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Discretion In Police Duties Essay

1278 words - 6 pages

Police officers often encounter situations where the decision to use discretion challenges the way and the type of job that officers would normally conduct. Each day an officer is on the job, discretion when it comes to job duties appears, sometimes without any warning. Officers constantly struggle with the appearance of discretion, and often times do not know how to handle the situation when it does appear. Discretion may take many different forms in the job duties, but it always involves the officer letting a crime “slide,” rather than questioning every suspicious person. Letting a crime “slide,” for certain offenders, is of great concern for the administrators of police departments, because there is potential for ethical issues to surface later on. This essay will examine police discretion, factors that influence discretion, whether exercising discretion is appropriate, and the concerns that administrators have when it comes to police using discretion in the field.
Discretion is often one of the most critical aspects of a police officer’s daily duties. In the past, police discretion was considered taboo until 1956 when a study conducted by the American Bar Foundation discovered that there is nothing illegal or improper about discretion, and that it is in fact of practice (“The Role of Discretion in Police Work,” 2012). Before discretion was officially accepted as practice, police officers would not admit to be involved in police discretion. The basic definition of discretion is the use of personal choices when carrying out typical police job duties. For example, a police officer may decide to arrest one suspect for police interference, but will let another suspect go home, for the exact offense. When using discretion, however, police officers must be careful in deciding which crimes he or she will exercise discretion. Using discretion in an appropriate way, such as not stopping a speeding vehicle, demonstrates the low-visibility decision making. The low-visibility decision making is when officers use discretion in an appropriate manner, determining that there is no need for administrative review (Siegel & Worrall, 2012). There are typical factors that influence when and where discretion is used in police work.
Factors that may influence discretion are considered expected, or controversial. Officers decide to use discretion, depending on the severity of the crime that was committed. Discretion is more likely to be used if the crime is less severe, such as trespassing. If the crime is more severe, such as assault, discretion is less likely to be used. Another factor that influences the use of discretion is the victim. Discretion is more likely to be used if a family member or friend is the victim, as compared to the victim being a stranger. One of the most apparent factors that can influence discretion is the behavior of the suspect. If the suspect is cooperative and does not have a negative demeanor (attitude and appearance of the offender),...

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