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NCJ Number: 75308 Find in a Library
Title: Dirty Harry Problem
Journal: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science  Volume:452  Dated:(November 1980)  Pages:33-47
Author(s): C B Klockars
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 15
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: To prevent widespread police misbehavior, police officers who resort to dirty means to achieve some unquestionably good and morally compelling ends must be punished.
Abstract: Policing constantly places its practitioners in situations in which good ends can be achieved by dirty means. When the ends to be achieved are urgent and unquestionably good and only a dirty means will work to achieve them, the policeman faces a genuine moral dilemma. A genuine moral dilemma is a situation from which one cannot merge innocent no matter what one does -- employ a dirty means, employ an insufficiently dirty means, or walk away. In such situtations in policing, called Dirty Harry problems after the 1971 film by the same name, the danger lies not in becoming guilty of wrong, which is inevitable, but in thinking that one has found a way to escape a dilemma which is inescapable. Dire consequences result from this misunderstanding. Policemen lose their sense of moral proportion, fail to care, turn cynical, or allow their passionate caring to lead them to employ dirty means too crudely or too readily. The only means of assuring that dirty means will not be used too readily or too crudely is to punish those who use them and the agency which endorses their use. One chart and 13 footnotes are included. For related articles, see NCJ 75304. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Police discretion; Police effectiveness; Police legal limitations; Police reprimands; Police responsibilities; Punishment
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