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The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics – Real World Application

Law Enforcement Officer Resilience

The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics – Real World Application


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As children, we are taught that we must be responsible for our own actions, always tell the truth, and be upstanding citizens in whatever we do. The morals we are taught as children continue to influence how we live our lives as adults. When a person chooses to become a police officer, they choose to live a life in service to their community. The Police Oath they take is a solemn promise to commit their lives to serving and protecting their community. The Code of Ethics they follow is meant to be a guide to being the best officer they can be.

Understanding Ethics and the Standards Officers Must Live Up To

Being in the public eye all the time means that police officers are constantly being scrutinized. A law enforcement officer must exhibit ethical behavior at all times. Law enforcement personnel are taught ethics and appropriate standards of conduct while they are attending the Police Academy.

Law enforcement ethics are basically the same as for other careers. It involves being able to assess a situation and take appropriate action that is morally and ethically sound. The Police Code of Ethics is different from one law enforcement agency to the next, but when you break them down, they involve living up to the same high moral and ethical standards.

Responsibilities as a Police Officer

Police officers are government representatives that must work within the laws put forth by the Constitution. They are granted the power to do their job by statutes put in place by local government officials. The duties that an officer is obligated to perform include:

  • Keep the peace
  • Serve the community
  • Protect the lives of citizenship
  • Protect property; both public and private
  • Protect innocent bystanders
  • Promote justice, equality, and liberty

An officer’s responsibilities do not end when the badge comes off. They may be off duty, but their commitment and behavior are always front and center in their lives.

Performance of the Duties of an Officer

Police must be impartial when fulfilling their duties. There shall be no ill will, affection, or favor. There will be no regard given to a person’s religion, race, sex, political affiliation, or status. Individuals must be treated with respect, dignity, consideration, and courtesy. An officer can not allow friendships, personal feelings, or animosity to influence how they act or respond while they are on duty. Laws must be enforced in an efficient, appropriate and courteous manner. Officers will execute their duties with as much cooperation from the public as possible. All officers will strive to bolster the public’s confidence and respect and will diligently work to maintain its trust.


Discretion is of the utmost importance and must be exercised at all times. Officers will act within reasonable parameters within the law while taking into consideration any and all circumstances to determine if legal action is needed. Practicing discretion in a wise and effective manner will establish a positive relationship with the public. Consistently maintaining this rapport will encourage the public to have confidence in its police department. When a situation arises where there are different courses of action, it is essential to evaluate each one and choose the appropriate action that effectively achieves the desired goal.

Use of Force

There will be times when a police officer must use force to resolve a situation. The force must be appropriate for the act in question. Any time violence o unnecessary force is used, disciplinary actions will be taken. There are certain times when a show of force may be required to resolve a situation. While conducting their professional service, police officers must maintain the highest possible degree of professionalism at all times. This includes avoiding the infliction of pain and never degrading, humiliating or treating inhumanely any person who may find themselves in their care.


Police officers must maintain the highest level of confidentiality at all times. In order to maintain public trust, they must act in an ethical manner at all times. Anything that is heard, seen, or discovered that is considered to be confidential, must not be disclosed in any manner. Information may only be divulged if it is required in accordance with the performance of their duties. Citizens have the right to privacy when it comes to their personal information. Confidentiality must be respected and adhered to at all times.


Officers must maintain their integrity at all times. They must not engage in any illegal acts whatsoever. This includes bribery, corruption, theft, or any other illegal actions. An officer will also not condone these acts when performed by other officers. Police officers must maintain the integrity and good moral fortitude at all times. They must avoid any type of unethical behavior that will destroy their integrity or cause the public to lose trust in them. No bribes are to be accepted (presents, gratuities, gifts, or favors). Bribes may be considered a way to attempt to get a police officer to not perform the duties that are assigned to them. An officer must earn the respect of those they serve. It cannot and will not be purchased or bought with promises or any type of special service.

Working with Officers From Other Agencies

Even though there are multiple law enforcement agencies in any given area, officers can legally work with other law enforcement personnel who are also authorized members of the criminal justice system. It is of the utmost importance that officers from each agency be able to work as a cohesive whenever necessary. Officers must maintain the highest level of respect for one another at all times.

Personal and Professional Capabilities

Police officers will maintain accountability for themselves on both a personal and professional level. It is up to them to take the initiative to continue to receive the education and training they need to continually enhance their performance. It is their job to look for new challenges and opportunities that will allow them to continue to grow and improve as an officer of the law. It is also their job to be as efficient and effective as possible while performing their duties. Continually striving to improve both their personal and professional capabilities leads to establishing public trust and renewing public faith in law enforcement. The officer must live by example and display ethical behavior at all times.

Private Life

Just because a law enforcement officer takes off their badge and goes home to their family, it is still up to them to be upstanding members of the community. Officers must work to maintain the respect and confidence of the community at large. An off-duty officer is held to the same high standards as their brothers and sisters in blue who are on the clock and protecting our communities.

Honoring the Police Oath

The Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and the Police Oath go hand in hand. The Oath is the officer’s commitment to protect and serve the community, while the Law Enforcement Code is the guide they follow in terms of ethical behavior and moral values. By following the Code, officers strive to always act in an ethical manner when performing their duties and taking part in criminal investigations. The Code and the Oath are more than just concepts that officers must live by. They each require the highest level of commitment at all times, whether the officer is on duty or spending time with their families. They are not the rules of their occupation. They are the basic tenets that govern every aspect of a police officer’s life.

Commitment to the Badge and to Those They Serve

Law enforcement officers do not make these commitments lightly. Many believe in the Code and Oath so strongly that they are willing to risk their lives to uphold the promise they have made to protect and serve the community. They have a firm resolve to deal with any ethical issues that may arise and also to continually build positive police community relations. Professionalism and the willingness to work for the betterment of the community are top priorities.

The professional conduct of a police officer is something that is constantly under public scrutiny. While they are human and make mistakes, their commitment to live by the highest ethical and moral standards is often unmatched. Many times, officers will continue to serve and protect their communities even when they are off duty.

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