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Police and Professional Courtesy

Merissa Nay Dever
Criminal Justice 1010-SP15
Salt Lake Community College
Watching Law and Order has shown all of us in TV land that professional courtesy does
happen in law enforcement. A quick phone call to another precinct to let a fellow officer know
that his daughter is in the drunk tank, results in her being released without being processed and
charged. Not all circumstances surrounding professional courtesy may be this severe, but it does
happen with people in all areas of law enforcement and among the general public in some cases.
Professional courtesy has been happening since the earliest of times, but is more in the public
eye now that populations have drastically grown.
"Professional courtesy begins with the officer being stopped, not with the officer making
the stop." ( This statement rings true when thinking about whether the practice
of courtesy helps law enforcement and the safety of the public. With law enforcement practices
being in the spotlight more now days, practicing professional courtesy amongst colleagues can
have a negative impact on how the public view law enforcement officials. Whatever gains we
have achieved in fighting crime are minimized if the price is the trust and respect of the
community we serve. If crime levels decline, but members of the community are reluctant to
approach police for fear of a negative encounter, then we have not truly met our obligations to
the public. (CPR Handbook) If the public gets a negative view of law enforcement officials
because they see them speeding past another cop while not in route to an emergency they will

start to lose respect, which can be hard to build back up. People see courtesy issues happen
often, like getting a better parking spot than a public car, or seeing a government issued car being
used to take someones family around on an off duty time. These types of practices may be the
unwritten code for the brothers and sisters in law enforcement, but they are seen as somewhat of
a betrayal from the public eye. There doesnt seem to be a publicly visual large negative impact
from the practice amongst law enforcement officials, but more so the impact is felt between the
public versus law enforcement view. As a citizen who does not work in law enforcement, I am
not directly affected when one officer lets another officer off with a warning for running a red
light. What I do see is that there have been times that I, myself have been let off with a warning.
If the consequences and courtesies are consistent amongst all groups, there really isnt an issue
from most views. As said by George Washington Every action done in company ought to be
with some sign of respect to thosepresent, which sounds like a good rule to practice amongst
courtesy in all professions. (Washington).
Throughout the articles and journals I have read about courtesy and ethics, there has not
been any noted evidence that supports a positive outcome in the function of the criminal justice
system due to the use of practicing professional courtesy amongst colleagues. Not every act has
had a negative or harmful affect either, but the negative view it can create from people outside
the profession has had an impact. This would be the same for courtesy in many professions. The
health care industry has dealt with similar situations for some time. Physicians give free or
discounted health care to family and friends as a courtesy, which is not a luxury everyone is
available to receive. Many other professions would have similar instances where courtesies could
be given. Like the criminal justice system, it doesnt mean the courtesies would help it function
more effectively, but it also doesnt mean they would necessarily be less effective.

Reading the Law Enforcement code of ethics from section 3a of CA.Gov makes it clear
that following ethical standards are a major priority for law enforcement officials. It states that
the purpose to having a code of ethics is to insure that all peace officers are fully aware of their
individual responsibilities to maintain their own integrity and that of their agency, every peace
officer, during basic training, or at the time of appointment, shall be administered the Law
Enforcement Code of Ethics, as prescribed in Regulation 1013 (Post.CA.Gov). It also states in
section 3.2 that as an officer is to be honest in thought and deed in both my personal life and
official life which relates to accepting courtesy from fellow professionals and also giving
courtesy to other professionals. If the courtesy can be found as unethical, then the people
involved would in fact be violating the Ethical code they signed up to live by (Post.CA.Gov).
See excerpt below:
3-2. AS A LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, my fundamental duty is to serve
mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the
weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder;
and to respect the Constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.
I WILL keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in
the face of danger, scorn, or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of
the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official
life, I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my
department. Whatever I see or hear of a confidential nature or that is confided to me
in my official capacity will be kept ever secret unless revelation is necessary in the
performance of my duty.
I WILL never act officiously or permit personal feelings, prejudices, animosities or
friendships to influence my decisions. With no compromise for crime and with
relentless prosecution of criminals, I will enforce the law courteously and
appropriately without fear or favor, malice or ill will, never employing unnecessary force
or violence and never accepting gratuities.
I RECOGNIZE the badge of my office as a symbol of public faith, and I accept it as a
public trust to be held so long as I am true to the ethics of the police service. I will

constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God1
to my chosen enforcement. (Post.CA.Gov)
I think that professional courtesy should be eliminated just to ensure that the playing field
is an equal environment for all involved. Law enforcement officers need to live up to the same
standards and laws that the rest of the population is required to follow. Although they are
scrutinized for their behavior just like all of us at some point in time, they have the opportunity
to lead by example. If an officer is traveling on the freeway at the stated speed limit, then the
rest of the traffic should take note and do the same. If the person with the option to bend the law
and speed doesnt take advantage of it, then there is no reason the rest of us cant follow the
example and stick with the posted speed limit. We all have the option to lead by example and
law enforcement is no different in that aspect.
Overall my personal opinion is that people in any profession, not just specifically law
enforcement, should not exercise professional courtesy. Ethical boundaries are much easier to
see when the rules are the same for all people, not just fellow professionals. The boundaries start
to get blurred, the more we bend them, so it would be easier to stay consistent if everyone is
treated equally.

"George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior @ Foundations Magazine."
George Washington's Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior @ Foundations Magazine. N.p., n.d.
"Law Enforcement Code of Ethics." Commission Procedure C-3,. N.p., n.d. Web.
New York City Police Department, Courtesy Professionalism and Respect Handbook, 1996, p. 1
(hereafter cited as CPR Handbook).
"PROFESSIONAL COURTESY." Professional Courtesy in Law Enforcement. N.p., n.d. Web.