Is it okay to be a police officer and be politically active with the Sweden Democrats, a nationalist party? Is it appropriate for police officers to write about their profession on Facebook? These are a few issues that the the Swedish Police Union (Polisförbundet) address in its new professional ethics tool, a flashcard game.
The aim of the tool, called MoralMatch and developed by police union activists, is to increase the ethical standards of the police.
“I hope this contributes to higher ethics in the police force,” Police Union Chairman Jan Karlsen told The Local on Friday.
“It’s necessary to make progress in ethical questions. A good way to start talking about it is with simple play. It is necessary to discuss ethics and very important for a police force. We have to remind ourselves everyday, so to speak.”
Swedish police were dogged by allegations of racism last year after a police officer was disciplined for describing a suspect as a “negro” in an email, while Malmö police used fictional names such “Neger Niggersson” and “Oskar Neger” (Negro) for internal training purposes.
The new game hopes to prevent these types of situations from occurring and consists of 110 cards posing describing ethical scenarios raised from the responses of 3,000 members to a questionnaire.
At least two police officers are needed to play the game, but the ideal number is four to five. The organisation has produced 2000 games, which have been distributed among 20,000 police officers, with the game expected to become a regular feature in their work.
The tool was developed with the Linnæus University’s police education, which uses several toolboxes in their program, as well as local workshops.
The innovative idea has sparked interest from medical, nursing and teaching federations, as well as several Swedish companies and political organisations, who wish to adapt it for their own uses, Karlsen told The Local.
The flashcard game addresses other issues in addition to racism. The union has examined all the notifications received by the union’s staff disciplinary board over the last three or four years and included the issues raised by them in the game.
The scenarios are divided into three categories: how to respond to the public, how to interact with colleagues and the personal conduct of police officers in their spare time that may have an impact on their professional roles, the report said.
“It depends on which situation you’re in. You have to behave in the right way, all are very important issues. If you act badly off-duty, you always have to remind yourself, ‘You’re a police officer. My behaviour can damage the force’s reputation.'”
Karlsen declined to comment on the cost of the project, saying only that the union made the product itself at a low cost and expects to use it for many years.
“We often discuss ethical questions within the trade union. It’s always on the agenda. Slowly, we worked with these questions and decided to make a new ethical toolbox here,” he said.
“We had another ethical toolbox about four to five years ago and decided to make a new one to make progress. We can always make new cards and put them in the box. I hope we’ll use it for several years.”
Working on ethical issues is natural for the union and part of a strategy to raise the profession’s status.
“If you want a raise in your salary, part of it comes through good ethical behaviour,” Karlsen told The Local.
Another goal is for the tool to become part of a learning process. In order to focus on actual ethical dilemmas, all cases that have been addressed by the police’s staff disciplinary board in recent years are included. In cases where there has been a recurring pattern, they are presented as a professional ethical dilemma.
Since its launch on April 28th, the tool has met with both positive and negative views. Some police officers questioned the point of playing games during work time, Dagens Nyheter reported.
“We first tested it in focus groups. They thought it was a very good way to start discussions at work. So far, we have received some negative feedback,” Karlsen told The Local.
“They police are not expected to use it everyday, but when they can do it and have spare time to take some time off. You don’t have to play it from start to finish, even just two minutes, decide, do another thing, then go back to it. It is not built to be played for hours.”