Posts Tagged ‘Right and wrong’

What is Right?

In thought, Uncategorized on August 26, 2019 at 1:01 AM

What is Right?

Recently my criminal justice class has been talking about ethics, and how they apply to, and in, the criminal justice system. Part of that class discussion was about how ethics applied, but I had to be me, and ask when do ethics apply, and are ethics stiff and rigid, like a board? Or does it change situation to situation? Does ethics change as the situation changes? All this talk about ethics got a debate started in my class, and it got me thinking what is right, and when and how is it right?

When is it Right?

As I mentioned earlier, I asked if ethics change with the situation, and the example I gave was one that applied to the class perfectly. As an officer of the law, let’s say you pull someone over for speeding. Ethics dictate you give him a ticket for speeding, and let him have his day in court, right? Now let’s say that the suspect isn’t acting ethically. Now, let’s say he starts shooting at you. Do you then, shoot to kill him? What if you miss? Or, on the other side of the coin, does ethics remain stiff and rigid, so you have to hope to wound the suspect so that they may be arrested, and allowed a day in court, as the law says?

Ethically, do you attempt to kill the person who attempted to kill you, or do you serve him justice by wounding and allowing a day in court to answer for his crimes? Do you act ethically to someone who isn’t acting ethically towards you? I was thinking about this the last few days, and I cannot decide for myself how I would act in this situation. Sure, as a police officer, I think that instinct takes over, and I would shoot back; him dying or getting wounded not withstanding. I think that most, if not all police officers feel the same way. To me, ethics change with the situation. I’ll give you a real life example: I was pulled over one night, and the officer told me that he observed me making an illegal turn at a red light, and asked me why I did that. I honestly told him that I thought that no one was around, so no one would notice. Ethics demand he pulls me over, which he did. They also dictate that I admit to my wrongdoing, which I did. Ethically, that officer did his job when he pulled me over, asked for my registration, license and all that, and I followed ethics, gave him what he asked for, and I received a warning for my driving, and told to be more patient. Ethically, everything went as expected. The officer had cause to stop me when I made an illegal U-Turn at a red light, thus he acted ethically. I acted ethically when I told him the truth, admitted that I did it, and explained why I did. Ethically, I was issued a verbal warning, and told to be patient.

That’s with everything going as planned. Now, let’s say it doesn’t go as planned. What would be ethically right in this situation had I decided to pull a gun and shoot that cop? Ethically, would he be justified in killing me because I shot at him? Would he or his partner then, after having been shot at, would they have to follow the law, thereby wounding me, so I can be arrested and served my day in court, as the law says I must receive? What is “ethically right” here? Following the law to the letter, and attempting to arrest me, or shooting me outright because I shot you? Would you feel right ethically, if you say that you tried to apprehend me, but I died in the course of a gun fight? It’s true, technically: you tried to arrest me, but I shot you, and died because of it. But is it right to shoot me?

Let’s say that it was right for the officers to return fire…but they didn’t have to. Let’s say that the officer could have gotten to the trunk of his squad car, and used a “less than lethal” round – a beanbag. Does the officer have to fire a lethal round? In my situation, had I decided to act like an idiot, the officer’s partner was at my passenger side, so he could have shot a taser through my open window, thereby disabling me until his partner, or even himself, can make the arrest. If we follow ethics to the letter of the law, then ethically, at least in my mind, those officers should be making every attempt to apprehend me, and give me justice through the courts. If we follow ethics to the letter of the law.

When do Ethics Apply?

If say that ethics matter in the police department, then I have to ask if ethics apply all the time, no matter what. For instance, if I break a window at your house, are you ethically right to make me pay for that window, either willingly, or through the courts? Or would you be right in breaking one of my windows? I broke yours, you broke mine, now we are even. Is that right? Honestly, I believe that I break it, I buy it, and I expect you to feel that way about my stuff as well. Does ethics apply all the time? To me, as I mentioned before, changes with the situation. If we are having a civil discussion about something, and we differ on opinion, are you right to hit me because I believe differently than you? Not to me you aren’t; what did I do to deserve that? I was having a civil discussion, explaining politely, my views. In this scenario, you aren’t right to hit me for my differing views, but I feel I would be right to return that punch for you hitting me.

Let’s say that you owe me money that I loaned you, but you hadn’t paid me yet. Am I right to take you to court to get the money, or am I right to cost you the same amount of money that I am owed, thereby “evening the scales” as it where? Or, let’s say that you do a lot of stuff for me, and ask me for a loan. Am I then ethically right to expect you pay me back, even though you help me out? Do I ask you for this help you provide? Do I need you and/or your help? Ethically, if you did help me a lot, then I would feel right in loaning you the money, but I honestly wouldn’t ask for it back. However, as I said before, ethics apply to all people differently, and maybe you feel entitled to this money because you do stuff for me, and do not plan on paying it back because you help me out, and feel this is payment for that help. Is it right to expect you to pay me back? Is it right to ask me to help you out financially, or at all?

Let’s say that you get sentenced to death. Is the death penalty ethically right? Is it ethically right to kill someone? What about if that someone is themselves, a killer? Is it ok then? You’re killing a killer, so it’s not like he’s an innocent man, right? He’s a killer, he has no soul! Kill the killer! But what if he didn’t do it?

Is it ethically right to sentence a man to, and then carry out his death, especially if the evidence he did it was weak? In my criminal justice class, we read about a man in Montana who spent almost twenty years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. The reason that he got convicted off of the evidence is because is just enough to satisfy an admittedly racist jury, judge and prosecutor. It wasn’t until years later that he was cleared of all charges. Would it be right to put him to death for that crime then? He was innocent, but at the time, there was enough evidence to satisfy a jury, and that was technically right. The jury is racist, sure, but nothing in the law says that you can’t use a racist in a jury, especially when and where this happened, right? You have to use a jury of his peers, and it’s not the law’s problem that he lives in a racist town, during a racist time. The officers had evidence, and thus cause to suspect, and arrest this man, right? The police acted ethically, as the law states, no? Evidence to make an arrest was obtained, but the police jumped the gun.

To me, the police did not act ethically when they jumped the gun, and arrested the guy in the story. Sure, they had evidence, but it was so weak that a child could argue it out of court. According to the story, the man beat, and then raped a woman before murdering her. The evidence the police had was shoe prints near the window of a shoe size that didn’t match the man they arrested. The police also had a report that the suspect was wearing a red shirt at the time of the crime, and the man, let’s call him “Linus”, happened to be wearing a red shirt, and they found mud on his shoes. Evidence introduced into court could have argued that the fact that “Linus” was a gardener and had just finished a job, thus explaining the mud. As for the shirt, it would be ruled out because of “Linus’s” work in the garden; it may have even been his uniform, or just a bad coincidence that he had on a red shirt.

Knowing this, is it still right that law enforcement arrested someone for a crime? They had evidence, and he fit the bill, with the muddy shoes and red shirt, and he was a black male adult, as the police where looking for someone of that description, no? To me, no, that isn’t right. If due process had been carried out, or even if the investigation had gone on a little longer, it would have ruled “Linus” out as a suspect entirely. The officers, and the courts obviously feel differently about what is “right”.

My Beliefs on Ethics

I have given you some examples, and asked some questions, I know that by this point, you must be asking what I believe. The simple answer is, I believe that ethics apply to everyone, no matter what. In the situation of the police, I do not know if I would shoot you to kill you, or just shoot in your direction, hoping for the best. I do know that I would not bother you unless I had cause. My personal belief is that I should not be bothered unless you have a reason to, as I would not bother you without one. That would apply as a cop, too; I wouldn’t bother you without cause. I wouldn’t treat anyone differently, either. Ethically, I believe that you determine how the situation will go. If you are cool with me, I’ll be cool with you. If I, as an officer of the law have to approach you, I am going to do so because I have a cause, and it isn’t because you’re black. If I approach you it is because I have description that you fit, or because I have some other reason too.


Those are my views and thoughts, and as usual, feel free to leave me a comment, and let me know what you think. If you agree or disagree with me, then let me know! Can’t wait to hear from you!

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