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Opinion - The police and greater force in stopping criminals 

2021-11-19  Reverend Jan Scholtz

Opinion - The police and greater force in stopping criminals 
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Teleology is the study, science, doctrine of ends or final causes, especially related to purpose in natural phenomena or evidence of design. 

The ethical principles and rules are located in the ends of human life, of organs of reproductions, of marriages and nature. 

A teleological theory seeks to understand physical phenomena in terms of purpose; it is the science of final causes – that branch of knowledge that deals with ends or purpose; it focuses extensively on consequences of acts – the end. 

The idiom says, “The end justifies the means”.  From a teleological viewpoint, the spotlight is on the result, consequences and outcome.  In our present post freedom and post-independent times, criminals in Southern Africa, with special emphasis on South Africa and Namibia, commit senseless crimes day by day. 

Armed robberies, theft, house and store burglaries, vehicle hijacking, rapes and murders are only increasing, and there seems to be no end.  From a theological and teleological viewpoint, it is worth remembering what Augustine of Hippo (Africa) and Martin Luther of Eisleben (Germany, Europe) said about the State and criminals: it is the “divine duty” (call) of the state/government to “suppress people’s movements”, which aims at threatening or destroying the common peace of the citizens. The answer and solution are to counteract and stop the ongoing organised crimes and criminals – and for every policeman and woman to use maximum force as he/she regards necessary in preventing the criminal to carry out a crime and never plan to carry out a criminal act again.

On the other side, deontological ethics held that right and wrong actions are not simple. The greatest deontologist in modern times was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, and he said the only test as to whether a decision is right or wrong is in whether it could be applied to everyone. 

A deontological ethical approach is whether you can apply the same standard to others that you apply to yourself. 

If your answer is ‘no’, your decision is wrong.  For example, four-armed persons ran into a casino and lottery house around 08h00 on Friday. They shouted at everyone in the large building to stay just where they were, as it was a robbery. 

They requested the cashiers to cooperate willingly and fill their bags with the cash in the safe – and no one would be hurt. 

Within about 20 minutes, police surrounded the building, and a shout-out took place.  Two of the armed criminals died on the spot, one was wounded while the last one-handed himself over to the police.  The other people were not harmed.

From a deontological perspective, the police’s decision was wrong. 

The criminals wanted only to survive. 

It was clear that they would not take any life.  The criminals were neither violent nor life-threatening, but the police were. 

The police had violated the country’s Fundamental Human Rights and Freedom Law – Republic of Namibia’s Law – namely Articles 6 and 8 of the Namibian Constitution, which speaks about the Protection of life. 

Article 6 says, “The right of life shall be respected and protected. No law may prescribe death as a competent sentence. No execution shall take place in Namibia”. 

Article 8 states, “No person shall be subjected to torture or cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. 

During a personal interview afterwards, it was discovered that all the police officers and the criminals were Christians. 

They know the Judeo-Christian Law, which states, “You shall not kill”. 

The secular law (Namibian Law) and Christian moral-ethical law – prohibits the police to use great force against other human beings; in this case, against criminals.  From a deontological viewpoint, the police’s decision was wrong. 

The killing of human beings is an act very much opposed by the Christian Bible. 

Already, in Genesis 4, human killings and murders are disapproved by God. 

When David killed Uriah simply by instruction (2 Sam 11:15, 12:9(b), Prophet Nathan strongly condemned that action on behalf of God.  Jesus Christ went much further by speaking about killing – not only in terms of physical harm and loss, but also on psycho-social harm without physical violence. 

 Human life, according to the Holy Scriptures, is very sacred. 

 Even on the cross, Christ promised life – eternal life – to a criminal.

In conclusion, a deontological approach would first ask whether one can apply the same conviction and decision to shoot to kill others.  Immanuel Kant, a great advocate of a deontological philosophy and ethics, held that if the decision about right and wrong could not be applied to everyone with no exception, then such a decision is wrong. 

The Human Rights Laws also forbid the killing of a human being. 

The Namibian Constitution, Article 6 and 8, clearly forbids torturing, inhuman treatment and degrading punishment of a person.  Since the police are more advanced, equipped and mightier in posing and handling of arms, the police should use this superior-upper hand position to make ethical decisions for sparing human life – the life of a criminal. 

The fifth biblical law states: “You shall not kill”.

 Do not take another person’s life away.

2021-11-19  Reverend Jan Scholtz

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