American Police Ethics
by Chuck Klein
The term "Be Safe" or "Stay Safe," as a
closing comment or sign-off, has become
ubiquitous. Officers use it among
themselves, trainers finalize sessions with
it and police columnists end their writings
with this same line. Not that this is wrong
or not good. To the contrary, looking out
for the well being of fellow officers is one
of the requisites of being a police officer.

Wishing one to be safe can also apply to
other professions as well. We surely
hope all firefighters, truck drivers and
pilots conduct their details in a safe

There are very few livelihoods where
"safe" is secondary to the profession.
Law enforcement is one of those where
ethical being trumps safety. Police
officers, by their every nature, are
charged with not only putting themselves
in harms way for the physical protection
of society, but must be the stalwart, the
guiding beacon of honesty and integrity -
the last line of defense against violence
as well and moral decay. Should an officer
lose his or her moral compass, all who
witness - or learn - of his lack of ethics,
will begin the breakdown of society.

The story has often been told of the
Jewish boy who is punished for using the
dairy towel to dry the non-dairy dishes.
When he questions his father about such
an archaic law, the elder explains that the
dietary laws have always been in effect
and if you break one law and allow it to
go unpunished, all of society begins to
break down. It is difficult to argue with
this reasoning as the Jews have been
around for almost 6000 years.

We have often heard the line, when
relating to American police officers, "our
country's last line of defense." This has
usually been in reference to physically
standing guard against enemies' intent
on committing violence. A truer meaning
has not been tendered. But, seldom
espoused is the underlying definition of
the American police officer - he and she
stand for the epitome of civilized society.
America's very existence depends upon
the rigid blue line never wavering in the
face of outrageous criminal conduct, civil
riots or political trickery run amok.

The American Police Officer: A
balance of benevolence to the
community with enforcement of the
law, in concert to the Constitution, all
the while adhering to highest moral
and ethical ideals.

However, when it comes to wishing the
best for our guardians of the future,
there might be a better term we can use:
"Stay Ethical." Here, the speaker is not
only acknowledging the audience is
already ethical, but is
encouraging/reminding them to continue
to place ethics in the forefront of their
world. USA police officers are the envy of
the world and it's not because they are
safe. It is due to their professionalism, a
qualification that generates, exudes and
is based on a high ethical and moral

Ethics - ethical behavior - is defined as a
set, or system of, moral values and
principles that are based on honesty and
integrity and have been accepted as
professional standards. To a cop that
means, no lying, no cheating, no stealing
- no exceptions, no excuses.

It is surely every LEO's daily practice to
live safely, to protect and serve, to stand
beside and back-up fellow officers and . .
. to always do the right thing. Safety is
mostly a matter of practicing rules of
common sense. There is little temptation
to violate safety procedures. Not so,
ethical matters.

Temptations abound to subvert those
of power to commit lapses in
discretion for the gains of favor.

Police officers are in the business of
ethical behavior. This is their
stock-in-trade, forte', signature,
persona, identification and what
differentiates them from other
professions. When one police officer
violates this trust, this code of honesty,
all are tarnished. Adherence to, or
practice of, any voids-of-integrity is
counter to the code of ethics that is part
of each officer's sworn duty - his
existence for being.

Law enforcement trainers find it most
difficult to teach common sense, likewise
ethical behavior. All LEO instructors can
and should set the moral example while
always being on the lookout for those
badge wearers who might be subject to

Next time you sign-off with a fellow
officer, consider acknowledging the
exclusivity that this LEO is an honest,
trustworthy person and that you wish
him/her to remain so.

Stay Ethical,

I'm an ex-hot-rodder, former police
officer, certified firearms instructor
and retired licensed private
investigator. Most of my writing has
been for the police and firearms
fields. Instinct Combat Shooting has
now been in continuous print for
over 25 years and has become a
standard police training tactic.

Though Circa 1957 was out-of-print
for many years, the demand for used
copies on Amazon.com indicated a
high interest based on prices higher
than the original selling price. Thus
the publisher asked me to write
additional material for a 2nd
edition -
now available on Amazon.com. This
coming-of-age, set-in-the-fifties,
historically and technically correct
novel is more of an autobiography.
Police Author
Chuck Klein

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