We all rely on the police to some extent. Without careful and accountable policing, society is at risk of building mistrust. After all, authorities are there to protect, enforce, and prevent. Without a working police force, the country will fall into societal disarray.
However, each police officer must conduct themselves following a strict code of ethics and be able to hold themselves accountable in all that they do. This is the only way to ensure officers act efficiently, make ethical decisions, and undertake actions representing their wider force.
All good police officers are highly educated and are willing to uphold the law. But why else are ethics and accountability so integral to the work of the average officer and the people they protect? What happens, hypothetically, if these principles are ignored in favor of “just getting the job done?”
They ensure community trust.
Public and community trust are both essential for society to operate peacefully. It’s important to remember that police officers are there to protect the public – and should, therefore, not have to fear any officer.
Sadly, due to the power that police officers hold, it can easily feel intimidating to be approached by members of any given force.
Therefore, it is up to each police officer to conduct themselves with a strong ethical backbone, genuine respect for others, and professionalism in all that they do. Ultimately, police offer to serve the public – therefore, they must listen to each individual they approach or who approaches them.
By doing so, ethical and professional police officers actively help rebuild trust within their communities. People need to see that their local officers are acting in the interests of their local area and the people within them – not for themselves or any hidden agendas.
What’s more, this matter goes beyond trust. When people trust the police officers around them, they are more likely to cooperate and even help them when necessary.
This is essential for maintaining public safety. While many people will always feel wary around law enforcement, police must offer work ethically to dispel any potential misgivings.
With that in mind, how do police officers gain the trust of their community?
They must remain transparent and show integrity when dealing with the public. This means they must be open and honest about their policies, procedures, decisions, activities, and duties. There should be no hidden agendas!
In doing so, they are proving their commitment to their code of ethics and accountability. The public will therefore be more reassured about the procedures and are more likely to trust the officers around them – and have faith in their ability to serve and protect them.
That, in turn, may help to reduce antisocial behavior. Whether you study for a police degree in Canada at a top institution like Wilfrid Laurier or learn on the job, you’ll soon find that upholding a sense of community is core to all you do.
They improve police effectiveness.
Ethics and professionalism should be a joint bedrock for any police officer studying to take to public enforcement. By following a code of ethics, a police officer is – arguably – more likely to make sound decisions.
They are more likely to follow the correct procedures and make measured choices that inevitably impact one or more people’s lives. Purely making decisions based on prejudice or personal reasoning can – when working as a police officer – lead to some less-than-desirable outcomes.
Each police officer must understand their role in any situation – no two days on the beat are ever quite the same. Officers work hard to reduce tensions, keep people safe, and act based on what’s considered morally and societally just.
Acting on ethics and their interpretation of conduct codes will ensure officers accrue fewer complaints from the public. Many complaints arise, for example, when officers act purely on instinct or prejudice. This is where their work results in poor outcomes- and impacts law enforcement’s image in general.
Police officers who recall ethical practices will arguably feel more satisfied with their conduct and job. That can help promote confidence, lower resentment, and improve their performance.
Being a police officer is challenging yet rewarding. That is why feeling respected, supported, and valued encourages enforcers to do their best. There are people on the force who want to do genuine good for their communities – and remembering ethical practice and accountability can help change how people see police effectiveness.
They protect civil liberties and human rights.
As we all likely know, police officers deal with various illegal and antisocial behavior daily. Situations can escalate quickly and, when mishandled, can easily get out of control.
In some cases, police officers must make literal life-or-death decisions and, in doing so, rely on a strict code of ethics. In turn, they must also remember that they’ll be held accountable for any actions and decisions in the line of duty.
Following an ethical code, police officers are more likely to protect civil liberties and human rights. And, with the knowledge that they will be held accountable should their judgment fail them, they are also more likely to take the necessary precautions and steps to handle a delicate situation, thus better protecting those involved.
To better protect the civil liberties and human rights of all individuals, every police officer needs to understand that everyone has a right to due process – and deserves a modicum of respect, regardless of any problems that may be occurring.
No matter the situation, the police officers involved in a case must treat each individual fairly and the condition impartially. This can be difficult to balance if – for example – an officer has a strong sense of justice or carries prejudices.
Therefore, each police officer must also know current laws and constitutional provisions protecting each individual’s rights. Then, using that knowledge, they must take the necessary steps to protect those rights.
When training to be a police officer, learning ethics and accountability alongside basic procedures is vital for protecting lives – regardless of what side of the law they may fall behind.
By ensuring that each police officer is aware of their duties regarding each person’s rights, they can better respond to the needs of the people, reduce tensions in difficult situations, prevent the abuse of their power, and better protect the rights of everyone involved.
Promoting ethical and professional behavior within the police force is essential. It helps prevent brutality and resentment and can improve relationships that police officers have with the general public.
They ensure laws and regulations are respected and followed
Each police officer must be fair and just – it’s a given, regardless of where they practice! They are there to serve the justice system and must respect and follow their area’s laws and regulations.
They must apply these general laws and rules in every situation, with each individual equally and impartially. Of course, they must respect each person’s rights (as mentioned above), but they must do so while complying with the laws regarding the situation at hand.
That means that when one or multiple individuals violate the laws and regulations of the area, they must be held accountable by the police officers. No matter the individual’s race, religion, gender, social status, or other characteristics, they are to follow the same laws and regulations as each individual must.
Each police officer must know all the laws, regulations, and policies at their local, town, state, and federal levels. And by following their internal procedures, each police officer can ensure that all of their decisions and actions align with the law and the constitution. You never stop learning!
Police officers holding ethics and accountability as high priorities are less likely to be accused of misconduct or abuses of power. And, perhaps most importantly, they will better ensure public trust.
Police officers are there to ensure that the public abides by local and federal laws and regulations. But, they also must respect and follow those same laws themselves. That means there should never be any debate over “one rule for me, another rule for them.”
While there’s no such need for most police officers to understand the intricacies of international law unless a case demands it, there’s always the need to adhere to local principles.
They encourage self-discipline and reduce corruption.
Each police officer must be able to make snap decisions at any given moment, reliant on laws, regulations, and rules of conduct. They need to hold themselves to the highest ethical standards – it better ensures they are less likely to engage in corruption or misconduct.
Police officers are in great positions where they can become tempted by bribery, even falsifying evidence, or using excessive force. Unfortunately, the negative press has helped widen the gap between some communities and their enforcers. It’s why new cohorts of police officers need to understand and practice ethical enforcement as a priority!
By conducting themselves with ethical behavior (which they know they’ll be held accountable for), officers are less likely to become tempted by corrupting behaviors – and are far more likely to uphold the law as it’s intended.
This kind of criminal behavior makes the police seem untrustworthy to the public – it encourages further criminal conduct and prevents justice from prevailing in the long term! When studying for a police degree, officers will learn that their behavior is just as important as technical knowledge, if not more so.
To improve police performance and ensure that each officer follows the code of ethics and lawful actions, they must be able to take responsibility for their own decisions and actions and hold themselves accountable. Even before others decide what they’re responsible for – every officer must have self-discipline.
However, holding themselves accountable isn’t enough. By attending regular assessments and evaluations of police performances, police officers are more likely to maintain a stable, professional standard in their work.
These include regular performance reviews, training sessions, general meetings, and appraisals. Any such kind of initiative can also help to ensure that all police officers are up to date with any changes in law or regulations, that they remain informed and knowledgeable, and that their skills are still up to the standard the public expects from them.
Assessments shouldn’t just be where “bad” cops are dressed down. They’re opportunities to learn and grow! Regular checks and reviews can also help a police force determine if any areas need adjustment. Regular inspections and assessments can also help a police force determine if any areas need adjustment.
Crucially, police officers will not always be supervised on daily rounds. By upholding ethical practices and ensuring they adhere to the expected exceptional standards, police officers can continue to protect and enforce with confidence and pride.
As you can see, ethics and accountability are essential in the life and work of a police officer. Without these two tenets of professional behavior, there’s little chance of integrity, respect, and due justice. The public demands – and requires – that officers believe in their badges and that they’re serving the greater good.
Most police officers enter the force as they want to do a good job. These officers must always be ready to assess their actions and make snap decisions. But they should do so without getting clouded by politics or prejudice. Sadly, a lack of ethical practice and accountability can lead to stagnation.
It’s not just the officers that need to uphold these tenets. Precincts and local authorities, too, need to be diligent in how they train, support and supervise their officers. Otherwise, corruption and a lack of community respect are risks.
Rookie cops should always undertake their work, knowing they’re helping their communities for the better. Accountability ensures that people can sleep soundly – and not live in fear of, or despite, law enforcement, who are there to protect them.