Skip main navigation

Understanding the Policing principles

The Code of Ethics sets out the policing principles which provide a guide to all those who work in policing. Its important to understand the policing
I wanted to spend a little bit of time looking in a little bit more detail about the code of ethics, because I think nowadays when the police service is trying to transform itself into a profession, and with that profession came the code of ethics from the college of policing. You can see in placing how the code of ethics will influence the values and behaviors of police officers and other people employed by the police service in the everyday contact with members of the public, the way they conduct themselves on duty and also off duty. I thought it might be useful to just explore what they actually mean, because, as you said, we’ve seen 10 principles.
We also looked at whether you are suitable for police officer or if policing was suitable career for you. If you think about those type of questions there, and most of them came down to integrity, selflessness, resilience, and your sense of public duty. I think if you were saying, what do you expect from a police officer in your sleep, those are the things that you would want to see. The fact is that they acted honestly, truthfully, they conduct themselves impartially with integrity, and they carried out their duty in a way that’s going to provide the support that the policing needs from the public. As I said, we looked at those standards and where they’re encapsulated in the code of ethics.
They’re all based on the now known principles, but let’s go into them. The ones we saw were honesty, integrity, and these principles, authority, respect, equality and diversity. The use of force, following orders and instructions, carrying out your duties, confidentiality, fitness for work, and conduct. Let’s break them down and see what they actually mean. Honesty, integrity, the first one is probably easier for anyone to understand it. If you found a member of the public and say, “What would you expect from your police service or your police officers walking up and down the street?”. They would say, “I want them to act with honesty and integrity.” What does it mean?
It means you want them to be sincere, truthful, and the fact that their decisions are not influenced by any external force. They’re just influenced by their desire to carry out their duty and they do not misuse their position. As a police officer, you have significant powers. The power to detain someone, to take away their liberty. With that power comes a sense of responsibility and you must act with honesty and integrity. This is about not misusing your position. The next principle is about authority and respect. What does this mean? It means that you remain composed, you’re always respectful in the face of provocation that you would take control and you use your authority proportionally.
Now, I think all of us could probably think of a number of examples where police officers have really had to remain composed. Whether it’s looking at significant incidence like London Bridge, Manchester Arena, those type of attacks. I suppose London Bridge being one of the ones that are I got a little bit more knowledge on, but you think about the officers there both on and off duty. Here when members of the public were running away from obviously the threat, they actually stepped in and with limited personal protection equipment, they acted with absolute bravery and that’s what we see quite often displayed by police officers and expectation. You using your authority proportionally. The next one is the equality and diversity.
That’s the reason that the police service in this country provides policing for diverse communities and we see the changes and we’ll look at those later on within this course. The police service must treat people according to their needs. Some of our people in our communities are vulnerable. Our decisions in policing must be based on merit and without any prejudice.
One of the things that we’ve seen over, suddenly, the past 12 months is the description around stop and search and racial profiling, and that’s an expression you would hear, and the fact that a person is being stopped not because of their conduct or what they’ve done, but because of the belief that they’ve been stopped because of the color of their skin and not because of independent, objective evidence. As a police officer, we must make our decisions based on merit without any level of prejudice. If we’re going to stop someone, we must be able to objectively consider why we stopped that person and the reasons and the grounds for that. The next principle is the use of force.
As I said, part of a role of a police officer, is the use of force. We have powers and legislative ability to use force. You think about the extreme one when we’re faced with a person who is carrying a gun. If you are a firearms officer, you have the authority, obviously, to discharge your firearm if that threat is so significant and the threat posed by this person is such that it’s a lethal force that you’re facing, then you can discharge the firearm, but you may have to justify your decision at a subsequent coroner’s inquiry or court inquiry. It is part of the role, but it’s only using force to the extent necessary.
Now, that’s at the highest level, but often as a police officer on the street, you will be faced with violent confrontations where someone’s threatening violence to you, and it’s only right that you use the only the amount of force that is proportionate and reasonable in those circumstances. Again, think about all this is linked to public expectation. What would the public want? What’s the objective tests and what’s the subjective test? The next one is orders and instructions. This is just as a police force or police service, it is very much a hierarchical based organization, and as such, you are expected to follow orders that are lawful.
But it also imposes some restrictions in the private life of police officers, in the way you conduct yourself, not just on duty, but also off duty. The next one, this duties and responsibilities is a little bit more difficult, but what this is about really, in essence, is how we use the efficient effective use of resources and also sometimes how we have to explain, and justify decisions for doing so. You can think probably the senior officer, particularly how you would have to be accountable to the public about the efficient and effective use of resources. Most chief constables will be going through this now, as you’re trying to justify how you’re responding to incidents with the resources you have. Confidentiality.
As a police officer, we have access to vast amounts of information and also computer systems which have significant information on individuals, and that we have to treat that information with confidentiality. If you’re going to share the information, it must be done because there’s a justifiable policing purpose for sharing that information. I suppose the other thing when we look at confidentiality, particularly in today’s environment, is social media, and how social media plays a part, both good and bad. With implicit, we have to be very careful about the information that we share. Fitness to work. That is things like the use of illegal drugs, making sure that we are fit to carry out our duties.
Previously we already talked about the firearms officers, you would expect that they are in a fit and proper state when they carry that firearm with huge responsibilities, but also just the everyday police officers coming to work, you have expectations. Conduct. This is about avoiding activities that may bring the place into disrepute, where it may actually have a loss of trust within the community. It’s how we conduct ourselves and again, it’s both on and off duty. Hopefully that gives you an idea of some of the principles that underpin the code of ethics. I thought it worthwhile explaining it, because it is so key. It is something that’s come up when we start looking at decision-making.
More importantly, I want to bring it back to the Peelian principles because policing can only be conducted with the support of the public. The public have to have competence in the way that police conduct their business, and conduct themselves in a day-to-day basis. The code of ethics provides those standards and that goes to everyone involved in policing, who works in policing, how they should conduct themselves to bring about and retain the trust and respect of the public.
This article is from the free online

How to Become a Police Officer in England and Wales

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education