Policing: Ethical Theories

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    • 00:00

      [MUSIC PLAYING]

    • 00:04

      BRIAN FITCH: Law enforcement operatesunder a number of major ethical theories, and a couple of themcan present special problems for law enforcement.A couple of them that come to mind, the first oneis consequentialism.And essentially what consequentialism isis that the end of an action justifies the means.And so, for example, if I know that the president

    • 00:25

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: of a particular country is going to start a world warand I assassinate that person and I prevent a war,well then the end of that act justifies the means.I've saved perhaps hundreds of thousands of lives.Well, the same kind of thing can happen in law enforcement.If an officer, for example, is investigatinga particular heinous crime-- say, for example,the murder-- the molestation of a child, the kidnapping

    • 00:45

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: or something like that-- the officer mightcome to believe that the end-- their apprehendingand convicting the perpetrator, takingthat person off the street, finding wherethe murder victim's body is buried-- will justify bendingand, in some cases, outright breaking the rules.

    • 01:09

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: The problem with that is relatively simple.We are, within the law enforcement community,held to a certain standard, a standardthat we should be held to.We need to operate within the confines of the law.We need to operate within the confines of our policy.And we need to do what's ethicallyright under all circumstances.And again, this idea that I can't-- that I know what is

    • 01:32

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: best for a particular community [INAUDIBLE] particularinvestigation takes the courts, takes the laws,takes some of the protections that have been givento our citizenry in general and puts those things on holdbecause I personally believe that the end justifiesthe means.

    • 01:52

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: Now, that's also closely tied with somethingcalled utilitarianism.And utilitarianism essentially meansthat what works for the greater good at the expense of the fewwould be the path I would take.So the same sort of thing.If I were to take an offender off the street who is perhapscommitting robberies, or perhaps again is involved in a child

    • 02:18

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: molestation, taking that person off the streetwould benefit a larger group of people.So I'm taking that person off the street often at the expenseof their individual rights, their constitutionalprotections, to protect the larger society.And again, the problem with both of those ethical outlooksis the fact that I don't have a crystal ball as a law

    • 02:40

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: enforcement officer.I can't predict the future outcome of my actions,regardless of how experienced I may be,or how intelligent I may be.I can't predict the future outcomes of my actions.And so as law enforcement officers,we need to operate within the confines of the law.We need to let the courts-- I'm sorry,we need to let the legislature determine

    • 03:01

      BRIAN FITCH [continued]: what the laws will be.We need to [INAUDIBLE] those laws,and then let the courts determine what will ultimatelyhappen with a particular thing or a particular offense.[MUSIC PLAYING]

Policing: Ethical Theories

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Abstract

Lieutenant Brian Fitch discusses ethics in law enforcement and the importance of ethical policing.

Policing: Ethical Theories

Lieutenant Brian Fitch discusses ethics in law enforcement and the importance of ethical policing.

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