October 4, 2011
Criminal Justice, Police, Prudence
Aristotle, Asperger syndrome, Autism, Paul Craig Roberts, Police, Police officer, Ryan Moats, United States
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At http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/10/03/autistic-mans-acting-odd-lands-him-in-jail/ is a story that reveals the way police officers should not treat an autistic person. Police officers have a tough job, and they deal with the worst people in American society. It is not surprising, then, that they are cynical. Sometimes such cynicism is necessary and can save their lives. However, sometimes officers can become so cynical that they do not believe what anyone says, even an autistic person who informs the officers of his condition. If Mr. Blake did tell the officers that he had Autism (and Mr. Blake was wearing a medical alert bracelet), then they should have realized that they were not dealing with the usual troublesome drunk. If an officer did call Mr. Blake a liar, and this would not surprise me, then this was unprofessional conduct and is worthy of disciplinary action. One would think that after the Ryan Moats incident that Dallas police would have more common sense, but apparently these officers did not learn from their fired fellow officer’s mistakes. Do Dallas police get training in dealing with special classes of people, those who have Autism or Tourette’s Syndrome or other medical conditions that can cause behavioral problems? If so, the officers dealing with Mr. Blake apparently ignored their training, and they certainly lacked the virtue of prudence, the ability to adjust to particular circumstances in order to make the correct moral decision. Mr. Blake now sits holed up in his room, afraid a police officer will come after him.
Paul Craig Roberts has claimed that American police are frustrated with not being able to catch the real criminals, so they turn to intimidation and violence against law abiding citizens or those weaker and vulnerable. I do not believe that this is generally the case; officers do catch a significant number of criminals who end up being convicted and sentenced to prison. There may be some officers who fall into the class to which Mr. Roberts refers. Part of the problem may be lowered police recruiting standards due to a dearth of qualified applicants. It becomes more difficult to weed out the smart-alack, power hungry, searching for an adrenaline rush officers who cause many of the problems departments face. Funding difficulties may prevent courses on special needs individuals from being taught to officers, even at large police departments. I am sorry if police who may be reading this think I am being overly harsh; since I have Asperger’s Syndrome, I have particularly strong feelings about such incidents. There are times I will talk to myself in public, usually when I am reasoning out some problem to myself. Suppose someone complained about my behavior. Would I be dragged out of a place of business and arrested? I suppose incidents such as this one are understandable; Americans are overly rule-oriented and do not focus sufficiently on the ancient virtue or prudence, or practical reasoning (Aristotle’s phronesis). But a failure to recognize the unique nature of unique circumstances is a moral failure, not merely a technical failure, and that is what, in my judgment, occurred in the treatment of Mr. Blake.
February 23, 2011
academia, Academic Freedom, Criminal Justice, liberalism, Uncategorized
academia, Crime, Criminal justice, United States
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Criminal justice professionals, such as police officers, corrections officers, crime scene investigators, attorneys, and judges have a variety of political opinions ranging from left to right. This is to be expected, since professionals in any field hold diverse ideas. But most professionals in criminal justice are constrained by the practicalities of their chosen field to avoid extreme positions. Their focus is on what works in everyday life, at a practical, concrete level.
Academics live in a much more sheltered environment. Many, though not all, academics who teach criminal justice lack practical experience as criminal justice professionals. As such, they can “afford” to be more radical in their political views because their views are not necessarily tested in a real-world setting. It is perfectly acceptable to be naive about evil in human nature if one is standing before a classroom or sitting in a room with other academics.
Recently I attended a criminal justice academic conference–not one of the national ones, but local. There were almost no criminal justice professionals in the audience, as one might expect–the audience was composed almost solely of academicians. There was one police officer who presented an excellent paper on police leadership as well as some interesting student papers. The academicians were focused, sadly, on the usual mumb0-jumbo quasi-Marxist theories of identity politics so popular in colleges and universities today. Instead of focusing on personal responsibility, the papers focused on social oppression as the cause of crime, and on race, class, and gender being the only determinants of personal identity and behavior. “Diversity” was interpreted in the narrow sense of gender and race, now and then with economic status interspersed. A true diversity of ideas (or even a true cultural diversity) was not celebrated–any deviation from the radical left wing determinism by race, class, and gender was considered unacceptable–a sign of racism, classism, or sexism.
The problem with such theories is that the ignore the fact that all human beings have freedom and dignity–and freedom includes the freedom to make wrong moral (and legal) choices. The criminal justice system preserves human dignity by affirming that crime is an evil against others, that it must not be tolerated by society, and that the guilty should pay for their crimes. Disparities in crime statistics regarding minorities are not necessarily due to oppression by the majority of a minority, but due to the breakdown of family and social order in some minority communities that leads children to have poor role models and thus to grow up with a vicious, rather than a virtuous, character. To deny a minority the right to be punished for wrongdoing or to always blame the majority for the minority’s crimes is to deny the minority freedom and dignity. It is to place a member of a minority outside the bounds of the universal human condition of “fallenness” and outside the knowledge of sin. Such a view, in effect, dehumanizes minorities. Police officers see this human fallenness on an everyday basis and do not care, in general, for making excuses for bad human behavior. Unless criminal justice academics remove their heads from their rear ends and examine the real world of the police or correction officer, lawyer, or judge, they will remain oblivious to reality–and criminal justice professionals and academics will remain permanently estranged.