Police Discretion

Police officers are an important component of the criminal justice system. Police officers represent the first line defense in and are empowered to protect and serve the community. With that empowerment officers are also entrusted to exercise discretion when needing to make choices in the course of their duty.   In this paper I will discuss how discretion is applied in police work, discussion of mythical aspects of discretion, source of discretion, and how discretion might be controlled. Additionally, I will give 10 actions during which an officer might use discretion and explain why each action is either reasonable or an abuse of power.
The textbook defines discretion as an official action by a criminal justice official based on that individual’s judgment about the best course of action. (Walker & Katz, 2008) Each day police officers encounter various scenarios in which discretion outweighs the black and white letter of the law. Police officers are responsible for following policies that give police personnel specific guidance for the common situations requiring exercise of police discretion. These policies include matters, such as the issuance of orders to citizens regarding their movements or activities, the handling of minor disputes, the safeguarding of the rights of free speech and free assembly. (Kelling, 1999)
Discretion by police officers can sometimes get lost in the mythical aspects of discretion. Police officers often times skirt a fine line of modifying polices are disregarding laws when making time critical decisions in the line of duty. Kenneth Davis states that “the police make policy about what law to enforce, how much to enforce it, against whom, and what occasions.” (Schmalleger, 2003)That is a very powerful statement because that lets the public know that police officers have a lot of power and authority in the course of executing their duty. Police officers in most cases have a foundation in which they fall back upon when making...