our greatest training and leadership need today and into the
next century. In addition to the fact that most departments
do not conduct ethics training, nothing is more devastating
to individual departments and our entire profession than
uncovered scandals or discovered acts of officer misconduct
and unethical behavior. The effects of unethical acts and
behavior take many forms.
One of the
more detrimental consequences of unethical behavior is the
subjecting of an agency to civil litigation. Litigation now
comes in many forms: excessive use of force, racial
discrimination, sexual discrimination, age discrimination,
religious discrimination and sexual harassment suits.
Violations of civil rights under Titles 18 and 42 are
becoming too commonplace. Defending against such allegations
both drains an organization financially and has a long-term
reputation effect—in many cases, stigmatizing the agency
forms of civil litigation are more than tempting to the
media; they are irresistible. The negative publicity
generated is devastating, regardless of the type of
employer. A single incident of unethical behavior can take
you from one of the most-admired agencies to one of the
least-respected, literally overnight.
reason is the personal consequences individual supervisors
suffer. Simply being in the "chain of command"
when substantial misconduct is discovered can literally
destroy a career. When a scandal hits, heads will roll. Many
supervisors lose their jobs or are demoted. Others are more
fortunate by retaining their jobs, but may never be promoted
again. Many of the violations that resulted in disciplinary
actions or terminations were due to supervisory omissions or
failure to take appropriate actions when dealing with acts
of unethical conduct.
destruction through termination does not end with these
leaders. Finding one's name or picture on television or the
focus of a newspaper story about corruption is an
overwhelming public humiliation for any officer and his
family; even if later exonerated, he can never recover. The
stigma of association resulting from an allegation of
unethical behavior lasts forever, even into one's personal
officers who lose their jobs, the future is bleak, to say
the least. Many times, unemployment compensation is not
offered for such situations. Few employers would want to
hire someone fired for being unethical. Without an income,
domestic problems arise, often leading to divorce or
separation and complicating an already strained and
considerably more officers commit suicide than are murdered.
Many times, these suicides are a result of officers' failure
to deal with unethical acts in which they were personally or
summarily involved. Thus, by preventing unethical acts, you
will be literally saving the lives of fellow officers.
If we in
law enforcement do not know what our problems are, how do we
know how to properly address these issues? Based on our
committee's recommendation, the solution is to create and
conduct a needs assessment.
spring of 1997, the most extensive ethics training survey
ever conducted by law enforcement was undertaken. Over 4,500
surveys were sent out to members of IACP; 20 percent (or 900
completed surveys) were returned. Though on the surface this
percentage may seem low, private-sector marketers will tell
you that anything over 10 percent is considered
extraordinary. The large response was collected, and the
interpretation of the results analyzed. This has produced
solid recommendations for change in how we as a profession
must address ethics today and in the future.
research instrument utilized both qualitative and
quantitative methodologies. It was believed that by using
the two distinct research designs, the special demands of
this specific project could be strengthened.
was constructed using both fixed-answer questions and
statements and/or open-ended questions. Consideration was
given to formulating questions or statements that measured
specified variables in an articulate and meaningful way. The
initial contents of the survey design comprised a large
number of questions and statements related to ethics in law
enforcement. The survey was ultimately refined to contain
questions or statements that were judged most relevant to
the subject matter. The intention was to enhance the
integrity and effectiveness of the survey by securing the
comments of specific external evaluators regarding both the
quality and substance of the items contained in the survey.
the complete survey questions from each section will provide
an intelligible understanding of the data provided in the
report. This report incorporates one primary statistical
factor: a mean. A brief description of the methodology
follows: The mean is the sum of a set of mathematical values
divided by the number of values for that series of data. The
intention was to focus on the manner in which responses to
the various questions were distributed and how they might
inform members of IACP.
of Findings on Questions 1 - 69
1-69 were check-off questions addressing a wide range of
ethical topics. An overwhelming number of agencies (80.3
percent) reported that they commit resources to train
instructors offering ethics courses; and over 60 percent
(62.4 percent) reported that they also provide their ethics
trainers additional training in adult learning theory. The
major approaches these agencies employed in teaching ethics
were reported as lecture (78 percent), readings and
discussion (67.3 percent), videotapes (53 percent) and video
scenarios (49 percent).
methods—such as role play (26 percent), computers and
games (about 7 percent) were used much less often.
Sixty-three percent of the responding departments said that
they employed a "standardized lesson plan" for
ethics instruction, which means that over a third of the
agencies did not equip ethics instructors with planned
results regarding Field Training Officers (FTOs) ethics
instruction were not as overwhelming as the reported
statistics for instructors in general. Sixty-three percent
received some formal training, while only 52 percent
indicated they were trained in adult learning theories of
education. Quite unexpectedly, only about a third (34.4
percent) of the agencies said they had an ethics category
for the evaluation reports filled out by FTOs on their
trainees. In other words, ethics-related categories were not
included among those used to assess recruits' qualifications
and skills in about two-thirds of the agencies surveyed.
about ethics curriculum topics such as decision-making
skills, values, code of ethics, officer safety, etc., a
significant majority (generally 75 to 90 percent) of the
departments reported that these topics were provided in
their courses for recruits, in-service and management
personnel. One exception to this general observation was in
the area of "management responsibility"; only
two-thirds (65.9 percent) of the agencies included this
ethics topic for their managers. In other curriculum
categories, there was very little difference in programs
offered for recruits, in-service and management personnel.
that was clearly revealed in the survey was that a vast
majority (83.3 percent) of the departments were engaged in
some form of ethics training for newly sworn officers. Over
505 of the respondents saw this training as fulfilling a
"high" need among officers, supervisory personnel
and command-level staff. These item responses clearly
suggested that there were important concerns about ethics
training, and that an emphasis on ethics should be a top
priority for all levels of the organization. To address this
need, 72 percent of the agencies said that they provide some
ethics-related training beyond the basic academy experience.
about how much time was devoted to ethics training provided
for some interesting findings. A majority of the respondents
(70.5 percent) said that they provided four classroom hours
or less of programming. Only 16.8 percent of the respondents
mentioned an eight-hour day of training reserved for ethics.
For supervisors, 65.1 percent of the departments said they
received some kind of ethics training, but again it was
generally offered for four hours or less. Interestingly,
although most saw a high need for ethics training, the
amount of time earmarked for this activity was far less than
what might be expected.
resource commitment for ethics training, 56.9 percent of the
agencies said that they sought external assistance in
developing their ethics programs. Only about a third (30.4
percent), however, invested in formal training in teaching
ethics for their FTOs, while almost two-thirds (63.5
percent) provided ethics training for narcotic and
undercover officers. Whether this percentage for drug
enforcement activities should be higher or not is difficult
to decide. Perhaps it does reflect a concern about the
ethical temptations inherent in that kind of work, and
represents an effort by at least some agencies to aid in
preventing more serious difficulties.
findings came from the items asking departments whether or
not they addressed ethical issues in specific areas, such as
gratuities (81 percent said "yes"), conflicts of
interest (76 percent), abuse of force (90 percent), abuse of
authority (78.9 percent), corruption (68.6 percent),
discretion and the public trust (78.2 percent), cultural
diversity (82.4 percent), off-duty ethics (70.9 percent),
personal values (61.4 percent) and management of ethics
(64.9 percent). What was interesting was the hourly
breakdown regarding these issue areas. More time was spent
discussing issues related to the use of force and cultural
diversity than the other areas. This emphasis probably
reflects major concerns in most agencies over the past
several years in which the issues of racial discrimination
and use-of-force incidents were highly publicized, not to
mention highly expensive concerns related to defending
against civil litigation.
finding was that the amount of time devoted to ethics
training did not appear to be consistent with how important
the needs were, based on the responses. There seems to be a
recognized demand for expanded training hours, more quality
training resources and greater involvement with ethics
training at all levels of the organization, but the number
of hours remains rather insignificant in terms of this
recognized demand. It is possible that the gap revealed in
this survey between "high need" and training hours
devoted to ethics actually reflects changes that are
occurring, and there is simply a resource lag while the gap
closes. Whether this is the case, only time will tell.
Generally speaking, these survey results support the general
conclusion that ethics training is considered important by
law enforcement agencies, and they are continuing to commit
training resources, seeking outside assistance and generally
providing some ethical training to recruits as well as
in-service and management personnel.
of Findings on Questions 69-73
69-73 consisted of open-ended, narrative and short-answer
some of the answers were very thoughtful; some respondents
provided typewritten pages with attached value statements
clearly demonstrating that there was some time, effort and
interest in the subject matter.
answers were so brief that the answers are subject to
varying interpretations and are of little or no value. Some
answers contained one or two words, and sometimes the
answers were very cynical, such as, "A tiger can't
change his stripes." Some answers were not responsive
to the questions, and it is believed that these respondents
did not understand how serious the ethical issues
confronting law enforcement officers are. One respondent
provided no answers to these questions.
to the survey research instrument—and in particular to the
open-ended questions—varied considerably, and by agency,
with some responding to all of the questions and others to
none. A breakdown follows:
total percentage returned was within acceptable limits, it
was somewhat low and, by extension, a disappointment.
Moreover, the overall findings should be a relatively
accurate reflection of the concerns of most agencies
regarding ethics training. Furthermore, the responses to the
open-ended questions revealed a paradox between a
"clearly perceived need for ethics training" and a
lack of "demonstrated concern in the responses."
#69: What do you see as the more pressing ethical issues in
law enforcement today?
findings for this question are as follows, and reflect the
perceptions of a very significant number of respondents.
Morals/personal values of officers/lack of values in new
Abuse of force/abuse of authority
Code of silence
Poor work ethic of new recruits
Lack of a sense of responsibility
Lack of role models
Issues considered critical:
Honesty in official reports
Police unions supporting unethical officers
Fabricating evidence/honesty in official reports and
Temptation to embellish testimony or belief that the truth
Proliferation of drugs with money available to corrupt the
offer a substantial reflection of the concerns noted in the
surveys. In part, these are evidence of previous "case
study" analysis, but they bring a greater level of
reliability to the findings. Moreover, the responses reveal
some interesting common themes. Those who responded
mentioned the importance of a set of agreed-upon foundations
for behavior and the need for involvement of supervisors and
managers. Further, many of the respondents spoke of the
importance of role-modeling in an agency and emphasis on the
consequences of behavior.
#70: If you could design an ethics training program, which
topics would you include?
question was, to some extent, a reflection of responses
posited in question #69. However, there were many occasions
where there was substantial divergence. That is, problems as
perceived in question #69 did not agree with the responses
in question #70. This, perhaps, suggests that there is some
level of disarray in terms of what the "critical issues
are" and "what should be taught."
#71: Please provide us with any "working definitions of
ethics" your organization uses.
particular case, most of those responding provided members
of the committee with various codes of conduct and ethical
behavior (e.g., department mission/ vision statements, IACP
code of ethics, other specific codes), while only a
handful provided any "working definition." To the
extent that this occurred, it could suggest that the notion
of what ethical behavior is should be more precisely defined
as time progresses. In essence, this would provide some
common ground from which to determine how to address issues
related to ethical behavior.
#72: What do you consider to be the most important (or
essential) elements or components of ethics training, and
One of the
indicators that was focused on most frequently was the
provision of a definition of ethics. Thus, further support
was gained for question #71 (provision of a working
definition of ethics).
#73: Further comments/suggestions/remarks.
question was provided as a way in which to provide an
opportunity for additional information. Very few agency
representatives utilized this chance.
overall perceptions of the members of the committee
regarding the answers to these five questions was one of
some level of disappointment and concern. Nevertheless,
committee members do believe that a sufficient number of
respondents answered the questions dealing with pressing
ethical issues in law enforcement to provide some food for
thought and critical insights. While it is impossible to
scientifically categorize the poor responses to these
questions, an educated guess is that the respondents would
generally agree that the following represent the most
serious ethical issues that confront law enforcement today.
effort to weave ethics training deeply into the fabric of
police agencies is to succeed, it must be undertaken with a
clear understanding of the very nature of the law
enforcement profession. Police officers take risks and
suffer inconveniences to protect the lives and secure the
safety of fellow citizens, and they endure such risks and
tolerate such inconveniences on behalf of strangers.
Consequently, police work is one of the more noble and
selfless occupations in society. Making a difference in the
quality of life is an opportunity that policing provides,
and few other professions can offer.
police leadership must meet the highest ethical standards in
order to keep the public's trust. As role models for
officers as well as the community, police chiefs have an
obligation to act in ways that avoid even the appearance of
impropriety. In other words, integrity in word and deed,
consistent with democratic principles, is one of the better
ways to ensure that our organizations can live up to the
noble promise of democratic public service.
Increase visibility of ethics through the adoption of and
support for a "Law Enforcement Oath of Honor."
effort to incorporate ethics training fully within law
enforcement community begins, it will be important to
heighten the visibility and awareness of ethics across the
profession. A public affirmation to adhering to the current
code of ethics and the adoption of an Oath of Honor will
have to be undertaken, along with role modeling and
mentoring, which are very powerful vehicles for changing
behavior. To be successful at enhancing integrity within an
organization, leaders must ensure that ethical mentoring and
role modeling are consistent, frequent and visible.
Therefore, the committee wholeheartedly supported the
creation of a symbolic reverberance and public affirmation
to attest a commitment to ethical conduct. After numerous
drafts and conferences, the following Law Enforcement Oath
of Honor was recommended as the IACP symbolic statement of
commitment to ethical behavior:
I will never betray my badge,
my integrity, my character,
or the public trust.
I will always have
the courage to hold myself
and others accountable for our actions.
I will always uphold the constitution
and community I serve.
officer takes the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor, it is
important that he understands what it means. An oath is a
solemn pledge someone makes when he sincerely intends to do
what he says.
means that one's word is given as a guarantee.
Betray is defined as breaking faith with the public
Badge is the symbol of your office.
Integrity is being the same person in both private
and public life.
Character means the qualities that distinguish an
Public trust is a charge of duty imposed in faith
toward those you serve.
Courage is having the strength to withstand unethical
pressure, fear or danger.
Accountability means that you are answerable and
responsible to your oath of office.
Community is the jurisdiction and citizens served.
of Honor's brevity allows it to be constantly referred to
and reinforced during conversations with FTOs and line
supervisors. In addition, it can also be
to by administrators while communicating with others;
on the back of all academy students' name cards,
ensuring that they are looking at it all day;
and visibly placed in all police academies and law
by each academy student, framed and hung on the wall;
at all official police ceremonies and gatherings;
on labels that are placed on equipment; and
- used as
a backdrop in citizens' meetings and news media events.
conclusion, it is strongly recommended that the IACP adopt
the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor and support a nationwide
Oath of Honor sign-up campaign. Having officers take an oath
will reconfirm the significance of integrity within the
agency and help bring the entire profession together to show
that the vast majority of law enforcement officers not only
are good, decent individuals, but also will step forward to
stop unethical acts by any members of our profession.
Provide job-specific training on ethics.
approach to ethics training within a given agency should be
viewed as universal in nature, it will be critically
important to ensure that specific groups within a department
have access to training tailored to their specific needs.
Overall training content will be addressed in this section,
but specific groups may include:
Officers new to the profession must discuss the rules
and regulations of an agency, while coming to understand
the power of the police culture. Recruits should be
armed with decision-making tools so they are prepared to
make intelligent/ethical choices.
training officers: FTOs are the most important link in
developing a strong ethical foundation and culture
within a police organization. FTOs must be schooled in
the adult learning process so they are equipped to
assist their trainees in learning to behave ethically.
FTOs must understand the critical position they fill. It
is not uncommon that an ethical situation will surface
within the first 60 minutes spent with a new officer.
The best illustration of this is exposing the new
trainee to a half-price or free meal dilemma. More than
any level within a police organization, the very finest,
most ethical employees must be recruited and retained as
FTOs. FTOs should become a gateway to first-line
supervision within an agency.
police officers: Tenured officers must be equipped with
the tools necessary to identify and analyze ethical
dilemmas, and thereafter must possess the ability to
make appropriate ethical choices.
personnel: Supervisors and first-line managers within a
police department must understand their role in the
development and maintenance of a healthy ethical climate
in an agency. Supervisors can no longer absolve
themselves of responsibility for misbehavior or
personnel under their command. The prevailing attitude
of being a popular supervisor rather than being an
ethical supervisor must be reversed. This level of the
organization, more than any other, must be constantly
inundated with ethical situational training and
scrutinized for indications of unethical behavior or
dilemmas. The consensus of all members of the ad hoc
committee identified this level of the police
organization as essential in setting the ethical culture
in the police profession.
personnel: Command-level executives must take the lead
in setting an ethical standard for the agency.
Development of value statements and a readiness to
"walk the line" (serve as a role model) must
be critical benchmarks.
personnel: Often overlooked, civilians must understand
the vital role they fulfill in the development of a
fully ethical agency. Contract issues, records and
financial matters are but a few of the areas open to
discussion and examination.
unit categories: While much ethics training could be
described as "one size fits all," certain
specialized groups within an agency have very particular
needs. Among those groups are undercover drug personnel,
detectives, traffic units, evidence collection teams,
DARE officers, property custodians and SWAT officers.
It is critically important, from an integrity and ethics
perspective, that we not just "talk the talk" but
also "walk the walk." Training bridges the gap
between written integrity and ethics guidance and direction
in the form of policy and procedure (talk the talk) to
behavior change in the performance of duties and
responsibilities (walk the walk) in police agencies.
Training will ensure that police personnel will know what to
do, given integrity and ethical applications. Supervision
ensures that the policy and procedure and training
curriculum are implemented at the operational level.
Accountability systems ensure that all components of the
integrity and ethics system are working, to include policy
and procedure, training and supervision. Training becomes a
critical and integral part of this process.
It is our
recommendation that integrity and ethics training occur
during police recruit training and throughout an
individual's police career. Integrity and ethics training
should be both general and agency specific in nature.
General training would include generic applications that are
applicable to all agency personnel. Agency-specific training
would include examples of integrity and ethics violations
and issues that have occurred in the past within the agency
and how those situations should have been responded to by
As with other training topics, ethics training is most
effective when it is focused upon the specific needs of
those being trained. The development and use of customized
ethics training tools, techniques, processes and programs
should provide personnel with more skills, knowledge and
abilities for preventing unethical acts.
Enhance training curriculum content.
training programs are created and put into place within
agencies, several important points should be carefully
considered for inclusion:
models: Officers should walk out of a training program
with a set of tools readily available for use in
analyzing ethical dilemmas and choosing among available
options. Simply talking about ethics in a class is
inadequate; an effective program will provide usable
tools available for immediate use outside the classroom.
of specific values or moral anchors: As the tools
described above are put to use, officers should be able
to look toward a universally agreed-upon set of values
to determine whether specific behavior is defensible and
of ethical thinking outside the law enforcement arena:
In the interest of learning from the mistakes of other
groups, regular reading and discussion of a variety of
classic cases in ethical thinking should be considered.
Roll call, in-service training, and staff and line
meetings should be the stage for discussion of ethical
situations, with an emphasis on "why" and
"how," followed by discussions of how it was
resolved and what would be the most appropriate way if
time were not a factor to resolve the situation.
Feedback, feedback, feedback, combined with development
of ethical solutions, must be continually emphasized.
the appropriate training style.
attempt to incorporate training within the law enforcement
community must be carried out within the framework of an
"adult learning environment." Too often in the
past, ethics training programs have consisted of little more
than a lecture or sermon presented in a threatening and
offensive tone. In such cases, it is little wonder that
officers walk out of the classroom feeling they have, for
all intents and purposes, wasted their time. The conscious
decision should be made to treat police personnel attending
ethics programs as adults, and to utilize the tenets of the
adult learning process.
The training of police personnel is most effective when the
instructors concerned create a training style and
environment that lends itself to the learning of adults. In
particular, employees must fully appreciate how they will
benefit from ethics training.
administrators must acknowledge that the development of a
lasting and fully entrenched sense of positive ethical
behavior within an agency will be arrived at only through
continuing discussion of these issues. Ethics must be viewed
as more than just a "Band-Aid" to be utilized
after a scandal has arisen. Instead, personnel at all levels
(and at all career stages) must have the opportunity to be
reminded of these issues, and to have their decision-making
skills refreshed and reinforced as discussed in examples
The ultimate solution for officer misconduct is for ethics
and integrity to become ingrained throughout every aspect of
an organization. Constant reinforcement, whether through
training or leading by example, is a necessary element of
Insist on strong recruit ethics training.
It is the recommendation of the ad hoc IACP Police Image and
Ethics Training Committee that academies emphasize two major
areas concerning ethics:
dilemma simulation training, and
perspectives on each training topic presented.
an ethical perspective to all topics covered in the
police academy curriculum.
the academy director, when addressing the new recruit
class for the first time, emphasize ethics and
integrity, and stress that these two concepts are the
highest priorities of the academy.
every instructor in each training topic area address the
ethical perspectives of each specific topic, and require
them to substantiate such perspectives in lesson plan
display motivational posters or other similar types of
signs within police facilities. Such signs might include
the Value Statement, Oath of Honor, Code of Ethics,
short articles of an ethical nature and reports of
positive ethical behavior by members of the local agency
or other departments.
wallet cards with the Oath of Honor or key information
on ethical decision-making models for ready reference.
an honor code, Oath of Honor or ethics statement on desk
nametags so officers can be constantly reminded of the
issues they represent.
a formalized four- to eight-hour interactive ethics
training presentation. Primary focus should be on
dealing with current, real-life ethical dilemmas.
ethical decision-making "tests" to be given
periodically to recruits and in-service trainees.
recruits to read a current book that discusses ethics
and promotes integrity. The book should then become the
basis for class discussion and written examination.
lecture and emotional role-play scenario training that
teaches officers the need for intervention, as well as
how to professionally intervene when another officer
appears about to commit an unethical act.
Ethics instruction has not been a high priority within basic
police academies. As such, academies sometimes conveyed the
message that ethics was not a critical issue. Every
instructor should address the ethical perspectives of each
training topic and use the most effective tools and
on FTO ethics.
As mentioned previously, FTO programs must immediately
become a major focus of law enforcement's efforts to prevent
officer misconduct. FTOs should conduct ethics training in
two major ways:
ethical dilemma simulation training focusing on
previously documented unethical cases involving new
including ethical situational training components on the
for recommendation: FTOs have a substantial impact upon
the prevention or creation of unethical acts by patrol
officers. Historically, law enforcement has not recognized
this fact. The result was that ethics was seldom a training
topic within FTO programs. In addition, the fact that the
beliefs and attitudes of FTOs are usually replicated by
recruits was not considered.
the integrity and positive mental outlook of potential
FTOs a high priority in their selection.
that FTOs thoroughly understand that they create the
"organizational culture" of the patrol
division, accept the responsibility, and have received
FTO training that addresses this fact.
administrators' deep support for the FTO program.
that administrators follow the document-supported
recommendation for termination of a recruit by FTOs,
unless not doing so is truly justified.
FTOs address each academy class to explain the upcoming
"Integrity/Ethics" to the trainee daily
that background investigator(s) have FTO experience.
members of the FTO program as part of the hiring
place "Integrity/Ethics" on the FTO training
that each new officer has identified whom he talks to
about any ethical dilemma, as a means of support.
lecture and emotional role-play scenario training that
teaches officers the need for and how to intervene when
another officer appears to commit an unethical act.
FTOs in how to use audio and/ or video ethics simulation
training for new officers.
continual in-service training.
Ethics must immediately become a major focus of law
enforcement's in-service training efforts. Departments
should conduct internal ethics training in two fundamental
mandatory annual ethical dilemma simulation training,
that instructors of each training topic address the
ethical perspective of the topic they are presenting.
for recommendation: Ethics training must become a
component of all internal instruction. Taking advantage of
current ethics training techniques and tools can assist and
enhance in-service ethics training. The neglect of
in-service ethics training has frequently been present when
employee misconduct occurred.
that every instructor of each in-service class addresses
the ethical perspective of what he is training.
internal e-mail, newsletters or other correspondence to
disseminate words, quotes or verbiage dealing with
lectures and emotional role-play scenario training that
teaches officers the need for and how to intervene when
another officer appears about to commit an unethical
to have a viable and effective integrity and ethics impact
within a police organization, it is critical that an
integrity and ethics emphasis be infused into an agency's
policy and procedure, training, supervision and
accountability systems. This integrity and ethics infusion
should have generic and specific applications. It should be
generic in that certain integrity and ethics principles are
applicable to all personnel in every assignment and at every
level within the agency. It should be specific in that there
are unique integrity and ethics applications to each
assignment and position in a police agency.