“You know your house is really messy when…”
We have been discussing, of late, the ethical duty of strangers to intervene when they get the sense that something may not be right and an individual, especially a child, may be at risk of harm. Doing this involves its own risk: being wrong. Causing embarrassment to yourself and others. Being accused of being racist, or a busybody, or a meddler.
This is what can happen when no body cares enough to take that risk.
I am in Rhode Island, having come from Boston, where a nightmarish story is obsessing the radio talk shows:
Police were setting the record straight as to how many times they’ve responded over the years to the Blackstone, Massachusetts, house of squalor, where three dead infants were discovered among piles of trash, dead animals, feces and vermin last week, as clean-up at the condemned house finally finished up Tuesday.Four children who lived in the house – a 5-month-old baby, a 3-year-old toddler, a 10-year-old boy and 13-year-old girl – have all since been removed by Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
Their mother, 31-year-old Erika Murray, is behind bars. She’s pleaded not guilty to charges of child endangerment and fetal death concealment. Her boyfriend, and alleged father of the children, Raymond Rivera, claims he stayed in the basement. He’s only been charged with marijuana offenses at this point.
I’ll have plenty of links at the end so you can read the details of this disgusting story, if you have the stomach for it. Obviously it’s not ethical to have your children living in a home with dirty diapers are piled two feet high and dead pets are stuffed in corners. Obviously it’s not ethical to father kids, live in the basement, and ignore the squalor your children are being raised in. Obviously the parents in this case are mentally ill, or approaching evil. From the perspective of this blog, the parents’ conduct has nothing to teach anyone who isn’t demented. I am interested in the neighbors’ conduct, or rather their lack of it. Continue reading
This isn’t Patricia Denault ‘s son. I hope…
In Longwood, Florida, Patricia-Ann Jackson Denault thought it would be funny to post pictures of her son, 7, drinking whiskey on Facebook, titling it “first shot.” Someone thought it was more alarming than funny, and called the police. Three uniformed officers and Child Protective Services came to her house and interviewed both her and her kids. Denault explained her humor theory, and said she wanted the children “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting.”
They were not impressed. She was arrested and charged with child neglect.
Apparently this is becoming a cause celebre in conservative circles, and example of the nanny state going too far. I don’t see it:
- A photo on Facebook showed an adult persuading a very young child to drink a substance that can be dangerous in large quantities. Was that the only sip, or the first of many? I think the inquiry was responsible.
- The mother used her child not only as a prop, but as a prop involving alcohol. I would be dubious about the judgment of such a parent.
- She said that she wanted a seven-year-old “to experience alcohol in a controlled setting” ??? Why? What else would she like to see a child experience in a controlled setting?
I think these were sufficient reason to check on the welfare of the children in that home, and to be concerned. Should she have been arrested? I don’t know what the children said, or what she told the police. The news reports make Denault sound like a fool, but being a stupid parent does not necessarily make one a dangerous parent. If this is all there is, the arrest is overkill. Continue reading
There was a fascinating editorial in the Washington Post this morning, I thought. See if you agree. It read in part…
At point-blank range, a Fairfax County police officer a year ago fired one shot, killing an unarmed man standing inside his home. The man, John Geer, was distraught and had been drinking — his longtime girlfriend had moved out and called police when he threw her things into the front yard — but he held no hostages, brandished no weapons and, so far as we have learned, posed no serious threat either to police or to public order…Shot in the chest, he was left to bleed to death inside his doorway while police officers, remaining outside the house, did nothing for an hour. Five and a half hours after the shooting, his body remained sprawled on the floor where he died.Incredibly, the authorities in Northern Virginia — including Fairfax County police and state and federal prosecutors — have refused to furnish any explanation for this stupefying sequence of events last Aug. 29 in Springfield. They have stonewalled…The officer who fired the shot, who remains on the force with full pay, has not been identified.
The authorities conduct themselves as if the case presented insurmountable complexities. This strains credulity. It involved one shot, one gun, one shooter and one fatality. It took place in broad daylight, at mid-afternoon. It was witnessed at close range by at least two other police officers, as well as friends and neighbors of Mr. Geer. And still authorities refuse to act or discuss Mr. Geer’s death…Will no one take responsibility and make some decisions in the unexplained death of Mr. Geer?
Don’t you think it would have been helpful, not to mention responsible and ethical, for the Post to remind its readers of this case while it fully participated in the media-driven race-baiting and hysteria over the shooting of “unarmed black teen Michael Brown” in Ferguson, Missouri?
It is also interesting, given the fact that the Brown-Wilson case is still very much in the news and on the tips of accusatory pundits’ tongues, that the Post neglected to mention the irony embodied by the quite legitimate lament of its editorial now. Ferguson? What’s that got to do with Fairfax? Continue reading
I don’t know what kind of a person Darren Wilson is, and I don’t know if he was justified in shooting Mike Brown. But it there is increasing anecdotal evidence that a lot of police officers have a cruel, vicious and callous streak as evidenced by their attitudes toward animals, and to me, this suggests that are a lot of people in uniform with the authority to use deadly force who should not be police officers at all.
Jonathan Turley highlighted two nauseating cases in recent days.
The first unfolded in Baltimore, when Nala, a young Shar Pei, escaped from her owner’s yard over the weekend and a neighbor tried to check the dog’s tags. Don’t try this with unfamiliar dogs that might be stressed, everyone: Nala snapped at her, causing a minor wound. The neighbor then summoned police to deal with the dog, though she has acknowledged that the bite was her own fault, and Nala was just frightened.
The police and took control of Nala using the long dog-control pole. The neighbor reported that the two police officers abused the dog without cause in the process, twisting its neck and hurting her. One officer kneeled on Nala’s chest, causing her to whimper in pain.
They were just warming up.
Officer Jeffrey Bolger then said, according to multiple witnesses, “I’m going to fucking gut this thing.” As the neighbor and others watched in horror, Bolger pulled out a knife and slit Nala’s throat while Officer Thomas Schmidt held her down. Witnesses say that the dog was already immobilized against the ground and was posing no threat. Animal cruelty charges have been brought against both Bolger and Schmidt.
So you see, that animal control officer who shot the wild kittens as children watched wasn’t so bad after all. Continue reading
When do competent, rational, fair, responsible, ethical citizens, officials, journalists and organizations take sides in a racially charged controversy involving a law enforcement officer and an individual shot and killed by that officer in an incident where the circumstances and provocation have yet to be verified?
Simple: they don’t.
So how do we explain and characterize the decisions of so many citizens, officials, journalists and organizations to take sides in the Michael Brown shooting by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson? That’s simple too.
They are neither competent, rational, fair, responsible, nor ethical.
Thus we add to the passenger list of the Ferguson Ethics Train Wreck the following, who publicly took sides this weekend and today:
- The Obama Administration. Three White House representatives will attend Brown’s funeral. This signals an official acceptance of the Brown family narrative, at this point completely unverified, that police misconduct and racism were involved in the death of their son, or if not, and I’m sure the White House will have some spin to dispute this, that is how it will be perceived by activists and how the White House wants it to be perceived. This may be good politics (though I don’t think intentional divisiveness is good, but the White House and I differ on that point), but it is horrible leadership, and a slap in the fact to all law enforcement, which is now being told by those representing the President of the United States that it is presumed to be in the wrong when there is a controversy over the exercise of force involving an African American
There should be no question about it any more. The nearly unanimous position, stated or unstated, by elected Democratic and African American officials is that Officer Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who shot the unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown, should be charged with murder. That position represents a triumph of group identification, political expediency and bias over the rule of law and, yes, in defiance of that cynically wielded term “justice,” and it needs to be rejected and condemned at the highest levels of our society. Who is going to have the courage to do it?
Certainly not the news media. This morning on the David Gregory-less “Meet the Press,” the stand-in for the fired host interviewed Democratic Missouri Governor Jay Nixon, who talked exclusively in code about “justice” and “transparency.” Nixon, you will recall, has already stated his view that Wilson should be prosecuted, so his mouthing platitudes now about “transparency” ring like the sly plotting of the villains in old Westerns. You know the type: the cattle baron who owns the town and the sheriff devises a way to remove an obstreperous opponent who won’t toe the line by framing him and convicting him of murder. “Make it look niiice and fair, right by the book!” he snickers to his henchman. That was Nixon today.
Then the questioning turned to NBC round-table guest Kasim Reed, the African-American Mayor of Atlanta, who was asked about how to ensure a just result in the case. His answer was frank, if jaw-dropping: everyone, including jurors and officials, should see the incident “through the eyes” of Brown’s parents, “whose son was shot six times in front of four witnesses and left lying in the street for hours.” Continue reading
How much fire power should a democracy’s police forces have at their disposal? Is the trend toward militarization in urban police departments an inherent threat to our liberty? These are interesting topics, and issues with public policy as well as ethical implications, brought to our attention by the armored vehicles we have seen prowling through the streets of Ferguson, Missouri.
I confess to neglecting these matters on Ethics Alarms, in part because the question of whether a police officer justly and legally shot (six times) and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown has been muddled by too many other considerations already. As a result, I haven’t given the issues much quality thought, other than my usual fascination at the ability of some committed libertarians to take a position dictated by their ideology without being troubled by the obvious practical problems associated with that position, a proclivity I would file under the heading of “Irresponsible.” Also, “Strange.” How can someone advocate virtually unregulated access to increasingly powerful weaponry by citizens—including criminals—and oppose sufficient arms in the hands of the police to protect the public from a misuse of that weaponry? Libertarians (and others) maintain that a prime purpose of the Second Amendment is to prevent the government from disarming citizens to dominate and control them. Agreed. But the unfettered freedom of law-abiding citizens to acquire the weapons they feel are necessary for whatever lawful purpose they choose will also result in the same weapons being available to those with less savory objectives in mind. I understand that the opposition to a police force armed to the teeth springs from either a distrust of government generally (libertarians and anarchists) or police specifically , especially by a segment of the population, African-Americans, who are otherwise favorably inclined toward a large, intrusive government—a contradiction as striking as that offered by the libertarian position, but understandable for those who live under the threatening authority of the Killer Klown act known as the Ferguson Police Department.
Fortunately, texagg04, a distinguished Ethics Alarms regular, has been inspired to delve into some of these questions, and others, in a superb post, the Comment of the Day, on the essay Mid-EthicsTrain Wreck Observations On Ferguson. Here it is: Continue reading
Filed under Citizenship, Comment of the Day, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, War and the Military