Some implications of the moral vulnerability of police

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The situational sources of vulnerability to which police are subject when on duty have been well documented. They are obliged to carry out tasks and attend incidents that are likely (and in many cases do) lead to stress,trauma and other negative outcomes (Arnetz et al. 2009; Karlsson and Christianson 2003; Ménard and Arter 2014; Tuckey et al. 2012; see also, Wooden in this collection). Recently, the ways in which their situational vulnerabilities extend into police officers’ off-duty time has been identified as a consequence of the ways in which they are bound to their professional context at all times (Corbo Crehan and Absalom 2016). In addition, police organisations have been identified as a key source of iatrogenic vulnerability for police officers (Chae and Boyle 2013; Stinchcomb 2004; Tucker 2015; Vuorensyrjä and Mälkiä 2011),with some studies indicating that these are a source of greater vulnerability than the nature of police work itself (Shane 2010).However, the moral vulnerability of police has received less attention.Since increasing a person’s vulnerability puts them at increased risk of harm and so is prima facie wrong (in the absence of any very good reasons to the contrary), the impact of moral vulnerability deserves more attention than it has previously received. In this chapter, two important senses of moral vulnerability will be clarified and applied to two contemporary issues in policing: the defensiveness of police when called to account for their actions or inactions, and their use of tasers. Considering the issues through this lens allows for some important ethical insights to be identified.Moreover, the discussions will demonstrate that moral vulnerability is a susceptibility to very real harms and, therefore, where such vulnerability exists, it ought to impact on our ethical assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolicing encounters with vulnerability
EditorsNicole L. Asquith, Isabelle Bartkowiak-Théron, Karl A. Roberts
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783319512280
ISBN (Print)9783319512273
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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