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Policing Discretion
and Behavior
cha
pt
er

9
ISBN 0-558-46766-0

st

Law Enforcement in the 21 Century, Second Edition, by Heath B. Grant and Karen J. Terry. Published by Allyn & Bacon. Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Chapter Out line
INTRODUCTION
The Role of Discretion in Policing
Defining Police Discretion
Factors Affecting the Exercise of Officer
Discretion
Type and Seriousness of Offense
Attitude of the Suspect
Characteristics, Position, and Preference
of the Victim
Relationship Between the Suspect and
the Victim
Evidence of the Offense
Minority Status of the Parties to the Offense

The Importance of Police Behavior
Psychological Explanations: Predisposition and
Police Behavior—Police Personality or Culture?
Educational Explanations: Police Recruits and
the Effects of Police Training
Sociological Explanations: Skolnick’s
“Working Personality”
Organizational Explanations: Wilson’s Three
Styles of Policing
The Watchman Style
The Legalistic Style
The Service Style

Chapter Objectives
● Understand what is meant by the term
police discretion.
● Identify and examine the factors that influence police decision making and the exercise of discretion.
● Examine different theories of police behavior
and address the question of whether there is
such a thing as a “police personality.”

Police Stress

● Become familiar with Wilson’s three styles of
policing and explore the relationship between
police organization and the behavior of individual officers.

Sources of Police Stress
Internal and External Organizational Stressors
Work-Related Stressors

● Examine the causes of police stress and
police suicide.

Reconciling the Theories

Police Suicide

LINKAGES IN LAW ENFORCEMENT: PostTraumatic Stress Disorder Following Response to Stress—Law Enforcement
and Other Emergency Workers
Chapter Summary

ISBN 0-558-46766-0

LINKING THE DOTS

213
st

Law Enforcement in the 21 Century, Second Edition, by Heath B. Grant and Karen J. Terry. Published by Allyn & Bacon. Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.

Introduction
Maria Teresa Macias lived in fear. After
separating from her husband, she continued to be terrorized and abused by him as a result of repeated stalking and harassment, despite having successfully obtained a restraining order against him. On April 15, 1996, the abuse finally

ended when her husband showed up at
her home for the last time, ultimately
shooting and killing her. What raises
many questions is that in the year and a
half leading up to her death, Maria Macias had contacted the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department on more than
twenty-two occasions for help in dealing
with her husband, including making
them aware of his repeated threats to
kill her. According to expert testimony,
“the Sheriff’s Department brushed
Teresa off at every turn” (Women’s Justice Center n.d.).1

214
st

Law Enforcement in the 21 Century, Second Edition, by Heath B. Grant and Karen J. Terry. Published by Allyn & Bacon. Copyright © 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.

ISBN 0-558-46766-0

Despite the husband’s known violent
history, and the escalating seriousness
and fear on the part of Maria Macias, the
Sheriff did not come to her aid. Expert
testimony in the $15 million federal civil
rights wrongful death lawsuit filed by
the Macias family claimed that the failures of the Sheriff’s office to respond, and in many incidents properly investigate the seriousness of occurrences, contributed to the escalation of violence as the suspect was sent the message that he

could continue his actions, and that Macias’ life was expendable. Sergeant Anne O’Dell testified that “long gone are the
days when the criminal justice system
has to speculate on how and why people
are murdered” (Women’s Justice Center
n.d.). Domestic violence homicide is
often preventable. O’Dell went on to cite
that in many jurisdictions responding officers no longer...
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