Brooke Lynn Heights is a dispatcher for the Grantham County Sheriff’s Office. Heights works the relief shift that covers the other dispatchers and Badpenny the supervisor, on their days off. At 11:30
a.m., calls coming into police dispatch have slowed down enough that Heights could go grab her lunch from the refrigerator. Heights is the only dispatcher on duty and she has answer calls while eating her lunch.
Not long after Heights sat down to eat, Cher A. Secrit, who is a deputy sheriff and works for the Grantham County Sheriff’s Office, walked into the police dispatch area to eat lunch with Heights. Deputy Secrit is a
good friend of Heights and happens to be Badpenny’s best friend and roommate.
While eating lunch, Heights asked Secrit, “Is Badpenny alright because she has lost quite a bit of weight in the last few weeks?”
Secrit replied, “Badpenny told me that she is dating Mitch Dreadford. When I asked her about her weight loss, because it is quite noticeable,
Badpenny said she had been stressed out lately and extremely busy getting all the dispatch files ready for the police audit next week.”
Heights had a concerned look on her face when she asked Secrit, “Do you think she is using meth since she is dating Dreadford?”
Secrit replied, “I had not thought about that until you mentioned it just now.”
Heights said, “I am worried that Badpenny may be getting in over her head. When I relieved her the other day; I saw Badpenny was reading a detective’s report from an ongoing drug investigation. I asked her what
she was doing, and Badpenny said she was just bored and was perusing some of the officer’s reports.”
Secrit replied, “That is concerning because yesterday when I dropped by to see Badpenny while she was dispatching for the University City Police Department; she seemed startled by my arrival. Badpenny quickly
closed out of what she was reading on the computer screen. I did not think anything about what Badpenny was doing. However, when Badpenny made the comment that the University City detectives do not write their reports as well as the Grantham County detectives; I knew Badpenny was up to something. Before I could respond, Badpenny lowered her voice and said, listen to this, and she told me what was in the report.”
Height ask, “What was in the report?”
Secrit replied, “Badpenny told me that while reading the Grantham County Sheriff’s deputy’s report, there was information in the document regarding a federal agent. The agent’s name is Hans Cuff, who works for
Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). Agent Cuff is undercover and has infiltrated a local gang. Also, noted in the report was the gang member’s name who gave Agent Cuff information on a large shipment of
meth coming into town next week.”
Height asked, “What is the name of the gang member? Do we know him?”
Secrit said, “Yes, we know the guy; it is Mookie.”
Height exclaimed, “Mookie the big-time drug dealer who is a good friend of Dreadford? Oh, this is not good.”
For this week’s assignment, review the scenario above and write a 2 to 3—page paper regarding the ethical themes and value systems, both Heights and Secrit face regarding Badpenny’s actions. Discuss how
discretion and duty play into this scenario. Also, apply how the code of silence and the blue curtain of secrecy may prevent Secrit and Heights from reporting what each has discovered about Badpenny.
Preferred Source: Pollock, J. M. (2019). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice, (10th Ed.). Cengage Learning
Ethical Themes And Value Systems
The presented case scenario focuses on ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice faced by three personnel that work for the Grantham County Sheriff’s office- Heights, Badpenny and Secrit. Heights and Secrit discover an unusual behavior exhibited by Badpenny and are concerned that the latter may be involved in the use of meth. Although there are occasions that confirm Secrit and Heights’ concerns, the two are strongly faced by normative ethical themes such as privacy, a conflict of the rightness and wrongness of Badpenny’s actions, and are bound by the code of silence and the blue curtain of secrecy which likely prevents them from reporting their suspicions.
The most visible ethical themes and value systems that face Heights and Secrit are normative ethics and the rightness and wrongness of Badpenny’s actions. As noted by Pollock (2013), normative ethics are ethics that determine what people ought to do and defines moral duties based on ethical systems. In this context, Heights and Secrit are faced by the normative ethic of privacy, whereby they have a moral obligation to not infringe Badpenny’s privacy, notably in the absence of legal causes to do so. Besides, the two personnel face a value system regarding the rightness or wrongness of Badpenny’s suspicious actions. On the one hand, Badpenny’s action to conceal her activities from her colleagues appears acceptable because she is the supervisor of the dispatching team. On the other hand, Badpenny’s action of perusing the officer’s reports may be viewed as wrong because she is in a relationship with a potential suspect of the ongoing drug investigation. Therefore, the ethical theme of privacy and the value system of what counts as right or wrong in Badpenny’s actions are the major issues facing Heights and Secrit.
Besides the ethical themes and value systems, discretion and duty also significantly apply in this case scenario. On the one hand, discretion refers to the cause of action that an officer may take relative to the manner in which they perceive a given situation. In this context, Secrit appears to apply a watchman policing style, whereby she considers Badpenny’s actions as less severe because the latter is her roommate, friend and part of Grantham County Sheriff’s office. Arguably, if a different individual was involved in similar actions, it is likely that Secrit would take a legalistic approach into the matter. Furthermore, duty, which is the responsibility attached to a given role appears to play in the case scenario. Most notably, Heights works in the relief shift, which means that monitoring and intervening in Badpenny’s situation is beyond her scope of responsibility. Overall, discretion and duty in this case scenario act as potential constraints to the course of actions that Heights and Secrit can take regarding Badpenny’s behavior.
Besides the constraints presented by discretion and duty, the code of silence and the blue curtain of secrecy may prevent Secrit and Heights from reporting their suspicions about Badpenny. Most notably, the code of silence is termed as the “the practice of officers to not come forward when they are aware of the ethical transgressions of other officers” (Pollock, 2011, p.119). Also, the blue curtain of secrecy is the practice of police officers to remain silent when their colleagues commit unethical actions (Pollock, 2011). Most notably, Height and Secrit may fail to report what they have discovered about Badpenny because she is their colleague and they are bound by the code of silence and the blue curtain of secrecy in the police culture.
Indeed, Heights and Secrit are faced by numerous issues that may prevent them from reporting what they have discovered about Badpenny. On the one hand, the two personnel are faced by the ethical theme of privacy at work and conflict of whether Badpenny’s actions are right or wrong considering her position in the organization. Also, Secrit’s discretion and Height’s duty in the facility act as potential hindrances to their reaction towards Badpenny’s actions. Besides, the police code of silence and the blue curtain of secrecy may prevent the two from reporting their discoveries about Badpenny.
Pollock, J.M. (2011). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice (7th ed.). Cengage Learning. ISBN: 1111346429, 9781111346423.
Pollock, J.M. (2013). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice (8th ed.). Cengage Learning. ISBN: 1285062663, 9781285062662