A Police Code of Ethics sets the standards for ethical behavior and is deemed necessary in the development of national integrity systems. The Code of Ethics states that police officers must uphold the law regardless of the race or social status of the offender. They must not abuse their powers in order to give special treatment or take advantage of certain people. Police officers exist to serve the community. They also uphold the law. Their actions are restricted by those very same laws. They must also hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior both in their professional as well as personal lives, as expected by the general public. They must not be seen to abuse their power, live beyond their means, or be immoral.
We must be realistic to understand that there also exists a sub-culture value system among law enforcement officers. Davis (1991) identified three dominant characteristics of the police subculture. First is the idea of cynicism: every one is a possible problem – they are to be dealt with as if they have already committed a crime. The second characteristic concerns the use of force: it is part of the police subculture to use force in all situations when a threat is perceived. Finally, there is the idea of police being victims themselves: they are the victims of public misunderstanding and intense scrutiny, low wages and vindictive administrators. Loyalty has become an unwritten code and an integral part of the police culture.
A code of ethics will help guide police officers in decision making. However, the issues of discretion, force, loyalty and others in the decision-making process are very complex with many gray areas. Nevertheless, it is logically important that police officers must operate in an environment of shared moral values that are internalized from within. We must realize that a subculture and an unwritten code are in clear opposition to the written and professed formal Code of Ethics.
Ewin (1990)... [continues]
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