Law enforcement ethicw problems aren’t exactly a secret. It’s hard not to see news stories and protests when police cross the line.
However, these ethics problems can be prevented. The best part is self-regulation within law enforcement helps prevent ethics issues before any harm comes to others.
Provide In-Depth Ethics Training
The first step is to make it clear what is and isn’t acceptable. This can involve everything from how to handle a suspect to the treatment of other law enforcement personnel. Not only should you go through this training when someone’s first hired, but schedule a few training sessions for everyone throughout the year. This isn’t just to discourage someone from doing something wrong, but to help others recognize potential issues.
Create An Ethical Culture
Next, establish an ethical culture. For example, if the police chief follows guidelines and serves as an example of what to do right, more law enforcement personnel will follow suite. They’ll also know that stepping outside the line won’t be tolerated.
This also means taking immediate action when something does go wrong. It could be harassing a fellow officer, using a patrol car for personal reasons, breaking laws, or anything else. Investigate all incidents immediately and take action to make it clear that law enforcement ethics problems won’t be tolerated by anyone.
Set Up A Ethics Hotline
An ethics hotline, or whistleblower hotline, is one of the most valuable tools for preventing law enforcement ethics problems. This gives personnel a way to report issues as soon as they notice something. In many cases, this can prevent major issues from arising, such as corrupt officers giving all the others a bad name due to the illegal treatment of a suspect.
Provide detailed training on how to use the ethics hotline, along with providing details on what to report. Ensure your system is fully anonymous to prevent retaliation issues when investigations begin. You may also need trusted people in place to protect those who report more sensitive problems, especially if they’re reporting a partner or superior.
Investigate All Reports Equally
No matter how great you might think a law enforcement employee may be, take every report seriously. Yes, it could easily be a false report or just someone with a slight grievance trying to make trouble. However, you don’t know for certain. Investigate every report as if it’s the difference between being a truly ethical agency or one that may soon be facing lawsuits.
If you fear bias by those investigating, employ an outside team. This might be a rotating set of personnel, temporary hires who are thoroughly trained in the investigative process, or fellow law enforcement personnel from a location well outside your area.
Encourage Everyone To Report Issues
This is the most critical part of preventing law enforcement ethics problems. Every person must consider themselves responsible for keeping an eye on everyone else. Creating this level of accountability makes it much harder for personnel to do something they shouldn’t.
Think of an ethics reporting system much like an anonymous tip hotline. It’s only with the support of everyone that you’re able to make the world safer. With the support of all your personnel, you’re able to create a much more ethical law enforcement agency.