Police officers are faced each day with a variety of situation in which they must deal; therefore we should ask ourselves the following questions: Should police officers enforce the law equally in all situations? In what situations should police officers be allowed to not enforce the law? What types of situations would they be required to fully enforce the law? Why does police discretion exist? What are its strengths and weaknesses? And what is the relationship between police discretion and police ethics?
When enforcing the law, for police officers not two situations they encounter are ever the same, even when examine a large number of situations over an extended period of time. The officers are usually in the position of having to make decisions on how to handle a specific matter alone, or with little additional advice and without immediate supervision. In many cases, officer’s discretion extends to interpreting the meaning of the statutory text. It becomes, therefore, impossible to enforce the law equally due to the wide interpretation that can be a particular law. This is the heart of police discretion.
Police officers are required to fully enforce the law when deciding the severity of the situation. They often would ask themselves “Is this person a danger to society? Was the event that just took place a possible threat?" If it appears necessary that action be taken, then the answer is clear-cut. But police discretion is such a messy topic because it really falls in the hands of the individual officers how they personally view the situation and know when to use discretion. Police often exercise discretion when they feel a situation is no longer safe. An officer shooting a suspect because the suspect reaches for a pocket for what the cop fears could be a concealed weapon is a form of discretion. Discretion is not black and white, not right or wrong. It may not come without consequences, for example, if the suspect shot was unarmed,...
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