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
Tom Selleck as NYC Chief of Police Frank Reagan
Tom Selleck’s CBS drama “Blue Bloods,” chronicling the exploits of the Reagans, an improbable fictional New York City family that dominates NYC’s law enforcement, featured an excellent example of a necessary lie last night, in which utilitarian principles would hold that the lie, a rather serious and extensive one—many interlocking lies, really—was the most ethical option available.
The situation arose because the Chief of Police (Frank Reagan, played by Selleck) learned that his police officer son, Jamie Reagan, had rescued a child from an explosion, and the press and city were clamoring to know who the hero was. (Nobody saw the rescue, which is a contrived detail, but necessary to set up the ethical dilemma.) But Jamie was also working undercover in a serious and dangerous operation, having infiltrated an organized crime family. (Why was a uniformed cop allowed to stay on the street while leading a double life? Seems reckless to me, but Father Chief knows best.) To protect the undercover operation and his son, Frank Reagan decides on an elaborate deception, persuading his son’s partner, who was on the scene of the rescue, to take the credit and even accept a commendation in a public ceremony.
Lying to the public and the press to such an extent is almost always inexcusable, but protecting an anti-crime effort in the public interest, as well as the imperiled officer involved in it, is a rare case in which the balance tips away from the truth. The “Blue Bloods” solution was the best one available given the situation and the law enforcement priorities. But… Continue reading
The ethical way to take your medicine.
Officer Robin Parker, a Maine state police officer, was pulled over for drunk driving while off-duty and arrested, as he should have been, but as many officers in similar circumstances are not, due to “professional courtesy.” Parker was put on administrative leave pending an investigation. His arrest was beginning to cause discord at the station, as some of Parker’s colleagues but some of his fellow officers were ostracizing the officers who arrested him.
Parker sent a mass email to all the officers. It read…
Dear Fellow Troopers,
I’m not sure I’m able to articulate exactly how I feel, but I will try to put into words my thoughts.
Most if not all of you know by now what happened with me last Sunday evening. I was pulled over on the turnpike for suspicion of driving under the influence. I was subsequently processed and charged with that offense by Troopers within Troop G.
I want to first thank all of you for your tremendous support and prayers. I will continue to graciously accept them as I move forward in this process. One thing I want to make perfectly clear to everyone. My decisions and choices were mine and mine alone. I have made some mistakes and I’m prepared to answer for them. I appreciate the kind words expressing sadness that I will have to deal with this in the courts and within the department. But these are the consequences for MY ACTIONS. I’m not saying this is not painful, because it is. I’m not saying this is not going to be hard, because it will be. I’m not saying I’m not ashamed and embarrassed, because I am. But, what I am saying is I own this and I’m prepared for the consequences. Continue reading
I'm confused...I thought the police were supposed to arrest con artists, not be con artists!
Municipal governments are having a difficult time balancing budgets in these challenging economic conditions, but the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota have devised a surprisingly effective way to pick up oodles of extra cash.
From its citizens.
I’m not kidding. City records show that St. Paul, for example, has kept nearly a quarter-million dollars from impound lot auctions this year that should have properly gone to vehicle owners. But the law requires the car owners to ask for their money, and both St. Paul and Minneapolis do their level best to keep that information from trickling through all the documentation and red tape. The St. Paul Police Department, which runs the St. Paul impound lot, sends owners of impounded vehicles a certified letter shortly after their car is towed. The letter includes citations to one city ordinance and five state laws that govern the towing, impoundment and auction of vehicles. Car owners have to look up the fifth state law cited and read that law’s fourth paragraph before learning of the right to a refund. And to do that, they have to know what they should be looking for—which the letter doesn’t tell them.
Cute, eh? Continue reading
Wrong country, same gesture.
[The principal in this tale from a post early in Ethics Alarms' existence just dicsovered it, and sent some additional detail in a comment. I am fairly certain that almost nobody read the original post, and I had completely forgotten about it myself. Its central point is still valid, however, and since it involves an ethics conflict that has frequently re-appeared here---the duty to respect law enforcement officials versus the right not to, and the proper handling of a citizen who is rude, abusive, or worse---I thought I'd revive it.
Much thanks is due to David Hackbart for his considerate comment.]
Three springs ago on the streets of Pittsburgh, David Hackbart was starting to parallel park when a car pulled up behind him. Don’t you hate that? Hackbart did too, and presented his flip-off finger to the anonymous driver in silent protest. “Don’t flip him off!” came a shouted edict from someone outside his car, and Hackbart, not in the mood for officious intermeddling, gave the anonymous civility referee The Finger as well. Continue reading
"Hide! The Vice-President says that if the jobs bill doesn't pass, we might be raped!!!"
“The very first question at the next Solyndra hearing should be, “How many rapes could Democrats have prevented by giving that $535 million to cops instead?”
—“Hot Air” blogger Allahpundit, marking the below-the-belt tactics of Vice President Joe Biden, who angrily suggested that Republicans who voted against the President’s jobs bill would be responsible for rapes and murders because of the resulting inadequate numbers of police.
Biden’s fear-mongering is beyond demogoguery, whatever the virtues of the President’s bill. States make budgetary decisions, and if a state’s priorities in funding didn’t include sufficient police personnel to prevent rapes and murders, the state is accountable, not Congressional Republicans (and Democrats) who don’t like the President’s bill. Meanwhile, the jobs bill seeks $5 billion for cops (and firefighters) and $30 billion for teachers. Is Obama willing to risk more rapes by not putting more money into law enforcement and less into teacher’s unions? Continue reading