Is breaching security to save a life a punishable offense?

Al Jones was in charge of Supply Room C. His responsibility was a critical one -- to dispense "controlled and protected" drugs when requisitions were properly authorized. Some drugs were rare and extremely pilferable.


Al Jones was in charge of Supply Room C. His responsibility was a critical one -- to dispense "controlled and protected" drugs when requisitions were properly authorized. Some drugs were rare and extremely pilferable. Several were rated "High Security" because of their narcotic content.

Understandably, a strict company rule required at least one attendant to be in Supply Room C at all times. After working hours the room was double padlocked with an alarm safeguard set.

One day, seated at his post, Jones observed an argument taking place in an aisle several yards from the supply room. Bill Cooney and Frank Houk, an ill tempered employee with a record of violence, were hurling heated words at each other. Suddenly Houk pulled out a knife and appeared on the verge of attacking his terrified adversary.

Cooney's life was clearly in danger, Jones decided. He jumped up and raced to Cooney's aid. He succeeded in pacifying Houk and persuading him to pocket the knife. Breathing his relief, Jones felt proud of himself. He had prevented violence and very possibly had save a man's life.

Maintenance Foreman Glen Carter, however, viewed Al Jones as more a violator of an inviolable company rule than a hero. "That was a gutsy thing you did," he conceded. "But I have no choice but to give you a month's suspension for leaving that supply room unattended."

"No way!" Jones protested. "I'm not sitting still for this."

Question: Considering the critical nature of Supply Room C security, do you think Jones' breach is a punishable offense?

Jaffe's decision: "Cancel the discipline," Plant Engineer Albert Jaffe instructed when Carter put through the suspension notice. "Protection of human life is a public policy priority that rates higher than anything else. In fact in some court cases even fundamental constitutional rights were held secondary to this priority. Security rules are important, but they hold second place to Jones' life saving action. He deserves a commendation for that."

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