Updating Ethics Training—Policing Privacy Series: Managing Risk by Reducing Internal Litigation

For years, ethics trainers have taught that all illegal behavior committed by a sworn member is unethical, but that not all unethical behavior is illegal. Still, policy noncompliance involving department investigations into members’ private lives remains a dicey business. Invariably, department policies and procedures dictate that sworn members, and sometimes the nonsworn, must conduct themselves both on duty and off duty in accord with their organizations’ expectations, citizen expectations, and ethical expectations, and not according to their own subjective privacy expectations. These are training issues that must be addressed at an academy level as well as during annual in-service training sessions.

Editor’s note: This article is the fourth in a four-part series of privacy-related articles that appears in Police Chief magazine. The other articles are Thomas J. Martinelli and Joseph A. Schafer, “Updating Ethics Training-Policing Privacy Series: Taking Race out of the Perception Equation” (January 2011): 18–22; Thomas J. Martinelli, “Updating Ethics Training—Policing Privacy Series: Respecting Society’s Evolving Privacy Expectations” (February 2011): 70–76; and Thomas J. Martinelli, “Updating Ethics Training—Policing Privacy Series: Noble Cause Corruption and Police Discretion” (March 2011): 60–62.