Free Essay On Police Ethics And COP Code

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Crime, Police, Officer, Law, Ethics, COP, Duty, Criminal Justice

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/12/08


The formal code of ethics for the police significantly differs from that of the police subculture or cop code. Police offices are expected to uphold their sworn duty to serve the public, but on the other hand, they have to work along with other members in the performance of their responsibilities, resulting to the creation of bond among them. As a group, they soon develop a certain culture that sometimes resulted to the conflict between duty to serve and loyalty to a fellow member. The purpose of this essay is to present an account for the difference between the formal Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and the Cop code. Early in an officer’s career is the reinforcement of the standard code of ethics which he must observe in carrying his responsibility, but young police recruits soon are exposed to the policing environment clad with the norms of the cop code.

The Formal Police Code of Ethics

As a police officer is accepted into the realm of policing, he is made aware of the ethical obligation of one in his position: he is expected to make every effort to uphold the sworn duty of a police officer. He is given guidelines on his responsibilities as an officer of law such as:

He is expected to act as a representative of the government and perform his duties in accordance with the law.

A police officer must perform his duty impartially, that is, he must not let personal circumstances interfere with his responsibility to serve. As an officer bestowed with public trust, he must endeavor to perform his work in a demeanor that encourages public confidence and respect.
He must maintain integrity at all times. As a protector of the public, he must not engage in any criminal act, and must not condone such acts by his fellow officers (Law).

The Police Subcultures

The law enforcers have the professional and ethical obligation to uphold the law, such as reporting criminal or corrupt acts of anyone, including that of one of their member. Despite this inherent and implied responsibility, researches exposed that some police officers are unwilling to report any wrongdoing of their member despite knowing of the possible damaging effects of the act. The inclination of law enforcers to cover up for the wrongdoing of a fellow police officer can be attributed to the police culture.
There are some researchers who claimed that notwithstanding the national culture and diverse policing system, the cop code is an inherent characteristic that tend to be common among police law enforcers across the globe. The police subculture can be ascribed to, a) the fact that the police officers share the same standards as they represent one organization, b) they are one with the group in knowing the dangers and setbacks that come with their job, c) the sharing of commonness and difficulties of their job became a strong bond that foster loyalty among themselves, hence it came to a point where their loyalty to a fellow officer comes above to that of the loyalty to serve the public. The cop code develops for a reason that while police trainees are exposed to the skills needed to perform their duties effectively, they also absorb the norms and customs that are necessary to make every member of the police force cope with the rules within the inner circles of the organization.

The Code of Silence

In a self-report survey conducted in Finland, researchers claimed that most of the police officers who took part in the reported a willingness to report misconduct, however, it is to be noted that the police culture came from a tight knit group, making it difficult to break their truth even with an anonymous survey. One particularly popular form of police culture is the “code of silence”, it a subculture wherein an officer is ordinarily supposed to be silent about any wrongdoing of a fellow officer or any other member of the police force. There are other manifestations of this subculture other than directly covering a misconduct such as intentionally disregarding a wrongful act or claiming no knowledge about it.
As explained by scholars, the “code of silence” is a notion that defines how police officers cope with the conflict of their duty to the public and loyalty to a fellow member of the police force. In the conduct of his duty, a law enforcer is often met with the perils of from the citizens whom he was supposed to serve, thus lowering his trusts in them (Kääriänen et al). On the other hand, a police officer has to deal with his superiors, who often display the “unpredictability of supervisory oversight and the ambiguity of the police work” (as cited in Kääriänen et al). The pressures from his obligation to serve and that of the control from his superiors leads to the need for a confidante that a police officer often finds in his fellow police officers. The observance of the “code of silence” and other forms of police culture vary accordingly. For instance, a confidential and deeper relation with the public can be difficult to attain by officers assigned in a 24-hour response policing due to time constraint. There is a better chance for community interaction in community policing where there is more time and close contact with the citizens.

Attitudes to Misconduct of Police Staffs

An electronic research in England showed that there is a significant difference between police officers and police staffs in terms of how they perceived integrity in police work and organization as a whole. Barry Wright who conducted the research claimed that while there is a strong observance of the “code of silence” among police officers, the police staff has the stronger tendency not to report incidents of misconduct. The significant difference can be linked to several factors. Such factors are, a) knowledge of relevant policies and departments, b) attitudes to misconduct scenarios, c) reporting preferences and factors affecting decisions tom report. Among police officers, the strong bond among them that are viewed to be a strong foundation of the “code of silence” can actually be the means to create a stronger confidence to report misconduct. Overall, the reporting preference is the greatest factor that determines the difference of whether to report misconducts or not. Most police officers claim that they prefer to report to trusted colleagues and supervisors, while police staffs prefer to report anonymously (Wright).


There is a conflict that arose in a police officer’s performance of his duty as he is torn between upholding the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics and the adherence to the cop code. While he has sworn to abide by the code of ethics and be focused on his responsibility to serve the public, he faces conflict as there are instances when he has to live by the brotherhood that the cop code has spread and let a fellow officer get away with misconduct by covering for him. The observance of the cop code over the duty towards the community can be detrimental to the safety of the population as well as bruised the image of the police organization as a whole.
In order to mitigate the effect of the cop code in covering for an officer’s misconduct, it is advised that there should be an intensive screening for incoming police officers to employ only those who can uphold their duty at the utmost possible integrity. A strong internal control among officers and their supervisors should be enforced, opening communication among them. A better communication between a subordinate and a superior weeds away the uncertainties of whether to report certain misconduct or not.


Kääriänen, J., Lintonen, T., Laitanen, A., Pollock, J. The “Code of Silence”: Are Self-Report Surveys a Viable Mans for Studying Police Misconducts? Routleddge.
Law Enforcement code of Ethics. Retrieved from
Wright, B., Civilianizing the “Blue Code”? An Examination of Attitudes to Misconduct in the Police Extended Family”.

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Free Essay On Police Ethics And COP Code. Free Essay Examples - Published Dec 08, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2023.

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