Ethical Decision Making in Law Essay

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For example, virtually every element of heightened security measures necessitates a corresponding reduction in certain kinds of liberties that American citizens have come to expect in a free society. Both concerns represent rights: it is right to implement measures intended to protect the general public by thwarting potential terrorists; likewise, it is equally right to seek to preserve individual liberties in a society that has been built on valuing those liberties. Erring on the side of the former necessarily entails interfering with personal liberties. Erring on the side of the latter could very well result in the failure to protect the public from terrorism.

More generally, administrating police services involves continuously weighing right-versus-right issues. For another example, many police agencies have had to consider the relative value and importance of pursuing fleeing vehicles against the value and importance of public safety in relation to the risks to the public posed by high-speed vehicle chases on public streets (Schmalleger, 2010). Both interests are rights: it is right to pursue criminals fleeing from traffic stops and crimes; it is also right to avoid placing the public at risk of high-speed crashes. Many agencies have decided to limit chases to felony pursuits or to situations approved by supervisors precisely to try to accommodate both rights in some capacity that addresses both rights simultaneously (Schmalleger, 2010).


In the proverbial perfect world, politicians would never have to choose between personal integrity and achieving their principal objectives. Ideally, they would be able to campaign based on expressing their beliefs without any equivocation or misrepresentation in any respect. While there are obviously numerous exceptions throughout recorded history as well as in contemporary politics, individuals who aspire to public office generally have beneficent motives. That is certainly a right. On the other hand, even the most benevolently-minded aspiring politician cannot hope to achieve any of his or her goals without getting elected. That is also a right.

Unfortunately, the fundamental nature of politics, especially contemporary politics, is that any reasonable hope of success in major elections virtually requires a degree of violation of personal integrity in the sense that candidates must appeal to a much broader spectrum of potential supporters than they could ever hope to maintain if they expressed their views with complete honesty and without any prevarication or obfuscation for the purpose of increasing their appeal to the broadest spectrum of voters. It is unfortunate that the American public virtually demands that politicians lie to them in some respects.

For example, a secular humanist who is dedicated to objective ethics and morality but who is an atheist could never win any major election in the U.S., at least today. Maintaining integrity and admitting the nature of one's genuine moral values is obviously a right. So is the desire to win an election for the purposes of doing genuine good. Unfortunately, the latter right must often take precedence over the former if the latter is to be achieved. In many instances, law enforcement administrators are in the same position as politicians and must make some of the same right-versus-right decisions that violate personal integrity, and even truth, on some level and in some instances.


Fitch, B. "Good Decisions: Tips and Strategies for Avoiding Psychological Traps." FBI

Law Enforcement Bulletin Vol. 79, No. 6 (2010).

Halbert, T. And Ingulli, E. (2008). Law & Ethics in the Business Environment.

Cincinnati: West Legal Studies.

Schmalleger, F. (2010). Criminal Justice Today: An Introductory Text for the 21st

Century. Hoboken, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Zalman, M.…[continue]

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