Ethics and the Police Force

For instance, let us look at discretion. Police possess a great deal of discretion in defining criminal behavior and their reaction to it. When police stop people for minor traffic violations, they can write tickets or give warnings.

When they pick up teenagers for consuming alcohol or other delinquent acts, they can bring them in for formal processing at the Basseterre Police Station or some other police stations, or take them to their homes. After stopping a fight on Fort Street, they can arrest both parties or allow the combatants to work out their problems. Thus, in many day-to-day decisions, police hold a great deal of decision-making power over people’s lives because of their power to decide when to enforce the law.

While this is true, police may get bogged down with day-to-day problems and bureaucratic agendas may cause them to lose sight of larger goals. Foremost in their minds should be the true scope and meaning of the power inherent in the Police Force. That power demands and depends on each officer maintaining high standards of ethical behavior. It is the police officers within the Police Force who make it just or corrupt.

To protect citizenry of the Federation and visitors alike from misuse and abuse of power inherent in our Police Force, police officers must have a strong professional identity. There is a continuing debate over whether police officers can be described as professionals. There is even more debate recently over whether this new “Police Agency” can be described as such.

However, these arguments miss a central point. Whether one calls the men and women who wear the St. Kitts-Nevis Police Force uniforms professionals, SKN-Fineness, or some other term, the fact is that they have immense power over other people’s lives. This power must be recognized for what it is and held as a sacred trust. A professional police officer is one whose job involves more than earning a paycheck and who has an interest in the public good.

While this may not be true of all those who seek a career in the St. Kitts-Nevis Police Force, it is certainly, true for most. Consistently, research has shown that people who are interested in a career in law enforcement are attracted to the interaction with others and the helping aspects of the job.

So, whether we call them professionals, SKN-Fineness, or something else, this ideal of a career in the Police Force as a vocation rather than simply a way to earn a paycheck should be nourished and developed. Instead, what often happens is that the bureaucracy and leadership stifle and destroy the ideals of those who enter as professional police officers. 

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