Police Discretion

Topics: Police, Constable, Decision making software Pages: 5 (1764 words) Published: April 8, 2008
Police Discretion

Police Discretion
Discretion is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the ability to make responsible decisions, individual choice or judgment, power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds.” In law enforcement discretion is left up to each individual officer on the field everyday. Police officers are given the authority to make reasonable and responsible decisions out in the field. Discretion is used in many situations, such as when an officer chooses to stop a vehicle for a small traffic violation. There are also times when the officer has no choice but to use specific discretion in certain situations. Society believes that an officer can make any choice he or she chooses at anytime while on the job. This belief is “mythical”; there are many situations when an officer has no choice but to follow the law. There are also situations when an officer has to make a decision on what type of force is necessary for certain situations. For the most part every officer has a choice when to use or not to use discretion, and enforce the law.

In the role as a police officer decision making is not easy. Society will use discretion against an officer if the situation does not involve a major crime. Many people will try to talk their way out of the simplest traffic violations, to some felonies. An officer only has so much discretion they are allowed to use. In some cases an officer depending on the situation will give out a warning, and advise the citizen to be aware of the law and not to do it again. However, there are other situations when a warning will not be sufficient enough, but the citizen will still insist on having a warning instead. An officer must use his/her own personal discretion every time they go to work. Discretion is not doing how you please. Police put to good use their power of discretion everyday and different issues involve different discretionary actions and some, none at all. It is the responsibility and the privilege of police officers to render or implement discretion upon their will.

When using force upon apprehending a suspect, discretion is left up to the officer. Depending on the situation, during a traffic stop the use of force should not be needed. If the citizen complies and is completely cooperative, and the officer decides to use a little force, that would be an abuse of power. Discretion is based on personal experience and thought when taking action in situations. Every step an officer takes during their time on duty is for the most part based on their personal experiences. When an officer decides to let a citizen off on a speeding ticket, or gives warnings during a disturbance call, it is because the officer feels that it is reasonable enough to give a warning. That is the power of discretion given to each officer.

If a list was created of things an officer would use discretion for, the list could be examined to see if the proper use of discretion is reasonable to the situation. The list will include ten police actions in which an officer might use or not use discretion for. The ten actions are: domestic violence, traffic violations, littering, driving under the influence of alcohol, driving under the influence of narcotics, under age drinking, shoplifting, driving without a driver’s license, warrants, and disturbing the peace. These ten situations all require an action upon an officer, and a discretional decision. Domestic Violence

Police officers have a significant level of discretion when ethical decision making is incorporated in deciding how to respond to a domestic violence call. For example, officers exercise discretion by deciding how to respond to domestic violence when a situation involves a fellow officer. America is a country in which many believe in privacy within the household and often choose not to be involved in a domestic dispute because families should resolve their own problems....
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