Police Discretion

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In this essay a discussion will be explored about the benefits and problems associated with police use of discretion. Which current policing strategies have the most potential for controlling officer discretion and providing accountability, and which have the least, and why is that the case? And finally, how might these issues impact the various concerns facing law enforcement today?

Police behavior is different across all communities. In fact, how police react to combat crime is affected by the management style of the various police administrators. Also, local politics will have a strong influence on how police react to crime. When police respond to a call, they will make a determination of the “cost and benefits” of their reaction. How they decide to intervene is based on the net gain to the neighborhood, suspect and the officer himself (Wilson, 1969). There have been several efforts to understand how police use discretion in their day-today operations. One of the difficulties in understanding police discretion, is when an officer makes a determination not to invoke the law, that decision is often not seen by anyone who would oversight over that officers decision, therefore that decision is usually not subject to review from any authority (Wilson, 1969). Police records are usually to incomplete to allow evaluation of non-enforcement decisions (Goldstein, 1960) Full enforcement of the law is not possible due to various reasons, a limitation of officer time, and a limitation of investigative devices. In some instances the police may choose not to enforce the law in order to allow a confidential informant to gather information on another suspect. This is an exchange relationship where both parties have the opportunity to gain so...

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...ng those areas. The writer of this esay is in agreement with Brown, 1988 when he says there is a close relationship between the enforcement of minor violations and crime control.

Wilson has the most comprehensive way of controlling police discretion by placing it on a grid to help officers make decisions that can be monitored. The grid included looking at officer response as either a law enforcement response, with this type of interactions police intervention can be strongly influenced by performance measures. (Wilson, 1968) Citizen invoked order maintenance, with these calls the officers maintains a high degree of discretion. Police invoked order maintenance; the administration also has a limited amount of control over the officer. Last, citizen invoked law enforcement calls, supervisors can have a great deal of impact on how officer use their discretion.

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