Garda code of ethics - Guarding against corruption

MOST of the items highlighted in the new draft code of ethics for An Gárda Síochána are blindingly obvious, but it is significant that it is necessary to include them, because there have been indications in recent years that some members of the force have become confused about where their ultimate loyalty lies.

Garda code of ethics - Guarding against corruption

It is important that they should provide close support and co-operation for colleagues and be loyal to superiors within the force, but their “primary loyalty” is to the public, not anyone in the force itself.

Hence it is important that each and every member should “protect the integrity of the Garda Síochána by rigorously opposing unprofessional, unethical, illegal, or corrupt behaviour in any form”, and at any level.

All gardaí have a “duty of frankness” to colleagues, the force itself, and “above all” to the public from whom all Garda authority is derived.

Ignoring illegal, unethical, and unprofessional behaviour within the force would inevitably lead to corruption, which subverts the whole purpose of any police force.

Hence every member should “rigorously oppose” such behaviour within the force, regardless of the rank of the officer concerned.

The code would oblige all members of the force to “report, challenge or take action” against such misbehaviour.

Ultimately this amounts to loyalty to the force itself and the purposes for which it was established. It is just common sense.

The draft code outlines a total of 47 commitments, which includes supporting colleagues “subjected to victimisation or bullying” as a result of reporting wrongdoing.

The draft document further stipulates that senior management should “encourage and facilitate speaking up and reporting wrong doing at every level in the organisation”.

The draft includes guidelines for the behaviour of the police towards the public.

Members of the force must “treat everybody with fairness and respect”, and be sensitive to vulnerable people, and treat them with “appropriate compassion and empathy”.

They should respect the human rights of people and ensure that their own actions are “proportionate and reasonable”.

They must never destroy, invent, exaggerate or interfere with evidence, and they should provide “timely and truthful” information to victims.

This would include appropriate updating of information in relation to investigations.

We have been particularly fortunate in that we have had little police corruption in recent years, in comparison with Australia, Britain, or the United States.

There has been a whole series of racial riots across the United States linked with police excesses.

In Australia, the Irish journalist Gerard Ryle was instrumental in exposing massive corruption in the 1990s, and people in this country should never forget that British police were responsible for the Birmingham Six fiasco involving the framing of six innocent Irishmen.

Allowing police corruption to fester has had horrific consequences elsewhere, so it is important that we implement the kind of code of ethics being proposed in order to guard against similar developments in this country.

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