This post is used as source material for Prof. Blankenship’s courses
Officer Jane Martinez had always been dedicated to her job at the Midtown Police Department. As a single mother, she balanced her responsibilities with the precision of a tightrope walker. But even the most skilled acrobat can lose their footing, and one fateful day, Jane found herself on shaky ground.
It was a hectic morning, as many were. Jane had just finished her overnight shift and was rushing to take her three-year-old daughter, Bella, to daycare before catching a few hours of sleep. In her exhaustion, she buckled Bella directly into the back seat instead of her usual car seat. Even though Bella only weighed 35 pounds, getting her in the car seat was exhausting sometimes. It was a mistake, a momentary lapse in judgment.
As Jane pulled out of their driveway, she noticed the flashing lights of a patrol car in her rear-view mirror. Her heart sank; she knew immediately what she had done. The officer who approached her car was Officer Davis, a colleague, and friend from the department.
“Jane,” Davis began, his expression solemn, “you know I can’t ignore Bella not being in a car seat.”
Jane nodded, her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. “I know, Davis. It was a mistake. I’m just… I’m really tired.”
Davis looked at her sympathetically. He understood the pressures of their job and the struggles of parenthood. He let out a sigh, then made a decision. “I’m not going to write you a ticket, Jane,” he said. “But you need to correct this immediately. I don’t want to see Bella riding without a car seat again.”
Jane thanked Davis and drove straight home to fetch the car seat. She thought that was the end of the matter. However, a passerby captured the incident on video, and it soon reached the upper ranks of the Midtown Police Department.
A few days later, Jane was summoned to the office of her superior, Captain Hayes. “Jane,” Hayes said, “We’ve received a complaint about an incident involving you, your child, and a missing car seat. As a police officer, you’re expected to uphold the law, not break it.”
Jane felt her stomach drop. She explained the situation, her exhaustion, and her split-second decision. But Hayes remained unmoved. “Regardless of the reasons, you’ve violated the department’s code of ethics, Jane. There will be consequences.”
In the following weeks, Jane faced an internal investigation. She was formally charged with an ethics violation.