How to Encourage Reporting of Professional Misconduct

Reporting on the misconduct of colleagues in any job can be risky business. Repercussions can range from incivility in the workplace to harassment, destruction of personal property, ostracism, a stalled career, dismissal, or being blackballed by the industry in which the person reporting the misconduct works.1 Retributions often stem from perceptions of disloyalty to colleagues, one’s boss, or one’s organization. People who report misconduct are often accused of not being team players.

In policing, the value of loyalty is even higher than in many other occupations. The perception of ever-present danger from a common enemy (such as people with substance use disorders, gangs, organized crime groups, and, to some degree, the wider public) intensifies the necessity of mutual support and loyalty. Front-line members know their safety depends on colleagues “having their back.” Police officers who “rat” on a colleague have been left out of the information loop or have waited and wondered when, or if, backup would arrive. Without the loyalty of his or her colleagues, the officer’s job is more dangerous. One wonders why anyone in policing would ever report a colleague’s misconduct.2