23 February 2012
The results of surveying 10,000 Canadian police officers to determine their views of professionalism standards across 31 different forces were published last week. In common with satisfaction surveys done within New Zealand Police, a majority of officers are critical of the standards of their leaders. Communication problems are seen as the cause of this distrust. There were 52 recommendations, “.. the most salient general recommendation is to improve support for and communication with the front line” …and for “…a proactive approach to setting, communicating and embedding ethical standards…”
The main goal of the study was to examine the factors affecting Police integrity. Participants were asked to rate the integrity of their superiors and colleagues. They were asked how they would respond to ethical challenges – and how other officers were likely to respond. The majority believed both superiors (64%) and colleagues (61%) acted with high integrity. This is an interesting contrast with the NZ State Services Integrity and Conduct Survey in 2010 , where respondents showed lower levels of trust in their superiors to do the right thing than they did in their colleagues. Of Canadian police officers 17% were very concerned about the standards of integrity of senior officers and 10% were similarly concerned about the behaviour of colleagues.
Canadian Police rated ethical challenges in the following order of seriousness:
  • providing confidential information to a friend
  • falsifying expenses
  • showing leniency to a colleague involved in a domestic assault
  • being abrupt and rude to the public
  • mocking an assignment
Respondents indicated that their colleagues were less likely to report misconduct than they were, themselves (53% cf 66%).
The report observed … “that police officers do not believe that the organisation or its senior managers take an interest in their concerns.” This echoes a comment in the 2010 NZ Police survey about the need to listen to staff as “A very large number of employees within NZ Police do not feel the organisation is interested in the view or opinions of its staff members.” Some aspects rated better in a 2011 survey, but a similar recommendation was made to NZ Police to improve bottom up communication.
In Canada, there is a concern about procedural fairness. “Police agencies need to communicate their concern for employees’ well-being, solicit employees’ input on decisions affecting them and provide support for employees’ goals.”
Despite some dissatisfaction among police officers, a noteworthy characteristic of the NZ Police is that among institutions rated by UMR in its Mood of the Nation surveys, Police consistently rate among the leaders. In the most recent survey of public confidence, NZ Police at 72% compared favourably with GPs (67%), the Military in third place (61%) and with the Public Service trailing much further back with 34% of the public indicating that they had a great deal or a lot of confidence.
The situation is similar in Canada. In a 2011 survey indicated that the justice sector engenders the highest levels of public trust in government, with the RCMP rated at 83%.