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Dirty Harry Problem Relative To Police Officer Roles And Functions

1258 words - 5 pages

1) What are the implications of the "Dirty Harry Problem" relative to community expectations of police officer roles and functions? How does this issue relate the role of balancing individual and societal rights?

"When and to what extent does the morally good end warrant or justify an ethically, politically, or legally dangerous means for its achievement?" This is the question posed by Carl Klockars about the ever growing Dirty Harry problem in society. This has become a focus of mass media and even a source of profit. The name itself comes from a Hollywood movie staring Clint Eastwood. If you believe the movies then the answer is never, for as long as the bad guy gets what he deserves then the means didn’t matter. But at some point a line must be drawn (Klockars, 1980).
There may be some situations when it may be necessary to must step off the position of power and leadership, and use the "Dirty Harry" technique. Klockars describes the "dirty victim standard" as meaning that all persons encountered by police officers in situation of enforcement, such as a traffic stop, must be considered guilty. The officer must take that stand in order to protect themselves. If the Officer finds nothing the person is merely innocent this time. However, this assumption doesn’t justify using dirty means. Only when an Officer knows guilt exists should dirty means come into effect. Then again, if the Officer knows a person is truly guilty there are ways to bring the evidence to light. This does become a serious problem when there area time constraints as in the movie "Dirty Harry" (TPLE class notes, 2007) (Klokars, 1980).
There must be limits to these means, officers must adhere to the Law as well or the legal system becomes redundant. The "dirty means" are a last resource in a situation where something greater than the law hangs in the balance. Revenge or punishment does not fit these criteria, Klockars states that some officers may use these ideals of dirty means in order to punish the guilty (Klockars, 1980).
Klockars is correct when discussing, when only a dirty means will work. Departments must take some responsibility for the actions of the officers. In many cases perfectly legal actions may produce the same results as dirty ones do. This situation implies that the officers had no idea how to conduct proper investigations, or they don’t understand the consequences for their actions. This becomes a serious issue as the investigation flounders and the suspect will surely go free. Officers rely on instinct, gut feeling, experience, and training (Klockars, 1980).
Only a threat to immediate loss of life can grant the destruction of a person’s right to a fair legal treatment. Scorpio freely confessed to kidnapping and mutilating the girl. That should have been enough to convict him of those crimes. Klockars mentions that Harry Callahan stated he thought the girl was already dead, but he had no physical proof. Without the body there is no murder. Or is...

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