Ethics and the Security Profession: A Theoretical Perspective2013-08-28T16:45:51-04:00

Kelly Fannon
York College Student
October 2001
I. Introduction
A security professional is faced with ethical dilemmas every day. He or she is then expected to make ethical decisions. In order to comprehend this vast responsibility, one must learn the theoretical background of ethics
A. Definition of Ethics
Ethics may be defined in many different ways by many different sources. According to Close and Meier, authors of Morality in Criminal Justice, it is the study of right and wrong. It may also involve duty, responsibility and personal character. The World Book Dictionary defines ethics to be "the study of standards of right and wrong; that part of philosophy dealing with moral conduct, duty and judgment". According to Aristotle, there are eleven virtues which lead to the "good life". These include, courage, temperance, charity, good deeds, pride, good temper, friendliness, truthfulness, wittiness, shame, and justice (Solomon, 1994).

B. Codes of Ethics
The security officer is expected not only to make ethical decisions but to also follow a code of ethics. The Security Officer Code of Ethics include ten key elements. These include: Respond to employer’s professional needs, exhibit exemplary conduct, protect confidential information, maintain a safe and secure workplace, dress to create professionalism, enforce all lawful rules and regulations, encourage liaison with public officers, develop good rapport within the profession, strive to attain professional competence, and encourage high standards of officer ethics.

C. Relativism
This view of morality is that moral statements become true by wishing or believing they are true (Close, Meier, 1995). What a person believes about morality becomes his or her moral standards. This view is popular in society today and is sometimes called the "Peter Pan Principle". It is called that because of the movie Peter Pan in which the young children were told if they believed they could fly then they would fly (Close, Meier, 1995). Critics of this view point argue that it does not allow for ethical conversation. Reason being that no one is wrong if they believe it to be true. This view does not allow for one moral law or code.

This view of morality draws a distinction between what is true and what one believes to be true (Close, Meier, 1995). With this view, there is a single universal moral standard.
II. Ethical Theories
A. Teleological
This branch of is often referred to as consequentialist theories. The word, teleological, comes from the Greek root "telos" which means end or goal (Close, Meier, 1995). The word refers to the end or consequences of an action. The rightness or wrongness of an act is determined by its consequences (Close, Meier, 1995).

  1. Utilitarianism
    This teleological theory refers to the greatest good for the greatest number (Close, Meier, 1995). This is one of the most popular of the teleological theories. It is also referred to as the greatest happiness principle. The main idea is that the morally right action is the one which brings more good than bad to all persons involved (Close, Meier, 1995). Under this theory for determining morality, all persons must be considered (Close, Meier, 1995).

    1. Jeremy Bentham
      This famous philosopher lived from 1748 until 1832 and is considered the father of utilitarianism (Close, Meier, 1995). Bentham identified seven characteristics to measure good and bad. These included, intensity, duration, certainty or uncertainty, nearness or remoteness, fecundity which means followed by a similar sensation, purity, and number of persons affected (Close, Meier, 1995).
    2. John Stuart Mill
      This famous philosopher stated the utilitarian position in his writing, What Utilitarianism Is. Mill claimed that motive is irrelevant to the morality of an action (Close, Meier, 1995). He also argued that utilitarianism is not a "godless doctrine". He also believed in individual liberty. As long as the action causes no harm to others it is morally right (Solomon, 1994).
  2. Hedonism
    This idea further elaborated on the good and bad of utilitarianism to include pleasure and pain. Hedonists are those persons who pursue pleasure (Close, Meier, 1995). Hedonists are not necessarily utilitarians but those utilitarians who define good and bad in terms of pleasure and pain are hedonistic utilitarians (Close, Meier, 1995).
  3. Egoism
    This idea is focused on the action which produces good or bad for the individual. Ethical egoism holds that the morally right action is the one which produces that greatest good for the individual (Close, Meier, 1995). Most philosophers do not accept this as a valid theory because it does not take others into consideration

B. Deontological
This branch of ethical theories do not consider the consequences of one’s actions to be morally significant (Close, Meier, 1995). The name, deontological, comes from the Greek work "deon" meaning that which is binding (Close, Meier, 1995). These theories hold that the rightness or wrongness of an action is intrinsic to the act itself (Close, Meier, 1995).

  1. Categorical Imperative
    The word, categorical, means without qualification and the word, imperative, means no reasons or conditions. The philosopher who developed this idea is Immanuel Kant who lived from 1724 until 1804. This idea holds that the morally correct action is one that is performed from duty alone (Close, Meier, 1995). A person should perform actions out of duty rather than inclination. Morality is a matter of reason. One of Kant’s main ideas was that a person should never use another to achieve their goals. People should never be seen as means to a goal but rather as the goal itself. Kant also believed in autonomy which is that every one can figure out what is right and wrong on their own (Solomon, 1994).
  2. Prima Facie Principles
    W.D. Ross is the philosopher who lived from 1877 until 1971. (Shaw, Barry, 1997). He asserted that there is no single answer for all cases. How a person acts depends on the circumstances and obligations of the situation. Moral obligations are prima facie which means that one principle can not be overridden by another (Shaw, Barry, 1997). There are seven basic prima facie duties, fidelity, reparation, gratitude, justice, beneficence, self-improvement, and non-injury.
  3. Divine Command Theory
    This theory is also known as theological voluntarism. This theory asserts that the morally correct action is the one that conforms to the commandments of the religious person’s deity (Close, Meier, 1995). Those who follow this theory argue that the morality of an action originates in the will of God.
  4. Golden Rule
    Many are familiar with the concept of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is the definition of the golden rule. It involves equal treatment and is argued to be the logical point that every theory follows (Close, Meier, 1995).

III. Conclusion
It is clear that there are many ways in which to judge the morality of an action. Hopefully, with a greater understanding of these ideas, one can make a more informed decision.