It is not always just to simply follow the guidelines given to you while administering justice, there are situations in which people in justice enforcement have to use their head and their heart over their books to take a better choice. This happens particularly for the police officers who are more directly involved with the criminals than any other branch of justice enforcement. It is often difficult to judge between right and wrong in certain situations because the borderline may be very delicate. This article gives two situations in which police officers has a choice between sticking to the protocol and use their reasoning ability to find their own solution, as opposed to the solution that the books prescribe, depending on the situation. Ethics is very important of course, it could be considered the whole point of the job, but it may be essential in certain cases to over-ride the laws in the books.
You are raiding a rented house in a particularly shady part of town on an anonymous tip-off that there is drug-related activity. In the house along with a few familiar criminal faces you see the teenage son of an officer who is superior to you in the force. You are convinced that the officer is honest and would not be involved in anything illegal, and you are shocked to find his son in such a crooked situation. The father is also in very good terms with you at the moment. You have a choice to let him go secretly while arresting the obvious criminals. If you want to you can find him later and question him secretly without tarnishing his name or his father’s. But your duty as a police officer is to arrest him without caring about the nature of the criminal, he was found in a very suspicious situation and you are supposed to arrest him. What would you do?
Reasons for complying with the protocol
Reasons for exercising discretion.
You know the kid personally, and you are pretty sure that he is at least partially innocent. At the same time you know his father who is your friend in the forces, not only will you be disgracing his name, but also you will be earning a potential new enemy in the office. There are thousands of criminals escaping the law each day, this is somebody you will have access over later, and you may actually be at an advantage if you can interview the kid in secret and find out about the criminals.
It is inappropriate to exercise discretion here. Not only because you may be letting go of a criminal but also because you will be setting a bad example for your junior officers by showing them you are flexible when it comes to enforcing the law. You are morally justified only if you arrest the kid and bring him to justice.
An officer who is working under you is not being efficient of late. You have known this man since he joined the force and right from the beginning he has had a brilliant career. He is not only smart and talented but also he is prompt and regular, and you don’t have any doubts about his honesty or straightforwardness.
But for the last few weeks, this man is slacking; he is no longer as punctual as usual, and he is showing disinterest in his work which is not at all satisfactory when you compare it to the way he has always worked. And to add to the troubles, he gets in a drunken brawl with one of his fellow officers and according to your handbook you have to suspend both of them from duty for a month, for being drunk on duty and for degrading their office and the whole police force. The other officer does not have a remarkable career and has been in minor scuffles in his history, so it is possible to rescue the first officer from disgrace and let him go, because you think he will come back good. What would you do?
Reasons for complying with the protocol and suspending both of them.
You are only doing your duty by being just to their actions. No matter how good somebody was, it is only fair to punish them for what they have done, and both being drunk on duty and getting in a fight are inexcusable for the office. Plus the fact that he has being slacking of late, maybe a month at home will teach him the lesson he needs to learn and he will come back like the man he always was. But whether that happens or not, it is your duty to administer justice and therefore you should suspend both of them. Not doing that will be setting a bad example for the other officers as well; it should be made clear that nobody has a right to violate office rules.
Reasons for exercising discretion
You have known this man from when he joined the forces, and you are convinced of his work ethic and his talent. He may be just going through a bad phase and handing him a suspension when it may not have been his fault at all may prove very bad to his self-esteem. The other officer has a history of being disagreeable and instigating fights, so it may be a good idea to pin this one on him and let your man go. This may be a lesson for him and he will stop slacking in future.
Justice must be given. You have to suspend both the officers. It may be okay to give a lighter sentence to the man who has a better record but letting him go completely will not be setting a good model at all. If you let him go, it may add to his already bad form. Instead, give him justice and give him a chance to recover. Find a good counselor for him so that you and the police force will not lose a good officer. That will be the best thing to do.
The Renard Law Firm (2007), Retrieved from web. http://rynardlaw.com/Article6.aspx
Rivera B. (2006, March), Retrieved from web http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/23232/police_discretion.html
Klein C. (2005), Retrieved from web http://www.chuckkleinauthor.com/police_ethics.html