Code of Ethics and Security Case Study

Topics: Ethics, Morality, Deontological ethics Pages: 5 (1615 words) Published: January 10, 2011
Code of Ethics and Security Case Study
December 20, 2010

As we examine the case of “Cop Gets 15 Years in Torture Case”, we evaluate from four different perspectives the different ethical theories; ethical relativism, ethical egoism, deontological ethics and ontological ethics to determine how the different perspectives support or condemn the conduct in this case study. The case involves the brutal sodomizing of a black male Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima by two white New York police officers in 1997 (Hays, 2000). Upon review of each perspective, we will recommend which ethical theory resolves the issue in a manner that supports the actions of the officers.

Code of Ethics and Security Case Study
This case study involves a brutal attack on a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, who was in the custody of the New York City police department. One officer received a 30 year prison sentence for his participation in the attack and another officer received a 15 year sentence for holding down Louima while he was being sodomized with a broken broom stick. The ethical issues in this case are significant and as we describe the four ethical theories, we will determine how the different perspectives support or condemn the conduct in the case.

Ethical Relativism

The philosophical and ethical theory of ethical relativism maintains the belief that certain behaviors do not necessarily reflect absolute or universal truths in regard to ethical and moral attitudes. Ethical relativism is “the tendency to make ethical (right/wrong) choices only on the basis of what looks right or reasonable according to one’s own belief or value system” (Business Dictionary, n.d., para. 1). Ethical relativists believe moral values and beliefs emerge from societal influences, personal beliefs and social norms within a person’s culture. This theory also argues that there is not one judgment of right and wrong and not one single standard that defines moral and ethical behavior. Jean-Paul Sartre, an ethical relativist and existentialist, believed that “public morality is a reflection of social convention, and that only personal, subjective morality is truly authentic” (WordIQ, 2010, para. 2).

Charles Schwarz, a former patrolman, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for holding down a Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima, so another police officer could inflict torture on the immigrant in a police station bathroom. The officer that carried out the attack, Justin Volpe, was sentenced to 30 years. In a separate trial, two more former officers testified that Abner Louima was being punished for punching Volpe as a brawl was broken up outside of a bar in Brooklyn. The theory of ethical relativism could support the former officers’ actions. Based on the assumption that Schwarz and Volpe initiated their contact with Louima because of a perceived slight against them, the former officers may have been acting in a way that is supported by their culture and their social network. These men may have grown up with the cultural or personal belief that physical attacks must be answered swiftly and strongly. The added level of being involved in a police sub-culture would also validate the officer’s actions because they are protecting one another. Although society as a whole, and the judicial system in this particular case, judged these men as having committed a criminal act of torture an ethical relativist would believe that nobody but the men involved can judge their behavior and their actions. Ethical Egoism

Ethical Egoism is a term used for a position of moral agents or individuals needing to serve their self-interests. This sounds selfish and harmful to others but it does not require that other people are hurt to serve one’s own happiness (Lander University, 2009, para. 1-5).

In the case study Cop Gets 15 Years in Torture Case (Banks, 2009, p. 39), a patrolman was sentenced to over 15 years for participating in the torture and...

References: Banks, C. (2009). Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.
Business Dictionary. (n.d.). Ethical relativism. Retrieved December 17, 2010, from
Hays, Tom, (June 27, 2000), Cop Gets 15 Years in Torture Case, Associated Press, Retrieved
December 17, 2010, from
Lander University. (2009). Ethics. Retrieved December 17, 2010, from
Shaver, R. (2010). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. Retrieved December 17, 2010, from
Souryal, S. S. (2007). Ethics in Criminal Justice: In Search of the Truth. Retrieved
WordIQ. (2010). Ethical relativism - definition. Retrieved December 17, 2010, from
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