Profiling in the Neighborhood
topic : Profiling in the Neighborhood
Chapter 14 case study example: Case Study 14.1: Profiling in the Neighborhood
Rodney is a rookie police officer assigned to a mainly white, middle-class neighborhood. On the evening shift, Rodney and his partner Max, a more senior officer, are patrolling the neighborhood when Max says, “Hey, look at that kid. He doesn’t belong here. Let’s question him.” Rodney stops the patrol car, and he and Max get out and approach the boy, asking him for his identification. The boy produces his identification and asks the two officers, “Why have you stopped me? Is it because I’m Black?” They do not respond, and Max just searches him and then arrests him. Later that night, Max tells Rodney that the boy “pissed him off” with his attitude. He tells Rodney to write a report of the incident and charge the boy with loitering.
Is Rodney faced with an ethical dilemma?
Rodney is faced with the dilemma of whether or not to write a report about the incident when he knows that he is being asked to write a false report and to bring a false charge based on a false arrest.
What are the facts and circumstances of the incident?
Rodney needs to review in his mind the facts and circumstances of the stop and arrest and perhaps write them down in the form of a report so that his memory of the events is quite clear.
What are the facts relevant to the decision he has to make? What are his own values about the issue, and what are the values of his workplace about such an issue?
Rodney and his partner stopped the boy because he was an African American moving around at night on foot in a white, middle-class neighborhood; he was questioned and provided his identification but protested being stopped, suggesting that the sole reason was that he was Black. Rodney and Max had no basis for stopping or making an arrest; Max admitted to Rodney that the boy had “pissed him off” with his attitude, and Max has instructed Rodney to write a false report of the incident to justify the stop and arrest.
Rodney’s personal values relate to his position as a rookie cop; that is, he wants to do well in the job and make arrests, and he looks to his more experienced coworkers for guidance. His workplace values comprise the formal police code of ethics and police rules and regulations about stopping and searching and arresting, as well as the police subculture on these issues. In many police departments, racial profiling is a routine event, and police are expected to show loyalty toward each other and to support their partners.
What ethical theories does he call to mind to assist him in resolving the dilemma?
In this case, Rodney will apply virtue ethical theory to the dilemma.
What are Rodney’s available courses of action?
Rodney may comply with his partner’s request and complete the false report; he may refuse to fill out the report and tell Max, who instigated the incident, to make the report himself; or he may simply report the whole incident as well as Max’s request to his supervisor.
Rodney will make his decision after applying, in this case, the virtue approach to each alternative course of action, and he will choose the course of action that is the most ethically appropriate for him under virtue theory.
A process for assessing an ethical dilemma from a virtue perspective is set out in the “Virtue Ethics Evaluation of Ethical Dilemmas” Closer Look box. Applications of these criteria are shown in the “Applying Virtue Ethics” Closer Look box.
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