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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 99031 Find in a Library
Title: Dirty Harry Problem (From Moral Issues in Police Work, P 55-71, 1985, Fredrick A Elliston and Michael Feldberg, ed. - See NCJ-99027)
Author(s): C B Klockars
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 17
Sponsoring Agency: Rowman and Allanheld Publishers
Totowa, NJ 07512
Sale Source: Rowman and Allanheld Publishers
Division of Littlefield, Adams and Co
81 Adams Drive
Totowa, NJ 07512
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Situations where the police are unable to do justice except through unconstitutional means (the 'Dirty Harry' problem) are insoluble, and efforts to resolve these situations by redefining police goals or justifying unconstitutional means inevitably fail.
Abstract: The 'Dirty Harry' problem (characterized from a movie detective who used unconstitutional means to attain lofty justice goals) exists where a clearly 'good' end can be achieved only by using 'dirty' (unconstitutional) means. Dirty Harry problems arise often in police work. Some examples occur in the context of street stops and searches as well as victim or witness interrogations. In street stops and searches, 'dirty' alternatives range from falsifying probable cause for a stop to performing a false arrest to legitimate an illegal search. 'Dirty' means in interrogation range from verbal intimidation to physical coercion. These dirty means qualify as Dirty Harry problems when the involved police operate under the assumption that the targeted person is guilty of a serious crime. One attempt to eliminate the Dirty Harry problem is to shift the police goal from building cases against criminals to the faithful performance of assigned agency tasks, which may or may not issue in the achievement of justice. A second attempt to resolve the Dirty Harry problem is to change police priorities from law enforcement to peacekeeping, which deemphasizes the arrest and punishment of law breakers. A third approach in dealing with the Dirty Harry problem is to turn dirty methods into a craft that becomes a source of pride instead of guilt. All of the aforementioned approaches compromise legitimate policing mandates. Thirteen notes are listed.
Index Term(s): Police discretion; Police legal limitations; Police role conflict; Professional conduct and ethics
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