Tag Archives: police

In Maryland, Tempting Moral Luck And The Barn Door Phenomenon In A Free Range Kids Ethics Conflict

Lyon Sisters

Just months after suburban Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were cited by Montgomery County’s Child Protective Services for “unsubstantiated neglect” for allowing their children Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, to walk home from a park close to home, the defiant parents let their kids to do it again. Again, someone called 911 (anonymously), and again the children were picked up by police.

This time, the police took the Meitiv children to Child Protective Services headquarters and for some reason didn’t tell the parents, who, naturally enough, freaked out. Five and a half hours later the agitated children and frantic parents  were reunited. You can read about the initial incident from the mother’s perspective here; and obviously Lenore Skanazy is in full battle array on her “Free Range Kids Blog.” Columnists everywhere are rushing to their keyboards to write columns like this one, by the Washington Post’s Petula Devorak, titled “Why Are We Criminalizing Childhood Independence?”

The ethics of this issue are more complicated than simplistic “We used to walk around freely all the time when we were kids and it was more dangerous then than now” reminiscences are equipped to explore.

Analyzing this ethics conflict (“when two or more ethical principles are in opposition”)  screams out for the useful starting point for ethics analysis:

What’s going on here?

Before I answer, let’s get a couple of ethics verdicts out of the way: Continue reading

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Filed under Childhood and children, Family, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, U.S. Society

Comment of the Day: “Unethical Website Of The Month: Michael T. Slager Support Fund”

Now, let's not jump to conclusions...

Now, let’s not jump to conclusions…

How can a website dedicated to paying for the defense of fired police officer Michael T. Slager be unethical, when every citizen is guaranteed the right to a defense before a jury of his peers? I thought I made my ethical objections to the site clear when I wrote:

Slager deserves a fair trial and will get one, but anyone whose immediate reaction to seeing the horrific video is sympathy for this killer cop needs psychiatric treatment, and quickly.

I also made it clear—I thought–that the text of the appeal betrayed a strange and ugly urge to shield Slager from the consequences of his conduct, which was per se, on its face, undeniably illegal under the laws of every state in the land, including South Carolina. He shot a fleeing man in the back; he cannot claim self-defense. Deadly force is forbidden in such situations. Unless Slager noticed that victim Walter Scott had death-ray shooting eyes in the back of his head, Scott’s death is a homicide, and it’s an open and shut case. The only remaining question is what level of homicide.

The appeal said that the poster supported Slager. Wrong. We should not support police officers who shoot citizens in the back. It attempted to minimize Slager’s offense by calling it a “mis-step.” Intentionally shooting someone illegally is not a mis-step. It’s murder. Then the appeal reminded us that Slager has a family, and didn’t do anything bad before he shot a man to death. Well, “first offense” is not a big mitigating factor when it comes to executing people.

However, I appreciate Ethics Alarms newcomer Gustav Bjornstrand‘s comment, though I don’t think this is the best context for it. Here is his Comment of the Day on the post “Unethical Website Of The Month: Michael T. Slager Support Fund.” I’ll be back at the end.

I venture to say that to offer support to Slager is certainly ethical, in and of itself. That is, if one believed that he or anyone deserves monetary support in order to raise a defence. It is conceivable that even someone who was certain he had committed a crime would choose still to aid him in getting good representation. It is unethical, I suggest, for anyone to assume that Slager is guilty of murder before a court decides the issue. It is possible, even if improbable, that there were circumstances prior to Slager firing that may shed light on his decision to fire. Additionally, there are a few other factors that need to be taken into consideration: Continue reading

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Filed under Comment of the Day, Law & Law Enforcement, Race, Unethical Websites

Proof Of Evolving Ethics Enlightenment: Bert The Cop Would Have Shot Walter Scott In The Back Too

For those who think that our ethical sensitivities don’t evolve for the better over time, I prescribe a careful viewing of that family classic, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

At the film’s climax, George Bailey, the self-sacrificing hero who has been granted his inadvertent wish to see what the world would be like if he had never been born, finds the love of his life and (in the life he has given up for this dystopian hell) the mother of his children now unmarried, alone and working as a librarian despite the fact that she looks like Donna Reed. He embraces her, and since she’s never met him in this alternate reality, she screams, believing she is being sexually assaulted by a madman. Kind, jovial police officer Bert is summoned to quell the ruckus, and George, who is a bit upset, punches him in the face to avoid arrest, and runs away. Bert then takes out his pistol and fires it at George repeatedly.

He’s a lousy shot.

In 1946, when audiences first saw this film, nobody thought there was anything unusual about Bert’s professional conduct. Many, many films right through the 1960s show police officers, “good guys,” even ones not trapped in a strangely mean alternate reality like Ward Bond’s Bert, shooting at fleeing suspects or criminals. That was considered appropriate police procedure then, and the public, society and U.S. culture saw nothing amiss. You were expected, as a good citizen, to submit to a police officer’s lawful authority. If you resisted arrest and ran, then it was fair and reasonable for the officer to shoot you, ideally after a “Stop or I’ll shoot!” warning. Indeed, many people were shot, and killed, this way. If it was news, it wasn’t on the front page, and it wasn’t considered any kind of an outrage.

Now consider the public and media reaction to Michael T. Slager’s shooting of Walter Scott. We now know that Scott was resisting arrest: he had a bench warrant out on him for non-payment of over $18,000 in child support, and Slager was trying to bring him into custody. Instead of doing as the officer demanded, Scott resisted and ran. Burt would have shot at his back too; the difference is that Slager is a better shot, and George was faster. Slager, however, is completely reviled across the country; even his own lawyer found him so repugnant that he refused to represent him.

That represents a massive shift in cultural values in a little over half a century. Continue reading

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Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, U.S. Society

CNN: “How Is The North Charleston Shooting Different From Ferguson?” KABOOM!

HeadExplode3

My answer:

“In North Charleston the officer executed a fleeing man, while in Ferguson an officer used appropriate force to defend himself, but CNN represented the story as an officer executing a fleeing man anyway.”

I literally just saw this minutes ago, so I can’t provide a link, and because smug, biased, despicable-beyond-words CNN morning anchor Carol Costello caused my head to explode with her commentary, the accuracy of my quotes may be a little off.

My brains hit the ceiling the second Costello said, “Unlike the shooting of Mike Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer, the shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston was captured on video. Witnesses in the Ferguson case disagreed about key facts in the shooting, and about whether Brown’s hands were up or not.”

Disgusting journalism, and close to pure evil. How long did Carol labor over that deceitful phrasing? Though Mike Brown’s shooting has been decisively shown by the credible eye-witness testimony and forensic evidence to have been consistent with the police officer’s account, and though the witnesses claiming that Brown was surrendering have been shown to be following the lead of CNN guest Dorian Johnson, who lied about what happened and set off the nationwide “Hands Up! Don’t Shoot!” protest theme, Costello and CNN are deliberately linked the two incidents, suggesting in tone and context that had there been a video, Darren Wilson might have been shown to be an executioner too. Continue reading

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Filed under Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

Unethical Website Of The Month: Michael T. Slager Support Fund

Or maybe the century.

I guess it might be a parody.

I hope it’s a parody.

On Indiegogo, a competitor of GoFundMe, some deranged individuals have actually—can I be really writing this?put up a website seeking funds to defend Michael T. Slager, who is, on the video above, shooting Walter Scott in the back as he fled, apparently executing him with multiple shots, handcuffing his motionless body, and then planting a stun gun beside him. Slager deserves a fair trial and will get one, but anyone whose immediate reaction to seeing the horrific video is sympathy for this killer cop needs psychiatric treatment, and quickly.

The text of the appeal is similarly jaw-dropping:

We’re campaigning to show our Support for Officer Michael T. Slager!

Why in the world would anyone want to support a man who has committed a murder and fanned the flames of distrust and racial discord in the process?

We believe in all of our LEOs and want to publicly support them!

Do you believe in video technology? Do you even support murderous law enforcement officers?Apparently so.

Although he may have made mis-steps in judgement he was protecting the community.

Calling shooting an unarmed fleeing man a misstep in judgement is like calling Jeffrey Daumer a bad chef. A white officer hooting a defenseless and fleeing black man endangers the community, by straining the bonds of trust that hold it together.

Michael is a former Coast Guardsman with two stepchildren and a wife who is expecting a child, served for more than five years with the department without being disciplined.

So what? Does this any of this earn him special immunity from the requirements of decency, justice, and respect for human life?

Please help in any way you can.

Why? Why should anyone want anything other than for this disgrace of a cop to be tried, convicted, and locked up for the rest of his life?

He has served five years with the department without being disciplined.

Oh. Well, that changes everything! He should be able to shoot anyone he decides to shoot, then.

Eight people have contributed to this nauseating appeal.

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Filed under Character, Law & Law Enforcement, Unethical Websites

Post “Hands Up!” Race-Baiting Accountability Sagas: Antonio French and Taraji P. Henson

French

Thanks to three related factors…

1. The uncritical acceptance of Dorian Johnson’s false characterization of Mike Brown’s shooting by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, leading to a society-wide condemnation not only of Wilson but police departments across the country and white Americans as racially hostile to young black men, and

2. The fact that police officers have been shooting and killing an awful lot of unarmed black men, young or not, and

3. Inflammatory and irresponsible rhetoric from national and local leaders and elected officials

….we are in a dangerously unstable environment of virulent racial distrust, where the police are regarded as immediately suspect and placed in a defensive posture with a presumption of racism and excessive violence virtually any time an African American is the object of police action, regardless of the circumstances or justification. This is being exploited by those arrested, their families, civil rights activists, elected officials, protest organizers and the news media.

Here are two ugly sagas that illustrate the problem: Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Family, Incompetent Elected Officials, Law & Law Enforcement

Accountability, “Jackie,” and the University Of Virginia Fraternity Libel

"Jackie"

“Jackie”

There are times when I feel like the ultra-conservative Senator Keeley played by Gene Hackman in “The Bird Cage,” when he’s just learned that his daughter’s future in-laws are a gay couple, that his future son-in-law has two mothers, and the middle-aged woman he had been flirting with all evening is a gay man. Literally nothing makes sense to him any more, and he says, plaintively, “I feel like I’m insane.”

The New York Times report on the police investigation into Rolling Stone’s false story about a horrific gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity made me feel like this. It made no sense to me whatsoever.

“After a review of records and roughly 70 interviews,” the story said, “Police Chief Timothy J. Longo Sr. said at a crowded news conference here, his investigators found “no evidence” that a party even took place at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity on Sept. 28, 2012, when the rape was said to have occurred. Instead, he said, there was a formal that night at the house’s sister sorority, making it highly unlikely that the fraternity would have had a party on the same night.Despite “numerous attempts,” he said, his officers were unable to track down the man Jackie had identified as her date that night. And several interviews contradicted her version of events.”

But wait, there’s more:

During the course of the ensuing police investigation, the chief said, investigators interviewed nine of the 14 members who were living at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house in September 2012; none said they knew Jackie. The authorities also sent questionnaires to other fraternity members; 19 were returned, and none of the respondents said they knew Jackie or had any knowledge of an assault having occurred at the fraternity house. A review of bank records for the fraternity revealed no expenditures for a party. The police also found a photograph time-stamped Sept. 28, 2012. It showed two men in an otherwise empty entrance hall, the chief said.Investigators also interviewed two of Jackie’s friends, both men, whom Jackie had said met with her after the assault occurred. But both contradicted her version of events, the chief said, adding, “They don’t recall any physical injuries.” And while both said they were told by Jackie that she had gone out on the night of Sept. 28, 2012, with a person named Haven Monahan — identified in the Rolling Stone article as “Drew” — the police were unable to track Mr. Monahan down.

Meanwhile, we are told, “Jackie” refuses to cooperate with the investigation in any way. Continue reading

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Filed under Character, Education, Ethics Train Wrecks, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, U.S. Society