The Ethics of Policing

Law Enforcement holds a special balance of community policing community seen in few if any other professions.  In many ways they are also responsible with self-policing their own ethics and actions in that they will see the failures, or “rotten apple in the barrel” long before the public even is aware, no matter the oversight provided.

In the past weeks, I’ve heard a few too many election season incidents of people selling out their values for favors and thought perhaps we could all benefit from a reminder of the roots of modern day law enforcement’s mission.

The 9 principles of Robert Peel are the basis of modern policing to this day.  A premise that was recently renewed by our DSA/CPOA endorsed candidate, Kevin Jensen, in his recent interview with The Right Side with the statement “….the police are the public and that the public are the police.”  A premise that our current incumbent seems to have deserted on a distant road-side at some point in her career.

I know these are the ideals that many in the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office rely on as their professional North Star, so to speak, and it’s an ideal that many want to see the office return to as a professional standard.

I post this as a gentle reminder to our community, to our deputies to hold to the truth of the mission, as hard as that may be, as tempting as some would make it accept personal benefit to the detriment of betterment… you have been given special trust by your community.

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

One thought on “The Ethics of Policing

  1. Thank Casey for reminding us of why we do this job. I’ve been around long enough to see successes and failures in all nine of these categories. What appears to be an area that is a recurring problem is the last one. Time and time again I hear rookie deputies and even worse, rookie sergeants pushing the issues of stats. Our job responsibilities are made up of way more than the people we take to jail. It includes all the other areas where we interact with the public in a non-enforcement role. I hope if Jensen is elected he can put an end to this self centered type of thinking. He needs to tell these new guys your not better than anyone else just because your lucky enough to find an arrest. We need to build the public trust and that includes providing services other than taking them to jail.


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