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Ethics in Criminal Justice - Essay Example

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Concern about ethics and efficiency are often held in contrasts to one another; an objection to acting in an ethical manner, for instance, is that doing so contradicts the necessity of acting in a way that achieves a stated objective in a more costly manner…
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Ethics in Criminal Justice
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Concern about ethics and efficiency are often held in contrasts to one another; an objection to acting in an ethical manner, for instance, is that doing so contradicts the necessity of acting in a way that achieves a stated objective in a more costly manner. However, when an organization’s primary objective is to enforce a code of law, such as the criminal justice system, ethical outcomes are equivalent to efficient outcomes (Banks, 2008). In that sense, ethics in criminal justice is very important and should be the consideration of every person operating within that context. The reason for addressing this preliminary point is that, in the case study of Police Chief Dan Ainsworth and the Griffin Police Department, Ainsworth is more concerned about the path of least resistance: the path that is easiest to take, without a concern for the mission statement of his organization. Although this mission is not given in the case study, it is safe to assume that it has something to do with an ethical precept such as protecting or serving the community. There seem to be several competing possible explanations for Ainsworth’s behavior. There is nothing in the case study to support the conclusion that Chief Ainsworth is a characteristically unethical person; in fact, to the contrary, his lengthy time as a police officer demonstrates that he is committed to whatever ethical precepts guide the police force in Griffin. In this particular case, however, even though it would clearly protect his community to held, Ainsworth is unwilling to give in to Frawley’s requests. Ainsworth is older, approximately 61, and he is set in his ways. However, he is cautious to a rational degree, as is characteristic of elderly people (Greve, 1998). He relies on his own process for decision-making and has likely never encountered methamphetamine drug problems up close as chief of police. He is most likely acting on the perceived interests of the city, as he is used to doing in this role (Pollock, 2010). This is the likely case because Ainsworth does not want to scare the city or put his officers in danger based on limited information of a problem that is not pressing for the community. It seems that Ainsworth’s perspective on the manner, which is appropriate, is that the BCI has better resources (including more intelligence-gathering ability, more personnel, more training, and so on) to address drug problems, even outside major metropolitan areas. It is curious why the BCI would be interested in juvenile officers for a task force when these individuals lack the kinds of training requisite for highly skilled, ethical, and efficient responses to drug crime. Ainsworth is understandably cautious about lending his least-trained officers because he is skeptical about Frawley’s intent to use them in the field. Whether or not the BCI has a legal obligation to address crime that goes across state lines (their exact responsibilities are not given in the case study), it is still a matter of achieving the efficient outcome of not putting people in harm’s way unnecessarily (O’Connell, 2008). Enlarging the drug task force to include juvenile officers puts more people in danger by making the task force a larger target for particularly violent criminals with an interest in the success of the drug trafficking. Ethically, Ainsworth and Frawley are committed to similar sorts of ethical guidelines; however, one could argue that both figures are sacrificing too much: Ainsworth is sacrificing possible assistance to the task force to protect the lives of his officers, and Frawley is sacrificing possible deaths to inexperienced officers for protecting the community at large. It seems the most efficient outcome, and therefore most ethical one, would be for the BCI to obtain help from other organizations built around the fight against drugs and related crimes. This would simultaneously (1) protect the community of Griffin from further harm and (2) would not expose the task force to the risks of inappropriate actions by juvenile officers. This is certainly in Ainsworth’s best interests, but it also seems to be aligned with the interests of Frawley to the extent that it would improve the chances of success for the drug task force having highly experienced, highly trained officers from other agencies helping on the case. Chief Ainsworth is acting cautiously and, it seems, based on a principle not to put people in harm’s way unnecessarily. This applies both to his community and to his police officers, whom he feels will be unnecessarily put in harm’s way if he lends them over to the drug task force when there is a reasonable opportunity for the BCI to acquire help from other agencies. Because Ainsworth is acting upon an ethical principle that is more-or-less aligned with the mission of his organization—the GPD—he is not engaging in ethical relativism. Ethical relativism is the approach to setting standards of conduct that favors differences between societies and cultures (Banks, 2008). Ainsworth would argue that not putting people in harm’s way is an absolute principle that applies regardless of the circumstances one finds oneself in. It is unjust, for instance, to sacrifice one innocent life for ninety-nine innocent lives because that means people a person in harm’s way unnecessarily. Police officers tend to use their own code of ethics when police ethics are not clear (Felkenes, 1984). This is probably a personal belief that has been demonstrated effective over the length of his career in the police department (over 32 years). Some other major ethical considerations in the case include ethical pluralism, or the question of whether there are multiple right answers about what Ainsworth ought to do in this situation. There may also be the question of personal and professional commitments to others, such as in the debate over altruism (whether Ainsworth has a duty to others and to help by virtue of his professional position as police chief). Also, there is the question of the moral commitments of police departments in their communities, which may more-or-less be defined by their mission statements (Banks, 2008). Is there, for instance, a categorical or hypothetical imperative for the criminal justice system to act upon perceived threats to the community? And, if so, are there conflicting duties (for instance, Ainsworth’s duty to his officers and his duty to his community)? These questions offer answers in determining the extent to which the chief acted morally. References Banks, C. (2008). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Felkenes, G. (1984). Attitudes of police officers toward their professional ethics. Journal of Criminal Justice, 12 , 211-220. Greve, W. (1998). Fear of crime among the elderly: Foresight, not fright. International Review of Victimology, 5 , 277-309. O’Connell, Paul E. (2008). The chess master's game: A model for incorporating local police agencies in the fight against global terrorism. Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management, 31, 456-465. Pollock, J.M. (2010). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Read More
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