A peace officer is a constitutional officer who is under an obligation to uphold the tenets of the constitution and have a high moral standing. Bluntly put, the ethical world for peace officers is quite complex. Besides the moral standing expected of them in ensuring that they are persons of character who are governed by universal ethical duties as encapsulated in the Six Pillars of Character, they are also subject to professional ethical standards that govern the profession. Since they constitute public officers of employees, they are also bound by a wide set of principles that avail an overarching set of standards by which they must live to. They are charged with the exercise of authority and trust vested in them in a manner that nor only produces but also preserves public trust. This is critical when matters of receiving gratuities and other professional considerations come to the fore as they raise salient ethical issues. Without doubt, there are rules and professional standards that govern whether a peace officer may receive any form of consideration or gratuities from various persons. This is important as it has the danger of eroding the trust reposed in them by the public. Similarly, the award of such favors may act to erode the integrity of the peace officers by causing them to give preferential treatment to such individuals. The occurrence of such would be a big tragedy as it would lead to a lack of respect for the law and its enforcers, which would likely plunge a country and its criminal justice system, into not only disrepute but also anarchy. the moment that a peace officer is given or receives gratuities and other professional consideration, there is an obligation placed upon him to ensure that he handles it in a way that upholds respect for the rule of law and public trust.
Article 9 of the Canons of Police Ethics: Police Code of Conduct of the year 1990 is instructive on this point. It provides that a law enforcement officer representing government, in this case subsumes a peace officer, he bears the enormous responsibility of ensuring that he maintains his own conduct as well as the honor and integrity of all government institutions. It proceeds to state that he shall not place himself in a position that where any person can expect special consideration or where a member of the public may assume that a special consideration is being conferred. It further adds that such an officer must therefore be firm in refusing gifts, favors and gratuities whether they be a small or large that may be interpreted as being capable of influencing his judgment in the discharge of his duties. The case of receiving gratuities has been embroiled in dispute and contention. Opinion is divided on how the acceptance or receiving of gratuities on the part of peace officer is perceived. Some argue that the reception of such gratuities marks the death knell to an honest peace officer’s career while others state that receiving a small gratuity does little or no harm. It is essential to note that a gratuity in the context of this paper is used to mean gifts, discounts and other forms of benefits given to peace officers.
Guided by these ethical and professional considerations as well as moral imperatives, I would consider the issue of gratuities offered to me in my capacity as a peace officer with great circumspection. It is essential to be cognizant of the fact that the acceptance of gratuities is the first sure way down the slippery road of corruption. My feeling which is compelling is that the acceptance of a gratuity graduates into an acceptance of a bribe and acceptance of payoffs from gamblers and finally engagement in serious crimes such as narcotic trading. It may be the case that the giving of a gratuity is usually a form of gratitude by the offeror. I submit that the motivation of the offeror is immaterial in this respect. This is because at most times as social beings, human beings find it difficult to put to task persons who are either closely related to them or who have extended favors to them. As such, it may just be the case that the acceptance of a gratuity from a person may influence a peace officer from exercising his judgment and mind to the matter at hand, though subconsciously. I am of the view that the acceptance of a gratuity is akin to corruption, albeit on a smaller scale. Whether the gratuity is in form of a cup of coffee, it simply binds a peace officer in that it places him in a difficult position where he may be unable to extricate himself. By nature, human beings are known to go the extra mile on various fronts. As such, the receiving of a gratuity is likely to extend to other limits which are inflexible thus plunging an otherwise honest peace officer to corruption and subverting the course of justice. Further, it is my submission that the acceptance of a gratuity whatever its intention, is an acknowledgment that one is willing to be corrupted, consequently, there is no logical reason why such a peace officer can object to more serious practices in return for a larger pie.
In conclusion, I state that my handling of gratuity offered to me as a peace officer would be a resounding “No”. This is because the acceptance of gratuities would open me up to vulnerabilities as enumerate din this paper.
Feldberg. (2008). Gratuities, Corruption and the Democratic Ethos of Policing: The Case of the Free Cup of Coffee. Moral Issues in Police Work , 267-276.
Josephson, M., & POST, C. C. (2009, February 11). Becoming an Exemplary Peace Officer: A guide to Ethical Decision Making http://lib.post.ca.gov/Publications/EPOII.pdf. California, California, United States.
Sherman. (2008). Becoming Bent: Moral Careers of Corrupt Policemen. Moral Issue in Police Work , 250-267.