Evaluating the new architecture of policing: the College of Policing and the National Crime Agency - Home Affairs Contents

4  Code of Ethics

44. The Policing Code of Ethics, which was laid before Parliament in July 2014, is the written guide to the principles that every member of the policing profession of England and Wales is expected to uphold and the standards of behaviour they are expected to meet. It applies to more than 220,000 officers, police staff, contractors and volunteers working in policing. It sets out the standards of behaviour that the public can expect from officers and staff at every role and at every level and will help guide decision making. As Alex Marshall told us, "a code of ethics or conduct is used in all the serious professions". The Code brings policing into line with other trusted professions that have such codes, such as medicine and the law.[59] Dame Shirley thought that the Code would give officers greater confidence to use their judgement on the front-line, and to challenge inappropriate behaviour, "particularly upwards".[60]

45. The College also maintains the "Disapproved Register" of all officers who have resigned whilst facing gross misconduct charges or been dismissed for gross misconduct, to ensure that they should not be re-employed.[61] Figure 2, below, shows the number of officers dismissed in each year since 2002-03 which, it will be noted, has amounted in each year to fewer than 1.5 officers per 1,000.Figure 2: Dismissed Officers

Source: An Independent Review of the Police Disciplinary System in England and Wales

46. Whereas the Code is maintained by the College, arrangements for disciplining (or deciding whether or not to discipline) officers who break the Code rest with individual forces. The Police Service of Northern Ireland first introduced a Code of Ethics in 2003, under the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. Sir Hugh Orde, who was Chief Constable of the PSNI at the time, told us that it was a requirement of the Northern Ireland Code that any allegation of conduct which could, if proved, constitute a breach of the Code had to be investigated. He also explained that in the PSNI every officer had two days' training on the code, and were then handed their own copy which they signed.[62]

47. Dame Shirley explained that the College's attitude was rather different. The Code was "a set of principles that help to guide [officers'] behaviour" and a degree of latitude was required so that people could use the code to learn "without their feeling that a ton of bricks will come down on them" if they made a mistake. Only when sufficient deviation from the principles in the Code was alleged should misconduct proceedings come into play. Dame Shirley concluded that

    All the evidence … shows that codes of ethics work well where they are continually referred to and used, where they are the discussion around the water cooler.[63]

48. We welcome the introduction of the Policing Code of Ethics, which must now be embedded across the country. We recommend that the policing principles set out in the Code are integrated into the training outcomes it sets, so that they are underpinned repeatedly over the course of a police officer's career. The Code of Ethics needs to be in the DNA of police officers, so a policing Hippocratic Oath is required. We recommend that everybody who is bound by the Code should be required to acknowledge it formally by signing a copy of the Code and swearing an oath to the Queen. For new police constables, a reference to the Code could be incorporated into the declaration they make when they are attested (though this would require a change to the law).

49. We recommend that the Code of Ethics also incorporate the disciplinary code. It has been argued that if someone breaks the Code of Ethics, they will also have broken a separate disciplinary measure; we believe that this link should be explicit. We recommend that the College of Policing follows the example of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and incorporates the policing discipline code into the Code of Ethics, so that if it is breached this automatically triggers an investigation.

59   http://college.pressofficeadmin.com/component/content/article/45-press-releases/766 Back

60   Qq 160-166 Back

61   College of Policing written evidence Back

62   Qq 45-52 Back

63   Qq 160-166 Back

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Prepared 17 February 2015