Exploring the viability of an attitudes toward ethical behavior scale in understanding police integrity outcomes

Matthew J. Hickman, Zachary A. Powell, Alex R. Piquero, Jack Greene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Relying on a moral development theoretical framework, the purpose of this paper is to argue that the perceived seriousness of a particular behavior is a reflection of one’s broader attitudes toward ethical behaviors. Attitudes toward ethical behavior should provide both an elaborated explanation for the relationship between the perceived seriousness of a behavior and the likelihood of reporting a fellow officer for that behavior, as well as an alternative approach to the measurement and assessment of police integrity outcomes. Design/methodology/approach – Using data from a sample of 499 Philadelphia police officers, the current study uses a modified fifteen item ethics scale first developed by Hyams (1990) and used by others, in order to examine its relation to integrity outcomes. The paper provides a full descriptive and measurement analysis of the scale and then explores its utility in understanding integrity outcomes through a variety of hypothetical scenarios. Findings – While the perceived seriousness of a behavior is strongly predictive of the likelihood of reporting a fellow officer who engages in that behavior, the findings suggest that seriousness may be a proxy for attitudes toward ethical behaviors. Originality/value – While Klockars et al.’s approach to the measurement of police integrity has been an important contribution to integrity research, other measures of police integrity such as attitudes toward ethical behavior are also useful as they move us conceptually from assessing attitudes toward ethical behavior to their antecedents – the strength of underlying value premises shaping subsequent attitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-337
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Community-oriented policing
  • Integrity

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