Police officers frequently face ethical challenges

Police officers from across South Mississippi are learning about ethics during a special workshop in Biloxi.
Police officers from across South Mississippi are learning about ethics during a special workshop in Biloxi.

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Police officers are supposed to "protect and serve."  But perhaps the greater challenge, is doing so with dignity. A law enforcement workshop in Biloxi is equipping officers to better meet that challenge.

More than 50 officers are attending a "law enforcement ethics" class in Biloxi.

Whether it's their conduct during a traffic stop or when to use deadly force, officers often deal with moral or ethical decision making.

"We have to make split second decisions that could be life or death," said instructor Nick Valltos, as he taught a room full of law enforcers at the Donal Snyder Community Center.

That's one major difference between police officers and most other occupations.  Additionally, the conduct of police officers is often very open and subject to public scrutiny.

"Police officers are a symbol of trust in the community. And people have to have trust in their police officers. And part of that trust is treating the public equitably. And when I mean equitably, I mean with respect," said Valltos.

These officers recognize that their decision-making and behavior is held to a higher standard than other professions.

And the reality is, one bad cop can ruin the reputation for all.

"Our officers need to understand that the things they do affect not just them, every other officer in the world just about. Because we're all lumped into a group. And you're held at a higher standard, and you should be. And you need to uphold that standard," said Biloxi officer Bruce Johnson.

This workshop is a reminder of that higher standard and a review of things like "ethical standards" that must start with the leadership.

"I think ethics, we train on so many issues and ethics is one that seems to be left out a lot of times. And it doesn't hurt, we have good, ethical cops and it doesn't hurt to reiterate some things and make sure they're staying on the right track," said Chief John Miller of Biloxi.

The ethics course is designed to help keep them on that "right track" and remind officers about their professional oath and duty.

"We're the good guys. We're the ones that do things right.  We're the ones with the public's trust. We're ensured with the public's safety," said instructor Valltos.

Police officers say one thing they must battle is the public perception of their profession; a perception often fueled by police dramas on TV.

Officers say while such dramatizations may be good entertainment, they often present a very distorted view of real life law enforcement.

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