Discretion Police Chiefs and Discretionary Term Paper

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This alternative essentially redistributes some of the power within the department in order to facilitate more successful service in individual communities. This clearly makes discretion appropriate based on the individual needs of the community. Police Chiefs need to develop "new concepts to better satisfy the demands and needs of the citizens they serve," and as such, may have to use discretion in how the approach and interact with unique communities as they encounter them (Meese, 1993, p 1). Discretion on behalf of a police chief allows for greater success in implementing community policing methods.

Police chiefs also find themselves using various types of administrative discretion as well in regards to how they operate their police department and the officers in the field under them. A police chief's administrative discretion could even influence the discretionary actions of other officers in the field. For example, in 2010, a police chief in the UK made an administrative discretion by asking officers underneath her to follow their own common sense when engaging with the community. According to a 2010 report, one police chief in Thames Valley made a discretionary choice regarding how she asked her officers to behave while working in the precinct. Police Chief Constable Sara Thorton "said there was too much government guidance for officers who were not allowed to use their discretion" (Daily Mail Reporter, 2010). The precinct had been inundated by internal operations that were continuing to complicate police procedures in the field. Essentially, more and more complex regulations were being established, which were acting negatively to restrict what officers in the field could do in regards to the unique nature of each case and situation they were experiencing. Police Chief Thorton could have asked her officers to stick to protocol, and despite lengthy paperwork and complicated restrictions, demand that her officers followed all the new complicated procedures to the tee. This would have been essentially following the protocol. Yet, this protocol was getting so complex, it was spiraling out of hand. According to her statement, "because we deal with a lot of high-risk situations, the response over the last ten years has been to write more and more guidance for officers so there are more and more rules" (Daily Mail Reporter, 2010). Over 52 new guidelines were instituted for Thames Valley police officers in 2009 alone. Yet, this has only backfired in regards to the efficiency and productivity of the Thames Valley Police Department. When police officers were following complicated procedures exactly, the precinct was generating a number of cases that could not stand up in court. Moreover, police officers were constantly second guessing themselves and their actions in fear of internal investigations for breaking with unnecessary and complicated protocol. This was generating a situation that made the quality of the work environment for police officers decrease, as well as their overall ability to effectively serve the community. Police Chief Thorton recognized the absurdity of sticking so close to procedures those only seem to hurt the efficiency and image of the police department. Instead of demanding her officers to follow such restricting protocol all the time in the field, she made the administrative decision based on her own discretion to further empower the skill and knowledge of the police on her force to use common sense in each individual situation they came across. As such, it was an appropriate move for Police Chief Thorton to adviser her officers to increase their use of discretion and common sense when in the field because it will ultimately serve to empower the department and make field officers more efficient in protecting and serving their community.

Overall, it is clear that when a police chief uses discretion, it has an impact on the rest of the department. Police chiefs can use discretionary actions in order to influence the organizational structure and individual officer performance. Doing so often requires going beyond protocol, but often leads to more successful law enforcement strategies in an increasingly complex contemporary environment.


Daily Mail Reporter. (2010). Police chief tells officers: Don't follow the rules…use your common sense! Mail Online. Web. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1297074/Police-chief-tells-officers-Dont-follow-rules -- use-common-sense.html

Diamond, Drew & Mead Weiss, Deirdre. (2005). Community Policing: Looking to Tomorrow. U.S. Department of Justice. Web. http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/Publications/e050920207-CommPolicing_Looking2Tomorrow.pdf

Fridell, Lorie & Wycott, Mary Ann. (2004). Community Policing: The Past, Present, and Future. Police Executive Research Forum.

Kelling, George L. (1999). Broken Windows and Police Discretion: National Institute of Justice Research Report. U.S. Department of Justice. Web. http://petermoskos.com/readings/Kelling_1999-Broken_Windows_and_police_discretion.pdf

Meese, Edwin. (1993). Community policing and the police officer. Perspectives on Policing. No. 15. U.S. Department of Justice. Web. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/139164.pdf

Nila. Michael J. (2012). Educating the 21st century cop developing blue courage and practical wisdom. Police Chief: The Professional Voice of Law Enforcement. Web. http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=2802&issue_id=112012

Stevens, M. (2004). Police discretion. Military Law Associates. California State University Fresno. Web. http://faculty.ncwc.edu/mstevens/205/205lect09.htm[continue]

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