ETHICS DILEMMA PAPER
One of the most difficult things in the criminal justice field is related to ethics in the criminal justice profession. Whether it being a corrections officer, police officer, or a judge. The main goal is to ensure you as a professional are making the right decision for the greater good and that it falls within the guidelines that are set before you in the laws that have been written. In the recent dilemma that occurred in Broward County on February 19, 2014 is an example of an ethics dilemma in the criminal justice field that happens much too often. I will explain to you the nature of the dilemma, the ethical/unethical decision that was made, the outcome of the situation, and suggest some alternative courses of actions that could have taken place instead and why.
NATURE OF THE DILEMMA
On February 19, 2014 a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy of 20 plus years on the force conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle traveling unlawfully in the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane. Once the deputy had the vehicle stopped he was informed by the woman in the driver’s seat that she was recording him conducting the traffic stop. Once the sheriff’s deputy gained knowledge of this he proceeded to force his way into the woman’s vehicle trying to grab her phone, then pulling her out of the vehicle and dragging her onto the ground causing injuries in several places as another deputy stood by with his gun drawn. All the while this was going on he continued to yell at her stating she was committing a felony and telling her “I know the law better than you” , and placing her under arrest. The ethical dilemma this situation brings forward is: was the actions taken by this deputy really necessary and justified on an ethical basis? (Miller, 2014).
ETHICAL DECISION MADE
In this particular situation an unethical decision was made based on the circumstances of the incident at hand. The deputy was committing a crime (felony) himself by unlawfully forcing his way into her vehicle, and detaining her against her will for a crime she did not commit. All for a simple civil infraction (driving in an HOV lane), that could have been handled in a totally different and professional manner. This was the only law the woman was breaking at the time, and the only probable cause the deputy had to go on for the actions that he took.
OUTCOME OF THE SITUATION
Once the dust settled upon this unfortunate situation, the deputy assumed and thought that the woman was breaking the law by recording the audio and video of the deputy. He assumed that he had to give the woman permission to audio record him. Unfortunately to his disadvantage the Florida courts ruled upholding a “expectation of privacy provision” (Silverman, 2012) to their all-party law, which the courts ruled does not apply to on-duty police (or anyone in public), as long as you are not interfering with them in conducting their duty. In this particular case the deputy appeared to be uneducated in this revision to the law that the law enforcement agency clearly neglected to educate its department on.
ALTERNATIVE COURSES OF ACTION/ WHY
According to the situation at hand some of the alternative courses of actions that the deputy could have taken and the woman that was being stopped could have been drastically different. Ethically speaking the deputy could have not taken his actions to the extreme that he did all over the simple recording violation that he thought the woman was committing. His life was not in danger nor was there any indication of any physical threat coming from the woman. The deputy totally handled that situation in a very unprofessional and unethical manner.
On the other hand the woman could have easily been justified in using deadly force on the deputy if he was not a law enforcement officer. She would have been justified well within the guidelines of Florida’s Justifiable Use of Force law considering he unlawfully forced his into her car and violently dragged her out. Fortunately for him he was a law enforcement officer or he could have been killed.
Another course of action for the sheriff’s deputy and the department could have been to properly educate themselves and their officers of the most current laws regarding these types of situations. In addition to making sure each and every deputy gets a refresher course on the necessary use of force procedures every few years.
In conclusion of this ethical dilemma situation, what I can draw from this is several things. One being always treat people in a way I would like to be treated unless circumstances dictate otherwise; it is the right and ethical action to take. Sometimes we just do not get that luxury of doing such an action when dealing with certain types of people and situations and yes certain actions are necessary. Always take the time to educate yourself on certain laws or information you are not sure of before acting on what you think may be correct. Just like the famous saying, “Ignorance of the law is not an excuse”, and this is very true but it does go both ways for law enforcement and the public.
Miller, C. (2014). Photography is not a crime. Retrieved from http://photographyisnotacrime.com/2014/02/19/broward-sheriffs-deputy-violently-attacks-woman-recording-traffic-stop/
Silverman, S. (2012). Reason.com free minds and free markets. Retrieved from http://reason.com/archives/2012/04/05/7-rules-for-recording-police