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articulate a justifiable rationale for why we believe one decision

When learning how to resolve ethical dilemmas, it is important to be able to articulate a justifiable rationale for why we believe one decision seems right and another seems wrong. Having a basic understanding of the major ethical theories will help us toward an ethical resolution learning how to articulate and justify the decision.

At times, some of the ethical theories may seem overly philosophical for our purposes; we may even wonder why we should study theories that were sometimes developed centuries ago when we are primarily dealing with present-day issues. In other instances, some of the ethical theories may seem overbearing. The theories we look at here, however, are important to help us understand why the decisions we make, or someone else makes, are ethical or unethical.

For example, a decision may be made that appears on the surface to be unethical, but when we are aware of the philosophical system used in the decision making, we can then understand the root of the decision and, at the very least, see its intended morality. This allows us to view ethical issues from different perspectives and assists us in making informed decisions.

This book is concerned primarily with normative ethics and understanding only the common normative ethical theories. By dissecting the normative theories of ethics, we can have a clear understanding on the moral decisions we ought to make, or the reason some people make the decisions they do. Ethical theories will be examined only briefly as the focus of this book is contemporary ethical issues facing law enforcement. The descriptions of the following ethical theories are very basic and address only the points required for a basic understanding in a law enforcement context. Examples of how a theory may relate to and assist law enforcement are included.