A few months ago, a woman was brutally raped, beaten and left for dead. Since the attack she remains in a coma. This case has risen to national prominence as an example of how today’s youth no longer respects fundamental social values, television and video game violence has desensitized young men to the consequences of crimes such as assault and rape, and as a demonstration of the inability of the police to keep the streets safe for law-abiding citizens. My partner and I work in the criminal justice system as police officers and handle most of the homicide cases in our area. The publicity from this crime has placed our police department under pressure to send someone to trial for this crime immediately.
A gang of young men were spotted in the areas where the victim was found assaulting and threatening people that were passing by. Two members of the gang were arrested. The two members are both male and 14 years of age that both have previous records of robbery and assault. Our obligation as police officers is to follow the policy and ethical standards of our police department and the law, which states, minors must be informed of their legal right to have their parents present during the interrogation and to use videotape during important interviews.
However, my partner has pushed his ethical obligation aside and interviews both of the minors while deciding not to contact their parents or tape the interrogation. When I confront him about the policy’s that did not take place he tells me not to worry about it that both minors are guilty as sin and we can close the case. His actions are unethical and don’t not follow the policy of prosecuting the guilty, respecting the rights of the accused, and creating a safe community. Ethics is crucial in decisions involving discretion, force, and due process, because criminal justice professionals can be tempted to abuse their powers (Felkins, 1987). I report this to my supervisor only for him to tell me to trust my partner and go to trial.
Both suspects are arrested and bound for trial. Bail is denied. I do not feel good about proceeding with this. The organizational culture represented by my supervisor gives the answer to my partners’ behavior. The supervisor plays a large role in defining organizational culture by his actions and leadership. Both my supervisor and my partner have decided to use “moral relativism” which is the ethical premise “that decisions about right and wrong are purely personal and subjective and according to it, whatever anyone claims to be morally acceptable is morally acceptable, at least for that person.
They have not thought about the consequences of their actions and how they may be beneficial or harmful from the result. In order to do so one must analyze the issues and make judgments by studying the details of the case, identifying the relevant criteria, determining possible course of action, and deciding which action is most ethical. I will choose to detach myself from the case. I cannot afford to lose my job by not following the legal or ethical standards. Laws have penalties when cases are violated and these penalties can be very severe if you violate legal norms. I believe that both my partner and supervisor have violated legal norms as well as ethical standards.
Felkenes, G. (1987). “Ethics in the Graduate Criminal Justice Curriculum.” Teaching Philosophy 10(1): 23–26.
Ruggiero, V. R. (2008). Thinking Critically About Ethical Issues (Seventh ed.). New York, NY, USA: McGraw-Hill.