Chapter 3: Ethical Dilemmas and the Process of Effective Resolution

3.2 Values

Values are what guide an agency and its employees. Law enforcement agencies will have differing values depending on their function. An agency that investigates wildlife infractions may possess different values from correctional services.

Let’s take a look at various law enforcement agencies and the values they identify as being important on their websites.

Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)

  • Integrity
    • We exercise our authority in an honest, open and fair manner.
    • We accept responsibility for our actions in order to build and maintain a reputation of trustworthiness and accountability.
  • Respect
    • We serve the public interest through non-partisan support of our Minister.
    • We show the utmost appreciation for the dignity, diversity and worth of all people and uphold the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
    • We develop and sustain mutual trust with our colleagues.
  • Professionalism
    • We employ public resources wisely and properly.
    • We provide efficient, competent and excellent service.
    • We set high standards of achievement and accountability both individually and collectively.

BC Corrections[1]

  • Integrity
    • Taking responsibility for our actions
    • Understanding how our actions can affect others
  • Courage
    • Doing what’s right and staying positive, not popular
    • Trying something new, risking failure
    • Leading by example
  • Teamwork
    • Coming together in times of crisis
    • Mentoring
    • Working with people in other departments for a common purpose
  • Passion
    • Sharing creative solutions with the leadership team
    • Demonstrating pride in what we do
    • Attempting to perform at a level we would expect of others
  • Service
    • Maintaining respectful relationships
    • Working effectively with our justice partners
    • Doing our job really well
  • Curiosity
    • Listening to new ideas
    • Challenging the way we do business and being willing to try new ideas
    • Seeking a better way to achieve our goals 
  • Accountability
    • Being responsible for any action we take, and believing in ourselves
    • Taking ownership for our actions
    • Providing effective leadership and direction to our teams

Vancouver Police Department

The Vancouver Police Department has four core values, which they refer to as IPAR:

  • Integrity
  • Professionalism
  • Accountability
  • Respect 

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) [2]

Recognizing the dedication of all employees, we will create and maintain an environment of individual safety, well-being and development. We are guided by:

  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Professionalism
  • Compassion
  • Respect
  • Accountability

When applying for a job with any law enforcement agency, it is important that the applicant understands the core values of that agency. The Vancouver Police website succinctly addresses the importance of knowing the agency’s stated core values and demonstrating a life lived where these values have been incorporated in day-to-day living:

These core values can’t be taught in any school, and they are non-negotiable for our applicants. Without these, it would be impossible to have a successful career with the VPD.

Values are not solely limited to what the agency believes are core values, but also include one’s personal and outside values. (Caldero and Crank, 2004). For example, applicants to the Vancouver Police Department should be aware of the agency’s values and demonstrate how they have incorporated these values into their everyday personal and professional life.

We are inclined to have similar values that are shared among other members of the agency. Values are important for law enforcement officers and should be shared and agreed upon by all members. These imparted values are concentrated throughout the agency and become part of the agency’s culture. Working with various constituents and members of other agencies also requires officers to consider their values. The Canadian Border Services Agency articulates the full integration of values from various sectors of society in its values statement, which reads:

Values are a compass that guides us in everything we do; they represent what we believe and care about. Values cannot be considered in isolation from each other as they often overlap. We are expected to integrate public sector and CBSA values into our decisions, actions, policies, processes, systems, and how we deal with others. Similarly, we can expect to be treated in accordance with these values by our colleagues and management.

Let’s review a situation of differing values in a law enforcement case. As illustrated in the table below, in the case of an active shooter at a theatre, individuals involved in the shooting will have differing values.

Role at the Theatre Values
Single person Hope, stamina, sobriety
Mother with child Caring, concern, fortitude
Officer responding Self-discipline, fortitude, courage
Follow-up detectives Accountability, empathy, consideration

Each person will have his or her own interests and goals, which reflect the values that are important to them at the time. The mother with her child is primarily concerned with the safety of her child, and must show caring to her child and the fortitude to protect her child in the face of danger. Conversely, the follow-up detectives sent to investigate the shooting have goals that include conducting a thorough investigation. They may share some of the values that the mother possesses, but for the investigation, they will likely possess values of accountability to the mother and other victims, as well as have empathy for all the victims’ families. When the situation changes, so too do the values that we possess.

The Ethics Resource Center (2009), located in Arlington, Virginia, identifies the following values as typical values that appear throughout codes of ethics. These are important for us to remember when faced with difficult ethical decisions where we are required to be aware of all the values of each of the vested stakeholders. Some ethical values include:[3]

Acceptance Favorable reception or belief in something
Accomplishment Doing or finishing something successfully
Accountability Obligation or willingness to accept responsibility
Adaptability The ability to modify behavior to fit changing situations
Adventurousness Inclination to undertake new and daring enterprises
Allegiance Loyalty or the obligation of loyalty
Altruism Unselfish concern for the welfare of others
Ambition An eager or strong desire to achieve something
Appreciation Recognizing the quality, value or significance of people and things
Aspiration A strong or persistent desire for high achievement
Assiduousness Unceasing; persistent; diligent
Authenticity The quality or condition of being trustworthy or genuine
Autonomy The condition or quality of being independent
Benevolence An inclination to perform kind, charitable acts
Camaraderie Goodwill and lighthearted rapport between or among friends
Caring Feeling and exhibiting concern and empathy for others
Changeability The ability to modify or adapt to differing circumstances
Charity Generosity toward others or toward humanity
Chastity The condition of being of virtuous character
Cheerfulness The quality of being cheerful and dispelling gloom
Citizenship Exercising the duties, rights, and privileges of being a citizen
Clear thinking Acting intelligently without mental confusion
Collaboration To work cooperatively especially in a joint intellectual effort
Commitment Being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another person or persons
Community  Sharing, participation, and fellowship with others
Compassion Deep awareness of the suffering of others coupled with the wish to relieve it
Competence The state or quality of being adequately or well qualified
Competitive To strive to do something better than someone else
Composure Maintaining a tranquil or calm state of mind
Concern Regard for or interest in someone or something
Conscientiousness The trait of being painstaking and careful
Consideration Process of employing continuous, careful thought and examination
Consistency Reliability or uniformity of successive results or events
Constancy Steadfastness in purpose
Cooperation The willing association and interaction of a group of people to accomplish a goal
Courage The state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with confidence and resolution
Courtesy Civility; consideration for others
Credibility The quality or power to elicit belief
Decency Conformity to prevailing standards of propriety or modesty
Dedication Selfless devotion of energy or time
Democracy The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community
Dependability The trait of being reliable
Determination Firmness of will, strength, purpose of character
Diversity A point of respect in which things differ; variety
Easygoing Relaxed or informal in attitude or standards
Education Obtaining or developing knowledge or skill through a learning process
Efficiency The quality of producing an effect or result with a reasonable degree of effort to energy expended
Empathy Identification with and understanding of another’s situation, feelings, and motives.
Encouragement The act of incitement to action or to practice
Equality The right of different groups of people to receive the same treatment
Equity The state, quality, or ideal of being just, impartial, and fair
Ethics The way people behave based on how their beliefs about what is right and wrong influence behavior
Excellence State of possessing good qualities in an eminent degree
Fairness Consistent with rules, logic, or ethics
Faith Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing
Faithfulness Adhering firmly and devotedly to someone or something that elicits or demands one’s fidelity
Fidelity Faithfulness; loyalty or devotion
Flexibility Responsive to change
Forgiveness The willingness to stop blaming or being angry with someone
Fortitude The strength or firmness of mind that enables a person to face danger, pain or despondency with stoic resolve
Friendship A relationship between people based on mutual esteem and goodwill
Generosity Liberality in giving or willingness to give
Gentleness The quality of being mild and docile
Genuine Not spurious or counterfeit
Giving Voluntarily transferring knowledge or property without receiving value in return
Goodness Morally right, or admirable because of kind, thoughtful, or honest behavior
Goodwill A friendly attitude in which you wish that good things happen to people
Gratitude A feeling of thankfulness and appreciation
Hardworking  Industrious and tireless
Helpfulness The property of providing useful assistance or friendliness evidence by a kindly and helpful disposition
Honesty Fairness and straightforwardness of conduct
Honor Principled uprightness of character; personal integrity
Hope The feeling that something desired can be had or will happen
Humility  Feeling that you have no special importance that makes you better than others
Industriousness The characteristic of regularly working hard
Ingenuity Inventive skill or imagination
Initiative Ability to begin or to follow through energetically with a plan or task
Integrity Strict adherence to moral values and principles
Joy Intense or exultant happiness
Justice Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude
Kindness The quality or state of being beneficent
Law-abiding Abiding by the encoded rules of society
Liberty The right and power to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing.
Love A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person or idea
Loyalty A feeling or attitude of devotion, attachment and affection.
Mercy Forgiveness shown toward someone whom you have the power to punish
Moderation Having neither too little or too much of anything
Morals Individual beliefs about what is right and wrong
Obedience Compliance with that which is required; subjection to rightful restraint or control
Opportunity Favorable or advantageous circumstance or combination of circumstances
Optimism A bright, hopeful view and expectation of the best possible outcome
Patience The ability to accept delay, suffering, or annoyance without complaint or anger
Peace Freedom from war or violence
Perseverance Steady persistence in adhering to a course of action, a belief, or a purpose
Promise-keeping Keeping your word that that you will certainly do something
Prudence Doing something right because it is the right thing to do
Punctuality Adherence to the exact time of a commitment or event
Purity Moral goodness
Reason The ability to think and make good judgments
Recognition An acceptance as true or valid
Reconciliation Enabling two people or groups [to] adjust the way they think about divergent ideas or positions so they can accept both
Reliability Consistent performance upon which you can depend or trust
Repentance Remorse or contrition for past conduct
Resilience The ability to rebound quickly from misfortune or change
Resourcefulness The ability to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations
Respect Polite attitude shown toward someone or something that you consider important
Responsibility That for which someone is responsible or answerable
Righteousness The state of being morally upright; without guilt or sin
Sacrifice To give up something for something else considered more important
Self-control Control of personal emotions, desires, or actions by one’s own will
Self-discipline Making yourself do things when you should, even if you do not want to do them
Sensitivity Awareness of the needs and emotions of others
Serenity Calmness of mind and evenness of temper
Sharing To allow others to participate in, use, enjoy, or experience jointly or in turns
Sincerity Genuineness, honesty, and freedom from duplicity
Sobriety Habitual freedom from inordinate passion or overheated imagination; calmness; coolness; seriousness
Stamina The physical or mental strength to do something for a long time
Stewardship The careful conducting, supervising, or managing of something
Supportive Furnishing support or assistance
Thoughtfulness The tendency to anticipate needs or wishes
Tolerance Recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others
Tranquility A state of calm and peacefulness
Trustworthiness The trait of deserving confidence
Understanding Knowing how something works or a positive, truthful relationship between people
Values Core beliefs that guide and motivate attitudes and actions
Virtue Doing something right because it is the good thing to do
Wisdom The ability to make good judgments based on what you have learned from your experience
Work Perform as intended or desired


  1. © Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of the Province of British Columbia.
  2. This reproduction is a copy of an official work that is published by the Government of Canada and has not been produced in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of, the Government of Canada. From: Mission, Vision and Values
  3. Copied in whole from the Ethics Resource Center.


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Ethics in Law Enforcement Copyright © 2015 by Steve McCartney and Rick Parent is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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