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Article
Publication date: 22 August 2010

Sanja Kutnjak Ivković and Tara O'Connor Shelley

This paper aims to explore how police officer rank affects the relation between the extent of the code of silence and views of discipline fairness.

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore how police officer rank affects the relation between the extent of the code of silence and views of discipline fairness.

Design/methodology/approach

In 2005, 150 police supervisors and 450 line officers from East Bohemia, the Czech Republic were surveyed, regarding crucial components of police integrity.

Findings

Supervisor and line officer codes of silence are similar; whenever the codes differ, the supervisor code seems to be narrower. The majority of line officers and supervisors provided similar assessments of the expected discipline; they disagreed only regarding a small number of scenarios. The results clearly show a direct relation between how strongly police officers adhere to the code of silence and the way they view disciplinary fairness, regardless of their supervisory status.

Research limitations/implications

The survey included only police officers from East Bohemia in the Czech Republic.

Practical implications

The methodology can be utilized by police administrators to explore the contours of the code of silence in their agencies, police officers' views about appropriate and expected discipline, as well as the relation between the police officers' willingness to tolerate misconduct in silence, and their perceptions of the fairness of the expected discipline.

Originality/value

Studies exploring the relation between the code of silence and discipline fairness are rare. This study contributes to this scarce literature along two dimensions: first, it provides an in‐depth analysis of the relation between the extent of the code of silence and views of discipline fairness in an emerging democracy; and second, it explores the effect of police officer rank on this relation.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 33 no. 3
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2013

Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovich and Adri Sauerman

The purpose of this paper is to explore the contours of the code of silence, as a critical component of the ability to control misconduct and enhance integrity within any…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the contours of the code of silence, as a critical component of the ability to control misconduct and enhance integrity within any police agency, among officers (both line officers and supervisors) of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Design/methodology/approach

In 2005, the authors surveyed police supervisors from seven South African provinces and autonomous provinces. The questionnaire distributed to police supervisors contains 11 vignettes describing various forms of police corruption and one vignette describing the use of excessive force. The sample consists of 379 police supervisors.

Findings

Results of the study indicate the existence of a strong code of silence among the SAPS supervisors. The authors report that the code of silence does not protect all misconduct equally; yet, a substantial minority of SAPS supervisors in the sample would protect many forms of police corruption from exposure. It was found that, with the exception of the three most serious scenarios of police corruption, no significant relation exists between the code of silence and the perceptions of disciplinary fairness. The code of silence is strong and it only weakens for the three or four most serious scenarios.

Research limitations/implications

The respondents in the study were police supervisors who were attending training at the SAPS training centers.

Practical implications

South African police administrators interested in controlling police corruption and curtailing the code of silence should start with their subordinate supervisors first. The strong code of silence among the supervisors prevents them from playing their critical role in the control of police misconduct and the curtailing of the code of silence among the line officers.

Originality/value

Empirical studies of police officers in South Africa are rare. Despite the extensive efforts at reforming the SAPS, the SAPS seem to continue to be integrity‐challenged. This empirical research focuses on the code of silence, a key element of police integrity, and includes opinions of a nation‐wide sample of the SAPS supervisors about the code of silence. In addition, the research explores the relation between the code of silence and perceptions of disciplinary fairness.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 36 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 17 January 2020

Sanja Kutnjak Ivković, Maria Haberfeld, Wook Kang, Robert Patrick Peacock, Louise E. Porter, Tim Prenzler and Adri Sauerman

The purpose of this paper is to explore the contours of the police code of silence, a critical component of the ability to control misconduct and enhance integrity within…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore the contours of the police code of silence, a critical component of the ability to control misconduct and enhance integrity within any police agency. Unlike the extant research, dominated by single-country studies, this paper provides an in-depth exploration of the code across five countries and tests the relation between the code of science and societal characteristics.

Design/methodology/approach

A police integrity survey was used to measure the contours of the code of silence among police officers in Australia (n=856), Croatia (n=966), South Africa (n=871), South Korea (n=379) and the USA (n=664). The respondents evaluated 11 hypothetical scenarios describing various forms of police misconduct.

Findings

Bivariate analyses reveal considerable divergence in the code of silence across the five countries. Multivariate models of the code of silence show that, next to organizational factors (i.e. the respondents’ assessment of peers’ willingness to report, evaluations of misconduct seriousness and expected discipline) and individual factors (i.e. supervisory status), societal factors (i.e. the Corruption Perceptions Index score and the percent of irreligious citizens) are significant predictors of the respondents’ willingness to report.

Research limitations/implications

While the same questionnaire was used in all five countries, the nature of the data collection differed somewhat across the countries (e.g. online survey vs paper-and-pencil survey), as did the nature of the samples (e.g. representative sample vs convenience sample).

Practical implications

Perceived peer pressure, measured as the perceptions of whether other police officers would adhere to the code of silence, is the key variable explaining the police officers’ expressed willingness to adhere to the code of silence. Changing the police officers’ perceptions of peer culture and potentially changing the peer culture itself should be critical elements in the toolbox of any administrator willing to curtail the code of silence.

Originality/value

Whereas the study of the code of silence has started several decades ago, no prior study has tested the effects of organizational and societal variables on the code of silence in a comparative perspective.

Details

Policing: An International Journal, vol. 43 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 16 May 2016

Sanja Kutnjak Ivković, Robert Peacock and Maria Haberfeld

Following the theoretical model of reporting and disciplinary fairness developed by Kutnjak Ivković and Klockars (1998), the purpose of this paper is to use a survey of US…

Abstract

Purpose

Following the theoretical model of reporting and disciplinary fairness developed by Kutnjak Ivković and Klockars (1998), the purpose of this paper is to use a survey of US police officers to explore empirically the contours of the code of silence and the potential relation between the code and perceptions of disciplinary fairness.

Design/methodology/approach

In 2013-2014, a police integrity survey was used to measure the contours of police integrity among 604 police officers from 11 police agencies located in the Midwest and on the East Coast of the USA. The questionnaire contains descriptions of 11 scenarios describing various forms of police misconduct, followed by seven questions measuring officer views of scenario seriousness, the appropriate and expected discipline, and willingness to report misconduct.

Findings

The results point out that the code of silence varies greatly across the scenarios, both for supervisors and line officers. While the supervisor code and the line officer code differ substantially, they are the most similar for the scenarios evaluated as the most serious. Compared to the respondents who evaluated expected discipline as fair, the respondents who evaluated it as too harsh were more likely to say that they would adhere to the code. On the other hand, compared to the respondents who evaluated discipline as fair, the respondents who evaluate the expected discipline as too lenient were as likely to adhere to the code.

Research limitations/implications

The data were collected online, resulting in a lower response rates those typical of traditional paper surveys.

Practical implications

The results of the research allow police supervisors interested in the controlling the code of silence to assess where the code is the weakest and easiest to break. Furthermore, the findings suggest to the supervisors who want to curtail the code that the strategy of meting out discipline perceived by line officers as too harsh will potentially only strengthen the code.

Originality/value

Whereas the study of the code of silence has started several decades ago, empirical studies exploring the relation between the code of silence and perceptions of disciplinary fairness are rare.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 39 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2013

Sanja Kutnjak Ivkovich and Aleksandr Khechumyan

The purpose of this paper is to study the extent and nature of police integrity in Armenia. It analyses police officer views about misconduct seriousness, appropriate and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to study the extent and nature of police integrity in Armenia. It analyses police officer views about misconduct seriousness, appropriate and expected discipline, and willingness to report misconduct.

Design/methodology/approach

The respondents surveyed in this study are 468 Armenian police officers assigned to work in two large police departments, Yerevan and Lori. The overall response rate is 84 per cent. The respondents evaluated 11 hypothetical scenarios describing cases of police misconduct.

Findings

Although the majority of the respondents recognized and labelled the behaviour described in the scenarios as rule violating, a large proportion, in some cases even above 40 per cent, did not do so. The respondents’ evaluations of misconduct seriousness varied greatly across the scenarios. In only two scenarios, describing the acceptance of a bribe from a speeding motorist and the theft of a watch from a crime scene, the respondents thought that both the appropriate and expected discipline should and would be severe; in all of the other scenarios, the respondents expected and approved of either no discipline at all or quite lenient discipline. The code of silence appears to be strong among our respondents, protecting almost all behaviours described in the questionnaire. Unique to Armenia is the finding that the respondents estimated that they would subscribe to the code of silence to a larger extent than their fellow officers would.

Research limitations/implications

Police officers included in the survey come from two police departments.

Practical implications

Police administrators interested in controlling the code of silence could apply the methodology used in this research to ascertain the extent and nature of the code beforehand. They could use the methodology to assess and compare the police officer perceptions of the discipline the agency is expected to mete out with the discipline meted out in actual cases and, if necessary, work on addressing the discrepancy between the perceptions and reality.

Originality/value

Although Armenia has been one of the former Soviet republics that purged the communist government even before the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the transition toward democracy has been troublesome and riddled with widespread accusations of various types of failures in police integrity. The methodology used in this research enables measurement of the nature and extent of police integrity at the present time and also, subsequently, monitoring and detection of the changes in police integrity, which is particularly relevant for a police agency in transition.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 36 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 1 March 2013

Kim Loyens

The purpose of this paper is to offer and test a theoretical framework that can be used to identify different styles of peer reporting, and explain why police officers and…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to offer and test a theoretical framework that can be used to identify different styles of peer reporting, and explain why police officers and labour inspectors (do not) report peers’ misconduct.

Design/methodology/approach

A conceptual framework is developed that identifies underlying mechanisms of peer reporting. It aims to be an alternative for the blue code of silence literature and the general whistleblowing studies, which have a number of disadvantages. This newly developed framework is then tested in a qualitative research project in the police and the labour inspection in a West‐European country.

Findings

This paper concludes that, in the four agencies, the individualistic type of keeping silent is often preferred when confronted with colleagues’ misbehaviour, but in exceptional situations respondents decide to report colleagues’ misbehaviour to their boss in a fatalistic or individualistic way. This can probably be explained by the low group (and, thus, fatalistic or individualistic) working context. As for the police, the respondents are “case officers” who are solely responsible for the success of their investigations. As for the labour inspection, the respondents enjoy wide discretion and autonomy in their investigations. In the labour inspections a hierarchical silence code can be found among inspectors with low seniority.

Research limitations/implications

This qualitative study is an exploratory study, aimed at theory‐building by developing hypotheses which need to be tested in future research. It is not aimed at making generalisations to other police agencies or labour inspections.

Practical implications

Grid group cultural theory could inspire practitioners who want to implement whistleblowing policies by recommending that whistleblowing measures, to be effective, should be adapted to organisational characteristics and the prevalent whistleblowing behaviour.

Originality/value

This paper offers a new theoretical framework to analyse and explain peer reporting in the police and other professional groups; not only enriching the police culture literature, but also enabling comparative research.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 36 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 2 March 2012

Sanja Kutnjak Ivković and Wook Kang

The purpose of this study is to examine the contours of police integrity among Korean police officers a decade after police reform was started.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to examine the contours of police integrity among Korean police officers a decade after police reform was started.

Design/methodology/approach

The data were collected in 2009 at the Korean National Police University (KNPU) and the Police Comprehensive Academy (PCA). The questionnaires distributed to police officers contained 14 vignettes describing various forms of police misconduct. The sample consists of 329 police officers, mostly non‐supervisors, attending courses at the KNPU and PCA.

Findings

Results indicate that the contours of police integrity vary across different forms of misconduct. Regardless of whether the respondents' views were measured through questions about misconduct seriousness, appropriate discipline, willingness to report, or knowledge about official rules, the findings suggest that Korean police officers perceived corruption as a serious form of police misconduct, while they considered the use of excessive force to be substantially less serious. In addition, a strong code of silence among the police was detected.

Research limitations/implications

The study examines the contours of police integrity among a convenience sample of police officers from South Korea.

Practical implications

The Korean police administrators interested in controlling police misconduct could utilize this methodology to explore the contours of the code of silence among the Korean police. The results of the study indicate that substantial focus should be put on changing police officer views about the use of excessive force and narrowing the code of silence in general.

Social implications

The results show that the contours of police integrity among South Korean police officers clearly reflect the attitudes and views of the society at large toward corruption and use of excessive force. The lenient attitudes that South Korean police officers have expressed regarding the use of excessive force reflect both the historical attitudes and the lack of clarity of official rules. The strong code of silence is related to the insufficient protection for whistleblowers and the adherence to Confucianism among Korean citizens.

Originality/value

Prior research predominantly measured police integrity as the opposite of police corruption in Western democracies and East European countries in transition. This research expands this by focusing on different forms of police misconduct. In addition, it explores integrity in an Asian democracy with the police agency undergoing extensive reform.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 35 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 16 May 2016

Branko Lobnikar, Kaja Prislan, Barbara Čuvan and Gorazd Meško

For some time now, research conducted in the field of human behavior and criminology has pertained to the contemporary question as to whether there are any relevant…

Abstract

Purpose

For some time now, research conducted in the field of human behavior and criminology has pertained to the contemporary question as to whether there are any relevant differences between the genders regarding their integrity and opinions held and, if so, which of these lead to different behaviors. The purpose of this paper is to determine whether there are any gender differences in willingness to report police misconduct and if so, what is the nature of these differences.

Design/methodology/approach

In spring 2011, the study was conducted on a representative sample of 408 frontline Slovenian police officers (87.3 percent were male and 12.7 percent were female). The assessment of the code of silence was conducted using the method developed by Klockars and Kutnjak Ivković (2004), and consisted of 14 hypothetical scenarios describing a range of various forms of police misconduct, from those that merely give the appearance of a conflict of interest, to incidents of bribery and theft. One of the questions explored in relation to the police code of silence was the police officer’s willingness to report misconduct.

Findings

Authors discovered significant differences in 11 of the 14 analyzed cases on the willingness to report police misconduct. Interestingly, female police officers were less willing than their male colleagues to report different forms of police misconduct. Female police officers are less willing to report police corruption in seven cases e.g. shooting runaway suspect, supervisor abusing his/her power, excessive force – punching a suspect, falsification of evidence, supervisor not prevent beating a suspect, police officer take bribes, and doing nothing when juveniles paint graffiti. The results were further analyzed from the group dynamic in Slovenian police point of view. The survey findings could be useful for police chiefs, leaders, and managers who want to achieve the main objective of every modern police organization: to prevent corruption and increase social responsibility.

Originality/value

The study analyzes, comprehensively and originally, whether the female police officers differ from their male colleagues in the level of police integrity and willingness to report the cases of police corruption and/or other forms of police misbehavior.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 39 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 30 April 2018

Guangzhen Wu, David A. Makin, Yongtao Li, Francis D. Boateng and Gassan Abess

The purpose of this paper is to examine the contours of police integrity among Chinese police officers. Specifically, this study explores how Chinese police evaluate…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the contours of police integrity among Chinese police officers. Specifically, this study explores how Chinese police evaluate integrity based on official policy governing interactions, discipline governing infractions, views of seriousness, and willingness to inform when others engage in misconduct.

Design/methodology/approach

In total, 353 police officers were surveyed representing those attending in-service training program at a Chinese police university in May 2015. Questionnaires containing 11 scenarios describing police misbehaviors were distributed to officers during classes.

Findings

There was a strong correlation between officers’ perceptions of rule-violation, misconduct seriousness, discipline, and willingness to report. Additionally, preliminary results suggest there exists a code of silence among Chinese officers, and that Chinese officers hold a lenient attitude toward the use of excessive force.

Research limitations/implications

This study utilizes a convenient sample, which restricts the generalizability of the results.

Practical implications

The results indicate the existence of code of silence among Chinese officers and their lenient attitude toward the use of excessive force.

Originality/value

Although there has been a growing body of research examining police integrity in both western democracies and transitional societies, China as the largest developing nation in the world and with a unique police system (falls somewhere between the centralized model and the integrated model) is understudied. This study addresses this gap in previous literature by exploring the contours of police integrity among Chinese police officers.

Details

Policing: An International Journal, vol. 41 no. 5
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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Article
Publication date: 16 May 2016

Louise E Porter and Tim Prenzler

The purpose of this paper is to explore Australian police officers’ perceptions of unethical conduct scenarios with the aim of understanding unwillingness to report…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore Australian police officers’ perceptions of unethical conduct scenarios with the aim of understanding unwillingness to report infractions.

Design/methodology/approach

The responses of 845 officers were compared across 11 scenarios to explore variation in the extent to which they understood the behaviour to violate policy and their hypothetical willingness, or unwillingness, to report the behaviour. Particularly, it was hypothesised that non-reporters may justify their inaction based on the misperception that other officers hold even less ethical beliefs.

Findings

Five scenarios emerged as least likely to be reported, with a substantial minority of officers stating their decision was despite their understanding that the behaviour constituted a policy violation. Contrary to predictions, these “non-reporters” were aware they were less likely to report than their colleagues, but believed they held the same views as their colleagues in terms of the seriousness of scenarios. Comparisons between non-reporters and other survey participants, however, found this belief to be false, with non-reporters viewing the scenarios as significantly less serious. A perceived self-other difference, along with a belief that others will report were shown to reduce the likelihood of not reporting.

Practical implications

The results are discussed in terms of increasing willingness to report misconduct through organisational efforts to communicate values and support officers to make ethical decisions.

Originality/value

The paper contributes to understanding the “code of silence” in perpetuating police misconduct and how it may be reduced.

Details

Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, vol. 39 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1363-951X

Keywords

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