Over the years, the integrity of the police agency or of any other law enforcement agencies have been threatened by cases of officers’ misconduct, tampering of crime evidences, graft and corruption, use of excessive force, and other related cases. Many people have already accepted the concept that these officers who have sworn to protect and serve the community internally follows their own form of distorted culture within their group. Although not all, but for the minds of common people, anxieties constantly exist when we talk about giving trust to these law enforcers. These officers always stick together and cover each other, especially with issues concerning legal matters. It has not ruined individual officer’s integrity, but the entire police agency as a whole. Does that kind of notion really exist in the police? Well, it did.
Many experts coined this with the term “Code of Silence.” It exists within any group, even in circles of friends. Its purpose is founded mainly on the idea of hiding information for the welfare of any member, or of the whole group itself. But when coined with cops, it has greater weigh as it does not only question its integrity but also the people’s trust. In the interview, there are two kinds of cops described: Stand-up Cops, and Hand-up Cops. The first group refers to those cops who cover up other cops to the extent where lies should be necessarily for whatever reason they found beneficial. The later consists of those who don’t cover other cops but instead tell the truth.
This form of ideology is like a bond that binds cops together as a team. Its their bond of brotherhood. Lawful, unlawful, ethical or unethical, cops should stick together, that’s a common intonation. From the viewpoint of the interviewee, he sees this type of ideology as something which frequently traps all cops when things went out of control; it’s a vortex, a giant whirlpool that sucks anybody in. Whether they like it or not, it put them into a situation where making decisions become too complicated. It had become a very big problem caused by the conflict between cops responsibility and the code of silence. The interviewee described it as widespread culture. Good cops, bad cops, they mostly became victim of this culture. He even noted that cops were constantly tested to make sure they are all stand up cops. It comes out then that it is like a routine which internally happened. In his experience he was once caught up in this vortex which later has ruined his life. He got fired out of job, his integrity as a person was lost, and he spent years reminiscing what he had done.
There are reasons why this kind of culture exists among cops. First is integrity. Officers involved insist that it should be followed in cases where the integrity of a cop or of the whole group is at stake. For instance, use of excessive force during seizures, investigations, and other related actions. We commonly term it as torturing suspects. The problem here is that it is prohibited by the law and it is undeniable that many cops are doing that consciously or out of the right frame of mind. The interviewee cited some situations in the life of a cop. During fast chases with suspects, some officers were unable to control their temper and beat the suspect once caught, then later realized that what they’d done were wrong. Things went out of control as he described it. With the fear of being charge for human rights offense, they then decided to cover up what they’ve done by making stories of their own. These cops were very confident stories will never blow up holding to the stick together ideology, but of course they had accepted it might. But can integrity be preserved by telling lies? The interviewee believed that integrity is always proportional to the truth.
The more you tell the truth, the more your integrity is preserved. People loves everyone who speak on the side of truth and they are giving due respect for them. Look at what happened to the image of the police officers nowadays. Most people respect them only because of their guns and their authority to bring anybody to jail. That kind of notion really hurts those who have sincerely performed their duties. They are mostly judged as a group rather than as individuals – “fault of one, fault of all.” Where is integrity there? If cases like this remained unexposed, integrity can be preserved. The second reason is lack of assistance. He noted that there is a necessity for hiring someone with a behavioral science background.
Someone who understands what a person goes through emotionally in various situations especially when it comes to major emotional problems. He called this an ombudsman whom anybody can turn to seek for advice. In his experience, he explained that was caught up in the vortex because he was not given the right advice. Although he has a lawyer, but lawyers concerns legal matters only. His situation at that time as he is trying to emphasize does not require a lawyer. It should have been someone who could give him the courage to make the right decision. He even noted that if he had only spoken to anybody before he gave his statement to internal affairs, he could have not lied. In this situation, it is only reasonable for us to question the background of the officers involve, but we will focus on the interviewee, our main subject.
He was raised with proper education, have lived with good adult role models, no behavior-inferior childhood environment, etc. He was a person of good conduct. But this is worth noting when he said that when he came out of the police academy he was puzzled of what conduct are tolerable and which are not as a police officer. In his training, he had taken ethics lessons. But during the training he has learned the notion of stand-up and hand-up cops, sticking together, and other related ideology. That is the third reason why code of silence exists in the police culture. Are there discrepancies with the way values are taught in the academy? These values are those which police officers should possess. What are these values? For instance – courage to do what is right, honesty, open-communication with others, giving recognition to others, giving positive reinforcement to teammates, respect to the rights of common people, etc. The fourth reason is lack of training. This is a very important routine which should be reinforced regularly. That is why performance appraisal is of utmost importance. Officers should be regularly checked to ensure they stay fit for their job.
There are lessons that all of us should learn from the interviewee’s experience. One is that the truth will help us build a good career, a good life, good recognition from others. Second is, it is not merely the inadequately prepared who are susceptible to legal or ethical impropriety. We all are. Even experts on their fields commit mistakes on their own field. The third reason is that we should not forget the good values that keep us morally upright. The technology may have change the way many things have worked, even in policing and criminal investigation proceeding, but these changes are worthless if we’ll used it wrongly. Police, common people, or anybody can be caught up red handed. No one is above the law. With right implementation, by placing the right people in the authority, the law will be enjoyed by all individuals.
No one should be deprived of it. Police officers have sworn to protect and serve the people in the community. Performance of this duty should not be threatened by any vortex, but should be strongly founded on giving due respect to the truth. That is what all individuals; especially the police officers should bear in mind. As long as these form of ideology in the police or in any law enforcement agency is uncontrolled, the more its integrity gets worst.