Ethics and Policing: What Police Leaders Need to Know

The mission of police administrators, as with leaders in any organization, is to train employees who will have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide quality services to the customers whom they serve. In the case of police departments, officers, and administrators, by virtue of vicarious liability, they serve the citizens of their communities. Forgetting whom law enforcement serves and neglecting to focus on providing a quality service by ignoring signs and indications of police misconduct create a rift between the community and the police department. This rift between the police and the citizens of the community, with which many police officers and administrators are all too familiar, leads to public mistrust and animosity. Combining widespread mistrust of the police with the proliferation of video technology and citizens’ increased knowledge of legal issues has resulted in increased scrutiny of police departments and, specifically, police leadership. Administrators who believe that ethics training for their officers is nonessential and should be left up to basic police academies fail to grasp the true nature of their professional accountability to the public. More than ever, departments throughout the United States need to recognize the importance of ethics training as an essential tool of organizational development and should be implementing training for all levels of employment, beginning with the upper management.