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Ethics and Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 71 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2002 Pages: 11-14
J. Kevin Grant
Date Published
December 2002
4 pages
This article discusses the rationale for, the content of, and the enforcement of the police code of conduct and the law enforcement code of ethics.
Because law enforcement is a profession, ethics and ethical conduct play an important role. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) established a code of ethics to govern the conduct of its members. This code of ethics, originally written in 1957, was revised at the IACP conference in Louisville, Kentucky, on October 17, 1989. In October 1991, IACP members unanimously voted to adopt the new code. The law enforcement code of ethics is used as an oath of office during the graduation ceremony for many law enforcement personnel. The code of ethics states that the officer's fundamental duties are to serve the community; safeguard lives and property; protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder; and respect the constitutional rights of all to liberty, equality, and justice. The code of ethics also states that officers must keep their private lives unsullied and recognize the badge as a symbol of public faith and trust. The police code of conduct works in conjunction with the law enforcement code of ethics. The code of conduct consists of ethical mandates law enforcement officers use to perform their duties. These guidelines include acting impartially; exercising discretion; using only necessary force; and maintaining confidentiality, integrity, and a professional image at all times. These ethical statements, along with appropriate training and strong leadership, encourage law enforcement officers to become members of an ethical profession. One section of this article notes corruption to be one ethical issue facing police officers. Characteristics of police corruption are listed, and four methods are suggested for controlling corruption in law enforcement agencies, including strong leadership, changes in the selection and socialization of new officers, changes in departmental organization and operations, and changes in the environment in which the department works. 16 notes