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Discretion in Law Enforcemnt

Essay by   •  December 23, 2018  •  Essay  •  399 Words (2 Pages)  •  358 Views

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Police discretion has become a large debate, many people believe officers have too much discretion, but when it comes to certain situations such as Felony charges an officer must act, and officers have more discretion when it comes to minor infractions. For example, if an officer conducts a traffic stop and the individual driving has an expired license, but tells the officer they are driving their child to the emergency room. The officer has discretion on what he or she chooses to do, provide the person with a warning or depending on the city and state law make an arrest. The issue here is a child is involved, so if the officer chose to make the arrest he then must contact someone to pick the child up, complete the paperwork for the arrest and transport the person to the jail. This could take the officer out of service for several hours.

There is a difference between Police discretion and abuse of power. Officers can make decisions that are mistakes; this could be from a complete misunderstanding between the officer or the citizen, lack of training or just the wrong decision made in general. When an officer is using discretion they are going to consider factors just like the example I provided. Some of these factors can include things such as is this person a repeat offender or would a verbal warning be effective for the situation at hand, the behavior of the individual, basically the totality of the situation at hand. These actions can be corrected for the future with proper training if a mistake is made on the officer’s end, but the decision the officer made was in good faith. The flip side unfortunately is an officer who is just abusing his or her power, using improper data to make a decision, so what factors are considered improper? A person’s race, sex, the person’s employment, the car they are driving these are just a few.

Having Police discretion is important to officers in the field, with proper training and experience police discretion is beneficial to the community and the law enforcement personnel as well. Police discretion is not automatic; some agencies do have policies that an officer must follow. Police discretion is also taken away from the officer, when certain laws have been violated an officer must act which could mean make the arrest.

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