The police are backing a new code of ethics, which will make sure officers don’t indulge in inappropriate sexual conduct, use drugs, or turn up unfit for duty as a result of drinking. They will also be encouraged to report on their colleagues.
Under a new code of ethics, which ministers will announce next week, police officers in England and Wales will be required to treat the public with ‘courtesy and respect’ or face disciplinary actions, including the possibility of losing their jobs.
In addition to the strict sex, drugs and alcohol code, should officers become aware of other officers breaking the code, regardless of their rank or position, they will be encouraged to report the matter.
The police themselves have issued a statement supporting the new code of ethics.
"We fully support the code of ethics that further enhances the standards of professional behavior, and sets out clearly exactly what principles and standards that the public and colleagues are entitled to expect from all within the policing profession," the Police Federation said in a statement.
The new code of ethics will be made up of ten points, which will require officers to be polite and respectful to both the public and their colleagues. Policeman will also be required to be accountable, fair and honest – although presumably they were already required to behave like this.
The final version of the code has been drawn up by the College of Policing and will be put before parliament on Tuesday. The policing minister, Damian Green, and Home Secretary Theresa May both support the changes.
The codes will set out that officers must always “remain composed and respectful” and avoid treating people in an “abusive, oppressive, harassing, bullying, victimizing or offensive” way.
Officers must make sure they do not engage in “sexual conduct or other inappropriate behavior while on duty” and must not use their position to “pursue a sexual or improper emotional relationship” with a “vulnerable” person.
Officers will also be told they must “uphold the law regarding human rights and equality.”
James Clappison a Conservative member of the Home Affairs select committee said that the code will be good for the police and the public.
“The overwhelming majority of the police are decent and conscientious. If officers breach the code a range of sanctions are available. Officers may simply be given a verbal warning or moved to another team, but more significant failures will require formal investigation and may result in an individual losing their job,” he said as quoted by the British media.
There have been a number of recent scandals, which have led to a loss in public trust in the police, including the Plebgate affair and the cover up of police actions at the Hilsborough disaster, which finally came to light in 2012 after more than twenty years.
And earlier this month a shocking story emerged of a former under cover drugs officer who was jailed after becoming addicted to heroin. He is now suing the police and blaming his drug addiction on a training course to familiarize officers with the drug.
Unlike the traditional police oath to act “without fear or favor”, the new code applies to civilian staff as well as officers: a total of 220,000 people.