This paper is about the ethical dilemmas faced by Public Safety Officials at different levels of their profession. The approach is basically to identify the major dilemmas and offer solutions for the eradication of the same.
Ethical Dilemmas facing Public Safety Officials
In performing professional skills in the field of Public Safety, most of the officers face ethical dilemmas. This is a very obvious situation where these officials find it difficult to decide over a situation. To a great extend to abide with regulations of professionalism and to follow legislative instructions becomes hard in terms of ethical compromises. As the professionals in Public Safety Departments are responsible for saving lives, they sometimes contradict the cited laws to save lives in emergency. This paper in particular tries to look into such dilemmas and suggests solutions for the eradication of the same.
Public Safety Officials
The basic purposes of Public Safety Officials are inclusive of responsibilitiesfor preventing and protecting general public from all those aspects that can endanger them. These responsibilities comprise of any significant injury, harm or danger over public in general. Damages of public property through manual crimes or some kinds of natural disasters too are integral to these responsibilities. It is the sole duty of Safety Officialsto ensure security to citizens of the state, public organizations and institutions against all kinds of threats. These are acted under strict regulations decided by the legislature and under governmental regulations. At the same time these officials are also led into the fields of public welfare for overall well being of the state.
Role of Department of Public Safety (or DPS) is very vital in the implementation of these activities. This is an organization that looks into the financial, administrative and technical services for a well balanced support to public safety functionalities. Under the supervision of DPS, the Public Safety Officials offer their services through Fire and Rescue services, Ambulance and EMS, Police and security guard licensing services, Emergency communications, Office of Emergency Services, Inspections and code enforcement, Animal control and DMV for driver's licenses and license plates. So the Public Safety Officials are involved in managing with every walk of social lives and are very much integral to the issues related to public security, safety and well being. In offering their services they expected to be very prompt and comprehensive in their assistance. It is their sole responsibility to consider well being of the public as the core content of their duty. These officials are thus considered as saviors for public and lots of expectations were attached to their activities and duties. On moral and ethical grounds there are blind faiths allotted to these officials by the citizens and thus they are considered important in social set up.
Major Ethical Dilemmas
Maintenance of image of ‘Savior’ is not always easy for Public Safety Officials. On the one hand they are strictly regulated under governmental regulations and on the other they need to offer their services in terms of ethical and moral grounds. They are equally tied by the acts of law enforcement and the expectations of the people in general. As the Public Safety Officials decides to make a decision according to law, there are many ethical issues comes in the way and they become helpless. As they follow regulations strictly they violate many ethical issues and thus suffer within. The major dilemmas for these officials are therefore related to the activities under law enforcement. They face enormous dilemmas in matters related to elderly shoplifter, enforcing outstanding warrant for a very poor mother, arresting a pregnant woman without a driver’s license, releasing a poor child in fire just because there was not enough support to save the child, etc. These kinds of dilemmas are very common and are often come under serious regulations to which these officials suffer professionally. As assessed by Pollock and Becker (1996) the major dilemmas faced by these officials on day to day basis can be categorized as –
- Discretion Dilemma,
- Dilemma for Honesty,
- Affects of Loyalty,
- Performing Duty and
i. Discretion Dilemma are identified under the situation of dire circumstances, application of strict legality, in terms of no clear course, situation where the officer is found in wrong doing, stopping a speeding car where the driver is a colleague or responding in an altercation where the family member is at fault. Situations under Discretion Dilemma are very critical as they demands for favor from the official against law.
ii. Dilemma for Honesty is identified on the grounds of personal misdeeds, self-enrichment and issues about arresting under situational pressure. As for instance, if an official discovers that a man hits a public booth as he was in a hurry to the hospital, should the official arrest him. The ethical dilemma persists if there is a question of life and death or some other emergency.
iii. Affects of Loyalty gets questioned when an official is expected to take the side of the wrongdoer as he a colleague or as family member. Against individual civil liability this is unethical, but an official cannot go for a toss about his personal relationships when it comes to law.
iv. Performing Duty involves two kinds of specific dilemmas. One of these dilemmas is about the obligations of the official, where the official needs to support public demands against a volatile situation, whereas law does not support any action unless a crime arises. The next dilemma is about a situation where the official wants to help the sufferer but his jurisdictions are restricted by legal authorizations.
v. Gratuities are some cases where the officials are bound to get into the dilemma of ethical issues. Negating or declining to accept true gratuities is very unethical but the officials must follow it as law never permits them to accept any public gratuities.
Eradication of dilemmas from professional lives and following legal regulation is an obvious task for Public Safety Officials. As these ethical dilemmas vary per individual and on the basis of his cultural brought up, it is hard to have a generalized point of view. Though through various training proceedings the eradication can be made possible, yet to a great extent compromises with the same will remain static. Proper trainings related to the differences between moral decisions and ethical systems can support these officials in making some distinct decisions. It is important to make these officials understand that matters related to life and death are always considered primary by law and that such situations can be well considered under legal supervisions. As ethical systems demands for procedural framework, it is important for the officials to opt for some alternatives to attain right resolutions. As for instance to stop a young man from collecting money by offering services without demand; a Public Safety Official can channelize him into a job through some recruitment center. This will be definitely out of his jurisdictional services, yet is an alternative against the ethical dilemma that the official faces for arresting the young man.
The ethical dilemmas of the Public Safety Officials can hinder in their performances and responsibilities towards society. It is thus necessary to create proper legislative grounds, where these officials will get room to discuss about their dilemmas to legal experts. Discussions and seminars with prolific legal authorities will offer some insights into these professionals and that will make them clearer about their responsibilities, limitations, jurisdictions and liberty to go ahead with public welfare issues. Elaborations related to religious ethics, utilitarianism and ethics of care is very important for these officials. In most cases it has been discovered that these officials are not much sure about their liberties. They are rather more confused about their limitations. As various trainings, seminars and discussion sessions will be conducted, there will be a transparency regarding these dilemmas. Schafer (2002) commented that application of the solutions and resolutions collected from these sessions will definitely support these officials in the eradication of ethical dilemmas from their professional fields.
Legal advisory committees should be created for personalized counseling scopes for these professionals. For the maintenance of balanced equation in personal thoughts and professional responsibilities these officials need proper support and that can be offered by a legal professional. The attainment of unblemished motive with the dare to face the consequences, it is important that the Public Safety Officials get necessary guidelines and total professional support in performing their duties. To face a consequence it is important to know the consequence under legal authorization. As the ground of dilemma is more frequent when the official is not sure of the rules or alternatives; legal support can result as an eye opener. It is therefore important to offer legal counseling to Public Safety Officials so that they can well handle their professions and the consequences that might arise due to some ethical considerations.
Dilemmas in professional lives of Public Safety Officials are an obvious state. As ethical point of views usually collides with legal declarations and law cannot always meet ethical dimensions, it is important to offer appropriate legal advisory support to these officials. As the officials will be capable enough to understand the legal proceedings that might follow as consequence, they will get more clear and comprehensive about the decisions to be taken for public welfare.