Police Discretion Case Study

711 Words3 Pages
Law enforcement officers do not only se laws when it comes to making decisions. They also se police discretion when it comes to doing their jobs. To understand police discretion, we have to understand what it is, how and why it is used, and what factors influence it. Though upholding the law is an essential part of being a police officer, there is also a human aspect that must be taken into account. The law alone is not the only resource police officers use when doing their jobs. First, to know how anything works, there has to be an understanding of what it is. Discretion is simply defined as “the availability of a choice of options or actions on can take in a situation” (Dempsey, J. & Frost, L., 2014, p. 140). It is an officer making a decision…show more content…
The “how” part comes into play with every aspect of a police officer’s job. From placing someone under arrest to using physical or deadly force, the choice on how to handle situations is in the hands of the officer (Dempsey & Frost, 2014). This is done due to the “why” of police discretion. There are seven reasons given by Sheehan and Cordner as to why police discretion is used (Dempsey & Frost, 2014). The first reason given is that “if the police attempted to enforce all the laws all the time, they would be in the station house or court all the time and would not be on the street maintaining order or protecting life and property” (Dempsey & Frost, 204, p. 141)Police officers cannot protect the public if they are not there. The constant back and forth with taking criminals in for every crime the commit and having to constantly be in court, prevents them from holding all aspects of their jobs. The other reasons cover laws that are not to be “strictly enforced all of the time”, “some laws are vague and ill-defined”, “most violations of the law are minor”, enforcing “all of the laws, all of the time would alienate the public from the police”, the courts, jails, and prisons would become overwhelmed, and because “the police have so many duties to perform and such limited resources that good judgment must be exercised in when, where, and how they enforce the law” (Dempsey & Frost, 2014, p. 141-142). There are…show more content…
There are four major factors, as described by Herbert Jacob, which influence police discretion (Dempsey & Frost, 2014). These factors include the “characteristics of the crime, relationship between the alleged criminal and the victim, relationship between the police and the criminal or victim, and department policies” (Dempsey & Frost, 2014, p. 142). Those are not the only factors but they can be considered the most commonly used and relied upon. They give a run down and a starting point on how to gauge and judge what steps they should take when deciding how to handle certain
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