While he agrees that ethics training plays an important role in maintaining the integrity of the profession and insulating it from corruption, the detective believes that societal dynamics are more important in that sense than any kind of formal training.
Theories of Police Misconduct:
The special agent expressed the belief that criminality has many different causes and that they operate both individually and in myriad combinations in different people. He acknowledges that there is often a biological or hereditary component to many of the behaviors that expose one to increased risk of criminal misconduct as well as the importance of the external environment. In that regard, he suggested that one of the most significant factors in criminal police misconduct is an ethical commitment throughout the agency hierarchy. According to the agent, training is relatively ineffective to whatever extent agency supervisors do not implement and exemplify ethical ideals in their supervisory capacity. The police detective reiterated his belief that stricter criteria in officer candidate selection and adequate compensation after hire are more important to preventing police misconduct than anything else.
Ethics Training in Modern Police Academies and in-Service Ethics Training:
Both subjects credited modern American policing with high-quality training in general and both acknowledged that some police agencies fulfil that essential obligation less well than others. The police detective believes that ethics in policing can only be taught to a certain degree in the academy (or any classroom) setting; he indicated (again) that selecting quality officer candidates (such as those without any criminal or negative credit history) is much more important than subsequent training. He regards in-service training as only useful in connection with tactical training and suggests that naturally ethical officers do not need continual ethics training while naturally unethical officers do not change their approach to life or their profession by virtue of in-service training.
The federal agent expressed a very different view of continual ethical training and considers perpetual in-service training in ethics as part of a more comprehensive commitment on the part of agencies to ethics in law enforcement. While he does not necessarily believe that experienced federal agents and local police officers need ethical continual ethical training for "informational" purposes, he believes that the climate of ethical policing is established and maintained partly through in-service training mainly because of the "message" that effort sends about the fundamental importance of ethics in policing.
Synthesis of Issues and Approaches to Address Ethics in Modern Policing:
In principle, both the federal agent and the police detective agreed that American policing has come a very long way in the last century although the agent emphasized the last fifty years in particular. Both officers also agreed as to the fundamental importance of ethics in policing although the federal agent emphasized the role of institutional culture in that regard while the police officer considered candidate selection the most crucial component of maintaining ethical standards in policing.
The federal agent considered continual in-service training as an essential aspect of cultivating ethics within law enforcement agencies; the police detective argued that in-service training is much less significant and that the best way to encourage ethical conduct in policing is to compensate police officers fairly and provide support for them in other ways, such as in connection with post-performance review of tactical situations in the field. The federal agent also expressed the belief that aspects of police culture often encourage procedural violations and that local police agencies often contribute to this problem through tacit organizational approval of unethical conduct. The police officer characterized ethical violations as more the result of lapses in personal ethics, again relating back to core values and personality traits in officer candidates.
While both officers shared similar views of the importance of ethics in policing, the perspective of the NYPD detective seemed more forgiving in principle while the FBI agent seemed more committed to the overall belief that law enforcement agencies have a continuing long-term responsibility to minimize police misconduct through specific efforts throughout the careers of law enforcement professionals. To this interviewer, the NYPD detective seemed to downplay personal responsibility and even the realistic extent of ethical concerns in modern law enforcement. The FBI agent seemed more open to a…