Police Discretion

Published: 2021-07-02 01:05:05
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Police discretion is a very important approach in matters concerning criminal justice. There has been a consistent problem between enforcing the law and the spirit of the law. Discretion in the broader sense can be defined as the individual’s ability to make a decision basing on the principle of courses of the action. During training, police officers are given different possible scenarios that they may experience while on duty. However, the situations presented are not exact and the police come face to face with more riveting situations that demand their personal choices.
The laws don’t cover all perspectives and there are always new laws being put in place allowing for the police officers to use discretion in the mean time. There are also situations in which the law is unclear and the police officer will disregard the different interpretations of the law and utilize his or her discretion in arriving at a decision (Rivera, 2006). Police discretion is usually put to use when the officers are presented with many options to come up with one choice they think are necessary depending on the situation at hand. Discretion is the void in the middle of a ring consisting of policies and procedures.
However, police are not always supposed to utilize discretion. In some occasions, the law and departmental policies do limit or eliminate the discretion altogether. Discretion is usually constrained by certain norms including professional, legal, social, and moral norms (Scott, 2009). The police discretion considers many factors which can be compiled into three broad categories. These are the offenders’ variables which include those aspects that are directly connected to the offender including age, race, economic status, gender, and health. Golphin 3
The police will empathize and offer pep talk to some law breakers depending on these variables. The situation variables also come into play when the police utilize discretion. These variables include the seriousness of the crime, the type of property involved in the crime, who initiated the investigations, and many others. The police also become more governmental in the presence of the witnesses, an audience, or the media. Lastly, the systems variables include aspects in the society’s systems that come into play when the police utilize discretion.
Police will depict leniency when the courts and the correctional facilities become congested, and they will be tough when the city requires revenue. Communities with suitable social service resources will allow the police to use more of non-arrest options compared to those without such resources. Again, the manner in which the police perceive the distress call will determine how they will respond on arrival at the scene (l1ndsaystarr, 2006). One of the advantages of police discretion is the fact that it allows the officer to humanely treat people, giving them a second chance, and improving on the community’s perception of the police.
If the police were to follow the laws strictly by the book, they will be perceived to be unfair by the society and possibly rejected (Rivera, 2006). The other benefit of police discretion is that it promotes realistic goals. In this aspect, discretion takes into consideration the fact that the police are presented with unique situations on the ground that requires personal decisions depending on the situation. Discretion is also necessary for productivity in the criminal justice system.
If the police were to follow the law to the T, then the criminal justice system would be exhausted with the number of cases presented to them. In addition, discretion can also promote autonomy in the sense that the police and the community as Golphin 4 a whole are not enslaved by the written regulations. They are under particular circumstances allowed to route the way for the law. Lastly, the discretion promotes job satisfaction for the police in that they are allowed to utilize some powers which are provided for within the law.
The disadvantages of police discretion mostly lie in the abuse of the privileges they have in regard to exercising the discretion power. Discretion has been seen as inviting partiality in dealing with the citizens as well as creating an opportunity for corruption. Others have debated that during discretion, the police don’t have the slightest idea about what could be the consequences of their actions (Peak, 2009). Police discretion is a potential tool for abuse that could possibly result into potential needless death and/or injury. A police officers choice may be influenced by personal factors that may determine an irrational decision.
For example; In the 2005 shooting, that occurred on 126th Street between Fifth and Lenox Avenues, the suspect, Richard Gooding, ignored officers’ orders to drop his gun and began shooting. Five officers returned fire, fatally injuring Mr. Gooding and wounding Ms. Johnson in the right elbow. Garnold M. King was shot in the lower back; he has settled his lawsuit with the city. Two officers said they did not look to see if there were bystanders on the street while they were shooting; one of those officers said he did not look to see if there were bystanders until after the shooting was over, Ms.Johnson’s lawyer, Barry A. Gutterman, told the judges — echoing those officers’ pretrial depositions.
At one point in the hearing, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman questioned Susan Paulson, a senior counsel in the city’s Law Department’s appeals division. Golphin 5 “How do you know that they’re exercising their discretion correctly if they don’t look and have any idea that there are innocent bystanders? ” Judge Lippman asked. He added: “They didn’t look; that’s what’s troubling me.
How do we know they exercised the discretion appropriately without sorting out some of these facts? ” (nytimes. com). There are possible variations in how the cops might think of a given crime. An officer’s personal attributes and cultural background may influence how they view certain crimes. Racist officers might abuse the discretion aspect and make arrests on the basis of ethnic background. The location of the crime also contributes to the police decision with crimes committed in what has been classified as hot spots likely to result in arrests.
Arrests are most likely to happen in a more urban society or a racially mixed society since there is a high chance of crime based on the racial, economic differences, and social disorder (Petheram, 2009). The police officers do use their personal judgments in discretion and as we have seen, personal judgments can be affected by many contributing factors including mental health and educational level. With the police having the ability to momentarily decide on the future of an individual, there is need to test and approve their intellect.
The police have a high level of authority and therefore require skills to enhance and justify their authority. The qualifications to become a police officer have been changing over the years even though they vary depending on the district and type of government. It has been established that there are changes in the amount of force and discretion used by officers depending on their levels of education. A police officer is required to make speedy and ethical decisions and with low level of education, this could be a problem

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