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Street Cop Ethics

NCJ Number
Law Enforcement Trainer Volume: 16 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2001 Pages: 6-8
John J. Fuller
Date Published
May 2001
3 pages
This article discusses the ethics of the average street police officer.
The average street police officer is expected to conduct his/her personal and professional life with more integrity and decorum than the average citizen does. But it is impossible to remain courteous and civil in some situations. Returning phone calls is important because it is a frequent source of citizen complaints against police officers. When dealing with a confrontational encounter, it is advisable for officers to keep quiet and ignore verbal attempts to be goaded into street-corner arguments. Police officers saying the wrong thing at the wrong time account for the majority of citizen complaints, whether justified or not. Officers' personal opinions and biases should not be expressed openly. They should never humiliate anyone in a devastating manner in front of his/her family or friends, no matter how obnoxious their behavior or attitude. officers should always leave room for some self-respect in any encounter, regardless of the circumstances; and at the same time, never walk or shy away from an obvious arrest or enforcement situation. Officers should remain calm and collected in the face of verbal abuse. This is one of the hallmarks of a professional police officer. Officers should not be provoked into an unnecessary use of force incident. When the resistance stops, the force should stop. If someone insists on bribery, the officer should suggest they write a commendatory letter to the Commanding Officer. Bribery can include money, gifts, or favors. “Kickbacks” for illegal services are probably the most prevalent from of contemporary police corruption. The officer should think about why an offer is being made. There is almost always an ulterior motive or hidden agenda. A quiz of 15 brief, ethically-challenging scenarios is offered. This quiz might be helpful in a police ethics class, either for entry level or in-service, as a written exercise or as the basis for a class or small group discussion.


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