The following is an ethical scenario. You are going to read the scenario and answer the questions presented based on your knowledge of ethics and various theories of reasoning, morals and ethical decision-making.
An informant has just left your office, and you now have the last piece of evidence you need for the biggest drug bust ever in your county. You can now approach the municipal court judge for an arrest warrant, prepare and file felony complaints in municipal court, and mobilize every city police officer available to make arrests. Or you can take all of your evidence to the county prosecutor so that she can present it to the grand jury and obtain secret indictments. This investigation has taken a long time, and a little more delay will not hurt anything.
But if these prosecutions begin with secret indictments from the county common pleas court instead of felony complaints from the municipal court, the county sheriff’s office will make the arrests and take all the credit. You know the sheriff will be present during the indictment arrests, and he will have photographs taken for the newspaper. The general public will never know that the city police did all the work, and your arrest statistics will not look as good as they should.
If you file the complaints, the municipal court clerk, the judge, the city prosecutor, the police officers, the public defender, and the defendants will spend a lot of time, effort and money on initial appearances, bond hearing, and preliminary hearings, and in the end the cases will go to the grand jury anyway. Since immediate arrests are not necessary, all that would be a waste, and it would give the county prosecutor much less time to organize and present the evidence to the grand jury than he would have otherwise. Both the city and county prosecutors have explained all this in a memo to your police department, and they have asked you to take cases straight to the grand jury whenever possible.
But you really need a good report from the chief on the next personnel review in order to get that promotion. The chief’s brother is running against the incumbent for sheriff, and the chief will be very upset if you let the present sheriff take the credit for the arrests.
Answer the following:
1 . There seems to be a lack of communication between the sheriff’s office and the city police department. Is this protection of turf typical, If so, why?
2 . Identify the officer’s alternatives. What are the arguments, both pro and con, of each alternative?
3 . Identify other incidents where several jurisdictions became involved in a criminal justice activity. What were the conflicts? How were they resolved?
4 . Identify the personal, professional, and political considerations at play in this case. How might all (or most) of these considerations be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction? Explain.
Scenario taken from: Close, D. & Meier, N. (2003) Morality in Criminal Justice: An Introduction to Ethics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. (P.64)
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