solemn pledge someone makes when he/she sincerely intends to do
    what he/she says.

    Honor means that one's word is given as a guarantee.
    Betray is defined as breaking faith with the public trust.
    Badge is the symbol of your office.
    Integrity is being the same person in both private and public life.
    Character means the qualities that distinguish an individual.
    Public trust is a charge of duty imposed in faith toward those you serve.
    Courage is having the strength to withstand unethical pressure, fear or danger.
    Accountability means that you are answerable and responsible to your oath of office.
    Community is the jurisdiction and citizens served.

    The Oath of Honor's brevity allows it to be constantly referred to and reinforced during conversations
    and ceremonies. In addition, it can  also be referred to by administrators while communicating with
    others; placed on the back of all academy students' name cards, ensuring that they are looking at it
    all day; strategically and visibly placed in all police academies and law enforcement agencies;
    signed by each academy student, framed and hung on the wall; given at all official police ceremonies
    and gatherings; printed on labels that are placed on equipment; and used as a backdrop in citizens'
    meetings and news media events.In conclusion, it is strongly
    recommended by the IACP that all agencies adopt the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor. Having
    officers take an oath will reconfirm the significance of integrity within the agency and help bring the
    entire profession together to show that the vast majority of law enforcement officers not only are good,
    decent individuals, but also will step forward to stop unethical acts by any members of our profession.

Reference:

IACP Web Site. Retrieved April 23, 2005 from http://www.theiacp.
org/profassist/ethics/what_is_oath_of_honor.htm

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Criticisms of Codes of Ethics

Codes of ethics are sometimes questioned as a training tool. In his article, "Do Cops Really Need a Code of
Ethics?", (1991),  Michael  Davis (1) criticizes some codes of ethics as ambiguous and nearly impossible to
comply with. By example, he cites the IACP code of ethics which states in part: I will never act officiously or
permit personal feelings, prejudices, political beliefs, aspirations, animosities or  friendships to influence
my decisions. (2) According to Davis, "Any officer who takes this mandatory language seriously will quickly
learn that he cannot do what the code seems to require. He will then either have to quit the force or consign
its mandates to Code Heaven."

Davis suggests a change in teaching police ethics to include an emphasis on encouraging officers to
monitor each others activities to prevent misconduct. He wrote,

    Right now the emphasis seems to be on the individual police officer doing his duty and 'keeping his
    nose clean.' Little, if anything is said about an officer's responsibility for helping fellow police officers
    do the right thing. Yet, in police work, as in other professions, moral support is an important part of
    maintaining standards. Police clearly have a support system in place, 'the code of silence.' The
    problem is to turn that into a system of moral support. Doing that means (among other things)
    teaching police how to talk about their profession's ethics with each other.

References

(1) Davis, M.1991, Summer/Fall1). Do Cops Really Need a Code of Ethics. Criminal Justice Ethics,Vol 10, (2)
14-28.

(2) The Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics. (1991). Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Retrieved April 29,
2003 from http://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/cje/html/lece-r.html

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In 1991, the International Association of Chiefs of Police published the following revised code of ethics for
law enforcement officers:

    As a law enforcement officer, my fundamental duty is to serve the community; to safeguard lives and
    property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation the
    peaceful against violence or disorder; and to respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality
    and justice.

    I will keep my private life unsullied as an example to all and will behave in a manner that does not
    bring discredit to me or to my agency. I will maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or
    ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought
    and deed both in my personal and official life, I will be exemplary in obeying the law 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, political beliefs, aspirations,
    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 police service. I will never engage in acts of corruption or
    bribery, nor will I condone such acts by other police officers. I will cooperate with all legally authorized
    agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.

    I know that I alone am responsible for my own standard of professional performance and will take
    every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve my level of knowledge and competence.

    I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my
    chosen profession... law enforcement.

    Reference:

    The Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics. (1991). Law Enforcement Code of Ethics. Retrieved April   29,
    2003
    from http://www.lib.jjay.cuny.edu/cje/html/lece-r.html





Purchase the book:
Kardasz, F. (2008). Ethics training for law enforcement: Practices and trends.
Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM Verlag.
ISBN: 3639001567. ISBN-13: 9783639001563.
Available from
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/3639001567/
Dr. Frank Kardasz  P.O. Box 45048 Phoenix, AZ 85064
e-mail:
kardasz(at)kardasz.org

Ethics Training for Law Enforcement