Paper Example on Police Discretion

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630 words
Boston College
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Police discretion has been described as an unavoidable trend in policing but has also been characterized by increased debates as well as controversies. A modern approach to policing considers discretion as a ubiquitous but the limits of its application are implicit. In simple terms, police discretion can be understood as the power of a police officer to stick to the rules of policing or bend the law for a given reason. Many factors may compel police officers to practice discretion or police departments to allow their officers to practice discretion.

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Internal control mechanisms of a police department can be considered in cases where a police department intends to deepen its investigation. In most instances, a police department can instruct its officers to overlook minor offenses like drinking in public by only issuing a warning. A police department may choose to do this as a means of saving resources for more serious crimes. According to the article published in The Wall Street Journal by Gay & Kannno-Youngs (2016), the New York Police Department decided to make arrests for minor crimes. This was to be part of internal control unless a culprit proves to be a threat to public safety.

The law exists for citizens and in a democratic nation; it is created by the citizens. It implies that police officers are required to maintain law and order in line with the demands of the citizens who own the law. It has been argued that some citizens view the aspect of police discretion as an opportunity to brew criminals. Police may let go many crimes which may accumulate to the point of threatening public safety. The public has also complained that police discretion gives police power to use excessive force where they should have been moderate.

Legislative control has been instituted to provide police with authority to use discretion in their routine service. One important provision for this is the Manhattan policy that provides police officers with authority to give a warning or take in a culprit depending on the judgment of the officer on the perceived crime. It has been stated police discretion has been used in the US to give officers the power to fight drug trafficking CITATION Kat161 \l 1033 (Beckett, 2016). This move to enhance police discretion was initiated by the legislation and implemented by the police departments of various states. States have moved ahead to define the grounds for police discretion in the fight against narcotics.

Courts can also play an imperative role in allowing police to practice discretion while on duty. Some minor mistakes may lack sufficient evidence to convict a culprit. Police may be forced to release a suspect in situations where sufficient evidence cannot be provided in the court of law. Courts have the power to control arrests whenever they feel that the grounds are not sufficient to enough.

It is important as a sheriff of a county to ensure that the police under my Department conduct themselves in a manner that is acceptable by law. I will personally play a part in interrogating the arrested culprit. Deputies will be required to present reports on every arrest made, which will be cross-checked with the statement of the arrested person. The arrested will be interrogated to determine whether excessive force was used during arrest and reasons for using such force. It will also be important to scrutinize previous arrests to establish whether there is coherence or discretion was applied appropriately.


BIBLIOGRAPHY Beckett, K. (2016). The Uses and Abuses of Police Discretion: Toward Harm Reduction Policing. Harvard Law & Policy Review, Vol. 10. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from

Gay, M., & Kannno-Youngs, Z. (2016, March 1). New York City Police Get New Discretion on Minor Crimes. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from

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