This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

If you meet the Buddha on the path, kill him

There are many interpretations of the statement above, which is probably no surprise. However, my interpretation has always been that if you meet someone who claims to be enlightened, then they will not be.

I was reminded of this statement the other day when I shared an Earl Grey tea with a very senior and very experienced police officer. We got to talking about the new College of Policing Code of Ethics. She explained to me some of critical the challenges in bringing the code to life centre on just how do you create the conditions / circumstances in which police officers and staff are prepared to exanine the possibility that they might not know all that they need to know about ethical practice.

Based on no research at all, I have a hunch that police officers and staff will consider themselves more moral than the average member of society. And they probably are. But morality is not the same as ethics as this helpful video explains. And of course morality, ethics and the law are not synonymous either: an action could be ethical and moral but against the law. Some laws are seen by some people to be entirely immoral. And of course, some police professional practice might be legal and moral but not in accord with the Code of Ethics.

It is complicated and once you start talking about this stuff, speaking for myself, you can quickly get tied up in knots. And this does not sit well with police culture which is often about taking action quickly and firmly. There is no time for debates about how many angels can comfortably sit on a pinhead!

But time is going to have to made if the Code of Ethics has any chance of becoming 'the way we do things around here'. As I have highlighted with my research, the police service has a fair way to go on putting in place the necessary structures, cultures, procedures (including continuous professional development). This might well include assessing whether internal complaints systems or the IPCC are quite fit for purpose when it comes to deciding on whether an action infringed the Code or not. I happen to think not and something like the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council will need to be designed and put in place.

The more I look into this, the more I realise how much I do not know. Certainly I know that I am long, long way off claiming even to know what 'enlightenment' is let alone being it!

1 comment:

  1. davidbfpo24/7/14 20:43

    The College of Policing's Code of Ethics is not new and one wonders why this latest version will be any more effective than its predecessor. Yes it has had more internal and external coverage. Whether ethics are actually understood by all police officers and staff is a moot point. Will there be training - not an online package - for everyone?

    To be effective the Code needs to be credible. The only way this will be achieved is if senior officers are disciplined under it; otherwise I fear it will be another discipline tool for those on the frontline.

    Enlightenment is not often found in contemporary policing, let alone by PSD departments.