Ethics of the Reconstruction Process

Ethics of the Reconstruction Process

What are Ethics?

Ethics may be loosely defined as “the inherent inner voice that is the source of self-control in the absence of external compulsion” (Yeschke, p. 3). Ethics is one of those things that is very difficult to define, but everybody knows it when they see it. Your ethics are those values that guide and inform your actions. It is very difficult to judge a person’s ethics apart from their actions. According to Yeschke, ethical behavior is judged by the way we act, the values that motivate us, the policies we have adopted, and the goals we seek to achieve (Yeschke, p. 3).

II. Advance Consideration

Just as with your interviews and interrogations and every other phase of law enforcement you need to approach ethics in crime reconstruction in the same way that we approach officer survival. When we are working out on the street, we all play the “What if” game where we say “What if the driver has a firearm on this traffic stop, what am I going to do?” It is a way of mental preparation and training so that if the “What if” scenario happens, it is not a total surprise. You need to do the same thing in relation to your ethical decisions. “I know this guy is guilty and I need to fudge just a little bit on this piece of information in order to make sure I get him.” The point where we cross the line from ethical to unethical behavior is often shadowy and vague and if we don’t think about it and plan for it ahead of time, we can cross the line before we even know it. One of the easiest traps for us to fall into as law enforcement officers is the end justifying the means where we believe that crossing the line to achieve a “greater good” is justified. Don’t kid yourself and say you have never thought about it, because we all have. Thinking the issues out ahead of time may help us avoid a trap.

III. Ethical Traps and Problems in Crime Reconstruction

There are a number of problems and traps that you need to watch out for when you are reconstructing a crime.

A. Fallacies of Logic – Traditionally fallacies in logical thinking have not been given a lot of attention in crime reconstruction (Chisum, p. 39). They are very subtle and can have profound effects on how we interpret information and reconstruct the scene. We will discuss these in much more detail in Assignment Three. Suffice it to say now that the fallacies will generally fall into the categories of fallacies of relevance; fallacies of weak induction; fallacies of presumption; fallacies of ambiguity; and fallacies of grammatical analogy (Chisum, p. 40.). In Assignment Three, we will explain each one of these and give examples as well as recommendations for how they can be avoided.

B. Deception – The courts have said that it is permissible to deceive a suspect during an interrogation. Often this takes the form of telling a suspect that we have found some piece of evidence or reconstructed the crime in certain way when we really have not. The purpose being to convince the suspect that we have a greater amount of information than we really do and thus induce him to confess. While the courts have condoned this practice, it becomes and ethical problem whenever we carry it outside the interview room and it becomes a part of our real reconstruction.

C. Fraud – There are a few rare people who will deliberately lie and fraudulently reconstruct a crime for their own personal gain or advancement. There are also people who may deliberately misrepresent their training, experience and credentials in crime reconstruction. These people and incidents not only fall outside the pale of any kind of ethical reconstruction, they and their behavior is criminal.

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