Ethics Quiz: The Firing Of Officer Daniel Pantaleo

The New York Police Department has finally fired Daniel Pantaleo, the officer shown on video with his arm bent around the neck of 43-year-old Eric Garner just before Garner died  after being tackled by five officers.  A departmental disciplinary judge recommended the action, and Pantaleo was suspended from duty pending further review.

“In this case the unintended consequence of Mr. Garner’s death must have a consequence of its own,” said O’Neill. “It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.” He also added, “If I was still a cop, I’d probably be mad at me.”

The Commissioner kept digging. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz (And Poll): The Cop And The KKK Application

Either our nation is committed to the principles of freedom of thought, speech, expression and association,  or it is not.

With that preface, here is the kind of gray area, bizarre fact pattern controversy that puts ethical analysis to the test.

In the Muskegon County (Michigan) town of Holton, African-American  Rob Mathias, accompanied by his wife and children, was walking through the home of Charles Anderson, a local police officer, with the intent of possibly purchasing it.  Then he saw a framed Klu Klux Klan application hanging on a wall, as well as several Confederate flags. He and his family immediately left the property.

Later he posted a photograph of the KKK application on Facebook, (above) explaining later that he felt it was something the public had a right to know about, especially if the officer had a history of questionable interactions with African Americans.  Mathias wrote that Anderson “was one of the most racist people” in the community and “hiding behind his uniform.” The post was also personal and threatening, concluding with “I know who you are and will be looking for resources to expose your prejudice.”

The Facebook post triggered an internal investigation of Anderson, and he was placed on administrative leave. “We do take this sort of issue, seriously, and we are working hard to understand if/how this may impact his ability to safely and fairly police our community,” Muskegon City Manager Frank Peterson reporters. Muskegon County NAACP President Eric Hood piled on, saying, “We want a thorough investigation to be sure that when he goes out there and puts on that uniform and performs his duties as an officer that he’s being fair and impartial.”

“I’m still disgusted by it. I’m hurt,” said Mathias “You can’t serve your community and be a racist. You can’t. There are people of all different colors, of all different nationalities … out there that you have to serve and protect. You can’t just protect one group of people.”

 Rachel Anderson, the officer’s wife, told reporters that her husband is not and never was a KKK member. She said he was a collector, and called the uproar a misunderstanding.

Mathias’ wife said in rebuttal,

“I like antiques, but I collect things that I represent. You can go in my basement, we have Detroit Lions, Red Wings, Michigan stuff, everything we associate ourselves with.So why would you collect something you don’t associate with yourself?” 

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…

Has this situation been handled fairly, responsibly and ethically? Continue reading

More Cultural Literacy: The “Hard” Citizenship Questions.

In one of the many ways the news media tries to influence public attitudes (which is not its job), the New York Times is constantly including propaganda of various subtlety to bolster the case of illegal immigrants, or as the Times dishonestly calls them, “migrants,” “undocumented immigrants,” or just “immigrants,” the most deceitful label of all. One sally consisted of arguing how unfair it was that those applying for citizenship had to answer questions that current citizens would struggle with.

A recent example was a quiz, culled from the 100 questions that examiners pick from at random when an aspiring citizen is completing the application process. “With your American citizenship on the line, could you answer the following question?” the piece began. “Take a moment. Because, according to a 2011 study, this is the hardest of the 100 possible questions asked on the United States citizenship test.”

That question was “How many Constitutional Amendments are there?” (The answer is 27.) Yeah, that’s pretty difficult. It also isn’t especially meaningful to a citizen; I’m not big on specific dates and numbers: if you know enough to look them up, then you know enough. In other words, a citizen should know that there’s a right to legal representation, a speedy trial, to vote, to assemble, to worship as one pleases, and that a President can be removed from office if he’s physically unable to perform his duties without checking, but whether the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment is the 8th or 9th Amendment is essentially a trivial detail.

Not if you’re an immigrant trying to gain the privilege of American citizenship, however. There is nothing at all unfair about requiring new citizens to demonstrate the commitment and dedication necessary to learn about their new nation. Most lawyers couldn’t pass the bar exam now without studying again; it’s the same principle. It would be better if Americans didn’t take their nation and its history for granted, but that’s human nature, and they know that their citizen cannot be taken from them for mere ignorance, even if they don’t know where that guarantee is in the Constitution.

The Times:

One survey found that 64 percent of American citizens would fail the test…Immigrants taking the exam as part of their citizenship application tend to fare much better. The combined pass rate for the civics exam and an English evaluation performed in the same interview is 91 percent, U.S.C.I.S. reported in December.

Good. One of the privileges of citizenship is to become lazy and ignorant, but we don’t want you here if you start out that way.

Here are the rest of the hardest ten. (I got them all right, as I should have. They are not truly hard, or shouldn’t be.) Continue reading

An Ethics Quiz Returns With A New Context And An Ancient Conundrum, And The Answer, My Friends, Is Still Blowin’ In The Wind…

The Ethics Quiz from 2013, “Peter’s Problem,” that I have re-posted in its entirety below has come circling around like boomerang, in a different context. Then, singer activist Peter Yarrow of Peter,Paul and Mary fame was being attacked by the political Right, which argued that his participation in a political campaign event for a Democratic Congressional candidate was proof of that candidate’s poor judgment. Yarrow, as we were told by PBS when it raised fund by showing Peter,Paul and Mary concerts, had answered a knock on his hotel room door naked when  two teenage sisters, 14 and 17, stopped by in 1969 to seek an autograph. The 14-year old got a lot more than his signature. Yarrow was eventually charged with taking indecent liberties with a minor, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three months in jail. President Jimmy Carter pardoned him in 1981.

Lat week, Yarrow’ s past (he was 31 then; he’s 81 now)  caused one of his appearances to be cancelled, but this time it wasn’t those Puritanical conservatives complaining about Yarrow’s “if it feels good, do it” sexual misconduct (which most of Yarrow’s younger fans in the Peace and Love Era didn’t think was misconduct at all), but the Left’s #MeToo furies.

Yes, Peter Yarrow and his critics have boarded the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck.

Since that rollicking night in 1969 , Peter Yarrow has solidified his folk singing and progressive activist status without further public blemishes, and having him associated with an event has usually been regarded as a positive, not a negative, feature when progressives and their causes are involved. John Kerry had him sing at his wedding. Bill Clinton featured him at an Inauguration. He has collected lifetime achievement awards like little Jackie Paper collected painted wings and giant rings.

Last week, however, the Colorscape Chenango Arts Festival, which had  had described Yarrow in its advance publicity for his participation in its annual  September festival as  one of “America’s longtime favorite musicians and performers,”  canceled his appearance, saying in a statement…

“Some members of our community expressed concern, and after further investigation and careful consideration the decision was made to remove Yarrow from the music schedule.”

In the 2013 post, , I criticized Yarrow’s apologetic statement at the time, which was tainted by rationalizations. His statement last week was much better: Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Revoked Harvard Acceptance

Kyle Kashuv is the  Parkland, Florida student who bucked the trend and took the side of the Second Amendment while his fellow students were being hailed as moral exemplars for attacking the NRA and touring the country as vocal and self-righteous anti-gun activists.  While David Hogg and the rest became go-to guests on CNN and MSNBC’s talking head shows, Kashuv  launched a career as a junior conservative pundit, hanging out on Fox News.  Harvard College, which never found a young celebrity it didn’t want to recruit as long as he or she could spell C-A-T, accepted him for its 2023 Class.

Then some text  messages using racial epithets and expressing anti-minority sentiments that  he exchanged with other Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students months before the massacre “surfaced online.” That means some of his classmates who don’t like his non-conforming politics decided to sabotage his academic aspirations.

Harvard contacted Kyle and demanded that he explain himself.  Kyle resorted to the old “that’s not who I am” trope so well-worn by celebrities and sports figures who have faced public relations crises created by social media posts they made when they were nobodies with a handful of followers. Kashuv’s problem is that in those cases, an adult was saying that he or she was “not the same person” as the foolish child from the misty past, while in his case, he is disavowing who he was just two years ago. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Insensitive Exam Question

This ethics quiz is designed to balance my own biases.

Above the Law’s Ellie Mystal claimed that a Georgetown University Law Center professor gave his class an insensitive hypothetical in an exam. I am almost as disgusted with GULC as I am with my other alma mater; Above the Law is a hack website; Mystal has proven himself to be a left-wing hysteric, a racist, a biased journalist, a self-evident jerk and a lawyer whose ethics are so warped that he should never be allowed within 50 yards of a potential client. As a result, I can’t be sure that my conclusion that his analysis in this case is as wrong as I think it is, since all of these biases, however justified, may be rusting my ethics alarms solid. Maybe.

You probably recall that Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crashed earlier this year, killing 157 people. This part of the ongoing Boeing 737 MAX jet controversy that has resulted  in the aircraft being pulled out of service.Cedric Asiavugwa, a third-year student at the Law Center, was one of the victims of the crash.

Georgetown Law Professor M. Gregg Bloche  devised a final for his “The Mind And The Law” class that included a question that asked students to evaluate the legal issues surrounding the FAA’s emergency grounding of Boeing 737s. Mystal is outraged: Continue reading

Ethics Alarms Flashback Post Of The Week: “Ethics Quiz: The Sensitive Cop’s Facebook Confession”

[A  while ago I wrote that I might periodically re-post one of the more than 2000 Ethics Alarms essays that have appeared here since 2009. The criteria? Let’s see:

  • A post that I have completely forgotten about, and don’t remember even after I’ve read it again.
  • A post that may be interesting to consider in light of subsequent developments since it was written (in this case,  social media posts triggering workplace discipline, and police-community relations)
  • A lively discussion in the comments.

I think this post, based on a find by now-retired Ethics Alarms super-scout Fred, qualifies on all counts. It’s from May of 2014.]

“If there was any time I despised wearing a police uniform, it was yesterday at the Capitol during the water rally. A girl I know who frequents the Capitol for environmental concerns looked at me and wanted me to participate with her in the event. I told her I have to remain unbiased while on duty at these events. She responded by saying, ‘You’re a person, aren’t you?’ That comment went straight through my heart!”

Thus did Douglas Day, a police officer at the West Virginia Capitol in Charleston, confess to Facebook friends his mixed emotions while doing his duty.

For this he was fired.

The day Day wrote his Facebook post, Capitol Police Lt. T.M. Johnson told him  that the post “shows no respect to the department, the uniform or the law enforcement community which he represents.”  About a week later, Sgt. A.E. Lanham Jr. wrote to Day that he “found the entire [Facebook] posting to be extremely offensive and shocking … This is just another episode of many incidents which show his bad attitude and lack of enthusiasm toward police work in general and toward our department in particular.”

Day was thunderstruck. “If they believed there was some sort of a violation I made, then why wasn’t it addressed? They never brought me in and never said anything to me,” Day said. “In 2½ years working there, I had no disciplinary action taken against me at any time. Nothing was ever written up and I received no reprimands.” So much for the “many incidents.” Continue reading