Police Discretion

Police Discretion
[Author Name(s), First M. Last, Omit Titles and Degrees]
[Institutional Affiliation(s)]
The police act as the lawful peacekeepers of our society and they hold the thin line
between lawfulness and illegal acts. It is a significant task that requires disciplined individuals
who carry the law of the country with the utmost seriousness. Police are given power by the state
to conduct their work with the discretion which is whereby an officer can choose whether to
draw his weapon, make an arrest, offer a traffic ticket during a violation, to conduct a search or
whether to shoot a gun. One example of police discretion is when you get pulled over by the
police for over speeding, they may let you off with a warning or book you a ticket depending on
how appealing you are to the police discretion. Other instances whereby police discretion can be
used are during domestic violence in a home, potential hate crimes committed against people,
and crimes involving mentally ill people (Myhill & Johnson, 2016).
Though they have the power to use discretion they must also adhere to the proper
regulations and do everything by the book. For my essay, I will discuss police discretion
instances during traffic violation acts. Our roads are our means to our day to day lives, and the
state offers civil servants who are the traffic police to keep a helpful eye on them and ensure
motorists are abiding by the laws of traffic so that chaos may not erupt within the roads. This
discretion in traffic can be found within the legislation and involves matters of compliance to the
speed limits which in relation to human behaviors makes this very difficult for drivers to adhere
to. Therefore, when a police officer has the suspicion of a traffic violation about to occur, he can
choose to stop the motorist, issue a warrant of arrest to the offender, offer a ticket or take the
offender to appear in a court session.
Officer discretion however can be variable depending on the offence or how the officer
views the situation. He/she may not see the need for a person to spend days in a court session if
the offense had no harm at all so they may let you off with a warning. This discretion, however,
is different among police officers and some may not take the offense so lightly. Discretion has
been around for many years and though it has downsides to it has proven to be necessary for
managing situations with people (Beckett, 2016).
These situations have been compacted into three major groups which are the offender,
systematic and situational. The offender variable, for example, makes the officer take into
account the characteristics of the individual that may include his race, economic status, age and
also health. An officer may consider punishing a younger inexperienced driver more harshly than
he would an older driver. Situational variables, on the other hand, dictate the magnitude of the
offense committed, the area around which the offense has been committed and so on. Crimes
committed around learning institutions may be taken with much seriousness compared to other
regions seeing that it is around students. However, most discretions can be dictated by the
judiciary systems and expectations by the community (Beckett, 2016).
Systematic offences on the other hand are controlled by various factors such as public
image to the community, generation of revenue by the state and also productivity by the state. A
city, for example, may want to increase revenue through focusing on one traffic crime this acts as
a win-win situation since the police bring in money for the city while also punishing the traffic
offenders for the committed offense.
However, if the people of the community do not agree with how the officers are carrying
out their work, they will not see the need to follow the law as it is a two-way transaction of
respect between them and the officers. Discretion, however, comes with a few mishaps during
the line of work. Citizens complain about how officers harass them at times for petty offenses
simply because one is of a particular race, gender or even age. This has created a lot of
controversy within most countries as some misuse their given state power. As they carry out their
discretions towards minor offenses, more and more people are getting convicted and getting jail
time. This has led to overcrowding in some prisons forcing the state to invest more revenue in
the system. Processing of this so-called criminals in court also uses up money by the state since
the judges passing out these convictions need to get paid on the regular (Schulenberg, 2015).
The proceedings are also not necessarily certain and may take up some time in court. This
has led to a debate about whether the police should be given discretion to a particular level as it
has led to abuse in some cases especially corrupt officials. Newer policies, however, want to
implement so that the police may get additional power and use discretion less frequently which
might reduce harm. Some of the police strategies need to be evaluated, and some include
preventive patrol, emergency response, crime investigation, problem-solving and routine incident
responses. Since it is at these moments that discretion is used by the police measures should be
taken to ensure no harassment is being carried out. An officer, for example, may determine
whether a situation may need to be controlled by either arresting a suspect or let them go
depending on his view of the situation (Myhill & Johnson, 2016).
The officer should not be biased but rather assess the offense and determine whether the
matter requires an arrest to be made or let the suspect go. During a crime investigation incident,
for instance, an officer may have a family member involved, and this may lead to hindrances in
the case investigation. The officer may become more lenient towards their relative or in some
instances get rid of evidence linked to the suspect. This can lead to obstruction of justice and
result in a guilty suspect going scot-free in the event of favors conducted by the officer. The
same goes for an emergency response whereby police sometimes respond faster to some
neighborhoods compared to others simply because of higher social status or the racial profile of
the community residing within it. Other officers also opt to provide their services to top
government officials rather than serve the public simply because they can pay a hefty fee to
afford their services rather than assist the normal civilian who cannot afford to cater for himself.
Discretion has both positive and negative outcomes. It has effectiveness to it as well that has an
impact on the society. It has brought about a reduction in crime levels within major cities and
vices such as prostitution, extortion, and decline in the drug trade to some point.
Though they may assist in the maintenance of law and order within the neighborhood and
other areas of the city police discretion depends upon the people too since some neighborhoods
may decide to form patrols which would mean that the use of officers would be the minimal help
to them. Other people also install house security measures making them feel much safer in their
households hence reducing instances of involvement with the law. Many other variables affect
the rate of crime in areas differ regarding police discretion. Citizens are also the ones in charge
of their victimization levels depending upon their daily routines in and out of the households and
the precaution levels they take (Richardson, 2012).
However, the more focused and specific police strategies are to pursue a particular crime
in the society the better chance there is to control crime. A belief in the officers that the law can
take action whenever crimes occur has also grown within the community since they can rely on
officers for assistance through the police as well have a large workload since they have to clean
up on the social issues and crimes that occur. This has brought about the discussion of improving
police effectiveness by introducing innovations that may assist the police in carrying out their
work. Especially with the rising technology crime may be tackled from a different angle which
can significantly reduce corruption within the society as features such as face recognition,
biometric and retina scanning assist in providing encrypted security. Other diverse approaches
include problem-oriented policing interventions which can show the evidence of effectiveness in
a place-based, specific and proactive type of policing.
Beckett, K. (2016). The Uses and Abuses of Police Discretion: Toward Harm Reduction
Policing. Harvard Law & Policy Review, 10(1), 77-100
Myhill, A., & Johnson, K. (2016). Police use of discretion in response to domestic
violence. Criminology & Criminal Justice: An International Journal, 16(1), 3.
Richardson, L. S. (2012). Police Efficiency and the Fourth Amendment. Ind. LJ, 87, 1143.
Schulenberg, J. L. (2015). Moving Beyond Arrest and Reconceptualizing Police
Discretion. Police Quarterly, 18(3), 244-271. doi:10.1177/1098611115577144

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