The Code of Silence takes its roots from military law which states that “what you see, what you hear, when you leave, leave it here” phrase. This means that you are not allowed to divulge any matters and events that you have observed or noticed in a certain societal setting such as in the government or an organization. Generally, a Code of Silence is when a person opts to withhold what is believed to be vital or important information voluntarily or involuntarily. The logic behind this principle is that being a whistleblower may endanger the rest of the association or organization.
In the legal setting, the code of silence is believed to be prevalent in the armed forces where data regarding operations and technological developments are kept secret for the sake of national security. It could also be found in the corporate setting especially in banks which can keep the anonymity of clients. . . The code of silence is usually either kept because of force or danger to oneself or being branded as a traitor or an outcast within the unit or organization which particularly holds true in a police setting as studies would show. It was famously practiced in Massachusetts police departments in cities such as Charlestown, South Boston and Somerville. All over the world, there are many stories about police abuse of authority or police/military brutality and death of a criminal and most of these stories are linked with the code of silence. The code also exists among many organizations even those which are criminal in nature. A more famous example of the code of silence is Omerta which made the Mafia such an indiscrete and almost impenetrable organization.
CODE OF SILENCE: GOOD OR BAD?
. . . . . . . . . . . If we are to determine whether the appropriateness of the code, we will need to include a discussion on what constitutes the goodness or the wickedness of an act. However, venturing into this would be exhaustive and too wide a discussion. I would rather argue that the Code of Silence is inappropriate when it makes loyalty to people a higher priority than loyalty to principles. To qualify further, the principles should be within the bounds of moral and legal codes.
Policemen, for example, pride themselves in being the vanguards of society. Ideally, they should be promoting law and order. However, a study conducted by the National Institute of Ethics in the United States revealed that there were many cases of abuse of police officers particularly that of superiors that were undisclosed. This included excessive use of force, having sex on duty and taking marijuana. The Code of Silence was indeed prevalent and officers observed it as they fear for their life, employment and social status (Trautman, 2000).In this case, the code of silence was used to protect the people that were offenders themselves rather than upholding the principles that govern the institution. We ask then, in what situations will the code of silence be justifiable?
. . . . . . . . . . . If we are to think critically, there seem to be no grounds for the code of silence to be justified in the first place. The code is applied when an offense has been committed. An act only needs to be kept in the dark when it violates some of the fundamental virtues social norms in any setting such as an organization even if one might argue that the code of silence is necessary especially in matters that would place the majority of the stakeholders in a harmful position.
However, if we allow our selves to be unconcerned even for petty matters we may become too indifferent even on offenses that are indirect content of our principles. In any case, an offense that is deemed to be beneficial could turn out for the worse as it usually does.
Kusy, Mitchell (2004). Breaking the Code Of Silence: Prominent Leaders Reveal How They
Rebounded From Seven Critical Mistakes. Taylor Trade Publishing
Trautman, Neal (2000). POLICE .CODE .OF .SILENCE FACTS .REVEALED. Legal Officers
Section, Annual Conference International Association of Chiefs of Police.