The formal law enforcement code of ethics insists on fairness where police are required to uphold the law regardless of the identity of the offender. They should not single out certain groups and treat them differently, and should not use their power and authority to take advantage of people. They should serve the community, protect the constitution and desist from substituting rules with their own or going beyond the constitution. They should maintain a standard behaviour that is consistent with their position (Pollock, 2004).
These requirements are in conflict with the police subculture/Cop Code. Police have generally been found to be alienated, distrustful, authoritarian, defensive cynical and with poor self image. One of the conflicts that comes out clearly is that the code outlines such a perfect behavior that is not relevant to the realities of their majority of the officers. For example, police have to go beyond the constitution and use force to contain some situations like riots or a dangerous criminal or when facing personal danger while on duty.
It therefore provides an ideal code for officers, a goal to work towards to but is not a realistic average for all behaviors. The code does not consider the realities of crime control for example the need to single out some people suspected to be planning crime and investigating them using undercover work. The code does not also recognize the underlying attitude of the officers, and the public as well, in some of the police actions such receiving gratuities as sincere appreciation from the public.
Some of the ethical problems that can be created from the above-mentioned conflicts include accepting gratuities meant to make them relax their fight against crime. It could also lead to distrust and disloyalty to seniors by the officers. The two ethical codes are tied to to public perceptions of the role of law enforcement in that it affects their perceptions and reaction to the actions and decisions of police officers. Those who view police as servants want police to strictly adhere to the formal code of ethics but those who view them as crime fighters find problems with them using their cop code. There is therefore a need to revise the formal code of ethics so that it can fit into the reality of the lives of police officers and the actual environment of crime control.
Pollock, J. (2004). Ethics in crime and justice: Dilemmas and decisions (4th Ed). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.