Interpreting and making sense of ethics, principles and values is an important aspect of effective preparation for a UK police promotion board, interview or selection process. It’s solid meaningful groundwork that often underpins confidence and success in such career progression processes. But what is the police code of ethics and how does it relate to your evidence? This blog explains…

“If you are ever tempted to think that ethics is irrelevant, just open a newspaper.” – Mel Thompson

Police Promotion and the Police Code of Ethics

Ethics or ‘moral philosophy’ links to questions about law and justice, values by which to live. It concerns life and what we should make of it. It’s about thinking through right and wrong. 

Professions such as in law and medicine work closely to an ethical code. UK policing too, has its own Code of Ethics. It clearly defines the expectations and standards of behaviour for everyone in policing. It covers 9 principles. These are accountability, fairness, honesty, integrity, leadership, objectivity, openness, respect and selflessness. You might find it helpful to use a mnemonic, like ‘SIR OF HALO’, to help anchor your memory on those! The College of Policing states: 

“These principles should underpin every decision and action across policing. They should be used, for example, in day-to-day operations as interventions are planned and debriefed, in the selection of new staff, in annual reviews and in promotions.”

When coaching aspiring candidates to succeed as Sergeants, Inspectors and Chief Inspectors, it’s not unusual to discover a disconnect with some of these ethical issues. What I mean is that operational officers make effective decisions and carry out day to day policing in accordance with the policing vision, mission and CVF values or bespoke force values. They do it, sometimes without having to think too much, because it’s so natural.

Promotion support for inspectors and sergeants
Hit the bullseye with this unique product:

However, the ‘disconnect’ becomes apparent in the context of promotion interviews or other selection processes, when individuals are required to articulate or communicate what, how and why they have done or will do things in future e.g. responding to board questions with supporting evidence or examples of the competencies or values being assessed.

Here’s a couple of practice questions I might ask in a coaching session to ascertain if there is a disconnect; so that your ‘match fitness’ can be achieved ahead of any upcoming promotion process:

“How do you believe the Police Code of Ethics will support you as a newly promoted leader?” 

“Can you describe what you know about the Code of Ethics and how you will include it to maintain and support public confidence?”

In short, such example interview questions help to quickly identify gaps in knowledge and awareness. Some individuals are simply ‘stumped’. Others may recognise and realise initial difficulty in offering a coherent response, and that is perfectly OK! It’s precisely why I ask questions like that, because it’s exactly what happens when you take part in a promotion interview, so practicing before a promotion opportunity is key. There’s a practice question bank in my digital interview success guide which you can use to support, challenge and provoke your thinking. Acknowledging such gaps and development areas at the earliest opportunity facilitates quick progress, so an enhanced awareness around ethics is usually a critical part of effective preparation.

Cop or Robocop?

Police technology Robocop

“Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right.” – Isaac Asimov

The Police Code of Ethics sits at the centre of the National Decision Model (NDM), an important tool to reference in evidence to a CVF value or competency-based question when describing how you did something. Ethical leadership is an important aspect when providing evidence to support your promotion, whether that be in response to interview questions, on an application form, providing a briefing/presentation, or making decisions in role play exercises. Whether the CVF behaviour being assessed is integrity, public service, courage, fairness, analyse critically, emotionally aware, or others; this blog gives you some food for thought.

The Code of Ethics provides important guidance to support ethical, values-based decision making, steering officers towards doing the ‘right thing’. It is essentially what separates cop from Robocop. Yes, there are even ethical laws for robots (at least in theory!). Isaac Asimov’s laws for robots suggest that he and others were thinking a long time ago, of the ethical aspects of their use:

i) A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. 

ii) A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. 

iii) A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

“Dead or alive, you’re coming with me!” – Officer Alex Murphy (aka Robocop)

These laws are idealistic because we know today, drones and smart bombs, kinds of robots, violate the second and third laws. Police use of such technology e.g. drones, computers and Artificial Intelligence (AI) is highly ethical, aligned with the code of ethics, our model of policing by consent and is far removed from the unethical use of machines depicted in Robocop. 

However, an interesting notion is that robotics experts predict the robotic evolution will ultimately turn us into cyborgs, humans integrated with machines! In my downloadable resources and Masterclass, I articulate a thinking tool called the ‘Hierarchy of Protection’, for assistance in providing strong evidence such as describing decision-making during critical incident management.

Police promotion guides

Ethical Leadership

“Ethics and equity and the principles of justice do not change with the calendar.” – D.H. Lawrence

Leadership is consistently identified as one of the most important aspects to maintaining police integrity and ensuring police professionalism. I signpost and direct aspiring promotion candidates to targeted reading material and resources, some of which are hidden in plain sight. For example, few know about the College of Policing study: ‘The role of leadership in promoting ethical police behaviour’, which focuses on issues of leadership and police organisational ethics. 

The aim of this particular research was to explore the impact that senior leadership was perceived to have on ethical police behaviour, particularly that of those officers and staff in frontline roles. It’s one great document to support meaningful background reading ahead of a promotion opportunity. In the new video shown above, I introduce the report and talk about key elements from it; particularly useful if you don’t have long before your promotion board. 

Of course, if you are serious about preparing comprehensively ahead of a promotion opportunity now or in future, then in addition to such free resources you have the option to download your very own personal support package. This includes a unique Promotion Masterclass Video (including exclusive insights guide), together with a Sergeant or Inspector/Ch Inspector’s digital toolkit, containing everything you need to supercharge your preparation ahead of opportunity. These police leadership materials for the Federated ranks have been tried and tested, time and time again

To be interested in ethics is to be interested in life. With this in mind, Thomas Shanks Ph.D, Executive Director of the Markkula Centre for Applied Ethics, recommends that everyone ask themselves these five questions at the end of the day, questions that are also useful for police officers:

Was my community better because I was in it?

Did I treat others with dignity and respect?

Was I fair and just?

Did I do more good than harm?

Did I practice any virtues (e.g., integrity, honesty, compassion?)

There are many different ways to think about leadership, but when it comes to promotion, the only way is ethics.

Kind Regards, Steve.

If you found this blog helpful, you can hit the ground running with your promotion preparation. Get your personal digital promotion toolkit, attend or download my Police Promotion Masterclass, or contact me to arrange personal coaching support. If you first want to explore completely free content, I have a bunch of free videos, guides plus free blog content both here on my Rank Success Blog and via my Police Hour articles.

Inspector toolkit promotion