26 Jul 2022


Types of Discipline for Misconduct of Police Officers

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Academic level: University

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The issue of police misconduct is now a subject of concern to many people within the administration of law enforcement agencies. Police officers are now fond of engaging in acts that clearly contravene their code of conduct. Therefore, disciplinary measures for the officers have become a point of focus as the effective way of bring down cases of misconduct within the police service. However, the major issue is about the effective types of discipline for misconduct of the police officers, which can be implemented. The purpose of this paper is to highlight some important forms of discipline for the police officers who engage in misconduct. 

The administrative theory explained by Fayol can help in putting the types of discipline for police misconduct into theoretical perspective. The administrative theory establishes the relational way of designing an organization as a whole (Wren, Bedeian & Breeze, 2002). Fayol gave a number of important principles that have to act as the blue-print of organizational functions. Among the major principles explained by Fayol, discipline is an important aspect. According to Fayol, discipline has to be fostered in organizations. Without discipline, organizations cannot function properly. It is vital to observe that Fayol was clear when he also noted the presence of diverse ways of implementing discipline. He stated that discipline can be carried out using various methods. These different methods of enforcing discipline in an organization form the types of the disciplinary actions for the misconduct of police officers. Discipline, as described by Fayol, refers to obeying laws, procedures, policies and orders calling for accomplishment of the organizational mission (Swanson, Territo & Taylor, 2016). 

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It is vital to note that, in practice, the police officers work based on orders from their superiors. Discipline involves these officers respecting the orders given to them by their commanders and acting accordingly. The police service is, thus, the most disciplined institution in a country. However, cases where police officers ignore the commands given to them by their commanders, amount to indiscipline, which is dangerous for the country since it puts security into risk. These officers also work with weapons of mass destruction under their control. Their behavior is, thus, enshrined in the code of ethics and conduct provided to them owing to the deadly equipment they use while on work. The decision to shoot, for instance, has to be informed by some reasons, which clearly written in the rules and regulations that guide the functioning of these officers. 

It is imperative that the police administration comes up with the disciplinary measures to ensure officers to engage in misconduct are corrected. Fayol, in the administrative theory, explains that there are various ways of doing this hence the existence of the different types of discipline for the misconduct of police officers. 

Literature review 

The disciplinary system of any police department has to foster good conduct among the officers. Moreover, it is important for all the processes of investigating and disciplining the misconduct of police officers must be aligned to the objective of fostering good manners among them. This objective has to also underpin all the types of police discipline when the officers are found culpable for misconduct. 

There have been complaints of rampant acts of misconduct among the police service. The complaints have also been expressed regarding the way the administration in charge with the important role of disciplining the officers do discharge this duty. People have also mulled over the effective types of disciplinary actions that should be taken for the misconduct of the officers. Really, the public is ever concerned about the existing disciplinary system for the misconduct of police officers. Additionally, the uncertainty that clouds the whole disciplinary process for the officers who engage in misconduct is also a matter of concern for many people (Klockars, Ivkovic & Haberfeld, 2003). This uncertainty is ever enhanced by the long time taken to discipline the officers. 

The term discipline means correcting, teaching and growing the right behavior and actions in a person. It is also vital to clearly state that discipline also entails the aspect of punishing those engage in an act of misconduct. Discipline can also be explained as the conduct of things in an orderly manner by the members of a given organization. These members of the organization must be adhering to specified necessary regulations and code of conduct with the main purpose of enhancing cooperative and harmonious working towards achieving the goals of the organization. Discipline, thus, entails the aspect of self-control. In the context of the police officers, discipline involves them sticking to the specified necessary code of ethics and conduct while carrying out their duties. The police officers are bound by a set of regulations, which guide every action they are supposed to take. Breaching such regulations is an act of indiscipline on the part of the police officers. 

The types of discipline for police misconduct must be underpinned by the standard objectives of any organizational disciplinary model. These objectives include obtaining acceptance of the set rules and regulations in organizations like the police service. When these rules and regulations are adhered to by the police officers, then the objective of delivering order and peace is achieved. However, this goal cannot be achieved if there is breach of the set rules and regulations by the officers. The second aspect that has to be captured by any type of discipline for the misconduct of officers is the element of certainty. The types of discipline applied have to be specific in terms of time of investigations and duration for the implementation of the disciplinary action. Since disciplining is about providing correction, types of disciplinary models must be able to make the officers become flexible enough to change their conduct. The type of discipline for an officer must be able to provide the right direction to that offender. It is must be able to call them to order to show them their responsibilities as police officers. 

Types of police discipline 


There are various forms of discipline that can be used in the case of police misconduct. The first type of discipline is the self-controlled one. The police officer brings his or her action in harmony with the set code of ethics and conduct in the service. The police officer corrects his or her actions based on the set regulations and rules within the police service department. Therefore, code of conduct is key tool in enabling self-controlled discipline. It is vital to note that, in this type of discipline, it is the same officer who engages in an act of misconduct that realizes the mistakes and corrects as provided by the code of conduct and existent rules. 

Enforced discipline/discipline matrix 

The second type of discipline is the enforced one. In this case, the police service administration enforces the compliance of given code of conduct and rules by the officers. The officers are compelled to act ethically and in accordance with the set rules and regulations (Weitzer, 2002). In the enforced discipline, various tools are used to compel the police officers to act in accordance with the code of conduct put in place. The first tool, which is applied is the use of threats such sacking. When the police officer is threatened by the loss of job, he or she is forced to comply with the set code of conduct. Additionally, threat of demotion is another effective tactic used to ensure that the officers do not engage in acts of misconduct. 


The other type of discipline for misconduct of police officers is punishment. Police officers who engage in misconduct must be punished so that they do not repeat such actions in the future. Punishment is implemented using diverse techniques. Financial penalties can be used as punishment for the officers who engage in misconduct. Another technique used in punishing police officers is suspension from work. The suspension includes forfeiting all the benefits that would accrue to an officer if he or she were on duty. Punishment may involve permanent expulsion from work for the office involved in misconduct. Decisions on the right kind of punishment to be implemented are made based on the magnitude and gravity of the misconduct committed. 

Judicial indictment 

The police officers who act wrongly could be taken before a court of law and indicted for their acts of misconduct. It is vital to note that this kind of disciplinary process involves hugely grave acts of misconduct. The police service administration has the obligation of taking the misbehaving officers to court for prosecution when it deems it prudent to take such step. When the indicted officer is sufficiently proved culpable, he or she is sentenced to a specified term in prison or fined an amount of money. 

Education-based discipline 

There is the education-based type of discipline for police misconduct. Provision of education and training to the officers who act wrongly is an effective way of disciplining them. The traditional forms of discipline such as punishment cannot address the causes of the misconduct of an officer. Therefore, the traditional forms of disciplining wrong officers may fail to prevent future repetition of the same mistakes by the offenders. It is also vital to observe that most of the traditional kinds of disciple hurt the wrong officers hence arouse resentment that has the ability of staying on long even beyond of the time of the incident (Stephens, 2011). The advantage of the education-based type of discipline is that it offers an effective disciplinary alternative for specific offenses by teaching the offenders about ways of making the right decisions in the future. The officers are taught how to void engaging in the same misconduct in the future. This approach is, thus, the most effective in terms of preventing a repeat of same mistakes in future. 

This particular type of discipline goes together with the guiding and counseling programs set up in the police department. Guiding and counseling offers a platform where the erring officers are taken through programs where their wrong actions are explained to them clearly and recommendations for proper behavior and decision-making presented to them. The guiding and counseling programs seek to have the wrong officers accept to acknowledge their misconduct and develop the sense of avoiding misbehavior. It is an important program for the people within the police service. 


Finally, rewards can be another effective type of discipline for the misconduct of police officers. Rewards can be used by denying the officers who behave wrongly while the one who act well are awarded. The one who are not rewarded because of their wrong actions are forced to behave well in future so that they do not miss out on the awards. Recognizing the officers who adhere to the code of conduct and ignoring others helps in enhancing discipline within the police service. Some of the rewards include promotions, awards like trophies and improved remuneration. 


Fayol recognized discipline as an important principle of administration, which enables an organization run smoothly. Furthermore, it has been established in this paper that Fayol acknowledged the presence of different methods of discipline. Therefore, there are various types of discipline for the misconduct of police officers. The disciplinary procedures for the police officers involved in misconduct have been a source of frustrations and concern on the part of the public. The process of disciplining officers is often marked with protracted procedures, which consume a lot of time. Moreover, these procedures are normally shrouded in a lot of uncertainty making them opaque to the dissatisfaction and disappointment of interested entities like the public. Many years are taken to carry out the investigations. Moreover, a lot of time is consumed in deciding the necessary disciplinary action for the implicated officers. Frustration and concern of the public is even large with the high frequency at which the disciplinary decisions are reversed by the arbitrators, tribunals or the judiciary. 

The shortcomings of the traditional disciplinary approaches for police misconduct have to be acknowledged by the department’s management. Recognizing the weakness of the existing traditional types of police disciplinary actions is essential if alternative forms have to be identified. There are various types of modern disciplinary actions that can be implemented by the police administration. These alternative types of discipline are relatively new, but tested in various countries and proven to be effective. They include the education-based discipline. The education-based disciplinary approach involves addressing the cause of misconduct among the police officers. Another new and effective type is the discipline matrix one. In this case, the employs are made to know in advance the disciplinary actions that they may face if involved in acts of misconduct. It, therefore, helps in threatening them from engaging in activities that go against the code of ethics and conduct. 


Klockars, C. B., Ivkovic, S. K., & Haberfeld, M. R. (2003).  The contours of police integrity .   Washington, D.C. : Sage Publications. 

Stephens, D. W. (2011).  Police discipline: A case for change . Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management. 

Swanson, C. R., Territo, L., & Taylor, R. W. (2016).  Police administration: Structures, processes, and behavior . Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 

Weitzer, R. (2002). Incidents of police misconduct and public opinion.  Journal of criminal justice 30 (5), 397-408. 

Wren, D. A., Bedeian, A. G., & Breeze, J. D. (2002). The foundations of Henri Fayol’s administrative theory.  Management Decision 40 (9), 906-918. 

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