April 30, 2012
Current Event Ethical Dilemma
On February 26th of this year, in the town of Sanford, Florida, 28 year old George Zimmerman shot and killed 17 year old Trayvon Martin with a 9mm pistol. Mr. Zimmerman claims this was in self-defense. Trayvon was armed with an Arizona Ice Tea beverage and a package of candy Skittles he had just bought from the local convenience store. The Sanford Police Department questioned Mr. Zimmerman and then released him without arrest, using the “Stand Your Ground” law as his defense. In this horrific situation the Police Department had a moral if not legal, responsibility to further detain and even arrest this man, on the ethical principles of Privacy, Respect for Persons, and Beneficence on behalf of the victim.
The Right to Privacy for every person means the right to be free from intrusions into ones physical body, space, mind and personal information. This includes the right to be free from bodily restraint in any way or ...view middle of the document...
Another ethical principle that was not utilized in this incident, either by Mr. Zimmerman himself or the Sanford Police department, is Respect for Persons. This comes from the idea that all persons should be treated with respect simply because they are persons. Respect could be identified as a mode of behavior, a feeling, a form of treatment, a type of attention, a duty, or even a motive. In this incident, did internalized prejudices come into play? Were the parties involved guilty of cultural and organizational discrimination? These are perhaps questions that could have been asked in determining that Trayvon Martin did not receive his ethical right of Respect for Persons.
Additionally, we have the ethical principle of Beneficence, which in this case would be the police department’s moral and ethical duty to improve conditions in society. The ethical contexts that should have been applied in this tragedy are justice and equality, injustice and oppression, moral motivation and development, and cultural diversity and toleration. The Sanford police department might have done better by their community if instead of finding out what this young man did to be shot and killed, they try to determine why Mr. Zimmerman would shoot and kill an unarmed teenager.
This story has no good ending, a teenager died, the local prosecutor excused himself from the case, and the police chief tried to resign over the whole thing. One of the Sanford city commissioners stated that due to the department handling of this investigation it “has brought national shame to this city.” We should all keep in mind our moral duty to consider the ethical principles such as Privacy, Respect for Persons, and Beneficence. If Mr. Zimmerman had given more thought to privacy and respect for persons, Trayvon Martin might be alive today and if the Sanford police department had given more thought to these ethical principles they might have been able to turn a tragedy into a community opportunity for moral development and cultural tolerance instead of being the recipients of a national outrage.