Can the Exercise of Police Discretion Be Reformed or Controlled

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The use of force by police in the discharge of their duties can both be reformed and controlled without compromising the capacity of the police to maintain public safety and enforce the law. Violence in the United States has reached epidemic proportions. Violence is most typically an outgrowth of conflict when peaceful dispute mechanisms fail. The use of force by police frequently occurs in situations that are characterized by violence prior to the arrival of police. Crime, particularly violent crime, has been a major concern of the American population for decades.

Police discretion is a tool used by officers; it gives them the ability to utilize the law to the letter or not to enforce it to the letter of the law. Some say that latitude in decision making by frontline staff is one of the defining characteristics of human service organizations. Discretion is about making the right decision based on input of the situation and surrounding circumstances around the officer. The laws and regulations that are established do not take into account human nature and that in some cases there are legitimate reasons why we should not hold certain actions to the letter of the law.

There are a wide variety of causes of discretion. There is not an absolute to every situation every time. There are different people involved in different locations with different attitudes. Some officers believe that politicians enact laws to make symbolic statements and that they do not desire full enforcement of the laws. Age, race, income, attitude toward the officer, gender, and income status are all factors of how police respond to a situation. Police are more likely to use more force against African Americans and they are less likely to take a juvenile complaint as serious as an adult. Discretion is used at all levels of the criminal justice system. The police, lawyers, courts, individuals, and corrections all have instances such as deciding minor differences in matters such as a routine...