Whistleblowing and Moral Dilemmas in Policing: An Analysis of Police Culture and the 'Blue Code of Silence'
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This thesis explores police officers’ moral experience with the ‘blue code of silence’ and whistleblowing relating to corruption, misconduct and abuses of civilians. The interview responses of five (5) Canadian police officers is presented and examined using a meta-analytical approach of symbolic interactionism and critical discourse analysis to explain the perspectives, experiences and decisions of the officers interviewed. The thesis seeks to understand the tension between proactive policing which contributes to abuses, misconduct and moral conflicts with respect to the right of the civilians to effect democratic control of police. The thesis examines the narratives of interviewees sustained by the assumptions that: a) the state monopolizes the legitimate use of force; b) bureaucracies thrive on secrecy, the protection of their members and the exclusion of ‘outsiders’; and c) discretionary authority and power tends to corrupt. Sustained by the assertion that all organizations are hierarchical, the thesis draws on Howard Becker (1967), Alvin Gouldner (1968) and Alexander Liazos (1972) to critically assess how the administrative, disciplinary and policy-makers (the “top dogs”) reflect on factors involved in abuse, misconduct, the ‘blue code of silence’ and whistleblowing. The major findings from the interviews with current and former police officers range from tactics of dissociation and denial, ‘neutralization’ techniques, rejection of policing, moral objection to covert and overt abuses and corruption in policing and enforcement of minor drug laws. Of requests for interviews with nine (9) “top dogs” (political, administrative and investigative bodies) that set policy and hold police organizations accountable, only Mr. Gerry McNeilly, director of the Office of the Independent Police Review Board (OIPRD), agreed to be interviewed. In general, “top dogs” deflected, avoided scrutiny and visibility or were contradictory and evasive about the realities of the ‘blue code of silence’. This thesis aspires to increase public understanding of policing and to facilitate strengthening accountability and democratic restraints on the institution of policing.