The Cambridge online dictionary describes wrong as not correct. A rather simplistic explanation when viewed in terms of law enforcement and the potential for devastation including loss of life of officers and civilians when law enforcement goes wrong. In this essay, the author will discuss case studies as identified by Patrick O’Hara the author of Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail and use them to illustrate how we can identify the difference between accidental wrongs and structural wrongs in so far as they apply to law enforcement.
In addition, Logic Of Failure by Dietrich Dorner will be addressed to demonstrate how goal setting influences organizational performance. The author will apply the analyses of the authors to her own experiences and will examine a failing in Irish Policing that will offer additional understanding to workplace wrongdoing.
Patrick O’Hara in his book Why Law Enforcement Organizations Fail brings clarity to the difference between an accidental wrong and a structural wrong. A normal accident theory was defined by an Mr.
Charles Perrow whilst endeavouring to understand what had caused a meltdown at Three Mile Island Reactor Plant. He theorised that it was a situation where the systems involved were so complex and tightly coupled that an accident was, perhaps the inevitable outcome (Parkinson E, 2016). Accidental wrongs are in a rather simplistic explanation or term just that, accidental. As law enforcement which involves pursuits, raids, sudden confrontations with suspects, and the management of unruly crowds put officers, their vehicles and weapons into high intensity, fast paced and unpredictable situations that may well defy standard operating procedures , plans and capabilities it should come as no real surprise that sometimes things go wrong ( O’Hara ,2012, p27 ) as one wrong move can change the outcome of a dynamic and fluid situation.
Several examples could be used to effectively illustrate this point such as the tragedy of Eleanor Bumpurs, Three Mile Island nuclear plant disaster, the death of Amadou Diallo, Pursuit to the death in Minnesota and the Runaway Police Van at the Holiday Parade etc. The author will examine two of those cases in detail.
The analysis of the underlined case studies will demonstrate exactly what is meant by an accidental wrong. The Runaway Police Van at the Holiday Parade occurred in December 1998 in Minneapolis. A police van was involved in a collision which resulted in the death of two persons, one of whom was an infant. The police officers had been called to deal with drunks. Initially both officers went to the scene to deal with them, but one returned to the van so that it could be brought closer to the drunks (this is a very standard police move as it reduces the distance a drunk person has to be moved and eliminates the potential for harm) and then carnage ensued, the police van accelerated forward at a high rate of speed, striking another police car. The collision redirected the van onto the sidewalk where it ran down a dozen people, including babies in carriages, as it slid along a building wall (O’Hara, 2012, p20). The matter was investigated as per standard procedures.
The official investigator put the blame squarely at the driver with his conclusion that the police officer had ineffectively seated himself in the driver seat causing the collision , after all the van had a failsafe transaction -no foot on brake= no shifting into drive ( O’Hara, 2012, P31). This should have been the end of the story in terms of attributing blame were it not for the following event. The same investigator was giving a talk on the issue of vehicle safety and referred to the matter of failsafe automatic transmissions. Luckily for the police officer who had been blamed for the Holiday Parade incident an attendee at this conference took issue with what the investigator was saying and reported that he could often shift his cruiser into drive without his foot on the brake and