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