All law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police believes it important that police officers have clear advice and counsel available to assist them in performing their duties consistent with these standards and have adopted the following ethical mandates as guidelines to meet these ends.
PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF A POLICE OFFICER
A police officer acts as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work within the law. The officer's power and duties are conferred by statute. The fundamental duties of a police officer include serving the community; safeguarding lives and property; protecting the innocent; keeping the peace; and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.
PERFORMANCE OF THE DUTIES OF A POLICE OFFICER
A police officer shall perform all duties impartially, without favor or affection or ill-will and without regard to status, sex, race, religion, political belief or aspiration. All citizens will be treated equally with courtesy, consideration and dignity.
Officers will never allow personal feelings, animosities or friendships to influence official conduct. Laws will be enforced appropriately and courteously, and in carrying out their responsibilities, officers will strive to obtain maximum cooperation from the public. They will conduct themselves in appearance and deportment in such a manner as to inspire confidence and respect for the position of public trust which they hold.
A police officer will use responsibly the discretion vested in the position and exercise it within the law. The principle of reasonableness will guide the officer's determinations and the officer will consider all surrounding circumstances in determining whether any legal action shall be taken.
Consistent and wise use of discretion, based on professional policing competence, will do much to preserve good relationships and retain the confidence of the public. There can be difficulty in choosing between conflicting courses of action. It is important to remember that a timely word of advice rather than arrest - which may be correct in appropriate circumstances - can be a more effective means of achieving a desired end.
USE OF FORCE
A police officer will never employ unnecessary force or violence and will use only such force in the discharge of duty as is reasonable in all circumstances.
The use of force should be used only with the greatest restraint and only after discussion, negotiation and persuasion have been found to be inappropriate or ineffective. While the use of force is occasionally unavoidable, every police officer will refrain from applying the unnecessary infliction of pain or suffering and will never engage in cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment of any person.
Whatever a police officer sees, hears or learns, which is of a confidential nature, will be kept secret unless the performance of duty or legal provision requires otherwise.
Members of the public have a right to security and privacy and information obtained about them must not be improperly divulged.
A police officer will not engage in acts of corruption or bribery nor will an officer condone such acts by other police officers.
The public demands that the integrity of police officers be above reproach. Police officers must, therefore, avoid any conduct which might compromise integrity and thus undercut the public confidence in a law enforcement agency. Officers will refuse to accept any gifts, presents, subscriptions, favors, gratuities or promises that could be interpreted as seeking to cause the officer to refrain from performing official responsibilities honestly and within the law. Police officers must not receive private or special advantage from their official status. Respect from the public cannot be bought; it can only be earned and cultivated.
COOPERATION WITH OTHER POLICE OFFICERS AND AGENCIES
Police officers will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in the pursuit of justice.
An officer or agency may be one among many organizations that may provide law enforcement services to a jurisdiction. It is imperative that a police officer assist colleagues fully and completely with respect and consideration at all times.
Police officers will be responsible for their own standard of professional performance and will take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve their level of knowledge and competence.
Through study and experience, a police officer can acquire the high level of knowledge and competence which is essential for the efficient and effective performance of duty. The acquisition of knowledge is a never-ending process of personal and professional development which should be pursued constantly.
Police officers will behave in a manner which does not bring discredit to their agencies or themselves.
A police officer's character and conduct while off duty must always be exemplary, thus maintaining a position of respect in the community in which he or she lives and serves. The officer's personal behavior must be beyond reproach.
Adopted by the Executive Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police
on October 17, 1989 during its 96th Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
Adopted by the St. Louis County Police Department on March 2, 1990.
This Code of Ethics is for internal use only and does not enlarge an officer's civil or criminal liability in any way. It should not be construed as the creation of a higher standard of safety or care in any evidentiary sense with respect to third party claims.