Initial discussion Post

W6-Study Materials:

Read And Watching

1, Williams & Arrigo, Chapters 11 through 12

2, Adams, Ian and Sharon Mastracci (2017)

3, MUST watch the following videos

MY Initial discussion Post:

Q1.Consider “The Confessions” documentary in light of the “Pato’s Cave” analogy as well as the critical thinking and guidelines for living an ethical life discussed in this week’s assigned readings.  How did the CJ professionals in this documentary (police, attorneys, judges) fail to use critical thinking? What were the consequences?

“Confessions” is about the case of four men who admitted to crimes they did not commit. They confessed to the crimes to get themselves out of the unpleasant situation. The interrogation lasted between an hour and a half to two hours. The interrogation was based on high pressure, which was exerted by the police to force the four individuals to confess to a crime they did not commit (PBS, n.d.). The strategy applied by the police was unethical as they were not seeking the truth but wanted to connect the four individuals to the crime. Plato’s allegory of the cave can be applied to the “Confessions” documentary to highlight the negative impact of critical thinking. Plato’s allegory of the cave indicates that most people are not only ignorant of the truth but hostile to anyone that points it out to them (Gendler, 2015). The Allegory of the Cave can be applied to the “Confessions” documentary to highlight the use of unnecessary force, resulting in the wrongful conviction of innocent people. The consequence was the evasion of justice as the wrongful conviction of the four men inhibited the prosecution of the perpetrator.

Q2. How did other organizational considerations contribute to these actors’ uncritical thinking in regard to this case?

The uncritical thinking outlined in the case was based on the failures of the entire law enforcement agency. The police use of force was based on the lack of efficient policing of the investigators. They were allowed too much leeway when making interrogations such that they coerced innocent people to confess to the crimes. Other than the investigators, the attorneys failed to represent the suspects adequately. The lack of evidence connecting the four individuals to the crime would have been a major factor that would have shed doubt on their guilt. In addition, the judge also failed to practice due protocol to ensure the suspects were tried fairly in a court of law (PBS, n.d.). As a result, the wrongful conviction of the four suspects was not just based on the anomalies committed by the investigators but on the entire justice system as a whole.

Q3. Is the use of body camera footage subject to similar abuse and lack of critical thinking? Why or why not?

The use of body camera footage is not subject to similar abuse and lack of critical thinking as in the case with the “confessions” documentary. The main difference between the two instances is that the “Confessions” documentary involved a deliberate attempt by members of the Law Enforcement to wrongly convict the suspects by forcing them to confess to crimes they did not commit. The use of body camera footage is characterized by a lack of laws and regulations that ensure their appropriate use. While the intention of the body-worn cameras (BWC) may be noble, they may expose victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The law enforcement agencies do not store the data themselves but store them on the Cloud or in third-party servers. The issues surrounding BWC may be resolved. Adams and Mastracci (2017) recommend that police officer should make decisions on which scenes to be recorded. This way, they would avoid recording scenes that may potentially expose victims of sexual and emotional abuse. Another strategy to promote the privacy of confidential information is restricting the divulgence of BWC information to uninvolved parties and enhancing transparency and accountability in the use and dissemination of footage gathered from BWC.

Due: 26th, Feb.

Instructions – 4 Response post (Minimum of 200 Words)/Each Response

In your response posts, you need to reply to Four different peers. MUST follow these directions when responding:

At least two of your responses MUST be made to peers with whom you Disagree on their response to question three above. Then:

    1. Demonstrate that you understand his/her position, showing that you follow his/her explanation.
    2. Clearly explain why you disagree with his/her position.
    3. With reference to the assigned course materials and in a respectful manner, attempt to persuade your peer that s/he should change their mind and adopt your viewpoint.

Discussion 1- K.H

The criminal justice professionals involved in the case of the Norfolk Four (and the other men initially charged) failed entirely to use critical thinking. As our textbook states, “To be a good critical thinker is to clearly possess and routinely use the knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to work through ethical dilemmas, and to effectively analyze laws, policies, practices, and other concerns of moral significance” (Williams & Arrigo, 2012, p. 214-215). The police first wanted to bring in the neighbor who called 911 just to question, which is logical. However, they then never released him and interrogated him so harshly and unethically that he gave a false confession. Every other person after him who was brought into the story had absolutely nothing to even do with the crime. One even lived in a different town, worked that day, saw people that evening, and clearly had a solid alibi. The consequences of this are very clear. It would not be unreasonable to say that their lack of critical thinking resulted in ruining, or in the least severely disrupting, four to seven people’s lives. There was no DNA match, some had alibis, some were brought into it by the detective forcing names out of those accused, and eventually they even had a full confession by the guy who actually committed the crime. All of this was blatantly ignored. These guys have to register on the sex offender list, have lost years of life, have lost friends, are limited to where they can live because of being labeled a sex offender, etc.

Plato’s allegory of the cave showcases the difference of belief and knowledge. One prisoner eventually gains the knowledge but the other two who still only know shadows as what must be real tear him down and think he has lost his mind, becoming hostile in defense of their belief. The detective and other criminal justice professionals involved were like the two prisoners who still believed that shadows were what was real, believing in the Norfolk Four’s guilt, even when handed knowledge and fact on a silver platter. Other organizational considerations also contributed. The detective that lead the interrogations, and has since gone to prison himself if that says anything, was believed by other actors without having his merit assessed.

In contrast to the abuses and lack of critical thinking mentioned, I think the use of body cameras on officers is a good idea. Adams and Mastracci’s article has some great points on this subject. There is a lack of research and typically the laws and regulations cannot keep up with the advancement of the technology, much like cybercrime. However, they hit it on the nail when they discuss the deterrence theory here, that people are less likely to behave poorly when the chance of getting caught is higher than the potential benefits (Adams & Mastracci, 2017, 315-316).  The point that it is hard to determine who is the subject and who is in control is true, but I do not think it necessarily matters. Video footage, regardless of the placement of the camera, give objective evidence of a scene. One cannot change a video based on bias, emotion, or belief. Video footage is knowledge. I used to do ride alongs with police officers in my hometown in high school and college when body cameras were brand new. They would wear one and have the option of turning it on or not, based on the situation. It would be on in background so that as soon as the police officer decided to turn it on, it would have the last 10 seconds before that recorded. They were only used in high stress situations or if a civilian was acting out and an arrest or something bad may happen. I understand also the privacy problems discussed. However, when only used in situations where things may be taken to the next legal level, such as court, I see nothing wrong with the use of body cameras. There are cameras everywhere nowadays, why are these so different? They gather potential evidence, as do cameras at ATMs, ring doorbells, cameras in grocery stores and parking garages. Are these all an invasion of privacy? What or how can the line be drawn here between what is okay and what is an invasion of privacy?


Discussion 2- A.S

In “The Confessions’ ‘ the criminal justice professionals failed to make justified decisions, were dishonest and handled the case from a biased perspective causing 4 men to serve time in jail on a crime that they did not commit. An ethical life requires good decisions and good decisions entails justified decisions (Williams & Arriago, 2012). These professionals failed to look at the evidence clearly and once convinced that these men committed the crime, were biased throughout the case. Dishonesty was also at the forefront of this case. Not only did the interrogators withhold the truth from the suspects but the suspects also lied because of their fear of the death penalty. Failing to use critical thinking caused wasted jail time for each suspect, mental health suffrage and partial clemency for 3 men who still suffer because of Sex Offender Laws.

The considerations from other organizations, such as the Governor from Virginia, Investigators, the jury and even parents of the suspects based their verdict solely off the testimonies of the men. They failed to look at the evidence and testimony of the actual murderer, Ballard. With the combination of false testimony and bias detectives, it makes sense why everyone believed they were guilty. Ballard admits that the prosecution did not want to believe he acted alone and constructed  a plea (with no death penalty) if he admitted he acted with the 4 men. To think uncritically is to accept things without assessing their merit (Williams & Arriago, 2012). After the men all signed a plea admitting they committed the crime, even the attorneys wanted them to comply with the state knowing they were questionable in their stories . This case revolved around inconsistent evidence, lies and fear of death penalty. Plato’s allegory of the cave exemplifies how easy it is for individuals to be “trapped” with a certain way of thinking. In this case we see the trap criminal justice professionals illustrated for not only the suspects but the jury in order to get a guilty verdict.

Body camera footage is surveillance taken by an officer at the scene of a call. Although this footage can be seen as a lack of privacy, I believe it would be considered ethical and an accountability tool for not just officers but also civilians. However, we currently do not have strict policies on how surveillance is used. I believe stricter policies need to be implemented on this footage for the prevention of fabrication and hearsay. Shoshanna Zuboff’s recommendations on enhancing the policy with policy footage are essential. By keeping surveillance as investigative footage and allowing the discretion of footage between officer and civilian filmed more justified evidence would be used in the court. If we did not have this footage we would be basing most of the crimes committed as meretalk. Video surveillance allows accountability between the public and officers. In unethical acts committed by officers, this also provides transparency for the public (Adams & Mastracci, 2017). Video footage is ethical but can be fabricated unethically which is why the implementation of policy on how footage is used and taken would enhance the importance of surveillance.


Discussion 3- H.F

“The Confessions” documentary serves as an example of how the police ignored core critical thinking and ethics as four Navy sailors faced charges of rape and murder based on coercive testimony at the hands of a Virginia detective, Robert Glenn Ford (Frontline, 2010). Successful critical thinking prescribes applying knowledge, skills, and intellectual tools to “work through ethical dilemmas” (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). The Norfolk Police missed a critical piece of evidence that would have implicated Omar Ballard within days of the brutal murder. Ballard, who later admitted to the murder, had assaulted another woman just weeks earlier in the same apartment complex as the victim, Michelle Bosko. Police relied on a lead from a neighbor, Tomeika Taylor, who suggested that Danial Williams would be a person of interest (Frontline, 2010). One of the guidelines for ethical living is that we do not “develop reasons for our decisions” and we must examine all possible alternatives (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). In this case, detectives ignored a fundamental responsibility to review other criminal activity in the area that could have quickly implicated Ballard. The concepts of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave can be applied in several instances in the case of the Norfolk Four. The four accused sailors became the men hanging in the cave, their guilt cast as shadows that danced in front of them became more accurate and factual as time went on. Detective Ford applied coercive interrogation tactics and ultimately presented a “showing of instruments,” convincing all four men that the only way to avoid the death penalty was to confess to the rape and murder of Michelle Bosko (Frontline, 2010). Detective Ford created an illumination through the threat of the death penalty. The caved men were blinded by that illumination ignoring rational thought, and purely focused on the path to avoiding the death penalty (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). Only when these men were freed from the cave outside the confines of interrogation would they understand Detective Ford had coerced their testimony. The consequences of these immoral actions led to wrongful imprisonment, and all four men’s lives changed forever.

An ethical life is about “doing the right thing for the right reasons” (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). One of the most significant areas of concern in this investigation was the unchecked power given to Detective Ford, who seemed to be so focused on solving this crime that he was willing to bend one untruth to explain another despite DNA evidence (Frontline, 2010). Ford’s personal interests in closing the case seemed to mar his ability to live an “examined life” that would have allowed him to demonstrate some level of skepticism when the DNA did not match versus influencing the testimony, which further implicated the wrong party (Frontline, 2010; Williams & Arrigo, 2012). The police detectives, police leadership, the judge, and the jury all demonstrated a lack of critical thinking at different points. From the use and abuse of authority to unethical interrogative practices, all parties failed to follow a basic ethical decision-making framework. This would have meant evaluating the facts, applying moral criteria such as virtues and principles to reach a practical conclusion (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). These criminal justice actors in line with Kantian ethics, should have applied prima facie duties prioritizing honesty, justice and nonmaleficence (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). I firmly believe if even one of these parties prioritized those virtues it would have changed the course of history for the Norfolk Four (Williams & Arrigo, 2012).

The topic of body camera footage is controversial. At first inception, body camera footage was intended to provide an impartial record of what transpired during a traffic stop or confrontation. Critical ethical thinking “requires that we approach issues in an unbiased, unprejudiced way” (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). Bodycam footage provides a single vantage point which in many cases can create an environment for justifications to be volleyed against our pre-established politics, racial biases, or religious sentiment. I personally believe that body cam footage could be misused or misconstrued without the proper ethical framework applied. Court proceedings include attempts to distract from the issue at hand or persuade a particular perspective (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). Bodycam footage alone should not serve as the sole evidence as it serves as binary logic ignoring the facts that may be present (Williams & Arrigo, 2012). Body cams exist due to the imperfect nature of human behavior. If both parties regarded fairness, respect for others, and justice equally, the footage would never capture morally undesirable actions (Frontline, 2010).

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Discussion 4 – D.T

  1. It is a miscarriage of justice when one person is falsely convicted and imprisoned for a crime they did not commit. When it is four people, to say that it was a gross miscarriage of justice would be an understatement. The lack of critical thinking in this case began with the detective and ended with the judge. Aristotle believed that one of the unique characteristics of human beings is our ability to employ reason (Williams, 2012). Williams and Arrigo define reason as “any process whereby we apply available information such as evidence or principles (i.e., reasons) to a question, issue, or dilemma in the interest of reaching a conclusion” (Williams, 2012, p. 213). Williams and Arrigo describe critical thinking as an activity. When we think critically we are actively using our ability for rational thought. Detective Ford had a pre-established conclusion of the case in his mind before he ever began investigating the first lead. Ford fell into the trap of being biased and closed-minded. Williams and Arrigo point out that the only way to be an ethical thinker and to make good decisions is to be unbiased, unprejudiced, and open-minded (Williams, 2012). Ford demonstrated extreme tunnel vision in his investigation. even when it appeared obvious that his thinking was full of errors, he refused to acknowledge his mistakes and to consider any other possibilities. Williams and Arrigo referred to this open-minded thinking as exploring ways unseen (Williams, 2012). What astounded me about this whole case is that the errors of critical thinking and faulty reasoning did not end with Detective Ford. The fact that the prosecution did not question the lack of DNA evidence is mind boggling. The consequences of the all-around lack of critical thinking or reasoning was that four men were wrongly convicted and sent to prison, irreparably affecting their lives and the lives of their families.
  2. One organizational consideration that contributed to the uncritical thinking in this case was the narrow-minded, tunnel vision like purpose of not only the detective, but of the prosecution and the judge as well. Ford’s purpose for interrogation was to obtain a confession, regardless of whether that confession was the truth or not. It seems to me that this travesty could have been avoided, or at the least, been of a shorter duration, had at least one of the actors in the criminal justice system recognized, and spoken up about the uncritical thinking that was taking place. Ford made an assumption about the guilt of the four sailors and let this assumption dictate his actions. Ford excluded and manipulated the evidence that suggested that these four men were in no way connected to this crime. The evidence was in direct contradiction to the hypothesis put forth by Ford and no one, prosecutors, defense attorneys, or the judge challenged the reasoning. Williams and Arrigo point out that exclusions “become especially likely when we become attached to favored ways of seeing and doing” (Williams, 2012, p. 226).
  3. I do believe that the use of body camera footage is subject to similar abuse and critical thinking. In law enforcement, as with many other areas of not only criminal justice but society in large, laws and regulations are often reactionary in nature. Laws and policies are developed after the fact (Adams & Mastracci, 2017). From the article it appears that the original intent of the body camera was to help reduce the tension between police and the community. Certainly there may be police officers that use these cameras other than in the intended manner. As stated in the article, there are times where the lines are blurred between the subject and object (Adams & Mastracci, 2017). I feel that if we expect law enforcement officers to use the “knowledge, skills, and tools necessary to work through ethical dilemmas” (Williams, 2012, p. 214), they need to be provided with and trained in those skills and tools so that they are better able to employ critical thinking practices.

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