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Police Ethics Sliding?

New officers emerging from the police academy fully equipped with positive ethics are finding the police culture on the job is diminishing their education. It’s hard to imagine what else could promote good ethics and morals in the police industry if the academy has failed in improving professionalism.

Article 7 of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that “law enforcement officials shall not commit any act of corruption. They shall also rigorously oppose and combat all such acts” but this doesn’t appear to be possible. In addition, Article 2 states that they “shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons”. The latter appears to be breached if officers are swearing at members of the public although policing being a stressful job has two sides of the stories and perhaps some people unofficially warrant this reaction.

Western Australia Bicycle Section police officers at Perth Magistrates Court on Hay Street effort to curb crime and anti-social presence high visible crime prevention
Perth police bicycle officers in the city

Police are placed in a position in society “where abuse of human rights can take place readily, if there are no systems of accountability” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006: 24). There is reporting of corruption and swearing at members of the public, which appears to reflect the little accountability and supervision. One could imagine that this is the tip of the iceberg and perhaps any more degrading and serious matters would be withheld to members of the media to protect the reputation of the Queensland Police Service. This working personality is regarded as important because “it is often held that this helps to shape the ways in which policing is applied in practice” (Rowe, 2010: 98). On the other hand, it could be the case that only a few minority cases have been reported in the study, which appears to make the entire police service of a suspicious and corrupt nature. Unless the police are equipped with the latest camera and microphone systems every time they are out on patrol, it is very difficult to determine exactly how relevant this survey is and to maintain intensive supervision on officers who are susceptible to act immorally.


Commonwealth Secretariat. (2006). Commonwealth Manual on Human Rights Training.

Rowe, M. (2010). Introduction to Policing. London: SAGE Publications.

UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (1975).

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