Public attitudes toward police misconduct or police legitimacy have been linked to violent crime. For that, and other reasons, it is important for police departments to set and maintain high standards of conduct for professional pride, and because it can be argued that police ethics impact public safety in a more general sense. Officers’ discretion is controlled and guided by both formal ethics and the informal culture of law enforcement offices.
Review the Political Courtesy media for a scenario that you will analyze for this assignment.
For this assignment, prepare a three-page paper detailing the moral rules you would follow and the ethical judgment you would employ regarding whether you would arrest or not in this situation.
In your paper:
- Explore the ethical system you would apply in carrying out your duties as a law enforcement officer.
- Articulate the moral rules you would follow in considering what your response might be if the driver were a non-political figure.
- Analyze whether your ethical and moral behavior would be the same or different if the driver were a fellow police officer.
Please list each bullet in bold and then write the paragraph underneath it, so there should be 3 paragraphs. If using a reference, please do not use one that I cannot verify.
Political Courtesy Media Transcript
Rondo Neighborhood, Traffic Stop
Antonne James, rookie cop, is on patrol with another officer. He’s still in his probationary period, but already has several months of experience under his belt. It’s 1300 hours. In a residential area, they observe a car doing 60 in a posted 30mph zone, and pull it over.
- Antonne walks up to the driver, and as he approaches, he recognizes her. It’s City Council Member Peggy Hertz. Her picture was just on the front page of the Riverbend City Herald this morning, in a story about contract negotiations between the city and the police labor union. There was even some talk at the precinct this morning about how Peggy doesn’t exactly have a reputation for putting police interests first in the city’s contract negotiations with the department. Antonne asks for driver’s license information and registration.
- Peggy hands Antonne her license, looks him square in the face, and demands, “Do you know who I am?”
- Think fast! There is some discretion in processing tickets, and if there was any time to use discretion, it’s now! But… what would my supervisor say? I want to be a stellar performer during my training period and she might look poorly on me if I don’t issue a ticket. On the other hand, what if the opposite is true? I issue a ticket and word gets out that it’s my fault Peggy goes harder on contract negotiations! I’ll never hear the end of it.
Which choice would be best for Antonne in his job as a police officer?
- Choice 1: Antonne takes Peggy’s license and registration and says “No, ma’am. I’ll be back in a couple of minutes.” Antonne processes her ticket, and though Peggy gives him an earful when he hands it to her, Antonne refers her to his supervisor to express her concerns.
- Feedback: Antonne decided to play by the book, although he had the discretion not to write the ticket. Antonne’s thought process was public safety first, regardless of Peggy’s position. And Peggy’s speed was clearly not safe in a residential neighborhood.
- Choice 2:
Antonne looks at her license and says “Peggy Hertz. You were probably unaware that this street is 30mph. I’ll let you off with a warning this time, but please be more careful on this street. Lots of pedestrians and bikers.
Antonne quickly observed that it might be best for the department if he didn’t write the ticket. If he let her off using the same discretion he would use for anyone else, then it would not be unethical, but an action based on personal gain is clearly unethical.
- Choice 3:
Antonne writes the ticket based on public safety, and when he returns to the squad car, he immediately gets his supervisor on the radio, to apprise her of the situation. He doesn’t want his supervisor to be surprised by any publicity or any other fallout from Peggy Hertz’s office.
- Feedback: Antonne assessed the situation and issued the ticket, but he also realized there may be complications from his decision, and took the appropriate steps.