The Dirty Harry Problem
"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. Well if you believe the movies then the answer is never, for along as the bad guy gets what he deserves than the means didn't matter. But at some point doesn't a line have to be drawn?
Yes, in some manner in some situations I believe that you must step off the position of power and leadership, and get your hands dirty. Klockars argues 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 nothing is found the person is merely innocent this time. This assumption doesn't justify using dirty means however. Only when an officer knows guilt exists should dirty means come into effect.
There must be limits to these means; officers can not just go around using acts that are not considered legal, just because they are in a position of power. 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 says that some officers may use these ideals of dirty means in order to punish the guilty. This is not what the dirty harry problem is about, however it may be how some people view the subject.
Klockars is correct when discussing, when only a dirty means will work. Departments must take some responsibility for the actions of the officers. Had the department trained the officers well? In many cases perfectly legal acts may produce the same results that, dirty ones do. This situation implies that the officers had no ideas...
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