In one of its definitions, the word "ethics" encompasses the standard of conduct governing all members of a profession. Police exist to preserve law and order. The Greek philosopher Plato wrote that good government is wise, brave, temperate, and just. This statement of ethics for police employees establishes broad standards to help police accomplish their mission in a manner which comports with good and wise government. Citizens who earn their police badges voluntarily bear the public trust. They are faithfully charged to protect the safety and the rights of fellow members of society.
To provide these special protections, police officers carry special power. They have the authority to investigate other people, to abridge their normal liberties, and to use force when necessary.
Two basic constraints limit use of this authority. First, it is wrong for police employees to use their office for personal profit or gain, and to accept any favor that places their own advantage above the welfare of the public. Second, it is wrong for them to violate the Constitution or laws in performance of their work.
Police employees must also bring to their work personal qualities that can spring only from within their personal fabric. They must appreciate and care for the needs of the people they serve. They must exercise common sense in a manner that conveys common decency.
Fulfilling this public trust is demanding work. It brings disappointment, weariness and stress. These are the facts of life in this profession that each employee has chosen. But it also provides for the opportunity to contribute in an immeasurable way to the common good.
The Yuba City Police Department recognizes its obligation to provide the best training and support for its employees throughout their careers. The Department will strive to the utmost to provide clear policies and adequate resources for every employee to accomplish the work we have accepted together.
The public demands that the integrity of its law enforcement officers be above reproach. The dishonesty of just one may impair public confidence and cast suspicion upon the Department as a whole. Succumbing to even minor temptations can generate a malignancy that will ultimately destroy an individual's effectiveness and which may well contribute to the corruption of fellow police staff. Employees must scrupulously avoid any conduct that might compromise their integrity or the integrity of those with whom they work. No employee should seek or accept any special consideration or privilege, nor anything of value for which others are expected to pay solely because they are members of the police service, or for performing their duty in some manner inconsistent with the highest regard for integrity.
Respect for Rights
A broad range of rights and privileges are afforded each individual by law and nature. Liberty is maintained for the most part by our constant attention toward preservation of a consistent exercise of these rights and privileges, and through mutual respect for every person's exercise of his or her rights and privileges. However, the police officials must contend with a persistent flow of personal conflicts, both legal and illegal. To resolve these differences, the police enforce a body of laws within the Constitution's assurance that all of us—regardless of economic status, sex, race or creed—receive equal and fair treatment. In so doing, officers often face ambiguous situations, particularly in trying to protect the rights of a victim and an accused. To carry out this mission, the police have the power to search and arrest, to use force, and to investigate and incarcerate. As police employees we must use these tools properly with no abuse of our authority. Decency, security, and liberty all demand that government officials observe strict limits to their power. A government of laws cannot exist when its servants fail to observe the law's own boundaries. Any government official who disobeys the rigorous demands of law in turn disturbs the public order that all of us are sworn to uphold.
Use of Force
In a complex urban society, police employees daily confront situations where control must be exercised to effect arrests and to protect public safety. Control is achieved through advice, warning and persuasion, or by the use of physical force. Force may not be used unless other reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or would be clearly ineffective under the particular circumstances. When the use of physical force is necessary—using baton, pepper spray, firearms or other means—it must be exercised only when, and in the manner, authorized in the Department's policies. Decisions as to when and how to use force must be consistent and exercised throughout every neighborhood of this City.
Effective law enforcement depends on a working partnership and a community of interest between the Department, its employees, and the public they serve. The practice of courtesy in all public contacts encourages understanding and appreciation. Discourtesy breeds contempt and resistance. Most of the public are law-abiding citizens most of the time; they rightfully expect fair and courteous treatment by Department employees. While the urgency of a situation might preclude the ordinary social amenities, discourtesy under any circumstance is indefensible. The practice of courtesy by a police official is entirely consistent with the firmness and impartiality that characterizes a professional member of the career.
Individuals who enter the police profession understand they are to be rightfully held to a higher standard by the members of the public we serve. It is a concept called "The Social Contract." Members of our society have granted the men and women of law enforcement significant discretion and authority to maintain an orderly society. In exchange, law enforcement professionals fully understand they are to be held to a higher standard and if they break the bond of trust with society, the action taken against them should be more severe.
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
— Edmund Burke, English statesman and political philosopher (1729-1797)