Applications of Fuller's Principle

Scenario 1: Drugs at a Friend’s House

1. Yes, there is a moral problem present in this scenario: that of consistency. If you were at work and you happened upon people abusing illegal drugs, you would be required to act.  However, you are not at work: you were invited to your friend’s house in a private capacity, not as a police officer.  Is it true that “once a cop, always a cop” (Martin, 1)?  Or is possible to set that identity aside in your off-hours?  Abusing drugs is, after all, often considered a victimless crime.

2. Chances are fair that you have been directed, as a police officer, to take proper police action if you witness a crime while off-duty (Martin, 1).  It is this practical policy consideration that speaks to Fuller’s principle.  Should it become known that you attended this party, became aware of the presence of illegal drugs, and did nothing, you will probably be “compelled to articulate the principles” on which you failed to act – and that failure will likely carry consequences with it.

3. Thus, your decision would be based on the intuitive principle of moral consistency, the capacity in which you were invited into your friend’s house, your personal convictions on illegal drugs, the practical consequences of inaction, and the personal or social effects of action.

4. I would approach my friend and let him know about the people doing cocaine in the bathroom.  If he was content with the situation, I would excuse myself from the party and make plans for another time.  If not, I would help him throw the offending invitees out.

Scenario 2: Accepting a Gift

1. I see no immediate moral problem in this scenario.  There is the potential for a larger-scale dilemma involving the obligation to discourage behaviors and attitudes that, in less innocent situations, could ultimately lead to police corruption.  Ibrahim Cerrah et al argue that “police officers who accept gifts . . .  tend to turn into bigger corruption.” (3).

2. Depending on the region and department, policy would probably dictate that the right response would be to refuse the gift.  Some states set annual limits for the monetary value of gifts that public employees are permitted to accept (KPCC Wireless Service, 2010).

3. In making your decision, you might be guided by the convenience of accepting the gift versus the potential hassle of explaining it, the wish to show your gratitude to the market owner, and local protocol.

4. For me, this scenario hinges primarily on local protocol.  If policy dictates that police officers should refuse gifts with associated monetary value – or even any gifts at all – I would refuse.  If it were within the rules to accept the gift, I would do so with gratitude.

Scenario 3:  Homosexual Partner

1. There does not seem to be a moral problem present in this scenario.

2. Policy, probably, dictates that Officer Davis will have to behave in a more professional way.  The LAPD Manual, for example, states that “department personnel shall not consider an applicant’s or employee’s known or perceived sexual orientation […] in any pre-employment or employment action or decision, including but not limited to […] assigning […]” (n.d.).

3. Through you may have sympathy for either Officer Jones or Officer Davis; in this case explicit department policy will guide your decision. 

4. I would remind Officer Davis that Officer Jones is an excellent officer who has been on the force for 16 years, and encourage him to do his best to be open-minded about his new assignment.  This might, in principle, contradict my response to Scenario 1, Question 4: in each case, department policy was clear, and I chose to adhere to it strictly in one instance and exercise judgment in the other.  This is simply due to a discrepancy between my personal convictions involving illegal drug use in a private setting and discrimination based on sexual identity in any setting.

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