First, a note:
In fact, whilst I was researching ways in which to develop the professional effectiveness of the UK police I published (for distribution in the National police leadership faculty) a regular journal. In that journal I authored a considerable number of papers and identified resources for police leadership development. I still have the original copies of those journals – although I think they are stored in my garage and they may, of course, be in the process of being eaten by mice. Here are a couple of those papers:
A note on integrity and police integrity
Foreword: This short paper short was written in 2003. It was published but remained amongst a number of relatively unknown ‘Bramshill’ papers. It may still have its uses now that the police service has built upon the original Police service statement of ethical principles (1992) in the recent ‘code of ethics‘ (2014).
Introduction: For well over a decade the police service has been openly concerned with the overall nature and standard of its ‘ethics’ as well as the more specific issue of police integrity. In many ways this concern has paralleled the wider societal debate that has focused upon ‘standards’ in public life as well as the apparent lack of ‘ethics’ in the business world. Declining levels of public trust in social and business institutions have caused organisations in the public and private sector to undertake some moral ‘soul-searching’ and ethical ‘stock-taking’. Thus, it is important to emphasise that the police are not a special case for ethical treatment.
More than ten years ago, as part of the strategy to regain public trust and confidence as well as to re-align the police with the public policed, the service initiated a culture change process. This process was organised around the principles of a ‘quality of service’ philosophy – a philosophy which sought to place the service upon strong and robust moral foundations. The culture change process was led by the publication of the Police Service Statement of Common Purpose and Values and supported by the draft statement of ethical principles. The need for ‘integrity’ on the part of individual police officers and across the service as a whole was made explicit in both these publications. In addition, supporting commentaries were produced to explain and justify the meaning of the terms used in both documents. These initiatives demonstrated how police ethics had become a key strategic concern for police leaders. Perhaps this was best summarised in Sir Paul Condon’s remark that ‘performance with integrity’ was the central challenge for the police service.
As the millennium approached the importance of police integrity was subsequently re-affirmed in the publication of HMIC’s inspection ‘Police Integrity’. This document even attempted to provide guidelines for ensuring exemplary moral standards across police organisations. However, the content of the Inspectorate’s report was overshadowed by the findings of the Macpherson inquiry. This devastating report called into question the fundamental integrity of the police service.
Three recent developments illustrate how central the idea of ‘integrity’ is to the very constitution of the police service. First, the Police Reform Act, 2002, sets out the new ‘oath of attestation’ that is now taken by constables. It declares that the constable will conduct him or herself ‘with fairness, integrity, diligence and impartiality’. Second, the National Competency Framework – which has received formal support from ACPO, the Home Office, the APA, HMIC, the Police Federation and the Superintendents’ Association – explicitly states within the competency ‘personal responsibility’ that competence includes acting ‘with a high level of integrity’. In fact, as my colleague Todd O’Brien in the National Police Leadership Faculty puts it: ‘Integrity is supposed to be a golden thread running though all the competencies’. Third, the Council of Europe’s ‘European Code of Police Ethics’ – which was adopted by member states (including the UK) in September 2001 – includes the following article:
“The police organisation should contain efficient measures to ensure the integrity and proper performance of police staff …”
As this brief review shows, ‘integrity’ remains firmly on the police strategic agenda.
Ethics: training and research at Bramshill
Programmes of leadership and management development at Bramshill both anticipated and complemented the renewed attention given to police ethics and police integrity. ‘Ethics’ featured as a named topic of study from 1982 onwards. In fact, throughout the 1990s, the Leadership Development Programme and the Accelerated Promotion Course took as their stated aim ‘the development of leaders with justice, integrity and humanity’. It is worth noting that the curriculum emphases of these programmes received widespread international interest, support and approbation.
In addition a specific research project examining police ethics was launched by the author at Bramshill in 1994. This project lasted well into the new millennium. Data emerging from this research project demonstrate that the importance of integrity is plainly recognised by the middle ranks of the police service. Thus, for example, middle-ranking police officers identified ‘integrity’ as one of the three most important values that they believed should be embraced by police officers across the service. The data also revealed that police middle-managers thought that police leadership should be based on ‘integrity, fairness and honesty’. They were also clear that there were plenty of barriers to behaving ‘ethically’ within the police organisation – and that police culture did not always encourage high standards of ethical conduct.
However, over the several years of the research project it became apparent that police leaders and managers – through their own admission – were not always clear about what ‘integrity’ actually meant. Nor were they always certain as to how integrity should be expressed in practice. In part, this appeared to be a reflection of the fact that the professional development of police officers does not necessarily include a thorough and sustained examination of ethics in policing.
So, in the face of uncertainty about the meaning of integrity it is crucially important to examine what it is that police constables are ‘signing up to’ when they take the oath of attestation. It is just as important to discover what it is that police leaders and managers are supposed to guarantee if they and police organisations are to display ‘integrity’.
The meaning of integrity
When pressed police leaders and managers tend to equate ‘integrity’ with ‘honesty’. But this is too narrow a conception. Honesty is only one aspect of integrity. The dictionary definition of the term ‘integrity’ provides a useful starting point for understanding what it means to have ‘integrity’. ‘Integrity’ derives from the Latin word ‘integritas’ and refers to ‘wholeness, soundness, uprightness and honesty’. Clearly then, the term means something mote than simply being honest. The clue lies in the term ‘wholeness’. To have ‘integrity’ is to have the wholeness of character, knowledge, skills and attitudes commensurate with the person’s social role and function. It is better to think of ‘integrity’ in terms of role integrity.
Now the analysis needs to be pushed further. What is necessary if a police officer is to express role integrity? The answer is complex. When a police officer takes on or ‘inhabits’ his or her occupational role he or she immediately enjoys a certain authority, status and the possession of special powers. In our culture the most important of those powers is probably that to do with taking away a person’s liberty. This authority, status and power is not simply given to the officer. Social psychologists have long recognised that it has to be earned. In return for their authority, status and power police officers have to meet a number of obligations. If they do meet these obligations or criteria then they can be taken as ‘whole’ and to have ‘integrity’.
The criteria the police must meet if they are to have integrity include the following role expectations: thus, police are expected to be:
a) morally exemplary persons (e.g. impartial, courageous)
b) possessors of special knowledge and skills (especially in relation to social peacekeeping)
c) distinguished in terms of certain attitudes and dispositions (e.g. a commitment to provide an important public service)
In short, the police are expected to have the characteristics of professionals. They will have integrity if, as individuals and as a service, they meet, consistently the criteria defining the full professional. Only then will public trust and confidence be extended to the police. Importantly, the national competency framework sets out many of the specific elements that are necessary if officers are to be full professionals and therefore to have ‘integrity’.
The extent of police integrity
This short elaboration on the nature of police integrity raises the uncomfortable question: ‘To what extent do contemporary police officers actually meet the expectations noted above?’ The present author is forced to conclude that the police ‘could do better’. It is by no means certain that, across the service, the ‘wholeness’ to which integrity refers is always apparent.
First, I am not convinced that the police always use the resources at their disposal to best effect. I am not sure that the key resources of time, energy and emotions are consistently focused upon providing the best quality of service to the public. I am not sure that public money is always used with the proper goals of policing in mind. I am not searching for the ideal here. I am just questioning whether there is always a connection between the way police officers are occupying themselves and the provision of security and protection. This is a serious matter. The police are entrusted with resources that could be used elsewhere. They are, therefore, under a moral obligation to use those resources judiciously and professionally. Only then will they have integrity.
Second, I am not convinced that police have fully debated and then internalised the principles upon which their role is based. It is not clear that police are thoroughly conversant with concepts such as ‘consent’, ‘the rule of law’, ‘impartiality’, ‘discretion’ and ‘authority’. These are some of the concepts that lie at the heart of the very constitution of the police. Without grappling with these ideas police problem-solving and decision-making suffers from impoverished foundations.
Third, I am not convinced that police remain committed to pursuing and managing their own professional development. To develop oneself professionally means to be responsive to on-going debates about the profession as well as to be receptive to the knowledge that emerges from relevant research. Only recently, however, has the service begun to endorse ‘research-led’ or ‘evidence-led’ policing – even though this has been advocated at Bramshill for more than two decades. It also means a willingness to audit oneself against standards of excellence and/or competence. This, in turn, means valuing training and other opportunities from which significant learning might be gained.
Fourth, I am worried that some of the personal disciplines helping to constitute the exemplary practitioner are set aside. I am not always certain that police have the correct facts at their disposal nor the readiness to engage in clear dispassionate argument. A consequence is that police are not always prepared to take ‘the long view’ in preference to the superficial attractions of the ‘quick-fix’.
In conclusion, if the police are to be the genuine unspoiled article that notions of ‘wholeness’ imply then more needs to be done in order to demonstrate role-integrity and the moral qualities associated with such role-integrity.
Robert Adlam, Professor, City University New York and Reader, National Police Leadership Faculty, Bramshill
Footnote 1: ‘Integrity’ is discussed in the commentaries associated with the Statement of Common Purpose and Values and the Draft Statement of Ethical Principles. The short discussion in relation to the statement of common purpose and values emphasises the moral aspect of ‘integrity’ (e.g. ‘integrity’ is defined in terms of ‘individual and corporate probity’) and it also makes reference to integrity as ‘integration’. This latter term refers to police action as deriving directly from the purposes of the police. However, the discussion fails to relate ‘integrity’ to the role entitlements and obligations that attach to the role of ‘police officer’ -and which have profound consequences if police officers are to enjoy the ascription ‘integrity’. The discussion of ‘integrity’ in the commentary associated with the draft statement of ethical principles observes that ‘integrity means being the same right through’. In this sense the authors seem to mean that police officers throughout the service will comport and conduct themselves with the same value priorities and value commitments. The commentary also claims that a person acting with integrity does not try ‘to deceive anyone’. Here, however, ‘integrity’ appears to mean that a person’s actions are devoted to meeting the openly stated policies of the organisation. Again, the analysis fails to embed ‘integrity’ in the analysis of what it is, properly, to fill the role ‘police officer’.
Footnote 2: A new model of transformational leadership has been developed in the quest to improve the quality of leadership throughout organisations in the United Kingdom. This model – which is attracting considerable attention in police circles – is made up of three rather general components:
organisational skills, and
Amongst the latter ‘integrity’ is identified as a necessary quality for effective leadership. However, the meaning of the term ‘integrity’ shifts according to which version of the model is being presented. So, for example, on one occasion (Spring 2002) ‘integrity’ was conjoined with the terms ‘open to ideas, criticism and advice’ whilst on another (Autumn 2002) the term was followed by the words ‘trusted, honest and open’. Thus, whilst the ‘quality’ is understood to be important there remain difficulties in communicating what, exactly, it is. Moreover, it appears that integrity is only, at best, understood in a narrow sense.
New (or, at least, not very old) writing on police
In this first of a series of essays a fresh – almost continental – look on police will be articulated. The theoretical and methodological background to this writing can be found in the work of Roland Barthes, Umberto Eco and Julia Kristeva. It belongs to a tradition that might be described as critical cultural semiology. The aim of these essays is to depart from the jaded orthodoxies of most current writing on police and to open up new areas for discussing and for ‘reading’ the ‘contemporary’ police.
First, it is worth spending a few moments outlining the immediate background to these essays. In the course of reviewing the spread of post-modernism it is clear that by the late 1980s almost every subject had been given a post-modern makeover. In addition to a post-modern theology, a post-modern politics and a post-modern ethics there is, for example, a post-modern geography. Amongst the writings in this latter area there is a remarkable essay authored by Duncan and Duncan (1992) entitled ‘Ideology and Bliss: Roland Barthes and the secret histories of landscape’. Here, the authors explore the way in which Roland Barthes’s writing ‘exposed and demystified’ the world around us. They examine five of Barthes’s’ texts that deal directly with landscape interpretation – in the course of which they trace his shift from ‘structuralism’ to ‘poststructuralism’. Although there is no substitute for a direct acquaintance with Barthes’s own writing – especially the collection of work that is entitled ‘Mythologies’ – Duncan and Duncan provide a sufficient entrée to his work – which itself encouraged this ‘new writing’ on the police.
Duncan and Duncan note that Barthes was a remarkable essayist, and, as a philosopher and semiologist ‘he was a keen observer of society and an incisive critic of its cultural texts’. Police, too, can be understood as varieties or aggregates of cultural texts. However, as Duncan and Duncan underline, texts are not simply the written word. Instead texts are:
“ … composed of signs found in all cultural productions. ‘The world’, as Barthes wrote in 1964, ‘is full of signs, but these signs do not have all the fine simplicity of the letters of the alphabet, of road signs, or of military uniforms: they are infinitely more complex’.” (Duncan and Duncan, 1992: 18)
Duncan and Duncan go on to remind their readership that during Barthes’s early work as a semiologist he sought to decipher society’s signs and to reveal the complexity and instability beneath the apparent simplicity of the everyday cultural landscape.
This first example of new writing on police will use three of Barthes’s essays – published in ‘Mythologies’ – as catalysts for surfacing some unconventional ways of looking at (or thinking about) the function and meaning of the British police as they manifest themselves in the contemporary cultural landscape.
Barthes’s essay ‘Le Guide Bleu’ can serve as a starting point. In this essay he analyses the mythology surrounding travel and the claim of the travel guide to be a primary tool of landscape appreciation as well as an ‘educational aid’. Instead, Barthes reveals how the travel guide actually functions as an ‘agent of blindness’. It does this by, for example, focusing the traveller’s attention on a limited range of landscape features thereby ‘overpowering’ or ‘masking’ the ‘real’ spectacle of human life and history. So, is it possible that the police also function as ‘agents of blindness’ by focusing ‘our’ attention in ways that ‘mask’ the real spectacle of human life and history. Clearly, a very strong case can be made indicating that the police actually do ‘work’ in this way. They do this through their tendency to ‘individualise’ the nature of persons and to present themselves as lone quasi-heroic figures. Thus, police distinguish between the ‘good as gold’ domesticated ‘member of the public’ and the defective, often morally degenerate, sometimes straightforwardly ‘evil’ criminal. They shift attention away from the social systems and processes that are, necessarily, involved in the construction of persons. Their rhetoric rarely mentions the dreadful injustices, rotten living conditions, indefensible contrasts in life opportunities and social-psychological deprivations that are endemic but contingent features of British society. In short, police promote the bourgeois ideology of the deserving individual. The ‘individual’ is to be praised or blamed, rewarded or chastised as a result of how well he or she has used ‘willpower’ and ‘self-control’, or demonstrated ‘appropriate conduct’ and ‘right-thinking’ choices. Instead of attending to the nature of the collective loam from which the emerging ‘individual’ is fashioned police participate in the bourgeois predilection to honour and celebrate the achieving individual. It is the individual police officer, too, who is commended within the organisation. Whereas senior officers enjoy the power of legitimate naming (Loader and Mulcahy, 2001) it is the named ‘neighbourhood officer’ who serves and protects the community.
This tendency to individualise reaches a crescendo on the current leadership and management development programmes – as well as in the so-called valuing of ‘diversity’. Thus, for example, in answer to the question ‘what do you passionately believe in?’ senior police officers answer: ‘I believe I can make a difference’. Not ‘we’ but ‘I’.
Barthes’s ‘Le Guide Bleu’ also demonstrates how the travel guide mystifies social and political realities through its nearly exclusive concern with the monuments in the landscape – and especially Christian monuments. Here, not only are the people – their ways of life and their histories – set aside but so are the expressions and contributions of other cultures. Again, Barthes’s work calls forth the question: ‘Do the police, similarly, mystify sociological and political realities because of their exclusive concern with monuments? Again, there is little difficulty in pointing to the function that is served by the classical iconic monument in policing – the uniformed police officer. This image dominates the collective consciousness of the British whenever the thought/feel complex ‘police’ is made salient. The British bobby continues to ‘look out’ from the recruiting literature and the corporate image making communications of the different police forces. He (or she) serves as a highly effective diversion for the collective attentional energy. Thus, the individualised monuments ostensibly ‘helping’ the ‘community’ to solve problems disguise the wider and pervasive policing project (Foucault, 1991) concerned with continuous surveillance and the installation of disciplinary techniques designed to forge and further the perfect order of the carceral society. The more or less visible and benign ‘presence’ of the uniformed constable conceals the advance of a totally policed citizenry.
The more-or-less conscious love of order suffusing the police can be accessed through considering the second essay by Barthes entitled ‘The nautilus and the drunken boat’. Here Barthes analyses the work of Jules Verne. He finds in Verne a ‘delight in the finite’ – like ‘children’s passion for huts and tents’ i.e. ‘to enclose oneself and to settle.’ He notes that the archetype of this dream is expressed in the ‘almost perfect novel ‘L’isle mysterieuse’’ – in which a man-child re-invents the world, fills it, closes it, and shuts himself up in it whilst the storm, that is the infinite, rages in vain’.
Here, too, is an approximation of one dream shared by police. The Glastonbury festival provides a model or template for this version of a police utopia. There, the world is re-invented, filled with an amused, entertained people, closed by a perimeter, shut up – and ‘looked after’ by the agents of security – the protectors – whilst the phantoms of history rage outside in vain.
However, Barthes continues by describing Verne’s noticeable obsession ‘for plenitude’. Thus, ‘he never stopped putting the last touch to a world and furnishing it’. By so doing he, Verne, exhibited a tendency like that of an ‘eighteenth century encyclopaedist or of a Dutch painter; the world is finite, the world is full of numerable and contiguous objects’. Because of this tendency, Barthes suggests that Verne belongs to the progressive lineage of the bourgeoisie:
“ … his work proclaims that nothing can escape man, that the world even its most distant part, is like an object in his hand, and that, all told, property is but a dialectical moment in the general enslavement of nature.” (Barthes 1984: 65)
Barthes points out that Verne’s tendency to ‘proclaim’ such a world means that ‘in no way’ did he seek ‘to enlarge the world by romantic ways of escape or mystical plans. Instead:
“ .. he [Verne] constantly sought to shrink it, to populate it, to reduce it to a known and enclosed space, where man could subsequently live in comfort.” Barthes 1993: 66)
“As on this planet which is triumphantly eaten by the Vernian hero … there often loiters some desperado, a prey to remorse and spleen, a relic from an extinct Romantic age, who strikingly shows up by contrast the health of the true owners of the world.” (Barthes 1993: 66)
This too matches the ideas and ideals of the police. Police want to see decent people who will populate the world – a world reduced to a known and enclosed space free from the ‘desperado’. Put differently, Barthes’s eighteenth century encyclopaedists represent incarnations of modernist thinking. Verne’s proclivity is modernist and the police ape or embrace the wish to ‘re-invent’ the world and reduce it to a known and enclosed space. Despite their claims to value ‘difference’ police remain, therefore, thorough-going modernists. In fact they value ‘exotica’ not difference. They colonise rather than ‘partner’. They are masters of the arts of appropriation.
Their skills of appropriation or ‘cultural vandalism’ (Vick, 2000) are wonderfully demonstrated in the exponential increase of a bizarre new polico-strategic discourse: ‘We have customers, clients, citizens. We have policies, strategies, partners. We provide best value, excellence, service, professionalism. We consult, collaborate, and manage conflict. You name it – we’ve got it – and we’re ahead of the game and we’re improving and we value everything that can be valued – such as research and people. We have vision … and we do all this with integrity’. Tant Mieux.
Barthes third essay, ‘The world of wrestling’ provides a moment to explore the police search for a version of perfection. This essay features a brilliant analysis of the highly stylised rule following orchestrations that pass themselves off as wrestling matches taking place, in for example, ‘squalid Parisian halls’. Barthes finds that ‘wrestling partakes of the nature of the great solar spectacles’ i.e. Greek drama and bullfights. Thus, wrestling is not a sport but a spectacle. Then through an analysis of the algebra made from the physique, gestures, expressions and attitudes of the wrestlers Barthes points out that what is displayed for the public is the great spectacle of suffering, defeat and justice. He examines, in some detail, the way suffering, defeat and justice are portrayed over the course of the wrestlers performances. In relation to suffering he notes how, once in a hold, ‘the inertia of the vanquished allows the (temporary) victor to settle in his cruelty and to convey to the public the terrifying slowness of the torturer’. However, he underlines the fact that the spectator does not wish for the actual suffering of the contestant. Instead, he or she enjoys the ‘perfection of an iconography’. Defeat, too, is a display. It is not an outcome but, rather, a duration and as it takes up the ancient myths of public suffering and humiliation, the cross and the pillory’ Barthes observes that:
“It is as if the wrestler is crucified in broad daylight and in the sight of all.” (Barthes 1993: 21)
Above all, however, Barthes perceives that wrestling is a design for exhibiting a purely moral concept i.e. justice. He recognises that in the majority of wrestling matches at least one of the wrestlers will set about passing himself off as a complete ‘salaud’ (or ‘bastard’) and that:
“The baser the action of the bastard, the more delighted the public is by the blow which he justly receives in return. If the villain – who is, of course, a coward – takes refuge behind the ropes, claiming unfairly to have a right to do so … he is inexorably pursued there and caught and the crowd is jubilant at seeing the rules broken for the sake of a deserved punishment.” Barthes 1993: 22)
The ‘justice’ that is displayed in the wrestling match and which occasions such euphoria on the part of the audience is uncomplicated and unambiguous. It is a justice made intelligible. It is here that Barthes suggests the more profound meaning of the wrestling match and, thereby, encourages a search for the more profound meaning of the complex spectacle of the British police. He writes:
“What is portrayed in wrestling is, therefore, an ideal understanding of things: it is the euphoria of men raised for a while above the constitutive ambiguity of everyday situations.” (Barthes 1992: 250
The treatment that Barthes gives to the drama of wrestling can be easily extended to the police. Moreover, the police presentational drama can be traced to a more enduring mythological substratum. The British police – ever since they marched into the light of day in the autumn of 1829 have, in part, operated as a spectacle. At first glance they might – like the wrestlers – be pre-eminently meant to portray the purely moral concept of justice. However, the fundamental meaning of the masquerade that is the uniformed police officer is more complex, more extensive, more ambiguous and more contradictory. What is displayed by the police is the spectacle of solemnity, sobriety, security, order, control, the majesty of the law, justice and a warning to play the game of life according to the rules – or else. In other words, the police are emblems of two completely intertwined and mutually ‘producing’ themes – ‘politics’ and ‘ethics’. This is a terrible burden to carry because, unlike the wrestling match where the crowd is not bothered if the contest is rigged the public are (usually) concerned that the police do go about their business fairly. In the main, the police are not to ‘fit up’ the alleged offender – and should not use excessive violence. Thus, the burden of police reflects the ancient myth of perfection and perfectibility. Indeed, in the United Kingdom the police seem still to be drenched in one version of this myth i.e. Christianity – which enjoins its faithful to ‘be ye therefore perfect as in our father in heaven’. Against this supernatural background the official institutional injunction to police officers is to ‘be perfect’ – as part, one surmises, of the desire to make the world a ‘better place’. It is this mythical aspiration that fuels the impossible morality of police and their tendency to appropriate whatever concepts and technologies that appear to assist their project of ‘keeping everything under control’. The morality of police is impossible because it is excessive. At the last count the police in Britain had developed a mixed de-ontological, teleological and rights-based morality – in their hopeless search to be ‘squeaky-clean’ and ‘whiter than white’. The mantra of ‘integrity’ is everywhere. Little wonder, then, that when the ridiculous stupidity of this pretentious ambition is perceived police officers, themselves, will remark ‘Of course he’s got problems: he’s a police officer’.
The amazing demands of the police morality are made even more exacting because their political foundations taunt them with the proposition that they are indeed the inheritors of the ‘slave morality’ of the priests (after Nietzsche) when they themselves know all along that politics (and therefore police) are expressions of the will to power. It is therefore, not surprising to find that the police continue to construct the ‘neighbourhood’ or ‘community’ officer as the lynch-pin of contemporary policing. Here, after all, there is a chance to present and apparently sustain the more romantically ‘ethical’ aspect of police morality. Meanwhile, the rest of the organisation, rather parasitically, feeds off the masquerade – a masquerade, which Barthes, at least, helps us to unmask.