Police Discretion Case Study

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  • Topic: Beltway sniper attacks, Charles Moose, Constable
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Police Discretion Case Analysis
Albeiro E. Florez
Law Enforcement Administration
CCJS 340
Due by 13 October 2013

Author Note
Albeiro E. Florez, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Maryland University College. This report is a response to Professor Jeffrey B. Bumgarner’s project 2 directives. Correspondence concerning this report should be addressed to Albeiro E. Florez, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Maryland University College, Adelphi eCampus, Adelphi, MD 20783. Contact: florezalbeiro87@gmail.com

Police Discretion Case Analysis
People make decisions on a daily basis to decide what we should do in any given situation. Having the knowledge to differentiate between what is appropriate or inappropriate is what gives us the freedom to make this decision with the correct judgment. In law enforcement, sworn officers are taught to face any situation by employing good judgment and making the best decisions by themselves or with little to no supervision. This is what we know as police discretion (The Rynard Law Firm, 2007). The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes discretion as “the quality of being careful about what you do and say so that people will not be embarrassed or offended” (Merriam-Webster, 2013). Although systematic routines and protocols need to be followed by officers to ensure they abide by the law as well as to enforce it, often circumstances will show up and force officers to make a decision based on what they feel is right or wrong according to their training. Even though the Chiefs of police do not spend a lot of time in the field, they still have to use discretion while making decision that affects the police department and the community. As I finished reading and understanding our textbook, I started to realize how complex police work can be, especially when we examine closely the use of discretion in the daily routine of a police officer, and as to how this helps to understand the importance of the role a police chief plays in the vitality of a police department (Thibault, Lynch, & McBride, 2011).

In this concept paper I will discuss two different situations where a police chief had to exercise discretion to come up with a plan of action for each. A police chief role requires an even greater obligation in order to develop guidelines to help sworn officers achieve the standard, for which it will require the inevitable use of discretion from one case to another. I hope this concept paper will clarify the proper way to exercise police discretion in current policing.

2002 Beltway Sniper Attacks
During October 2002, there were a series of coordinated sniper attacks in the vicinity of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and along Interstate 95 in Virginia. Ten people were killed and three others were injured (Associated Press/KX, 2006). The Montgomery Police Department and its Police Chief, Charles A. Moose, led the investigation. Police Chief Charles Moose had to make the strong decision to keep information from the media and the public eye in order to protect his investigation. As the Chief of Police, he has to assure the public that they are safe. He chose to use this to his advantage, tactically and publically. Chief Moose’s controlling protocol occurred when he decided to keep the public at ease and calm. He had two choices, either to let the attackers know that they were under control by giving the media all information necessary and evacuating the areas to target them directly with minimum collateral damage; but instead, he chose to limit the investigation details in order to keep the attackers in the dark.

During the attacks, Chief Moose justifies his discretionary actions when he states that the unfortunate leak of sensitive information resulted in the death of five innocent people (Reaves, 2002).

I think the reasons supporting the compliance with the controlling protocol are the fact that he kept the public safe and calm at all...
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