Developing professional standards and integrity is essential for compliance in police services. To ensure that officers perform their duties correctly and act with integrity, a system of internal checks and balances must be created. This includes incorporating the implementation of integrity standards in the hiring, training and promotion processes. Additionally, the code of ethics and standards of integrity must be broadly promoted throughout the organization.
Module 14 on professional ethics in the E4J University Integrity and Ethics module series provides more information on integrity standards and ethics for specific professions. The criminal justice system should be a public service that works hand in hand with communities and is accountable to the democratic process. To encourage a culture of accountability, state prosecutors can initiate criminal lawsuits against law enforcement officials under state laws. Furthermore, changing the criminal prosecution criteria against police departments to “reckless” can ensure that police officers are properly prosecuted for their actions. To ensure that values are repeated regularly and reinforced, police departments must create a system of internal checks and balances. Strong federal oversight through the Department of Justice can ensure that local law enforcement treats communities as partners.
Political accountability measures can work in conjunction with civil and criminal lawsuits to pressure police departments to adopt best practices. However, lasting responsibility in law enforcement begins with fostering a departmental culture that values integrity and ethics. The criminal justice system often fails to collect, measure, or share objective data. Laws that restrict access to information and criminalize journalistic activity are among the main legal challenges. In this sense, the judiciary plays a direct role in ensuring “accountability before the law” by authorizing or refusing the application of special investigative measures. In November 2020, Americans approved a comprehensive menu of criminal justice reforms.
To create a culture of accountability in law enforcement, we must start with informal values such as respect for human rights standards. Additionally, ending speculation within the criminal justice system, including the termination of federal contracts with private prisons, can help ensure that people are treated as people worthy of respect.