Police oath, code changed

A Wisconsin police department’s overtly religious oath and code of ethics has been changed after FFRF protested.

The West Allis Police Department’s Code of Ethics had included the following line since at least 2013, a line that was part of the oath that the police officers take: “I will constantly strive to achieve these objectives and ideals, dedicating myself before God to my chosen profession . . . LAW ENFORCEMENT.”

“Article VI of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government from requiring any kind of religious test for an ‘office or public trust,’ which includes the position of police officer,” FFRF Legal Fellow Ryan Jayne wrote to West Allis Police Chief Patrick Mitchell on Oct. 4. “The U.S. Supreme Court has held that to require a religious oath is a violation of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.”

Besides requiring officers to take a religious oath, the inclusion of the modified Code of Ethics in the department’s annual report also gave the appearance that all officers believe in one particular god. This was not only divisive and inaccurate — fully 23 percent of American adults are nonreligious — but also unconstitutional.

“The West Allis Department Code of Ethics has now been modified and is taken verbatim from the Wisconsin Administrative Code,” Mitchell recently responded in a letter.

Freedom From Religion Foundation