Conflict of interest and the private lives of police officers: friendships, civic and political activities

Cindy Davids

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5 Citations (Scopus)
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Dealing with breaches of police ethics that are manifested in the everyday practises of policing is recognised to be a crucial element in preventing upstream corruption. This article considers how a range of identifiable aspects of the private live of police officers and their off-duty conduct may have an impact on the performance of official duties. The issues encompass matters relating to inappropriate relationships with criminals, suspects, informers, and persons or businesses of ill repute, the use of the services of a range of regulated industries, such as hotels and brothels, and social use of recreational drugs. Whilst many of these issues seem relatively easy to identify, self-recognition of the problem s on the part of police officers and dealing with them on the part of police management is often more difficult. Central to the problem identified here are the conflicts of interest that are inherent in the divergence between a police officer’s public duties and their private friendships and involvements. The capacity of private interests to encumber the performance of official duties in a way that leads to the neglect of those duties is at the core of the problem of conflict of interest. The article examines how private involvements in civic, social, and other organised activities, including sporting and social clubs, sports teams, and schools councils can pose conflict of interest problems. More mundane aspects of the private lives of police officers, such as their relationships with friends and neighbours, are also considered. Although a general principle may be argued that as private citizens, police officers should be permitted to engage freely in personal associations and relationships, the article demonstrates how this principle must be qualified in certain circumstances. In addition to regulatory restrictions, it is argued that an enhanced understanding of the problems of conflict of interest is needed on the part of individual police officers and police managers. Recognising various shades of grey in professional integrity and operational decision-making, and developing an active sense of personal and collective responsibility in complex ethical situations is a necessary precondition to effectively dealing with these problems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-35
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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