Law Enforcement Code of Ethics

1. Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.

2. Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.

3. Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic Government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.

4. An employee shall not, except as permitted by subpart B of this part, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the employee’s agency, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s duties.

5. Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.

6. Employees shall not knowingly make unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the Government.

7. Employees shall not use public office for private gain.

8. Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.

9. Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.

10. Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with official Government duties and responsibilities.

11. Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to appropriate authorities.

12. Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those—such as Federal, State, or local taxes—that are imposed by law.

13. Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.

14. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards set forth in this part. Whether particular circumstances create an appearance that the law or these standards have been violated shall be determined from the perspective of a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts.

ASPA Code of Ethics

In Public Administration, we start with the ASPA Code of Ethics.

The American Society for Public Administration (ASPA) established a formal code of ethics in 1984. The code was revised in 2013. The ASPA Ethics Code  is aspirational in nature. It lays out principles to which public administrators should strive. It is short and concise and follows in its entirety.

There is a corresponding  list of practices  which help guide supportive behavior. Finally, there is a  workbook  which expands further on the principles.

Though ethics codes are important to provide guidelines and sometimes bright-line tests to ethical behavior. Not all public positions lend themselves to a strictly written code. Take law enforcement for instance. Many times ethical challenges come in the form of the use of force, discretion, and application of codified rights in constantly evolving situations. Please take some time to review the  Law Enforcement Code of Ethics  adopted in 1957 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Theirs is also an aspirations code. There is also an  Oath of Honor  which supports those principles.

Codes of Ethics are meant to demonstrate the moral and ethical ideas and behaviors an organization wishes to support. But as noted above, how helpful will it be when an officer has to face a situation that is not directly addressed or worse yet (remember the lesson regarding utilitarianism?) when there is a choice of two or more responses, none of which offers the aspirational outcome. Can you think of a situation where this might be the case? How would you respond?