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Lessons in Societal Order through Dirty Harry

Dirty Harry, the 1971 film directed by Don Siegel and distributed by Warner Bros. that starred Clint Eastwood as the San Francisco Police Department Inspector Harry Callahan, delved on the methodologies employed by the protagonist in effecting his arrests. A serial killer/sex offender was presented as the antagonist in the person of Charles Davis, who was portrayed by Andrew Robinson, wherein he attempted to extort $100,000 from the city in exchange for the life of his hostage.

A dilemma is likewise presented in the methodologies of the arrests that were perpetrated by Callahan, wherein oftentimes proper decorum seemed to be deliberately disregarded in order to achieve the desired aim in the shortest amount of time. Hence, the question involving the Means-Ends Dilemma eventually arises to question the audience, particularly, of whether the society should allow for police officers to result to extra-judicial methods of arrest and execution in order for the community to be a safer place to live.

Scenes Depicting the Means-Ends Dilemma In the film, Dirty Harry, several instances were shown depicting the effective yet illegal practice of the Means-Ends Dilemma. Primarily, all of these instances solely involved the protagonist, Detective Callahan, in his attempts to effect hasty arrests on the perpetrator of the crimes. One of the more evident of these is the scene where Callahan, after checking on the doctor’s report of treating a knife-wounded patient, decided to pursue the assailant in his home without first securing a search warrant.

Although his decision proved to be successful as he was able to extract a confession to the whereabouts of the raped and murdered minor, it still proved to be inutile, as was aptly explained by District Attorney Rothko, who was portrayed by Jim Smither, “Where the hell does it say that you’ve got the right to kick down doors, torture suspects…Does Escobedo ring a bell? Miranda?… The Fourth Amendment? What I’m saying is that man had rights” (Siegel, 1971).

This practice, if left unchecked and allowed by the society, would most certainly result to numerous violations of human rights, as this would entail for the police authorities to negate the standard operating procedure of first acquiring the proper search and arrest warrants before forcefully entering a private residence. The prevalence of this practice would be a blatant disgrace to the democracy that our constitution assures us, as this would result to vigilante-style apprehensions of criminals, where guilt does not have to be proven beyond reasonable doubt for the accused to be given verdict.

Another disturbing scene that was shown in the film was the one concerning the antagonist, Charles Davis, who was shot on the leg by Callahan. Here, we witnessed how the detective stepped on the injured leg in order to extract a confession and admission to the whereabouts of the victim. This unquestioningly is a form of police torture, where the accused are forced to undergo humiliating and oftentimes life-threatening ordeals in order to hasten the admission process.

Although in the film it was definite that Callahan had done this in the best of intentions, needless to say it still bears much human rights violation. This violation was furthered by Davis’ demand that he be awarded his right for legal assistance that was likewise evidently disregarded by Callahan. If the Means-Ends Dilemma would be promulgated in this fashion, then the dangers would be too obvious to ignore.

The society in general should always be vigilant that violations of this kind should never happen in a democracy, as apparently no admission to crimes incurred in this method will ever be admissible in court. More significantly, any admission acquired through torture will most certainly be erroneous, as the accused will only be compelled to admit as a means of escaping his condition, however fleeting and temporary it may truly seem.

Its only purpose is to accelerate the solving of criminal acts, without apparent respect if the confessions were indeed real of a product of apprehension, either of the accused or his family’s safety. Another instance of a Means-Ends Dilemma in the film was the manner that Callahan trailed Davis wherever he went. Primarily because this was apparently without the consent of his superiors and the mere fact that Callahan deliberately endeavored to be discovered by Davis, the techniques used can be considered as a form of psychological torture.

Perhaps Callahan wanted Davis to be constantly stressed, in hopes that ultimately, this will discourage him from making additional criminal acts. However, the truth is that the dangers of using this technique, especially to those who are yet to be legally arraigned, predisposes a societal danger for the basic human right for one’s privacy to be desecrated. Its contemporary equivalent may be compared with wire-tapping and internet surveillance, which are widely regarded as illegal acts of policing.

Therefore, it is of utmost importance for the general populace to safeguard against practices that will inhibit their peaceful existence in a democratic society with surveillance practices that are aimed at causing distressing results to the subjects, especially if he is yet to be found guilty. Perhaps the most alarming of the Means-Ends Dilemma that was depicted in the film was Callahan’s solo pursuit of the hijacked school bus, wherein he was seen jumping off a tall structure onto the top of the bus.

Although it was appealing in the film, due perhaps to its cinematic effects, the reality of Callahan’s advocacy was effectively exposed in the aforementioned scene. The main reason for this claim is the fact that any pursuit operation, especially those whose lives of scores of little children are at risk, should always be coordinated with the respective police departments. It should never resemble a personal vendetta, where the law is passed down by the enforcers themselves without any regard for the prevailing judiciary system provided for by the State government.

Evidently, if the society were to allow for this police methodology to be practiced by our law enforcers, then undoubtedly, rampant killings of the unproven accused will be prevalent in our communities. Any police officer then who have the slightest inkling on a murder suspect may simply choose to eradicate the accused rather than properly arrest him and present him to the proper courts. No doubt, this will be tantamount to social disorder and anarchy, where there exists a clear absence of the justice system that should have provided us with the essential balance of communal peace and order.

Needless to say, a situation wherein the police act a vigilante group intent on eradicating all the criminal sectors through extrajudicial methods will result in a society that upholds no importance for human lives. Our societies will resemble the ones we see in the chaotic nations in some Mid-Eastern countries, where civilians are murdered by the supposed bastions of morality in guise of their respective laws, both constitutional and religious. Callahan’s Transgression

What was most evident and likewise most distressing in Callahan’s disposition is his penchant to take the easier road in solving a crime. This was evident in several instances where it was clear that he could have opted for the accepted and more dependable norm of prosecuting the accused under the State’s justice system, instead of opting to act as both judge and executioner. This was true in the scenes depicting this reality, such as what transpired in the last stages of the movie, wherein he executed Davis even though he could have just waited for back-up, as what is commonly practiced.

This was likewise the case in his prior legal offense, when he shot a knife-wielding would-be rapist who was chasing a girl. Apparently, as the accused is only armed with a knife, it was easy for Callahan to neutralize the rapist, especially with his . 44 Magnum. While Callahan’s offenses seemed correct in the film, in reality it may pose several societal problems. First of which is the prevalence of the police practice of killing the accused in order to avoid the possibility of evading the law, especially if he came from an influential background.

However, this practice would be humanely offensive, as he would be denied of his inherent right to defend himself from the impending accusations. Even if in some instances the law seemed to favor the wealthy and the powerful, the society should never permit vigilante-style executions to proliferate. They must believe that their constitution aims to serve them in the most effective manner, and that it was ratified especially to assure them of their God-given rights.

Likewise, they should assure that their respective police departments will truly be possessing of the advocacies of their sworn duties, which are to serve and to protect the general populace, including those who are yet to be convicted of the crimes accused of them. Conclusion The film, Dirty Harry, depicted the exploits of Detective Harry Callahan that although highly effective in stopping the criminal activities of the perpetrators, they were nevertheless possessing of several major human rights violations. Primarily, these involved personal delegation of judgments that should have been reserved for the appropriate courts of law.

Moreover, the film delved on the troubling issue of Means-Ends Dilemma, particularly on the question of whether it is indeed optimal for police officers to rely on the legal system, or to simply take matters into their own hands and execute those who obviously pose great risks for the general populace. In order to maintain the social equilibrium necessary in any community, perhaps it would be sagacity for the audience to learn to distinguish the events in the film as purely acts of fiction and that in reality, the prevalence of Callahan’s practice will surely lead to a disintegration of the social order.

In fact, there have been numerous model societies where we can base our depressing assumption if this were to happen, such as the nations aforementioned in the previous page. What is pertinent, especially in our quest to make our own communities as peaceful as possible, is to allow the natural course of the law, with all its inherent intricacies and imperfections, and its enforcers, namely the police force, to delegate each and everyone of us his innate human rights. Reference Siegel, D. (Producer and Director). (1971). Dirty Harry [Motion Picture]. United States: Warner Bros.

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