Week 2 - Discussion 1
1.Obviously Billy and John have two different philosophies of policing. How do these different philosophies fit within the parameters of the ethical behavior of police officers?
4. Does John have an ethical obligation to bring Billy’s behavior to the attention of his supervisor? Why or why not? Be sure to discuss the ethical philosophies that call for his action or non action.
Considering that both questions have to do with maintaining the moral virtue of being a police officer, we should probably look at the purpose of the police. You can not have virtue without a standard of exceptions to uphold. In my discussions so far in this programs, I have used the terms of mala in se and mala prohibita to describe the types of crime that police should be fighting,and ignoring, respectively. However, there is a third category of behavior that I have ignored, mostly because I have a hard time defining it's boundaries. This third category is the public order. I have a hard time defining the boundaries of public order because so many special interest groups use the rationale of “public order” to defend the criminalization of behavior that simply put, they just don't like. Of course, this often works, resulting in mala prohibita crimes, and you have the police wasting time and resources on these.
And it is in this third category that police spend most of their time dealing with. McLaughlin states that for the officer, “far more time is spent ‘keeping the peace’, maintaining order, and regulating public conduct on the beat.” (2006, p.53) Albanese highlights this concept when he discusses “the police role in society in balancing the interests of the community in maintaining order and apprehending crime suspects with individual liberty and the right to be left alone”(2010, p. 59). There is another way of describing this concept of keeping order; “Police often spend more time acting as brokers who connect citizens with valuable community resources, assist stranded motorists, provide directions, resolve family and neighbor disputes, and help citizens in other important ways.” (Braswell, McCarthy, & McCarthy, 2012, p.49) This brings the question to mind, why are police spending the majority of their time keeping order as opposed to fighting crime? And how does this then affect the standards of officer morality?
The answer can be seen in two linked concepts. Under systems theory, there needs to be a “balanced state” between the police and the community. A great deal of this balanced state is dependent on community trust in the police. Secondly, looking at social disorganization theory and the “broken windows” concept, it is clear that the keeping of public order is a major component in the ability of the community to trust the police. Therefore, one could suggest that an officer's moral virtue lies in keeping both the public order, and in the trust of the community.
Looking at Billy's actions, we can see that he takes one that is oriented towards upholding public order. He also takes some actions that are borderline corrupt. For the time being, we will mainly look at the way his actions are within the parameters of an impulse towards controlling the public order ( we will look at Billy's unethical behavior in more detail towards the end of the discussion). In keeping the public order, Billy attempts to dominate both complainants into being quiet. I remember reading a lot of Wambaugh ( an LA cop who switched to writing, but based his early fiction on his street experience), and a common theme was “showing the street who was boss”. In this sense, we can see Billy using tactics that John finds questionable. Yet, in maintaining order, police must rely on their own judgment frequently. Albanese suggests that ““police are faced with situations that cannot be anticipated by laws, so they are often left to make decisions without clear guidance” (2010, p.83) McLaughlin reinforces this position; “Although police officers are formally required to do things ‘by the book’, researchers established that once they left the station there was considerable room for improvisation” (2006, p.51). However, it does not seem that Billy understands the issue of public trust at all.
In contrast, John shows an understanding of the issue of public trust as well as the issue as public order. In refusing a gratuity, and in attempting mediation between the complainants, John is showing the public that they can trust him. In order to cement this trust, John would have the obligation to report Billy's behavior (that is, if John cannot correct Billy's behavior on his own).Although it is not stated conclusively that taking the gratuity was against department regs, both John's and Billy's behavior suggest that it might be. Finally, and much more importantly, Billy's actions towards the screaming complainants could have a negative impact on community trust in the department. If the complainants were citizens or legal residents, then Billy has the obligation to treat them as members of the community; if they are illegally in the country, then Billy has the obligation to arrest them. By engaging in force against someone not committing a mala in se crime, by using racial insults, and by refusing to mediate the situation, Billy is showing the community that they can not trust the police.
Braswell, McCarthy, and McCarthy suggest that “efficiency as a criterion by which police performance has traditionally been measured has been rationalized by the concept of utilitarianism” (2012, p.48) For police to maintain their moral virtue, and the positive consequences of their actions, these actions must result in both keeping the public order, and in keeping the public's trust.
So I will re-answer with a look to denotological grounds. Starting with the idea of “good will”, the basic premise of Kant's argument, John now has to cipher Billy's intent in dealing wth the complainants and in taking the gratuity. Did Billy intend to serve the public order, or to satisfy (previously known to John) racist impulse? Did Billy intend to “show the flag” at the restruant, or simply to get by with a free one? Since John has experience of Billy's attitudes in the past, it is easier for him to answer these questions, but it is still hard to be certain of his answers, without actually being inside Billy's head.. Moving on to one of Kant's categorical imperative, universalizability, John has to ask whther he would want to be pushed around by the police (as were the complainants)...or would he like to be informed on by one of his brothers (as Billy would feel if John reports the activities). And this brings up to the issue with denotological philosophy.
John has an ethical duty to report Billy using utilitarian ethics; there is a conflict of duties considering deontological ethics that mitigates his obligation to report Billy.