Comment Of The Day: “Ick Or Ethics? The Officers’ Coin Flip”

I haven’t posted a Comment of the Day this month, and it’s me, not you. I have a high quality backlog, in fact: my apologies. I’ll be working diligently to catch up.

First in the queue is Arthur in Maine‘s deft reflections on the post about the police officers who flipped a coin to decide whether or not to arrest a reckless driver.  (I tend to think that it is a very well-argued “Everybody does it” rationalization, but never mind…).

Here is his Comment of the Day on the post, Ick Or Ethics? The Officers’ “Coin Flip”:

When I was going to school in Boston, I made my beer money by working in emergency medical services. Part of that work was in a district of the city, and part of it was in the northern suburbs; the latter company was a private concern that had the EMS contract for three contiguous towns and did a boatload of transfer work on top of it. A terrible company, long since sold out, but that’s another story. Suffice to say that I liked the work itself, even if the company itself was lousy.

In that role, I came to know a lot of cops and firefighters really well. They weren’t that different from us, other than the fact that their jobs were a lot more dangerous than ours – and ours were dangerous.

First-response work requires that the teams work in very close proximity with one another, and teams are mostly together for their entire shifts. Depending on the branch, shifts can last between eight hours and 48 (yes, you sleep if there’s nothing going on). Inherent in a smoothly functioning unit in all three first-response disciplines is a good relationship between crew members; partners or teams at odds with each other become a huge problem. If they can, supervisory personnel will usually do their best to ensure that the personnel in a given car or truck get along well. It’s remarkably intimate. Continue reading

Ick Or Ethics? The Officers’ “Coin Flip”

OK, it wasn’t really a coin flip, as many news sources inaccurately reported. And, true, there is no definitive evidence that the virtual coin flip two police officers allegedly resorted to in order to make the call whether to arrest a reckless driver or not actually was the reason they arrested her. It is even possible that they did the opposite of what the cell phone app told them to do.

Never mind. It’s still an interesting ethics story. I would make it an ethics quiz, except that I am sure of the answer.

Here is the background: In the city of Roswell,  outside of Atlanta on April 7,  Sarah Webb was running late for work. Police saw her go by at what they estimated was over 80 miles an hour, caught up to her, and told her she was diving recklessly, especially since the roads were wet.

She was arrested. Then it came out that this happened, (from the New York Times account):

In the footage of the arrest, the officers can be heard talking about what to do. One said that she had not been able to measure the exact speed of Ms. Webb’s vehicle but had to drive as fast as 90 miles per hour to catch up with her. Then she could be seen pulling out a phone.

“A, head. R, tail,” said one of the officers — A for arrest, or R for release.

“O.K.,” said the other.

Then a sound effect can be heard: a cartoonish chime and click, like a coin flipping and landing.

“This is tail, right?” said one officer.

“Yeah. So, release?” said another.

“23,” came the reply, referring to a police code for an arrest. Ms. Webb was handcuffed moments later.

In the aftermath, the charges were dropped and the officers involved have been suspended, with the police chief saying, “This behavior is not indicative of the hard-working officers of the Roswell Police Department. I have much higher expectations of our police officers and I am appalled that any law enforcement officer would trivialize the decision-making process of something as important as the arrest of a person.” Meanwhile, the reckless driver, in an exhibition that should at least be entered for the 2018 Gall of the Year award, is vocally claiming victimhood, saying, Continue reading