Alchoholism and an moral dilemma

When I first started out my quest to become officer more than two decades ago, I firmly believed that one day I'd achieve my goal. I also realized that once an official, I would very likely be 'examined' on many levels throughout my profession. I have always admired durability of positive identity in others, and prided myself in having an almost iron-clad durability of character. During any officer's profession they will face circumstances where their character will be placed to his or her owns personal and professional exams. It is not a matter of 'if" but simply a matter of 'when' such dilemmas will occur. How will one manage that probably pivotal juncture of one's career? Will one have the appropriate ethical foundations to help make the 'right' choices. How will one reconcile their options. How exactly does one minimize the mental experience of uneasiness when there is a clash between two parallel concepts that are conflicting - when you are experiencing a situation where one's values or assumptions may been seen as 'incorrect'.

Thanks to psychologist Leon Festinger, we now know this sensation as cognitive dissonance. What Festinger put forth was an outline for understanding ethical dilemmas the following; "In case a person contains two cognitions that are psychologically inconsistent, he experience Dissonance: a poor drive status (not unlike hunger or thirst). Because the connection with dissonance is upsetting, the person will strive to reduce it-usually by struggling to find a way to change one or both cognitions to make sure they are more consonant with each other". (Leon Festinger)

Festinger's concept of cognitive dissonance is not completely original, it will be has its roots in Austrian psychologists Fritz Heider idea of 'balance theory'. Nonetheless, and sadly I have possessed the misfortune to experience several ethical dilemma in my career. In the long run, I have hardly ever regretted any route I select. However, I found it believe it or not difficult to minimize my own levels of cognitive dissonance with each particular problem, even in the lack of such eloquent quality as provided by Heider, Festinger and other academics.

So then, what involves head as the main ethical dilemma Personally i think has impacted the most on me? My attention here becomes to my experience having proved helpful at the divisional standard primary response device (PRU) level with an alcoholic spouse. And, the issues I was faced with regarding his alcoholism - including him confirming for obligation if not intoxicated, certainly having used alcoholic beverages prior to coming to work. I am going to write about my concerns and connect my way of thinking to at least one of the identified academic moral models. I will offer commentary here on research with regards to the relationship between occupational stress and alcoholism in policing. I'll make an effort to touch on how alcoholism among cops affects local communities and erodes at the foundations of police force families. And, I am going to offer my image resolution to my own dilemma.

Much of my profession has been spent working in any that is often identified as a stressed neighbourhood, with a host of unique and challenging dynamics. Not minimal of which carries a reputation for extreme assault, gang-related offences, and a somewhat law enforcement sceptical if not outright disillusioned inhabitants. I believe this environment needs a 'special breed' of person to take up the mantle of being a police officer and serving a community of the nature. I've had both pleasure of seeing folks of high calibre police this community in a specialist and hypersensitive manner, as well as the misfortune of witnessing those officers who themselves are disillusioned and cynical. Personally i think the latter do a disservice to any community significantly less to a trouble one. It is the former kind of official whom I applaud. Yet, even such an officer, is still only human and could be found wrestling with their own troubles. So it is the fact I came to know an official who I really believe was of the calibre i praise, but soon came to see as being almost equally stressed. For this essay I will refer to him as officer 'X'.

This officer who was simply roughly 6-7 years my older in terms of service, possessed result from another Department under a cloud of suspicion. Though at that time I did so not know the precise dynamics of the cloud over his mind. Originally, he worked on some other platoon than I, and I hardly ever had any connection with him. However, within in regards to a time of his appearance he became the main topic of internal willpower for apparently reporting for duty in circumstances unfit for work - having used alcohol. Among the measures this resulted in was his reassignment to the platoon I got working on.

And so that it was that I arrived to learn him on a much more personal level than I could have anticipated. Over the weeks and weeks that used, I endeavoured to stay non-judgmental. I caused him extensively, generally because I had been one of few officers that didn't openly and/or subtly protest to dealing with him. Because of this, I learned that he truly performed care about his profession, the city, his fellow officials, and the globe all together. I observed first hand his measured approach to policing, and although we had our distinctions as anyone does, overall I highly well known him.

At this point in my profession, I was what could be described as still relatively not used to policing, although I had been much more than most recruits who enter in the profession. On one particular occasion while working with this 'X', we went to a radio call where multiple other products were as well. One reasonably 'senior' officer got me besides to talk with me. We secreted ourselves a short distance away, where this officer asked me; "Is 'X' travelling"? I responded; "Yes, why is there a problem"? Seemingly this officer thought that 'X' was "piss-drunk", and shockingly asked me; "can't you smell him"? Indeed I had been shocked.

By this time around in the move, I had been dealing with 'X' for many hours, and hadn't the slightest hint that he previously consumed any alcoholic beverages. I adamantly voiced my thoughts and opinions and managed my position. I delivered to the group confident, however now having some uncertainty that my very own senses had in some way failed me.

Of course, I also delivered to my spouse 'X' to be able to finish the others of our switch. I re-evaluated myself and my partner but still found no information that he had been consuming. I quickly began to assert that the other officials' allegation was borne out of malice and offered it no validation. For some reason I could only guess at, I do not believe that the other officer shared his view with other people. Clearly, he did not report his matter to a supervisor, and nothing more was ever before said to me. I had been so disturbed in fact, that we actually revealed the allegation to my 'unsavoury' spouse 'X'.

Over another few months I again performed numerous times with 'X' who others got already obviously judged. I found that indeed he have have a brief history of abusing alcohol, and have been the author of a few of his own misfortunes. But, still I well known him, and his work. I observed the worthiness in him both personally and properly. He confided in me that his latest self-discipline issues which includes precipitated his reassignment to my transfer, was the consequence of him reporting for obligation having consumed alcohol. Regarding to him, he had been uncovered by another officer on his change "prior to parade". The official who found out 'X' on that occasion in turn, notified a supervisor, and disciplinary steps were begun. He didn't contest his wrongdoing for my profit, but he was rather hurt that he previously been reported by an officer who he claims he had aided in an extremely personal unrelated matter previously - a subject he claims to possess placed in the strictest self confidence and discretion.

Of course the reporting official did nothing at all 'wrong', but instead does everything 'right' in conditions of the service directives and any one of a number of theoretical models. Still, the event left a proclaimed impression on 'X', and a lesser level on me as well. As much as i know, the reporting officer was not sanctioned - nor should they have been. Although, that too performed a tiny role in my decision making process which was to come later.

In the movie "The Matrix", at one point Lawrence Fishburne remarks; ". . . Destiny, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. . . ". Well a few brief weeks after having the previously listed exchange with 'X', I came across myself in the unenviable position of the sooner reporting officer. I put went to for work like any other day. While changing in the locker room prior to commencing obligation, I had a chanced encounter with 'X' who seldom altered in the locker room. He was one of those officials who usually travelled to and from work in uniform and typically arrived for parade after only picking right up his duty belt from the lockers. As it was, I found 'X' in the locker room. WHEN I approached him simply to engage in friendly pre-shift conversation I did so in fact notice some apparent signs of liquor utilization. Having befriended 'X' over the previous almost a year, I drew next to and tactfully confronted him. Initially he protested, but to I persisted. I attempted to charm to his senses of devotion to me that he would not put me in a worse position than I had been now finding myself in.

As for myself, although at the time I had not been alert to the academically identified ethical models that would later describe my activities - I now see that I opt for path most conveniently determined as an ethics of treatment model, combined with, but to a smaller degree with an ethics of justice model. And, to a straight much less level - ethical egoism.

I knew I didn't want to record 'X'. In essence, I didn't want to cause any further harm to someone I already observed as being ruined in many ways. However, I also recognized that 'X' was jeopardizing much, including me. So then, my solution was to keep persisting to appeal to his sense of loyalty and friendship to me, and well as his own future. I was able to illustrate that we had his best interest in mind, as well as my very own, the service's and the public's. I suggested that if he previously not been seen by anyone else yet, that I would escort him out through the seldom used part door, and to one of the neighbouring hotels. Ever watchful, he followed me, and we made our way there. Fortunately there have been three hotels immediately adjacent to the place. Although I did so not feel 'X' was intoxicated, I had no chance of really knowing. And, the very last thing I needed was either folks confronted in the train station parking whole lot by anyone. Through the hotel, I persuaded him to call in unwell. I rationalized that nobody else experienced seen him yet, he previously not officially reported for obligation, and being unfit for duty he was in a sense ill. In fact, many people do view alcoholism as a sickness. Although, I have to declare I am not typically person who does. Luckily for us for both of us, and who is aware of how many other people this occurrence never surfaced.

However, I have never really reconciled my decision. So how then have I decrease, or at least try to reduce my level cognitive dissonance. Well, as mentioned I rationalized my decision from what I now see as a combo of any ethics of good care, ethics of justice, and ethics of egoism models. I looked after 'X' for the reason that I did not seek direct punishment, but instead a more recovering approach. Everybody knows the news, and fallout of distrust, shame, and even loss of credibility induced when an officer's alcoholic behavior is made open public. I will touch upon this later as well. So, I rationalized i was indirectly caring for the service by steering clear of such issues. In conditions of justice, I realized 'X' was still heading to receive consequence for his early on similar behaviour, and I reasoned that that would satisfy the justice aspect. I also reasoned that, since I effectively intercepted him and brought on him to work with time from his 'tired bank', no public harm had been done - the loss of 'X''s sick time (which compatible paid time) was appropriate justice. After this occurrence, I also gradually and subtly tried to lesson my time put in dealing with 'X', for I truly didn't know easily got done the 'right' thing, and couldn't fully trust a similar event wouldn't happen again under circumstances less easily manoeuvred around. I now equate this to the concept "This illustrates the unhappy reality that doing the right thing sometimes comes at a higher cost". (Pollock)

Pollock also very aptly highlights that companions of alcoholic officials indeed - "are confronted with an ethical dilemma of whether or not to take official action. . and that officers might want to informally isolate themselves from drinking alcohol officers". (Pollock) I put seen the harm done to him from the prior incident where he previously been reported, and I reasoned these circumstances differed. Nor does the previous event act as a deterrence for 'X'. So, I also rationalized a different approach may prove to be an improved method. Aswell, I didn't simply allow present issue rest between us. I insisted that he re-evaluate himself on many levels. Among the key elements I looked for to exploit was 'X''s notion of respect. Evidently he lacked self value, but he highly appreciated being well known by others. Knowing that, I told him in addition to his personal and professional duties - he had a need to evaluate his level of respect he kept for me, if any. This seemed to touch a nerve on a positive note for 'X'. During the time we had did the trick together, it appears I had developed garnered a level of admiration from him.

As well, I had fashioned gained even more value from him in light of the above incident. Subsequently, I appealed to him that if nothing else, he should exercise his value for me by never adding me in such a compromising position again. I told him how stressed I was in what had happened, and we had many lengthy conversations, where I offered as best I could ways of assist him to combat his alcoholism in a confident manner.

Pollock explains to that; "The ethics of care and attention is something that will not depend on general rules or formulas to determine morality. The emphasis is on individuals relationships and needs. . . morality is based in emotion rather than rationality. . . the ethics of attention would probably not support abuse unless it was necessary to help the offender become an improved person. . . you need to help the offender to be an improved person because that is just what a caring and dedicated romantic relationship would entail. . . retributive punishment and deterrence are not regular with ethics of care". (Pollock)

Conversely, ethics of justice is founded on key points like justice, fairness, equality or authority. This approach analyzes a problem logically and impartially. This style formulates decisions based on principles which can be greater than any individual's passions. Some shortcomings of the approach are that people who rely on it might lose view of the immediate hobbies of particular individuals. Just how can both of these models be mixed? Personally i think that neither of the two is always much better than the other. However, I do feel a potential disadvantage of an ethics of justice model is the fact that someone who depends solely onto it may ignore the direct welfare of particular individuals.

Although ethics of attention and ethics of justice are two various ways of characterizing from incorrect and making moral and ethical decisions; and may seem very different in one another - actually they can be united. Pollock explains to us that a person generally is determined by more than one model when making an moral decision. I feel that the greater one is able to merge these two models, the better one reaches making the 'right' decisions. Notions of justice, equality, and individual protection under the law can be melded mutually in a 'normative' technique with principles such as good care. "Few people constantly use just one ethical system to make moral decisions". (Pollock)

I became aware that 'X' was still facing disciplinary punishments credited to his prior incident, and noticed that I did not wish to be a adding factor to whatever 'justice' would be enforced upon him through his existing departmental charges. Ethics of care and attention model is dependant on social virtues, focusing on a sense of responsibility to lessen actual damage or hurting. The benefit for this technique is that it's receptive to instantaneous hurting and injury. The weakness is the fact, when carried for an extreme, this style can change out decisions that appear not simply biased, but capricious. Both these aspects are elements which I experienced in my issue. An ethics of attention allows for creative strategies to cope with moral or ethical dilemmas. The ethics of good care, constitutes an honest approach in conditions of which involvement, compatible relations and the needs of others play an important part in moral decision-making in each ethical situation. Ethics of care and attention focal points are qualities such as sympathy, compassion, and friendship.

As brought up, the ethics of health care model is quick to react to direct harm and stress. "Ethics of health care focuses on characteristic characteristics such as sympathy, compassion, and camaraderie. These are social virtues. Ethics of justice in contrast places an focus on specific autonomous choice and equality". (WarrenFrench and AlexanderWeis)

I once more also rationalized my decision now through an ethical egoism model, which is founded on doing what is best for one's personal well-being and/or survival. Although I did so not dread and sanctions being imposed upon me, got I reported 'X''s behavior, it nonetheless played out a factor in my own mind. I felt somewhat that it would not maintain my best interest to expose 'X''s behaviour.

As for whatever became of 'X', well eventually I inserted an investigative office, and haven't functioned directly with him for many years. I see him once in a while, but also have since moved to another station, so that it is extremely uncommon i see him nowadays. I don't really know what the outcome of his self-discipline reading was. Nor do I understand if he has learned to manage his alcoholism, but I am hoping for everyone's sake that he has.

As stated first, I am going to now turn my attention to commentary here on research with regards to the correlation between occupational stress and alcoholism in policing. I'll try to touch about how alcoholism among police officers affects local communities and erodes at the foundations of law enforcement families.

There can be little question that alcoholism is a dreadful affliction that can devastate lives and divide apart family members and communities. At the very least, alcoholism diminishes the power of a person to efficiently deal with the troubles of every day life. Needlessly to say, police officers are not immune system to the anguish of alcoholism (Beutler et al, 1988) and alcoholism among any city's "finest" is manufactured even more dangerous by virtue to the fact that these men and women are in a position of power and responsibility that may necessitate these to use (or at least contemplate) the detention of others or even the use of deadly push. As the situation is a significant one, alcoholism among police officers is a subject that may be resolved if law enforcement officials services are prepared to offer educational programs, understanding, and support services with their officers.

Surely one of the very most evident predictors of alcoholism among cops is the strain the occupation brings with it. A study conducted in the later 1980s by Larry E. Beutler, Paul D. Nussbaum and Keith E. Meredith (1988) found that Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory ratings performed on a small group of cops just a few years after their graduation from the academy discovered increased somatic symptoms, high rates of stress, and the particular investigators called "alcoholvulnerability. "

Academics have observed that the vulnerability to liquor was the most evident of the mental and psychological characteristics found one of the officers. In fact, by the fourth yr of service, the mean MacAndrews Alcoholism Range results were well within the critical range. Inevitably, the co-authors of this study figured law enforcement officials work bears with it certain different stresses that aren't found in most other occupations and that this simple fact should be sufficient to compel law enforcement services to go after periodic re-evaluations for officials as well as taking the time to develop early intervention programs. Also, the results of Beutler et al support early conclusions from a well-regarded research conducted over 3 years which viewed 500 cops in 21 city and local law enforcement officials services; in this case, as with the survey penned by Larry E. Beutler and his small team of colleagues, the relationship between stress and excessive drinking was substantive and undeniable (Marshall et al. , 1985). Once again, the idea that each police service should have support groups and involvement programs in place for officers is an idea that should have universal approval.

The tragedy of law enforcement officials work, at least until quite recently, was that officials were expected to shoulder their burdens only. For example, an article in 1979 by Stephen Nordlicht found that it was only by then - very almost the end of the 1970s - before cops were finally acquiring the extensive treatment they needed for alcohol maltreatment. Nordlicht (1979) research uncovered that cops were saddled with the heavy demands with their service, the needs of a challenging people, and by the stresses attendant in being truly a partner and a mother or father; sadly, not all of them could juggle these various needs and alcoholism became a getaway.

In any event, Nordlicht (1979) creates that the strains which rip at the delight and well-being of police officers are made all the worse by disruptive schedules, by long hours and by an associated inability to talk to their spouses about festering problems, by the pressurized, authoritarian mother nature of the work (which leads them towards treating their members of the family, and especially children, in an authoritarian manner) and by an incapability on the part of many police officers to express their emotions.

The difficulties encountered by officers in the overdue 1970s give you a number of items that law enforcement services even today should bear closely in mind, as much of those previous problems are no different than today. Today's needs on police force may be even more burdensome. To begin with, disruptive arranging - move work, and expectations that cops will continue to work weekends for example are highly adding factors to alcoholism if in a roundabout way then certainly indirectly.

If Nordlicht's work is any indicator, most (if not absolutely all) cops need to spend time with their own families plus they need especially to spend time with their own families in a manner predictable enough that family outings and the like can be planned without concern with (undue) intrusion. If this time is not given, and a relationship and family life get started to break down because of this, then embattled officials may begin turning to alcoholism as you way of escaping the burdens of these situation.

Another thing that Nordlicht's analysis reveals is merely how toxic could possibly be the unreasonable and detrimental expectations transferred upon police officers by an authoritarian command word structure that needs unquestioning conformity, a "stiff" faade, and mental distance in almost all circumstances. Clearly, authorities administrators who dread that their officials are succumbing to alcoholism need to look directly at how they expect officers to do something with one another and with the general public; quite simply, if cops are expected by their superiors to be severe, emotionally withdrawn, fairly unapproachable, and relatively uncommunicative with the public and with each other, then psychological problems can begin to well up as the tensions of the job - strains which demand that officers confide in someone - commence to exact their toll. Therefore, police officials should remember to build a mutually respectful atmosphere where communication is respected.

The issues lifted by alcoholism among cops should be relatively obvious to every single one, and now I'll go into those issues in more detail. To begin with, even though experts have historically found it alternatively difficult to ascertain precisely the personal and occupational losses associated with alcoholic beverages abuse, and even though deficits in job performance cannot continually be easily found, it is clear that some kind of link exists between reduced professional performance and the surplus use of alcohol (Violanti, 1999).

At the very least, officials who are fighting alcoholism may be susceptible to making poor and impulsive decisions at critical moments; likewise, officials who insist upon drinking a great deal are officers who compromise their physical health insurance and therefore their potential to release their obligations as fully as capably as they should. As though the preceding is pretty good enough, excessive alcoholic beverages consumption surely leads to absences caused the health difficulties attendant with alcoholism; these absences can leave departments with critical man-power shortages at critical times or they can drive the authorities service (courtesy the public/government bag) to cover the health care and attention and convalescence of officers who have compromised their health through alcoholism. Finally, a alcoholic beverages problem within any authorities service can - if it's "discovered" by the general public - lead to an over-all disdain for the office and thus to reduced community assistance and co-operation when such assistance is necessary. We have seen this way too many times. Why then has ended consumption of alcohol such an suitable practice within the police sub-culture? It really is almost a essential to be admitted into a 'squad'.

The concerns of the neighborhood community and the police services as they pertain to alcoholism also needs to be rather simple. Most notably, recent studies have shown a marked relationship between alcohol mistreatment and suicide among police officers (Violanti, 1988); in a relatively related vein, cops who drink (like many people who drink to excess) also tend to be violent than those who abstain or at least drink only in moderation (Lott, 1995).

For the police services, the past (high rates of suicide precipitated, in part, by alcoholism) means a rending of the organizational family that can leave psychic wounds for quite some time; for the local community, the latter phenomenon (violence as a result of alcoholism) can lead to officers taking right out their frustrations upon those they are supposed to be protecting.

Needless to state, a solid treatment and elimination regime is necessary. Most certainly, as has been described already in this paper, police services need an early intervention program in place that will handle drinking problems before they become overpowering. As well, law enforcement administrators must have in place educational programs designed towards allowing officers know very well what other things they can do besides drinking that will reduce the extensive stress they experience in a probably deadly job. Personally i think that Toronto is indeed setting itself for example in teaching lifestyle changes and offering EFAP programs.

Finally, law enforcement officials services should make allowances (where possible) for officials so that they can secure precious time with their families; police services also needs to encourage every single platoon and/or squad to serve as its own support team so that no official has to shoulder the pain of the alcohol problem together. Again, I really do feel that TPS has made much headway in this value in recent years.

In closing, I have to confess it is a fairly intimidating task to openly analyse a genuine life personal ethical dilemma one has experienced, giventhe awareness of our career. To be certain, there exists little lack of situations, and sadly I have got the misfortune to see more than one ethical dilemma in my career. As I said, in the end I have hardly ever regretted any avenue I decided to go with, but it is believe it or not effort to really reveal these events. So then, do I make the 'right' choice - well that's a matter of perspective that I continue steadily to wrestle with.


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Klockars, C. B. (2003). The contours of police force integrity . NY, NY: SAGE Magazines, Inc.

Lott, Lonald D. Deadly secrets: Assault in the authorities family. The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Retrieved Dec 10, 2006, from

Marshall, J. R. , Howe, B. , and Violanti, J. M. (1985). Stress, coping and alcohol use: The authorities connection. Journal of Law enforcement officials Science and Supervision, 13(2): 106-110.

Nordlicht, Stephen. (1979). Effects of pressure on the police officer and family. New York Talk about Journal of Treatments, 79(3): 400-401.

Pollock, J. M. (2010). Moral dilemmas and decisions in legal justice (Sixth Model ed. ) Wadsworth.

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Violanti, John M. (1999). Alcoholic beverages abuse in policing. Enforcement Bulletin, 68(1): 16-18.

Violanti, J. M. (1988). Predictors of law enforcement officials suicide ideation. Suicide and life-threatening action. 34(3): 277-283.

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