Police Discretion What Is Police Research Paper

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706). Yet, this clearly does not eliminate the possibility of abuse of power and wrongful use of police discretion as the disproportionate application of justice upon those of lower class and of minority races is fundamentally present in both lesser and greater crimes.

III. If you were a supervisor within a police department, how would you manage or control the discretionary practices of your officers?

One of the most important aspects of managing and controlling police discretion has to do in part with staffing, recognizing who has the valuable knowledge to use discretion effectively and who would be better suited to stand back and learn this knowledge from those who are more adept with it. Perhaps those who have had more time in a given community or who have worked in many areas of the department and seen a greater variety of regional and community crimes and criminal behaviors should serve as mentors to those who have less experience. Additionally open door communication between departments and agencies as well as officers of varied ranks is essential to the development of proper use of discretion on the streets and in investigations. Sims, Ruiz, Weaver, & Harvey note that police discretion, and its allowance of use both in and out of balance is associated with several factors, both internal and external, "street-level decision-making by police officers is influenced simultaneously by departmental rules about the use of discretion, the extent to which the department is decentralised, and the more general views and expectations by the citizenry…" (2005, p. 247). The most essential aspect of police discretion and it's balanced use then lays in appropriate policy, communication of that policy, internal climate and culture within a department and the expectation of the broader community. Therefore communication regarding the use of discretion as well as balanced policy, associated training and the tolerance for use of discretion must be clear and communicated well. Additionally, police discretion issues when they are deemed or suspected of being unbalanced should be thoroughly reviewed on a constant basis and communications of ethical breeches should be performed with all those involved, possibly including community stakeholders as well as offenders and others affected by police discretion decisions.

IV. Any final comments on the police use of discretion (concluding comments on the practice).

The practice of police discretion is absolutely essential to the safety of officers and the public. Police work is inherently fast paced and events that could culminate into unsafe community events can happen in the blink of an eye. It is therefore necessary for police discretion to exists to the extent that it is not used in an unbalanced manner and disproportionately or with malice. This should include detention of suspects, questioning, arrests and of course use of force and seizure of property. The latter two issues should have extensive regulation and policy surrounding them, as they can ultimately demonstrate significant breeches in legal precedence and the former issues should be carefully and closely monitored, by appropriate use of discretion on the part of other agencies within the justice system. All of this information should be appropriately and thoroughly communicated with police personnel and constant continuing education, communication and training should be in place to control for possible imbalances in the use of police discretion. Though the culture of the department as well as the expectation of the community will likely sway the many issues surrounding police discretion open communication about potential imbalances should be shared with all ranking individuals and create a fluid development of policy on the acceptable use of police discretion in any given situation.


Miller, E.J. (2010). The Warren Court's Regulatory Revolution in Criminal Procedure. Connecticut Law Review, 43(1), 1-82. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Murakawa, N., & Beckett, K. (2010). The Penology of Racial Innocence: The Erasure of Racism in the Study and Practice of Punishment Murakawa & Beckett the Penology of Racial Innocence. Law & Society Review, 44(3/4), 695-730. doi:10.1111/j.1540-5893.2010.00420.x

Sims, B., Ruiz, J., Weaver, G., & Harvey, W.L. (2005). Police perceptions of their working environment: Surveying the small department. International…[continue]

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