Desktop version

Home arrow Political science

Integrity Systems

As stated in the Introduction, an integrity system is an assemblage of institutional entities, mechanisms, and procedures, whose purpose is to ensure compliance with minimum ethical standards and to promote the pursuit of ethical ideals. Integrity systems can be contrasted with regulatory frameworks (Miller et al. 2005; Alexandra and Miller 2010; Prenzler 2009). A regulatory framework is a structured set of explicit laws, rules, or regulations governing behaviour, issued by some institutional authority and backed by sanctions. The term “system” is, admittedly, somewhat misleading in that it implies a clear and distinct set of formally integrated institutional mechanisms operating in unison and in accordance with determinate mechanical, or at least quasi-mechanical, principles. In practice, however, integrity “systems” tend to be a messy assemblage of formal and informal devices and processes, and they operate in often indeterminate and unpredictable ways. Nevertheless, if it is to be regarded as a system, this assemblage of device and processes needs to be unified in the sense that it serves a common purpose(s) and integrated to the extent necessary to be mutually reinforcing with respect to that purpose(s).

The integrity of an occupational group is dependent on the individual integrity of its members and, therefore, the integrity system of an occupation is in large part focused on developing and maintaining the individual integrity of its members. A person has individual integrity only if he or she complies with objectively correct moral principles and is of good character i.e. is possessed of virtues rather than of vices. Moreover, many of these objectively correct moral principles that ought to govern the actions of individual persons are universal; they apply to individuals at all times, both in private and in public.[1] For example, the moral principle prohibiting murder is universal. However, some (objectively correct) moral principles governing action evidently apply to some occupations but not necessarily to all. For example, although deceiving others is generally morally wrong, it is an unavoidable and, within limits, an acceptable practice for undercover police operatives.

Arguably, professions (and quasi-professional groups) are defined in terms of the basic purposes that they ought to serve, as well as by their constitutive activities (Miller and Blackler 2005; Alexandra and Miller 2010).[2] The different purposes and activities of different professions generate differences in required moral character. Thus it is because the police must track down and arrest criminals that police officers need to have a disposition to be suspicious, a high degree of physical courage, and so on.

In entering into a particular profession, individuals accept professional obligations. Some of these obligations are also moral obligations. The moral obligations are different from and additional to the moral obligations these professionals had before entering the profession. For example, if a police officer fails to intervene in an attempted burglary, she has not only failed to do what her profession requires, she has also failed to do what morality now requires of her. So, it seems, in undertaking a particular profession, an individual is obligated to possess or develop a specific moral character in order to be able to discharge the profession’s distinctive moral obligations.

At least two things seem to follow from this account of the moral character of a member of a profession, or at least of the moral character of police officers. First, the fact that a police officer is deficient in some character trait that is highly morally desirable in members of some other profession, or in some specific private role, would not necessarily count against the officer qua police officer. For example, we can contrast a sexually promiscuous police officer with a sexually promiscuous husband, wife, or Catholic priest. If the police officer restricts his sexual activities to his private life and does not, for example, pursue work colleagues or others he deals with in his capacity as a police officer then, arguably, his sexual promiscuity has no bearing on his fitness to discharge his role.[3] Matters are entirely different for husbands, wives, and Catholic priests.

Second, the fact that a police officer is deficient in some character trait might well count against that officer, even though the trait in question is not necessary for, or highly desirable in, members of most other occupations, or in most private roles. Consider physical courage. This is necessary for police officers, but presumably not for academics and accountants. Indeed, a character trait might be a virtue in a police officer but a vice in members of most other professions—and even in most private roles. Suspiciousness might qualify as such a trait. The same constant looking about for wrongdoing that makes a good detective might make someone a bad husband or wife.

A further point about moral character might follow from the nature and purposes of policing. This concerns moral character conceived in general terms, as distinct from specific character traits. Perhaps the minimum standards of integrity, honesty, courage, loyalty, and so on demanded of police officers ought to be higher than for many, even most, other occupations. After all, police have extraordinary powers that are not given to others, including the power to take away (briefly) the liberty of their fellow citizens. Moreover, police are subject to moral temptations to an extent not typically found in other occupations. Consider detectives working in drug-law enforcement: they are exposed to drug dealers prepared to offer large bribes just to have an officer do nothing. Arguably, the conjunction of extraordinary powers with enhanced temptations justifies setting higher minimum standards of moral character for police than for members of many other professions.

Maintaining and enhancing the integrity of a profession is partly a matter of attending to the structure, function i.e. purpose, and culture of the organizations in which professional practitioners are housed. Consider structure, both legal and administrative. In an organization that needs to possess integrity, such as a police organization, the administrative processes and procedures in relation to, for example, promotion or complaints and discipline, should embody relevant ethical principles of fairness, procedural justice, transparency, and the like. Now consider purpose. In a police organization that possess integrity, the organizational goals actually pursued should align closely with the morally legitimate purposes of the profession of policing, such as the protection of legally enshrined moral rights, such as the rights to life and liberty (Miller and Blackler 2005, Chap. 1). Finally, consider culture. In an organization that must possess integrity, such as a police organization, the pervasive ethos or culture, should be, for example, conducive to high performance, both technically and ethically, and supportive in times of need, but intolerant of serious incompetence and misconduct. Naturally, the nature and influence of culture can, and should, vary from one type of organization to another, depending in part on the nature of the work of the occupational group housed within that organization. Police organizations, for example, are characterized by a culture in which a high level of loyalty can be expected.

  • [1] Note that from the fact that a principle is objectively correct it does not follow that it ought to beuniversally followed. See Chap. 1.
  • [2] There is a dispute as to whether policing ought to be regarded as a profession or a craft. I suggestthat police are an emerging profession. At any rate at the very least they should be regarded as aquasi-profession to distinguish them from occupations that require little or no specialized trainingand knowledge. However, these controversies make no difference to the points I am making heresince elsewhere I have defined policing according to this teleological conception and this conception does not depend on police being accorded the status of a profession.
  • [3] ^Nevertheless, and consistent with this claim, a police officer’s sexual activities, even if they do notinvolve other police, may become professionally problematic in so far as they bring the policeservice into disrepute.
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >

Related topics