Imagining Fewer Scandals in Sports and Policing


Post By: David D. Dodge

Upon reading Adam Turtletaub’s recent post on The Compliance and Ethics Blog entitled “A New View of Compliance,” I reflected on numerous articles I have written for the Blog over the past several years focusing on why sports organizations need to establish effective compliance/ethics/integrity programs. Turtletaub  observes that SCCE’s conferences are open to all who are interested and attended by representatives of a wide range of industries, including, among others,  technology, manufacturing, and insurance. However, he also reveals that the banking industry has largely been missing in action.

Based upon my research and reporting, there is another notable non-participant – the U.S. sports industry. Not only have few sports organizations developed effective compliance programs, most have also not taken advantage of the many opportunities to educate themselves on the benefits of establishing compliance programs through attendance at SCCE educational programs. One of the major benefits of attending SCCE educational events is to learn from the other attendees, who share valuable experiences associated with a myriad of industries.

The sports industry in the U.S. is essentially comprised of four segments: the professional leagues (the NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and others); colleges and universities; the Olympic Federations and other National Governing Bodies; and high schools and recreation leagues. While many of these sports organizations have adopted various elements of a compliance program, few-if any-have established comprehensive programs consistent with either the U.S. Sentencing Commission Guidelines for Organizations or the best practices identified by the SCCE. Ironically, the sports industry is replete with high profile scandals, many of which could have been avoided through the implementation and operation of effective preventative programs.

Another industry dominating the news these days that has lagged in developing compliance programs is law enforcement. While most large police departments have adopted elements of a compliance program into their operations, few have formally implemented comprehensive compliance and ethics programs.

As the law enforcement industry in the U.S. responds to calls for reform, it is becoming apparent to police departments that their industry needs to respond with a new model for policing and public safety by taking steps to reform their departments before outside parties do it for them. The establishment of a formal compliance and ethics program is one of the best ways for a police department to effectively prevent wrongdoing, detect and appropriately investigate problems when they do occur, and lay out a road map for any necessary corrective action.

While today there are no national standards for such programs in the law enforcement industry, establishing such programs could lead to the needed cultural change. Building effective compliance and ethics programs following SCCE’s model would be a giant step towards assuring local governments and the public at large of police departments’ commitment to doing the right thing in all aspects of policing.