Police Complaints Authority

Would the implementation of a Code of Ethics be problematic? How can the Code best be implemented? What other measures do you consider effective without implementation of a Code of Ethics? What else is in place? Discuss Codes of ethics can be said to represent the fundamental beliefs and values of an organisation (Villiers, 1997). Usually adopted by occupations seeking to represent themselves as ‘professions’.(Kleinig, 1996), they define the standards members should operate to , and are intended to provide the basis for public confidence.(Kleinig 1996).

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Michael Davis disagreed, stating codes of ethics were “a convention between professional”, (cited in Kleineg 1996: p33), intended to co-ordinate members activities. He claimed that therefore they had no bearing on the maintenance of public trust. It could be argued that in the absence of any other, more rigorous, set of sanctions and controls,specifically drafted to ensure quality of service to the customer, the aspirational aims of a code of ethics would be at least a starting point.

However, the implementation of a code of ethics for the Police Service of England and Wales would result in confusion and ‘double jeopardy’ for officers, already subject to the rigorous controls of the Police code of conduct. This was evident in the failure of the ACPO draft code of ethics(ACPO, 1992) to become published policy when put before the full compliment of police chiefs. Kleinigs view is in some way supported by Wood (1997a) who agreed that ethics contribute to the image of the profession, and Palmer (1992) who believed that a code would help to engender self-respect among individual officers and mutual respect among officers. These benefits are arguably worthwhile and could be seen, in themselves, to justify the implementation of a code of ethics.

These arguments aside, if a code of ethics were deemed necessary or desirable, it could best be implemented through initial training of new recruits, coupled with re-training of existing personnel and subsequent monitoring of integrity (Smith, 1999). The measures already in place, in the form of police codes of practice (formerly police regulations) and the criminal law can be seen to be effective means of control and could be argued to negate the need for a code of ethics.

The main aims of a code of ethics, i.e. Fairness, Integrity, Diligence, Courtesy, Tolerance, Accountability, Competence, Restraint in use of force (ACPO, 1992),are all present in elements of the police codes of conduct, breaches of which form the basis for police disciplinary action. Breaches of the code are often reported to managers, by members of the public in the form of complaints against the police. Serious complaints are also required to be reported to the Police Complaints Authority, who have the discretion to issue a waiver allowing the home force to investigate, or appoint an investigator from another force to work under their direction. Police forces or Police Authorities can also voluntarily refer non complaint cases to the PCA for investigation.

These are usually matters of public interest arising from police operations (PCA, 2002). Internal investigations are usually carried out by a forces Complaints /internal standards unit, who are today operating in a more proactive mode, using integrity testing to monitor officer conduct in a way previously unheard of. This shift in emphasis was recommended by most recent commentaries on police integrity. (Smith, 1999; Patten,1999; Webb, 1999)