Police Interview Newsletter - LE Ethical Standards:
LE Ethical Standards: Florida Guidelines
Oral Board Member: So, why do you want to become a police officer?
Applicant: I want to work in a career where others will look up to me. I believe that being a police officer is a respectable profession and I'd like the citizens in my community to respect me.
It always bothers me when a police or deputy sheriff applicant expresses an expectation that the law enforcement agency will somehow elevate his or her respectability or standing in the community. It is as if joining the force will somehow stamp or mold the applicant into the model citizen he has never been.
Police departments are seeking to hire persons with already- established good character, solid work habits, virtues, and a strong sense of duty - individuals who have actively earned the respect of others by the way they have chosen to live their lives right up to and including the present moment.
In Character And Cops: Ethics in Policing, Edwin J. Delattre states, “Although persons in official life find guidelines useful, codes of ethics do not motivate people to behave well. They assist only people who already want to do so. Public office holders, such as police, need genuinely to want to serve the public and to become good at their work. They cannot eliminate self-interest from their lives, nor can they be infallible. But they must be of reasonably good character, and they must know their mission and be dedicated to it.” (p.33)
Later in his book Delattre goes on to say, “Emphasis on character and the kinds of habits that form a good second nature is crucial. Only people who have acquired enough virtue to be ashamed of wrongdoing can appreciate the force of questions about right and wrong actions. What should we do? is a question for people who care to do what is right, but not for others. For them, ethics is only an academic pursuit, a matter of intellectual gymnastics. Education in ethics for police is not intended for that.” (p.138)
The September '03 Issue of “Police Interview” quoted the complete International Association of Chiefs of Police Code of Ethics-a statement of conviction adopted by most U. S. law enforcement agencies. This Code is an excellent framework that broadly spells out the officer's duty to serve and protect the public, to uphold the law, and to respect the Constitutional rights of all citizens.
In an effort to further define “conduct unbecoming a police officer”, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has developed a policy designed to supplement the I.A.C.P.'s Code of Ethics. The reader is strongly encouraged to study the complete and unedited version of Florida's Law Enforcement Ethical Standards of Conduct by going to http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cjst/Training_Resources/ LE_Conduct.htm.
What follows in this newsletter is a series of direct quotations from the Law Enforcement Ethical Standards of Conduct. The sections entitled “Policy”, “Scope”, “Principles” (1 to 8), and “Rationale” are quoted in their entirety. Due to the limited space in this newsletter format, however, all of the “Rules” developed for each of the eight principles have not been presented. I have quoted a single rule, by way of example, for each of the stated “Principles”. This document does an excellent job of spelling out the specifics of how officers are to conduct themselves on and off duty in the state of Florida. The bold text which follows is quoted directly from the Law Enforcement Ethical Standards of Conduct.
L E Ethical Standards-Florida Guidelines
Rule 1.2-Police officers shall not knowingly disobey the law or rules of criminal procedure in such areas as interrogation, arrest, detention, searches, seizures, use of informants and preservation of evidence.
Rule 2.2-Police officers shall not knowingly make false accusations of any criminal ordinance, traffic or other law violation. This provision shall not prohibit the use of deception during criminal investigations or interrogations as permitted under law.
Rule 3.2-Police officers shall not express, whether by act, omission or statement, prejudice concerning race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, disability, sexual orientation or age.
Rule 4.5-Police officers, while off duty, shall not engage in any conduct which the officer knows, or reasonably should know, constitutes an unwelcome sexual advance or request for sexual favor, or unwelcome sexually motivated physical contact or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct or communication of a sexual nature.
Rule 5.2-No police officer shall ridicule, mock, deride, taunt, belittle, willfully embarrass, humiliate, or shame any person to do anything reasonably calculated to incite a person to violence.
Rule 6.1-Police officers shall not use their official position, identification
cards or badges: (1) for personal or financial gain, for themselves or
another person; (2) for obtaining privileges not otherwise available to
them except in the performance of duty; and (3) for avoiding consequences
of unlawful or prohibited actions.
Rule 7.3-Police officers shall not use the authority of their positions as police officers, or information available to them due to their status as police officers, for any purpose of personal gain including, but not limited to, initiating or furthering personal and/or intimate interactions of any kind with persons with whom the officer has had contact while on duty.
Rule 8.2-Police officers shall not, except in the course of official
duties or as required by law, publicly disclose information likely to
endanger or embarrass victims, witnesses or complainants.
The reader is strongly advised to visit http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/cjst/Training_Resources/LE_Conduct.htm to read the remaining “Rules” spelled out by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. A police applicant may benefit tremendously by asking his prospective law enforcement agency what code(s) of ethics it employs to define appropriate police officer conduct.
Malcolm M. Hart, Ph.D.
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