Are UK universities more ethical than police organisations?

Authors: Heslop, R.

Start date: 19 June 2019

University academics have long been at the forefront of important work researching and critiquing some of the more unethical dimensions of policing. However, in recent years an increasing number of UK academics, universities and students have faced scrutiny and censure, in relation to a range of unethical behaviours and practices. This paper draws upon relevant literature to examine if UK universities are more ethical than the police. The comparison is justified by reference to a number of recent concerns and developments in higher education and policing in the UK and these will be explored. Of particular significance to this paper has been the development by the College of Policing of the Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF), which provides universities with a prominent role in police education. The PEQF has been developed to professionalise the police and to reform problematic aspects of police occupational culture and improve ethical standards. Transferring the site of education from a police academy to a university campus is regarded as a way to weaken police culture socialisation processes. However, this paper contends that university campuses are also problematic sites, where, for example: racism, sexual misconduct, bullying and other unethical practices occur. The paper contributes to a body of literature which cautions against assumptions that involving universities in police education will lead to improvements in the practices of the public police.

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