I’ll grant you that Ted Nugent’s asinine efforts to minimize the unethical nature of his uncivil words about President Obama by tweeting his views on 44 “more offensive” forms of conduct were a pretty good example of my least favorite rationalization in action. That rationalization is #22, the Comparative Virtue Excuse, or “There are worse things.” (There are always worse things, of course.) Never mind: Ted is playing in the minor leagues. Art Acevedo, Austin’s excuse-master police chief, really knows how to swing a #22.
A bystander took a video of Austin police detaining and ultimately arresting jogger Amanda Jo Stephen after she crossed an intersection at a red light and failed to obey orders from an officer after he saw her jaywalking, because she was wearing headphones and couldn’t hear him. My view: the police over-reacted and used excessive force (she pulled her arm away when the officer stopped her, and he treated is as resisting arrest), but wearing head phones that make it impossible for you to hear what is around you is 1) dangerous, 2) stupid and 3) obnoxious. Continue reading
Now this is an ethics category you don’t see very often!
“Let’s hope that I do not, while taking valuables and property from the private residence I am about to break into, encounter evidence of a crime that, unlike burglary and theft, my personal value system regards as repugnant, for then, as a responsible citizen burglar, I would be ethically obligated to report it to law enforcement officials, thus placing myself at greater risk of arrest…”
In Spain, a burglar broke into the home of a trainer for a kids soccer team, and discovered a collection of child pornography, including self-made recordings of the homeowner sexually abusing children as young as ten. The burglar placed an anonymous call to local police and said he left the evidence in a car, along with a note on which he wrote the apparent pedophile’s address. “I have had the misfortune to come into possession of these tapes and feel obliged to hand them over and let you do your job, so that you can lock this … up for life,” the burglar told police in his message.
The trainer has been arrested and charged; one of his victims, who is now 16, told authorities she had been abused since the time she was 10.
A few ethics observations on an intriguing case: Continue reading
A few quick points, before I present Chris Marschner’s excellent Comment of the Day:
- You know you’re posting too much when a you’ve completely forgotten an essay less than a month old, like this one.
- Why didn’t someone tell me that I left the “l” out of “Columbia”?
- I’m going to have to start working on my proof-reading again, clearly. There were a couple more typos in this post.
- Chris just started commenting, and this is the third carefully written, well-reasoned substantive piece he has produced. I am grateful; such debuts raise everyone’s game.
- I liked this post, and not many people read it or commented on it. I am increasingly worried about the trend in law enforcement and in government generally, especially the schools, to brush off free speech as an inconvenience. I’m grateful to Chris for raising the issue again.
Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, “Ethics Dunce: Columbia, South Carolina Police Chief Ruben Santiago”: Continue reading
The face of police power abuse in Columbia, S.C.
If our culture did a minimally competent job communicating the essential right of free speech in the United States, people like Ruben Santiago wouldn’t think as the do—as they do being best described as ignorantly, censoriously, arrogantly and stupidly. Both the Left and the Right are to blame for the message not getting out to the public, and, consequently, members of the public who acquire governmental authority: the government can’t threaten you or harm you for mere speech…the Left through its attempts at political correctness, mind control and indoctrination in the schools, the Right in its efforts to use laws to curb expression involving sex and violence in the arts and entertainment.
In Columbia,Police Chief Ruben Santiago took to the Columbia Police Department Facebook page to announce that his officers had seized $40,000 in marijuana from an apartment after a successful drug investigation. Citizen Brandon Whitmer, on his own page, took note of the arrest and opined, “maybe (police) should arrest the people shooting people in 5 points instead of worrying about a stoner that’s not bothering anyone. It’ll be legal here one day anyway.” Santiago replied ominously to Whitmer, saying, “(W)e have arrested all of the violent offenders in Five points. Thank you for sharing your views and giving us reasonable suspicion to believe you might be a criminal, we will work on finding you.”
Somebody in the department with a working knowledge of the Constitution quickly got that post deleted, but Santiago defended it in a double-down post, writing, Continue reading
Do you recall the post last week about the brain-dead reaction of various website commenters to the Florida arrest prosecution of a man for harassing a manatee?
If they had been commenting about this incident, they would have been on firm logical and ethical ground.
Anthony Brasfield and his girlfriend shared a carefree, romantic interlude one Sunday morning in the parking lot of the Motel 6 on Dania Beach Boulevard, as they released a dozen red and silver mylar heart-shaped balloons and watched them rise, up, up, up into the air, then slowly float away, high and far, until they became tiny specks against the blue. They squeezed each other’s hands, smiled, and…got arrested by a Florida highway patrol state trooper on the spot.
Brasfield was charged with the environmental crime of helium pollution, under the Florida Air and Water Pollution Control Act.Aggravating the offense apparently was the fact that endangered marine turtle species and birds make their abode in John U. Lloyd State Park, about 1.5 miles east of the motel. The third-degree felony is punishable by up to five years in prison. Continue reading
“Just remove that offensive bumper sticker, sir, and they’ll be no trouble.”
USA Today, NBC, Yahoo! and other news outlets are snickering as they report the story of an elderly couple pulled over by two police cars in Tennessee because a Buckeye leaf decal on their car, signifying their fealty to the Ohio State football team, was mistaken for a marijuana leaf by the men in blue. “What are you doing with a marijuana sticker on your bumper?” one of the cops asked the Jonas-Boggionis, the occupants of the vehicle. It was all a big misunderstanding! Boy, are those Tennessee cops dumb, not to be able to tell a Buckeye leaf from pot!
In classic “what’s wrong with this story?” fashion, not one of the news media reports, in their hilarity over the cops stopping the couple out of official botanical and sports ignorance, noted that the police would have been just as wrong if the decal DID portray a marijuana leaf. It’s called the First Amendment, guys—perhaps you’ve heard of it? It’s the same Constitutional amendment that allows you media reporters to do the rotten, incompetent job you do covering the news without being declared by law to be the menace to a free and informed society you are. You know, it might be helpful, when the police engage in a blatant First Amendment violation and abuse of state power, for reporters to recognize and explain it to the public as such, rather than make the news story about how the police stopped the Jonas-Boggionis for the “wrong reason.” Even if they had stopped it for what the stories say is the right reason, it would be the wrong reason. Continue reading
…bad, as in “if you can’t come up with something better than this, why bother?”
Adding useful data to the time-honored debate over whether police frequently lie under oath comes this decision from 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which reinstated a 6-year-old civil rights lawsuit filed by a Vietnam veteran and former pilot John Swartz, who contended that he was unconstitutionally stopped and arrested after expressing his displeasure by extending his middle finger to a cop.
After the stop, he and the officer, Richard Insogna, got in a headed argument that culminated in Swartz’s arrest for disorderly conduct. Insogna said in a deposition that he regarded Swartz’s gesture as an attempt to get his attention, not as an insult, and he that he only followed the car to ensure the safety of passenger and driver, who, he surmised, might be embroiled in a domestic dispute. The 2nd Circuit was, we are told, “skeptical of the explanation.”
Ya think? Continue reading
I know we just had an Ethics Quiz, but this is too good to pass up.
San Francisco police officer Gared Hansen has filed a lawsuit against the city. He says he was unfairly suspended because in his non-uniformed down-time, he is an artist with an unusual passion. He photographs nearly-naked women dressed, made-up, or painted to evoke mythical creatures. You know, like this:
..or, if you prefer, this:
So here is your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz for this Sunday:
Is such a hobby engaged in by one of its number sufficiently damaging to the credibility, dignity and image of the SF police force that it is reasonable for the officer to be disciplined? In short, should there be a corollary to “The Naked Teacher Principle” called the “Cop Who Paints Weird Naked Women Principle”? Continue reading
Officer Tasca, defying a police taboo
Police have a hard, crucial and dangerous job, so it is not surprising that the profession has developed a culture of rigidly enforced mutual support, the famous “blue line” that represents order against chaos, with police protecting society from the lawless and the predators, and making solidarity among the components of that line a key element in its strength. I understand why the culture has evolved to be what it is, and why an ethic of unconditional loyalty and trust thrives in police departments. There are times. however, when enforcing the integrity of the blue line serves to undermine it, and the saga of Officer Regina Tasca of the Bogota (New York) Police Department appears to be one of them. Continue reading