IACP Law Enforcement Code of Ethics
All law enforcement officers must be fully aware of the ethical responsibilities of their position
and must strive constantly to live up to the highest possible standards of professional policing.
The International Association of Chiefs of Police believes it important that police officers have
clear advice and counsel available to assist them in performing their duties consistent with these
standards and have adopted the following ethical mandates as guidelines to meet these ends.
PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITIES OF A POLICE OFFICER
A police officer acts as an official representative of government who is required and trusted to work
within the law. The officer's power and duties are conferred by statute. The fundamental duties of a
police officer include serving the community; safeguarding lives and property; protecting the
innocent; keeping the peace; and ensuring the rights of all to liberty, equality and justice.
PERFORMANCE OF THE DUTIES OF A POLICE OFFICER
A police officer shall perform all duties impartially, without favor or affection or ill-will and
without regard to status, sex, race, religion, political belief or aspiration. All citizens will be
treated equally with courtesy, consideration and dignity.
Officers will never allow personal feelings, animosities or friendships to influence official
conduct. Laws will be enforced appropriately and courteously, and in carrying out their
responsibilities, officers will strive to obtain maximum cooperation from the public. They will
conduct themselves in appearance and deportment in such a manner as to inspire confidence
and respect for the position of public trust which they hold.
A police officer will use responsibly the discretion vested in the position and exercise it within the
law. The principle of reasonableness will guide the officer's determinations and the officer will
consider all surrounding circumstances in determining whether any legal action shall be taken.
Consistent and wise use of discretion, based on professional policing competence, will do much
to preserve good relationships and retain the confidence of the public. There can be difficulty in
choosing between conflicting courses of action. It is important to remember that a timely word of
advice rather than arrest - which may be correct in appropriate circumstances - can be a more
effective means of achieving a desired end.
USE OF FORCE
A police officer will never employ unnecessary force or violence and will use only such force in
the discharge of duty as is reasonable in all circumstances.
The use of force should be used only with the greatest restraint and only after discussion,
negotiation and persuasion have been found to be inappropriate or ineffective. While the use of
force is occasionally unavoidable, every police officer will refrain from applying the unnecessary
infliction of pain or suffering and will never engage in cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment of
Whatever a police officer sees, hears or learns, which is of a confidential nature, will be kept
secret unless the performance of duty or legal provision requires otherwise.
Members of the public have a right to security and privacy and information obtained about them
must not be improperly divulged.
A police officer will not engage in acts of corruption or bribery nor will an officer condone such
acts by other police officers.
The public demands that the integrity of police officers be above reproach. Police officers must,
therefore, avoid any conduct which might compromise integrity and thus undercut the public
confidence in a law enforcement agency. Officers will refuse to accept any gifts, presents,
subscriptions, favors, gratuities or promises that could be interpreted as seeking to cause the
officer to refrain from performing official responsibilities honestly and within the law. Police
officers must not receive private or special advantage from their official status. Respect from the
public cannot be bought; it can only be earned and cultivated.
COOPERATION WITH OTHER POLICE OFFICERS AND AGENCIES
Police officers will cooperate with all legally authorized agencies and their representatives in
the pursuit of justice.
An officer or agency may be one among many organizations that may provide law enforcement
services to a jurisdiction. It is imperative that a police officer assist colleagues fully and
completely with respect and consideration at all times.
Police officers will be responsible for their own standard of professional performance and will
take every reasonable opportunity to enhance and improve their level of knowledge and
Through study and experience, a police officer can acquire the high level of knowledge and
competence which is essential for the efficient and effective performance of duty. The
acquisition of knowledge is a never-ending process of personal and professional development
which should be pursued constantly.
Police officers will behave in a manner which does not bring discredit to their agencies or
A police officer's character and conduct while off duty must always be exemplary, thus
maintaining a position of respect in the community in which he or she lives and serves. The
officer's personal behavior must be beyond reproach.
Adopted by the Executive Committee of the International Association of Chiefs of Police
on October 17, 1989 during its 96th Annual Conference in Louisville, Kentucky.
Adopted by the St. Louis County Police Department on March 2, 1990.
This Code of Ethics is for internal use only and does not enlarge an officer's civil or criminal liability in any way. It should not be construed as the creation of a higher standard of safety or care in any evidentiary sense with respect to third party claims.