You are a police officer testifying about a particular crime. It is a case where you honestly don’t know whether or not the suspect is guilty. While on the witness stand, you answer all the prosecutor’s and the defense attorney’s questions. You complete your testimony and exit the courtroom, knowing that you have specific knowledge that
may help the defense attorney’s case. You have answered all questions truthfully, but the specific question needed to help the defense was not asked.
What should you do?
You are an undercover officer, and during training, your instructors have taught you how to avoid using drugs while maintaining your cover. Once out on the street, you are told by co-workers that such training is unrealistic and that if you want to stay undercover, you will eventually have to use drugs.
What would you do?
You are a male suspect in a murder case. You were drunk the night of the homicide and did meet and dance with the victim, a young college girl. You admit that you had a lot to drink but are 99-percent sure that you didn’t see her except in the bar. The trouble is that you drank way too much and passed out in someone’s apartment close to the bar rather than drive home. The girl was found in an apartment in the same complex. Police are telling you that they have forensic evidence that ties you to the murder. They say that they have her blood on your clothes and that it is your DNA in the sperm found in her body. They have been interrogating you now for several hours, and you are beginning to doubt your memory. You are also told that if you plead guilty, you would probably get voluntary
manslaughter and might get probation, but if you insist on your innocence, you will be charged with first-degree murder and face the death penalty.
What would you do?[Obviously, this situation shifts our focus from the criminal justice professional’s dilemma. If you decided earlier that the police tactic of lying about forensic evidence is ethical, this hypothetical illustrates what might happen when innocent suspects are lied to (assuming you are innocent!).]
There is an officer in your division known as a “rat” because he testified against his partner in a criminal trial and a civil suit. The partner evidently hit a handcuffed suspect in the head several times in anger, and the man sustained brain injuries and is now a paraplegic. Although none of the officers you know supports the excessive use of force, they are also appalled that this officer did not back up his partner’s testimony that the suspect continued to struggle, in an attempt to justify his use of force. After all, punishing the officer wasn’t going to make the victim any better.
Now no one will ride with this guy, and no one responds to his calls for back-ups. There have been incidents such as a dead rat being found in his locker, and the extra uniform in his locker was set on fire. One day you are parking your car and see your buddies in the employee parking lot moving away from his car; they admit they just slashed
his tires. Each officer is being called into the captain’s office to state whether he or she knows anything about this latest incident. Your turn is coming.
What are you going to do? What are you going to do if the officers ask you to call his home and threaten harm to his children in order to “teach him a lesson.”
You are a police officer testifying in a drug case. You have already testified that you engaged in a buy–bust operation, and the defendant was identified by an undercover officer as the one who sold him a small quantity of drugs. You testified that you chased the suspect down an alley and apprehended him. Immediately before you caught up with him, he threw down a number of glassine envelopes filled with what turned out to be cocaine. The prosecutor finished his direct examination, and now the defense attorney has begun cross-examining you. He asked if you had the suspect in your sight the entire time between when you identified him as the one who sold to the undercover officer and when you put the handcuffs on him. Your arrest report didn’t mention it, but for a couple of seconds
you slipped as you went around the corner of the alley and fell down. During that short time the suspect had proceeded a considerable distance down the alley. You do not think there was anyone else around, and you are as sure as you possibly can be that it was your suspect who dropped the bags, but you know that if you testify to this incident truthfully, the defense attorney might be able to argue successfully that the bags were not dropped by the suspect and get him acquitted of the much more serious possession-with-intent-to-distribute charge.
What should you do?
You are a federal agent and have been investigating a major drug ring for a long time. One of your informants is fairly highly placed within this ring and has been providing you with good information. You were able to “turn” him
because he faces a murder charge: There is probable cause that he shot and killed a co-worker during an argument about five years ago, before he became involved in the drug ring. You have been holding the murder charge over his head to get him to cooperate and have been able, with the help of the U.S. District Attorney’s office, to keep the local prosecutor from filing charges and arresting him. The local prosecutor is upset because the family wants some resolution in the case. You believe that the information he is able to provide you will result in charges of major
drug sales and racketeering against several of the top smugglers, putting a dent in the drug trade for your region. At the same time, you understand that you are constantly risking the the possibility that he may escape prosecution by
leaving the country and that you are blocking the justice that the family of the murdered victim deserves.
What would you do?
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