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2011-08-09 16:21

Police and Ethics: An UK Perspective
By Denise Martin

Introduction Ethical policing has become an increasingly important subject for debate. The Council of Europe’s European Code of Police Ethics published in 2001 indicated that a code of ethics within policing is important because the police as other Criminal Justice agencies have a responsibility to safeguard the rule of law. In addition, they emphasised that as much policing relied on public support and confidence their position of authority required that they take into account fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual (cited in Neyroud 2003: 578). This paper will briefly examine why ethics plays a key function in policing. This will include examining the role of the police and recent developments that have led to challenges for police services. Following this, two key developments in UK policing will be considered. Firstly the professionalisation of policing which has gained momentum in recent years has attempted to install ethical values into police offices and alter the way they view their role. Secondly performance management introduced to make the police more accountable. It will be argued that both these developments are having varying degrees of success in producing a more ethical police service. The importance of ethics in policing Neyroud and Beckley (2001) argued that the context of policing is changing and at present the police service face many challenges. This transformation influence by wider social, political and economic developments requires us to think about and reconsider ethical policing practice. For example changing patterns of crime that move beyond national boundaries require us to work on an international basis and develop standards of practice within policing worldwide. Crime has also become a highly politicised issue with governments across Western democracies including the US and Europe. In the UK law and order is top of government agendas with the Prime Minister Tony Blair has recently been directly involved in crime reducing initiatives (Neyroud 2003). Other commentators (Johnson 2000, Bayley and Shearing 1994) draw attention to the changing nature of policing which is no longer dominated by the public police and now includes a wide range of agencies and stakeholders. In Europe we have seen the adoption of the European Convention of Human Rights which became law in the UK in 1998. These emphasise that public agencies must regard the rights in the practice of their duties. Also well known senior officers such as John Alderson (1998) have emphasised a need to establish ethical values in policing. Neyroud (2003) identifies a number of other key changes that have affected the public police in recent years. The first of these is the police role. There has been much debate about the actual role of the police service and what it is they actually do (Banton 1964, Neyroud and Beckley 2001, Punch and Naylor 1973, Reiner 2000). This has fluctuated between crime-fighting and order maintenance and crime prevention and community models of policing. For example in the UK in a Police Reform White Paper (Home Office 1993) the government emphasised that the key priority of the police in about crime fighting. New Labour when they came to power in 1997 emphasised a need to re-engage with communities and introduced legislation such as the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which promotes a need to identify local communities crime issues and emphasised a multi-agency approach towards dealing with these. Recent publications, for example the National Policing Plan (Home Office 2005) indicate the diverse role the police service is currently expected to undertake. Within the plan local priorities of crime reduction and dealing anti-social behaviour are discussed but also important is combating the serious issues of organised crime and terrorism. Another key development identified by Neyroud (2003) is the structural change in the past 15 years. One of these changes includes the introduction of New Public Management and the introduction of managerial processes into police service-like the introduction of competition, the emphasis on quality of services and efficiency and the introduction of performance techniques and the requirement of police services to meet set objectives and targets. Connected to the above developments has been the establishment of new accountability mechanisms for the police. This has included the setting up of the Police Standards Unit to ensure that the police are meeting their targets and performing well and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) a fully independent police complaints system operational since April 2004. In addition, to structural changes, the police service has been under pressure to modernise the organisation and find other ways of working. This has led to initiatives such as the introduction of police community support officers. The aim of these support roles is to support the public police by providing a visible presence on a uniform in local communities. These support officers do not replace police officers nor do they have the same powers but indicate the spread of policing role outside the police service. Other reforms include the introduction of a national Series and Organised Crime Unit.

Crisis in Policing This diverse role of the police and their position of authority have meant that they have faced severe criticisms. Academics, government, the media and the public have all cast doubt about the professionalism and accountability. In the UK throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s the public police faced severe criticism both in terms of their operational performance, structure, management and relationship with the public. A number of key incidents brought attention to police deficiencies. In 1981 there was a serious of riots in the Brixton area of London. Violent clashes were between mainly between black youth and the police and were partly fuelled by the Metropolitan Police’s tough stop and search tactics directed at young black males in the area. Lord Scarman (1981) was asked to conduct an inquiry into the incident claimed that there were some key issues of concern with the police. These included deficiencies in supervisory and disciplinary procedures, poor management and weak relationships with particular section of the community. A couple of years later the public witnessed police conflict with miners during the Miners strike in 1984. The police were viewed as being authoritarian throughout the industrial action and see as acting in favour of the government (Scraton 1985). By the 1990s public confidence in the police was lower than it had been for sometime. This low confidence in the police and an increase continuing increase in the crime rate led to further government change in both the structure and management of the police service (Morgan and Newburn 1997). Despite attempts to improve the police through reform and management change the police service has still faced criticism in the way that they operated or dealt with certain communities. In 1999 the HMIC carried out an inspection on Integrity within the police service. The key aim of this was to examine issues such as fairness, probity and a range of management and operation issues. This report raised a number of issues relating to the integrity of the police service. One area of concern related to ‘administrative corruption’ where police officers would alter or manipulate figures in order to enhance performance. Other areas of concern included the lack of personal integrity among officers and ways of training or encouraging officer to act with integrity (HMIC 1999). In the same year the McPherson Report (McPherson 1999) was released. This report severely criticised the Metropolitan police for failing to adequately investigate the Murder of Stephen Lawrence a black teenager in 1993. The police service was identified as being both professionally incompetent and institutionally racist. This was illustrated further by a secretly filmed documentary shown on the BBC in 2003 (BBC October 21st BBC). The documentary filmed by a young journalist who joined to police to gain an insider view on police training was confronted by racist language amongst new recruits and trainers. While this type of language was expressed among a minority of the officers and most subsequently resigned or were disciplined. It again raised issues about police’s ability to engage with minority communities. Neryoud (2003:583) argues that while it is relatively straightforward to identify why there is a need for ethics is policing and where the police have fail to live up to their professional standards. It is not as easy to identify what a principled police force looks like. Although there have been different approaches discussed in relation to policing (see Neyroud 2003). Two recent developments that have attempted to move the police down a more ethical path will be examined here. This will be a shift towards greater professionalisation and the introduction of performance frameworks. A Professional Police Service Kleinig (1996) in ‘The Ethics of Policing’ argues that policing has not traditionally been seen as a ‘high-status’ occupation as with other professions. He states that the fact that the occupation tended to draw the workforce from groups with either low or modest economic and social status. Also rather than highly educated the focus was as much about physical characteristics as technical proficiency. Additionally police work particularly front-line work was not viewed as particularly skilled labour. Kleinig (1996) admits this is changing and argues that because of the social changes and police corruption there has been a call for greater professionalism. ‘Advocates of police professionalisation have argued that, by raising the status of police work through professionalisation, job morale will be boosted and pride engendered, greater public respect fostered, a better quality of intake attracted, services improved, efficiency increased and corruption curbed. Not only the police themselves, but also many academic commentators on police work have argued that professionalisation would function as a partial panacea for policing ills (Kleinig 1996: 31).

This includes national bodies such as the Police Standards Unit established to monitor performance standards at basic command unit level. • Assisting with the implementation of national critical programmes— the new body will directly support the local-level delivery of national programmes. In the early 1990s these agencies collectively managed to avert controversial reform related to performance-related pay and structural changes (see Leishman. for example. The police organisations such as ACPO. 4. Autonomy and discretion-because of their special expertise and grasp of theory underpinning their work professionals provided with autonomy and discretion Self-Regulation-professionals tend to institutionalise themselves in order to safeguard and protect their organisation and ensure member of it are working to the principles of the profession. The police service in the UK has stood by the principles that the police service retains the traditional ideal of Constabulary Independence and the notion the police should be free from political interference (Oliver 1997). Higher Recent developments such as the introduction of community wardens who patrol local neighbourhoods have also sought to demonstrate the public face of the police service. In terms of self-regulation there has been the introduction of various agencies which have emerged in order to provide this status to the police service in the UK. political.homeoffice. Since this time there has been changes to leadership programmes taking into account how those being promoted within the ranks needed to be leaders and mangers not just police officers and were also required to have better training in areas such as ethics. He further emphasises that although chief officers were invited to take note of the European Code of ethics mentioned previously it was not formally adopted. He argues though that professional status is not constituted simply by the provision of a public service. Other commentators such as Long (2003:648) have identified that although the national competency framework has its benefits and moves towards ensuring that each individual offices has the required skills. Cope and Starie 1996). He further stresses that good leadership can not just be down to meeting targets it has to transcend above this and be about providing high quality service . strategies to provide the public with a voice regarding policing issues. national-level assistance with handling. This will usually be a convention between the members of that profession about how they should conduct themselves in their professional roles. while the police service and government are committed towards achieving this it is not yet complete and at present as Neyroud (2003) emphasised there is still little to distinguish between constables patrolling the streets and community wardens who are not as highly trained as police officers. Police Superintendents Association and Police Federation are stated as having a powerful role in directing police policy. In recent years in the UK the drive towards managerialism has concentrated on meeting the requirements and needs of customers. the downside is that it attempts to quantify police officers actions and this could mean that the focus on quality lost. major incidents and large policing operations fall within the NPIA’s remit. • Improving professional practice — the NPIA will ensure that national policing best practice is identified. Following the McPherson Report (1999) on the death of Stephen Lawrence.most professions are seen as having their knowledge embedded in theory they are not simply craftsmen who have learned the trade but they have an insight into their work gained through academic qualification. The outlined changes to public policing in the UK in recent years demonstrates a marked shift towards providing a more professional service. Consultation with communities including those considered hard to reach groups like young people and ethnic minority communities is widespread. Although a specific code of ethics has not been adopted in the UK there has been the promotion of core standards that police should adhere to. Leadership and Management training has also been restructured. On the other hand the police service is gradually changing and in the UK there is much more focus on achieving better skills and professional knowledge. 3. 1. through legislation such as the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. The strong professional associations such as ACPO mentioned above would also claim that they strive to ensure a high quality and professional service. 5. evaluated and understood by police officers and police staff. • Providing general support to forces — the NPIA will also provide national. However it could be argued that despite their best efforts the police will never manage to obtain true professional status. The aim of this organisation is to support self-improvement across the police accessed May 2 2006). This document also emphasised the importance of providing quality of service to the public. As in other countries the police service is not currently a graduate profession. In 1998 the training of Probation Staff with greater emphasis on skills and knowledge required to make trainees proper police officers. Senior Investigating Officers responsible for leading serious crime investigation such as murders or serious sexual offences are now provided with specialised training courses covering all aspects of managing these types of investigation from how to handle the media to appropriately colleting forensic evidence. There has also been greater emphasis on evidence-based practise and specialising roles such as community policing As an organisation in the UK the foundation of the police service is based on autonomy. the provision of public service-most professions will provide some form of valuable service that defines the profession and demonstrates their commitment to a particular set of ideals. While real autonomy is a contested issue (Johnson 2000). • Providing support for policing operations — practical. 2. At present the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) is being set up. Code of Ethics-most professions such as law and medicine because they are privy to individual’s most private details and dealing with sensitive subjects will have some form of professional code of conduct and which they adhere to. There has also been the development of training and courses for specific roles. it was argued that police leaders very failing to provide adequate direction. In the early 1990s the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO 1990) issued a Statement of Common Purpose and Values incorporating a police code of conduct. More recently pressure from police authorities and some police forces led to the Home Secretary John Reid dropping government plans to merge 43 county police forces across England and Wales into larger regional services. Neyroud (2003) points to the coercive nature of policing While there have been attempts by then police to establish certain principles within the service. Kleinig (1996: 33) is in little doubt that the police can provide a valuable public service and that the nature of policing particularly where sensitive information is discussed requires a trust relationship between client and provider. economic and other factors that may impact on policing and planning for them.level support in a range of non-operational areas of police business. This has included. 6. (http://police. In the UK police training has been changing at all levels. In terms of policing we have actually began to witness a drive to incorporate these factors within the police service in order to make the organisation more professional. There is an emphasis on competency based training and the use of national occupational standards that each officer will be required to demonstrate. Key areas of concern as outlined below: • Detecting and planning for future trends in policing — this involves identifying and assessing the potential social. Special knowledge and Expertise. serious crime inquiries.2011-08-09 16:21 In terms of professionalisation Kleinig (1996: 32-40) identifies a number of core characteristics that can be associated with a profession. In terms of a highly educated and professional force. The Police have traditionally viewed themselves as a public service. As with higher education there have been developments with regard to specialist training and expertise-seen a shift towards identifying key skills required at each level of the job from constable to senior officers. The police service and government have taken positive steps in order to improve the image of the police service and the way they operate.the services provide are not ordinarily available and within professions individual possess a unique knowledge that is required to fully be part of the occupation. Neyroud (2003: 586) argues that the ACPO Statement of Common Purpose is a code of conduct not really a full statement of ethics.

HMSO. it has been argued in recent years that the Home Office has been eroding police discretion over decision-making leading to police services controlled from the centre (Johnson 2000). While the police service themselves were aware of the limitations of these statistics. This is seen as the most crucial element of achieving a more ethical police service and is probably the most difficult to achieve. Home Office (1993) Police Reform: a Police Service for the 21st Century. This can be linked to performance management as police leaders need to make decisions about key objectives and how to meet these. Cope. The importance of ethical policing has been driven partly by police failings and partly by wider structural and social changes.2011-08-09 16:21 to the victim or customer. the police service have claimed that the uniqueness of their role means that only they can fully understand why certain actions needed to be taken. the way that the offences have been dealt with is not. B. Loveday. London. References HMIC (1999a) Police Integrity: Securing and Maintaining Public Confidence. targets are linked to local and national crime priorities 3. However self-regulation is difficult for the police service. In the UK the police service continue to retain the ideal of Constabulary Independence. and Savage. A key measure of performance throughout the 1980s and 1990s was police generated crime statistics. Despite the establishment of key professional agencies the nature of their work means they need to be open to public scrutiny to be ethical. Performance Management This emerged because the Conservative administration emphasised a need for public service to be efficient and effective and have clearly define objectives. They also agree that crude performance measures traditionally used to measure policing are failing to provide use with details on the quality of the services delivered. P (1996) ‘Reinventing and Restructuring: Towards a ‘New Policing Order’ in Leishman. Also the police face other pressures that make it difficult for them to improve the way they function. Leishman. . F. Core Issues in Policing. The IPCC was set up to provide an autonomous police complaints system free from police and political interference. As emphasised in the HMIC It has been argued that the targets set have actually failed to meet up to public expectations and the police fail to take account of local communities needs (Fitzgerald 2002) Incidents such as domestic violence or child protection issues are difficult to quantify and therefore there is usually little focus on examining police performance in these areas. F. And of the reliability of such measures as the ‘clear-up’ rate. child protection other issues the police deal with that are socially related for example missing persons In the UK there have been a number of problems here. S and Starie. (Eds). One method has been the professionalisation of the police service. the government and police continue to push and set national targets in most areas of policing. Longman. Despite a large body of evidence suggesting that quantitative measure do not offer the full picture. Cmnd 2281. Setting of targets need to incorporate sensitive and difficult areas of policing such as domestic violence. Security and Governance. The officer meets there weekly target of detecting crime and is happy as they do not have to proceed with the case any further. The HMIC’s Thematic Inspection Report on Crime Recording (2000) identified wide variations in the way that individuals recorded crime and incidents. other issues remain with performance measurement. Harlow. Offences such as domestic violence have at times been targets by front line officers is has been to boast or improve crime rates. This was partly because there was pressure on the police by the government to meet national crime targets. Conclusions The police have been experiencing a period of transition in recent years and increasingly they are being asked to ensure that they are operating in an ethical manner. This development of performance management and development of regulatory bodies such as the PSU is said to have condensed police independence. In many of these domestic violence cases officers recorded the crimes and detected it using a downgraded detection (Hallam 2000). In the case of the UK. Cases mentioned above. Although there have been attempts to resolve this through the introduction of a National Crime Recording Standard. S. the government. the public and the media relied on these as measure of police efficiency. There have been different ways in which improving ethical standards has been approached. Kleing (1996: 39) claims self-regulation in professions is asserted where professionals believe that they themselves are the best people to pass judgement on the quality of their services. As other professions like medicine and law. this can be questioned. Longman. The issues here is for the victim and the fact that not real action is taken against the offender who can return to the home of the victim who may then suffer subsequent threats. One constraint has been the development of performance management. In addition little research or evidence is available on the effectiveness of many of these initiatives. Current developments in the UK reveal a determination on behalf of the police to establish themselves as a professional organisation that adhere to a key set of standards and values. Although there has been many developments in the UK to improve the way that domestic violence is dealt with this above example demonstrate how pressure to perform can neglect the needs of the victim. These are all valid and worthwhile developments but as Kleinig (1996) emphasises does not necessarily mean the police can claim full professional standing. But the very nature of policing makes it difficult to achieve this. This has included attempts to improve the skills and abilities of officers through competency-based frameworks and specialised training. Johnston (2000) Policing Britain: Risk. this in turn will provide a clear indication of what priorities the police have for the public. Throughout the 1990s various reports and commentators (Loveday 2000. In addition police control over the collection and presentation of these statistics is likely to undermine the validity of these figures. HMIC 1999) found that there was evidence of police manipulating data to improve their performance.. Home Office. Much of these attempts to improve principles may be affected by other issues. The police are often guided by the priorities set by the government and they are required to meet objectives and targets. Another point raised by both Fitzgerald et al and Neyroud (2003) is the need to re-engage with local communities. In terms of ethical practice Neyroud (2003) emphasises ethics can be described as making the right judgements and doing the right actions for the right reasons. Fitzgerald at al (2002) in their report on Policing in London argued that to fully achieve improved professional standards better communication between ranks and more adequate supervision of front-line officers and middles managers need to be improved. Kleinig (1996) argues that although the police could claim to have a high level of autonomy and discretion. Also despite these changes criticisms of the police remain. Ensure that data is clear and verifiable 2. Grading domestic violence as ‘detected no proceedings’ meant that officers detect the crime but take n further action against the offenders and they are immediately released. Harlow. London. Although this initially seems like a positive situation. ‘the creation of clear aims linked to clear targets and clear responsibilities for each layer in the organisation creates both a clarity of public accountability and assist the performance of the organisation’ (Neyroud 2003:590) In terms of performance management meeting ethical standards Neyroud argues that police services must fulfil the following requirements 1. Also the police have sought to improve there professional status by setting core standards and developing organizations such as the NPIA in accordance with government. most notably the Stephen Lawrence case demonstrate the need for the police to be open to public scrutiny. The MacPherson report was seen as one of the key influences in the development of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) in the UK.

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