Standards of Conduct

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This directive is for internal use only and does not enlarge an employee’s civil liability in any way. The directive should not be construed as creating a higher duty of care, in an evidentiary sense, with respect to third party civil claims against employees. Violations of this directive, if proven, can only form the basis of a complaint by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office for non-judicial administrative action in accordance with the rules and laws governing employee discipline.
DIRECTIVE TYPE: Policy SUBJECT: Standards of Conduct NUMBER: PERS-505.00
APPROVED BY: Sheriff Ken Christesen EFFECTIVE DATE: 10/23/2016
NMLEA STANDARDS: Not Applicable LAST MODIFIED: 9/21/2016 LAST REVIEW: 9/21/2016


To give practical meaning to the Sheriff’s Office Statement of Values and Mission Statement by setting forth uniform standards of conduct which encompass and describe the expectations of an employee’s behavior and conduct both on and off duty.


It is the policy of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office that all personnel become familiar with and conduct themselves by the standards of conduct set forth in this policy.


The following definitions shall apply for the purposes of this policy:

  • Personnel – All compensated members of the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and official members of the SJCSO Volunteers in Partnership (V.I.P.) or the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office Foundation.


Standards of conduct are essential to the efficient and disciplined functioning of the agency. As public employees, Sheriff’s Office personnel are granted a public trust which requires that they consistently demonstrate the highest degree of integrity both on and off duty. The following standards establish the conduct upon which the Sheriff’s Office bases its expectations of performance and conduct of all personnel.

Those who wish to hold the honor of a public position and enjoy the privileges of public trust share a responsibility to conduct themselves, both on duty and off duty, in a manner that does not bring public image or trust into question.

The following standards are directed at specific areas of conduct, behavior, and productivity. These directives do not form an exhaustive list of all standards, expectations, or situations that can create cause for disciplinary action. Personnel are expected to exercise ordinary common sense in situations not governed by specific directives and behave in a socially acceptable manner. The purpose of these standards is to promote a harmonious work environment, a positive public image, and to ensure the mission, goals, and objectives of the Sheriff’s Office are achieved.

Supported by the fact that all Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures are properly published and distributed, a claim of ignorance is not a valid defense for failing to abide by a standard or other policy or procedure. Personnel are responsible for contacting a supervisor for clarification of standards they do not understand.


1. Observance of Laws:

Personnel who violate the laws they have sworn to enforce lose public trust and weaken the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to achieve its mission, goals, and objectives.

Personnel will obey all constitutional, criminal, and civil laws imposed on them as a member of the Sheriff’s Office and as a citizen of this state and country. Furthermore, any personnel charged with a crime will notify his or her supervisor without undue delay.

2. Medical, Physical and Psychological Readiness to Perform Duties and Tasks:

Effective, efficient, and safe public service depends on personnel being ready to perform competently and effectively. A decline in public trust and threats to safety can occur in a public organization if management has to wait for performance to fail before testing and monitoring for readiness.

Personnel who lack the physical, psychological, and medical capabilities to assume the responsibilities and duties expected of their jobs may create a safety hazard for themselves and for others who depend on their performance.

While on duty, personnel will remain physically, psychologically, and medically ready to perform all their assigned or assumed responsibilities, duties, tasks, and essential functions competently.

3. Committing Unsafe Acts or Endangering Self or Others:

Unsafe behavior or unsafe use and handling of equipment can significantly increase the risk of injuries and expose the Sheriff’s Office to unnecessary liability.

Personnel will not needlessly commit acts or behave in a manner that has the potential for endangering or injuring themselves, another person, or property.

4. Dishonesty:

Public support is based on public trust and confidence. Performance standards in this area are much higher for public servants than for the ordinary citizen.

Personnel will not lie, give misleading information or half-truths, or falsify written or verbal communications in official reports or in their statements or actions with supervisors or other personnel. They will not intentionally give misleading information to another person or organization when it is reasonable to expect that such information may be relied upon because of their affiliation with the Sheriff’s Office.

This standard does not regulate interaction with persons when there is a legitimate investigatory reason for the behavior.

5. Insubordination:

Insubordination and insubordinate behavior are recognized by labor practices to be among the most serious offenses. If insubordination is allowed to go unchecked, management loses its ability to direct its work force.

It is reasonable to expect personnel to obey the written and verbal directives of their supervisors. When disagreements between management and personnel occur, management has the right to expect personnel to follow the accepted labor principle of obey now and grieve later.

Personnel will fully observe and obey the lawful verbal and written rules, duties, policies, procedures, and practices of the Sheriff’s Office. Personnel will also subordinate their personal preferences and work priorities to the lawful verbal and written rules, duties, policies, procedures, and practices of the Sheriff’s Office as well as to the lawful orders and directives of supervisory personnel.

Personnel are not expected to obey unlawful directives. However, a mere belief that a directive is unlawful will not protect a member from discipline if such a belief is deemed unreasonable, unsubstantiated, or unfounded in a subsequent hearing.

6. Courteous and Respectful Behavior Toward Supervisors:

The purpose of supervisory positions is to ensure that the mission, goals, and directives of the Sheriff’s Office are carried out in an efficient, effective, and safe manner, as well as to provide accountability for the performance of the work unit.

Personnel will display courtesy and respect in words, deeds, gestures, and actions towards supervisors.

7. Courteous and Respectful Behavior Towards Subordinate Personnel:

Supervisors will treat subordinates with the same courtesy and respect that is required of subordinates toward supervisors. Criticisms should be limited to unsatisfactory work performance and will be made directly to the subordinate in a private setting.

This does not preclude supervisors from correcting a subordinate in a public setting when necessary, but this should be done as discretely as possible.

Supervisors are expected to set a positive example for others to follow.

8. Knowing, Observing, and Obeying Directives and Expectations:

Personnel will make positive and consistent efforts to observe and comply with the lawful directives and expectations (e.g.: work rules, policies, procedures, practices, and traditions) established for the effective, efficient, and safe operation of the Sheriff’s Office.

Personnel are expected to actively seek and find proper ways to comply with directives and not dwell on reasons why directives should not or cannot be complied with or supported.

9. Competent Performance:

Personnel will perform all assigned or assumed job responsibilities, duties, and tasks competently. Competency is measured by the specific job-related areas outlined in performance evaluations and position descriptions.

10. Exercising Common Sense and Affirmatively Promoting the Organization’s Values:

Personnel should accept full responsibility for their attitudes, behaviors, and the results of their behavior on duty as well as off duty. Attitudes and behaviors that may be considered acceptable in private employment may not be acceptable in the public sector due to the need to gain and maintain the public’s confidence and trust.

Personnel will exercise ordinary common sense and strive to find ways in every contact with the public to promote the Sheriff’s Office values such as the mission, code of ethics, goals and objectives, standards of conduct, and other lawful directives and expectations. For these purposes, ordinary common sense is defined as that level of knowledge that a common person with average capabilities and life experiences would possess.

Personnel shall avoid regular or continuous associations or dealings with persons, whom they know or should know, are under criminal investigation or indictment, or who have a reputation in the community or within the Sheriff’s Office for involvement in felonious or criminal behavior, except as necessary for the performance of official duties, or where unavoidable because of their personal relationships to the employee. No employee shall knowingly communicate, by any means, to any person, information which may assist any person to escape arrest or punishment, prepare for raids, and/or destroy or conceal evidence (money, property, or information) sought by law enforcement.

Personnel shall not knowingly visit or frequent an establishment wherein the laws of the United States, the state, or the local jurisdiction are regularly violated, except in the performance of their duty or while acting under proper and specific orders from a supervisor.

Personnel shall communicate to their immediate supervisor any violation of any rule or regulation, the infraction of which would bring discredit to the Sheriff’s Office.

11. Conflicts of Interest:

Public service work requires that personnel do not compromise the authority, integrity, trust, or confidence inherent in their positions.

Personnel will not create conflicts of interest or potential conflicts of interest with the duties and obligations of their positions.

Sheriff’s Office personnel have easy and often uncensored and unquestioned access to people, information, resources, and positions of trust not easily available to the general public. This freedom of access must be governed and controlled if the public trust is to be preserved. Failure to do so may severely restrict the ability of the Sheriff’s Office to provide its services in an effective and efficient manner.

The acceptance of gifts, gratuities, goods, services, etc. by law enforcement personnel (both sworn and civilian) has the potential to create the impression (whether actual or perceived) of expectancy or indebtedness. This expectation can interfere with the fair and impartial treatment of citizens that the Sheriff’s Office expects from all of its employees.

To prevent any conflicts of interest, the Sheriff’s office expects all employees to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Personnel will not accept free goods or services when such offers are a direct result of their employment with the Sheriff’s Office.
  • Personnel are prohibited from seeking out establishments known to give law enforcement free meals or beverages.
  • Personnel are prohibited from receiving or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, or present from any person engaged, in or suspected of, any illegal activity.
  • Any employee who receives a gift without prior knowledge (e.g., receiving a gift certificate in the mail, etc.) will immediately notify the Sheriff upon receipt.
  • Personnel are prohibited from receiving or accepting any reward, present, or award of any kind, when such receipt is directly connected with any official duty or act, without the permission of the Sheriff.

The Sheriff’s Office understands that certain establishments will offer law enforcement discounts on food and beverages solely due to their appreciation of the profession. Sheriff’s Office employees are not prohibited from dining at these establishments so long as the treatment is not expected. Employees will not be in violation of this policy when a Good Samaritan anonymously pays for a meal. Furthermore, food and/or beverages sent to the Sheriff’s Office or invitations to appreciation meals are not prohibited by this policy.

Personnel shall not buy, receive or sell anything of value from or to any complainant, suspect, witness, defendant, prisoner, or other person involved in any case which has come to the attention of, or which arose out of, department employment, except as may be specifically authorized by the Sheriff.

Personnel shall not recommend or endorse in an official capacity the employment or procurement of a particular product, professional service, or commercial service (e.g., an attorney, towing service, bondsman, mortician, etc.). In the case of towing services, when such service is necessary, personnel shall proceed in accordance with established Sheriff’s Office policy and procedure.

When conflicts of interest occur between an employee’s private rights as a citizen and the privileged rights attributed to the employee’s position as a member of the Sheriff’s Office, management will initiate action designed to safeguard the public trust.

12. Aiding Other Personnel:

The nature of public work frequently requires the support and assistance of other personnel. Knowing this support will be rendered in time of need promotes and maintains morale, a sense of well-being among all personnel, and advances the mission, goals, and objectives of the Sheriff’s Office.

Personnel will come to the aid of co-workers when a legitimate and lawful request or need is made known or reasonably should have been known.

13. Cooperation with Personnel and Other Officials:

Personnel will seek affirmative ways to cooperate and work with co-workers, other public officials, and any organization with whom the Sheriff’s Office needs to have a good working relationship in order to achieve its mission, goals, or objectives.

Personnel are not expected to compromise professional integrity to gain the cooperation of another individual or organization.

14. Maintaining Acceptable Attendance and Availability for Work:

Public work requires team effort and each person plays an important part as a member of the team. A basic tenant of the employer-employee relationship is that personnel come to work regularly and predictably and attend to work while on duty. Personnel who are unnecessarily unavailable for work (regardless of cause) require others to carry an extra load as well as tie up job opportunities and positions for more available and qualified personnel.

Management accepts the fact that a certain amount of absenteeism will occur, and in many cases, the causes are justified by the nature of the individual and specific circumstances existing at the time. However, when a member establishes patterns of unjustified absenteeism, it may be interpreted as evidence of abuse and a violation of this standard.

Personnel will not be unnecessarily absent or unavailable for work.

Personnel shall not feign illness or injury, falsely report themselves ill or injured, or otherwise deceive or attempt to deceive any official of the Sheriff’s Office as to the condition of their health.

Absence without leave exceeding two days may be considered a voluntary resignation.

15. Giving a Full Day’s Work for a Full Day’s Pay:

Personnel will not establish patterns of non-productive work time.

Although law enforcement work is typically reactive in nature, a large portion of discretionary time should be spent performing self-initiated activities designed to accomplish the mission and goals of the Sheriff’s Office.

While the Sheriff’s Office allows for the handling of incidental personal matters of limited scope and duration, personnel are prohibited from engaging in time-wasting activities during work hours to include, but not limited to, watching non-work related movies, playing video games or other on-line gaming, and excessive use of social media and/or texting of a personal nature.

16. Use and Care of Property and Equipment:

Personnel will be accountable for the proper use and care of any property or equipment assigned to or used by them.

Unique and necessary uses of equipment in an emergency situation that might not be proper in a non-emergency situation will not be considered a violation of this standard.

17. Immoral or Unbecoming Conduct:

Personnel shall maintain a level of moral conduct in their personal and business affairs which is in keeping with the highest standards of the law enforcement profession. Personnel shall not participate in any incident involving moral turpitude that impairs their ability to perform as law enforcement employees or cause the Sheriff’s Office to be brought into disrepute.

Personnel shall conduct themselves at all times, both on and off duty, in such a manner as to reflect favorably on the agency. Unbecoming conduct shall include that which reflects discredit upon the employee as a member of the agency, or that which impairs the operation or efficiency of the agency or employee. Unbecoming conduct includes sexual activity while on duty.

18. Abuse of Position:

Personnel shall not use their official position or their lawful authority for personal gain or in any manner that is inconsistent with departmental policy or law.

Personnel will not use their official position, official identification cards, or badges for personal or financial gain, for obtaining privileges not otherwise available to them except in the performance of duty, or for avoiding consequences of illegal acts. Nor shall they lend to another person, their identification cards or badges or permit them to be photographed or reproduced without the approval of the Sheriff.

Personnel will not authorize the use of their names, photographs, or official titles that identify them as Sheriff’s Office employees, in connection with testimonials or advertisements of any commodity or commercial enterprise, without the approval of the Sheriff.

Using one’s official position or lawful authority to acquire goods or services, to access law enforcement records or criminal justice indices for personal use, or in a manner with the intent to threaten, intimidate, or harass others is strictly prohibited and could result in criminal, civil, and/or administrative sanctions.

Personnel will not expend any money or make any financial obligations in the name of the Sheriff without prior knowledge and permission from the Sheriff.

Personnel will not purposely initiate contact with citizens whom they have met through official business at the Sheriff’s Office for the purpose of establishing a personal relationship or for personal gain.

19. Courtesy:

Personnel shall be tactful in the performance of their duties, control their tempers, exercise the utmost patience and discretion, and not engage in argumentative discussions even in the face of extreme provocation. In the performance of their duties, employees shall not use coarse, violent, profane, or insolent language or gestures (unless it is used as a tactic or can be articulated as a law enforcement function), and shall not express any prejudice concerning race, religion, politics, national origin, lifestyle, gender, or any personal characteristics.

20. Confidentiality (Dissemination of Information):

Personnel will not reveal law enforcement information outside the Sheriff’s Office except as provided elsewhere in the policies and procedures or as required by law or competent authority. Information contained in law enforcement records, (names of informants, complainants, witnesses and other persons known to law enforcement) ordinarily accessible only to employees, is considered confidential. Unauthorized copying or duplication of official records is prohibited.

21. Intervention/Interference:

Personnel shall not interfere with cases being handled by other members of this office, or by any other governmental agency unless:

  • Ordered to intervene by a Sheriff’s Office supervisor, or
  • The intervening employee believes, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a manifest injustice would result from failure to take immediate action.

22. Duty to Intervene:

Law enforcement officers have a legal duty to intervene when a citizen’s constitutional rights are being violated by the actions of another law enforcement officer. This is especially important under circumstances in which a deputy witnesses an excessive use of force against another. The failure to intervene when having the ability to do so may subject the witnessing deputy to criminal, civil, and/or administrative sanctions.

In addition to a duty to intervene, deputies are required to immediately report their observations to a supervisor and prepare a written report outlining those observations.

Upon immediate response to the scene, the supervisor will begin an investigation into the alleged violation and take the necessary steps to prevent further violations as well as document the incident for internal investigative purposes. In all such circumstances, immediate notification through the chain of command shall be made.

In the event a Sheriff’s Office employee intervenes on behalf of a citizen whose constitutional rights are being violated by a member of an agency outside the Sheriff’s Office, he or she shall immediately notify their supervisor. Once notified, a supervisor will respond to the scene and notify the Sheriff’s Office chain of command. Direction will be given to the Sheriff’s Office supervisor as to the necessary steps by a Sheriff’s Office lieutenant or higher.

Civilian personnel, who may not have the ability to intervene, are required to immediately call for a supervisor to whom they will report their observations to.

All employees are required to immediately request the assistance of emergency medical personnel when they have come upon a citizen who is in need of obvious medical attention.