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Aug 2nd, 2014
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Consequentialism and Ethical Decision Making week 4 discussion 2

police officer close to retirement is training a rookie cop. Their shift is over and they are returning to the precinct. Suddenly, they spot several teenagers smoking marijuana. Using each approach to consequentialist decision-making (ethical egoism, contractualism, and utilitarianism), explain how the officers’ choice not to pursue the matter is (or is not) ethical behavior.

According to Williams and Arrigo (2012), consequentialism actions are actions, laws, policies, etc. that are to the degree that they only produce good or some form of utility.  “Actions themselves are neither inherently right nor inherently wrong; rather, moral worth attaches only to what decisions and actions bring about, not directly to the decisions or actions themselves,’ (Williams & Arrigo, 2012, p. 145).  In regards to the above scenario, the ethical egoist approach of not pursuing the matter would argue that pursuing the teens smoking would not be an act of self-interest.  Ethical egoism behavior is driven by self-interest which is displayed as the officer chooses not to pursue the teens.

A Utilitarian approach to not pursuing the teens could be explained by utility.  The Utilitarian approach suggests that actions are morally right if they produce the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people.  According to the Utilitarian viewpoint, the officers choosing not to pursue the teens ultimately is justified because the teens are not affecting the happiness of others.  The contractualism approach suggests that there is a form of contract or understanding between the individuals.  Perhaps the teens have something to hold over the police officer.  Regardless, the act is certainly unethical behavior.

Williams, C. R., & Arrigo, B. A. (2012). Ethics, crime, and criminal justice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

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