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Criminal Justice Ethics and Objectivity

You and your partner are detectives working in plain clothes. For several days, you have been staking out an elementary school playground where an adult male reportedly has been approaching the children. One particular morning, you have observed a man in his car parked alongside the school yard. When he calls a little girl over to his car and she approaches him on the driver's side, you exit from your unmarked vehicle and approach his vehicle from the passenger side so that he cannot see you easily in his rear view mirror. When you get just behind his car on the passenger side, you observe that he has his pants open. With his left hand, he is stroking the girl's hair.

You call for your partner over the radio and move to arrest the suspect. Showing him your badge, you order him to close his pants and get out of his car. You handcuff him and place him in the back of your unmarked vehicle, while your partner returns the girl to the safekeeping of school administrators.

After telling the suspect of his right to remain silent, you begin interrogating him, recording his name, address, and so forth while awaiting your partner's return.

When your partner comes back, he gets in the rear of your vehicle with the suspect (a violation of department regulations, unless there is reason to believe that the passenger is suicidal). You remind your partner that riding in the back is a violation of the rules, but he stays there anyway; tells you to drive to the station; and turning to the suspect, calls him a "maggot." As you drive, your partner starts punching the suspect repeatedly in the face and the crotch. He even leans back and, bracing himself against the car door, kicks the suspect in the chest and shoulders with the heel of his shoe. When the suspect turns to avoid the blows, your partner kicks him in the back and kidney areas. Throughout this beating, the suspect offers no resistance of any kind. You hear the sounds of the beating and, looking in the rear view mirror, you see your partner striking the suspect. After about a minute, you pull the vehicle over, open the rear door and persuade your partner to get out of the back seat and come sit beside you in the front.

After the suspect is booked and in a holding cell, your partner tells you he will write a report that includes the assertion that the child molester forcefully resisted arrest and sustained injuries during the scuffle to handcuff him. He tells you that he will write the report and sign it, and that you do not have to be associated with its contents.

At his trial, the offender pleads guilty to child molestation charges and is sentenced to 3 years in prison, to be served at a treatment center for sexual offenders. Soon afterwards, your partner is sued by the offender for physical abuse and injury. Claiming kidney damage, loss of two teeth, civil rights violations, and psychological trauma, the convicted molester is asking a civil (not a criminal) court for an award of $2 million from your department and $500,000 from your partner. You receive a subpoena from the court to appear at the trial. In addition, the Internal Affairs Division will launch its own investigation of the allegations, and it informs you that you will be called in to make a statement under oath at a hearing about the events. If the department finds sufficient grounds to believe that your partner acted brutally, he will be suspended, or more likely, fired; if the civil jury finds that he was abusive, he may be forced to sell his home and car to pay the award to the victim. You may also be disciplined for failure to protect your prisoner. Comments in the locker room by other officers make it clear that, given the nature of the victim, they expect you to do whatever is necessary to protect your partner from being held accountable, as well as to protect yourself.

What are your options with regard to the above scenario?

List each option, and provide a brief explanation of the benefits and consequences for selecting that option.

How would you apply the following factors to the scenario?
Intentions
Seemliness
Proportionality
Minimization
Practicability

Research the standard of objectivity.

How does the standard of objectivity apply, especially as it relates to personal feelings?

How would you respond under these circumstances?

Outline your decision-making process using ethical decision-making guidelines.

Be sure to address the counterpoints to your arguments and why you decided against them.

Solution Preview

Step 1
You should understand that with regards to the above scenario you have two options. The first option is to tell the truth under oath and let the law take its own course. The second option is to deny the charges against your colleague and protect both him and yourself from damages and disciplinary action.

Step 2
The first option is to tell the truth.
This option can lead to a penalty of $2 million against the department and a fine of $500,000 against your colleague. Disciplinary action may be started against you for not protecting the prisoner.

The second option is to deny the charges against your partner.
The benefits of this option are that the partner will not have to sell his car and home for paying civil fines. The other benefit is that there will be no disciplinary action against you. The drawbacks are that this option amounts to telling lies to protect yourself and your partner is unethical.

Step 3
The application of Intentions is:
The decision to bring about prohibited consequence is intention. The intention of your partner was not aforethought but was brought about by anger at the ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains rights of defendants during criminal procedure. The sources used are also included in the solution.

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