Law Enforcement Ethics


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There is often confusion surrounding law enforcement ethics which can often raise the following questions. Is this in some way different to policing ethics? Do law enforcement agencies work to ethical codes or standards? What is a law enforcement agency? Is this definition different to a police department or agency?

Wikipedia defines both a law enforcement organisation and a law enforcement agency as follows:

A law enforcement organisation is an organisation of parties, either individuals or other organisations or both, associated with law enforcement, typically with some common interest.

Law enforcement organisation is broad term, and while it includes law enforcement agencies, when used typically, is meant to specifically include organisations other than law enforcement agencies.

A law enforcement agency has powers, while other law enforcement organisations do not.

Law enforcement organisations other than law enforcement agencies may be:

  • associations of personnel of law enforcement agencies at certain levels within their organisations
  • law enforcement agency employee unions
  • associations of law enforcement specialists, for example, forensic specialists, weapons and tactical specialists, evidence management and handling practioners, specialist investigators such as fraud investigators or arson investigators
  • community groups such as neighbourhood watch groups.

We at EthicsinPolicing have developed an ethics training programme designed not only for police agencies but also all law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement personnel are seldom forced to present ethical rationales for their decisions. Our one day course is designed for all law enforcement officials and Support Staff with a view to promoting an awareness of the ethical issues relevant to their role and to enable participants to critically analyse their own decision making process. By drawing on dilemmas and using a decision making model the course aims to:

  • Give students a realistic view of the work situations law enforcement and support staff face and give them the tools needed to make ethical choices
  • Promote better practice by applying consistent and logical ethical choices
  • Encourage students/delegates to promote an ethical environment

For more information on this course and others that are available through EthicsinPolicing please see the services area of this web site.

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