A Hippocratic Oath for Policing

Sgt. Jeremiah P. Johnson
Darien (CT) Police Department

The recent spotlight on deadly use-of-force encounters has led John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor David Kennedy to ruminate whether the field of policing should have its own Hippocratic Oath.

The Hippocratic Oath is commonly encapsulated as “do no harm.” Medicine’s Hippocratic Oath has changed form since the days of ancient Greece, but its spirit lives on among physicians.

Police are society’s physicians, the kind that still make house calls.

It is the physician’s job to examine the patient, diagnose the underlying condition and prescribe an effective course of treatment. A doctor that only attends to visible symptoms, provides ineffective medicine, or treats in a manner that is ultimately harmful has failed the patient.

Policing is indeed strong medicine and can produce miraculous cures. However, we in law enforcement are all too ready to focus singularly on the visible symptoms of crime, overprescribe our favorite medications without due regard for their deleterious side effects, or rely on untested remedies that have been handed down through tradition instead of science.

 

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A Hippocratic Oath for policing