Use of Discretion in Police Work and Ten Police Actions

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As law enforcers, police exercise their authority to ensure that people do not go against legal laws and procedures. Police officers are authorized to use discretion whereby they make decisions on particular violations. Discretion is the ability of a police officer to make decisions or judgments regarding an offense. There are many cases where officers make choices and may include traffic offenses, domestic offenses, and assault. Although police officers are free to make their own decisions, there are legal policies that may limit discretion. Thus there are legal boundaries upon which police officers can carry out their decisions(Dantzker 1999). An example is the case of an assault where officers are supposed to use legal procedures when making judgments. The objective of this paper is to address the use of discretion in police work and include mythical aspects, consider its choices, and suggest how it can be controlled. There is the need to explore the various police actions that may require a police officer to use discretion under different circumstances. Police use of discretion is right, but it can become detrimental when exercised irresponsibly.

Use of discretion and mythical aspects

Police officers are never perfect in their line of duty because they are just like any other human being who makes mistakes. Even though they go through training before commencing their jobs, these officers are bound to make wrong decisions. Such a scenario occurs because their training does not cover everything required in their field.

Substantially, police officers encounter challenges that may not have been part of the previous training. As such, an officer may have difficulty in making decisions because of unfamiliarity with a given encounter (Dantzker 93). Because of his factor officers should always be ready for any eventuality and not expect the usual scenarios. Wise decisions are therefore important for the police to avoid unexpected predicaments. Police misinterpretation of the laws is also a contribution to why wrong decisions are made. While using discretion police officers oat to adhere to the stipulated laws and not overlook any given rule.

Mythical aspects of discretion occur as most people believe that officers are usually right when making decisions. It is always an assumption by individuals that the police implement and follow all policies. Ideally, this is not true because the police do not conduct full enforcement when it comes to discretion. Probably people overlook certain issues for them to believe that officers follow all rules and regulations. According to Walker, there are three reasons which explain why the myth exists (Dantzker 97). The reasons include the kind of police organization, legal terms and the authoritative picture of the officer. Naturally, an organization will always protect its image when it comes a problem occurs. Police agencies tend to keep information like discretions within the organization as it can result in more problems. Legally, police officers are only supposed to arrest someone according to the stipulated laws that govern them. Predominantly police officers are bound by laws that require them to make the right judgments. An authoritative picture of the officer occurs when the police exhibit authority of discretion. The discrimination undermines an officer because he/she may feel as if the name is tarnished. Mainly there are three sources that contribute to discretion and consist of individuality, environment and administration. Discretion takes place in any working environment of the police officer. The officers work in diverse environments where discretion comes about. Individuality comes about because police officers are individuals just like other people. Officers are not special as they make mistakes as other people do. The use of discretion will always differ from one policy to the other. Thus, police officers have varied ways of approaching violation cases as they are not the same in their thinking. Depending on which environment, an officer can be forced to use discretion and make instant choices without wasting time. Administration refers to the laws applied when using discretion. Laws vary from each other and so discretion may be approached differently by an officer (Smith & Natalier 194).

Discretion can be controlled if police officers follow all rules and regulations whenever they are making decisions. Officers need to adhere to written laws while they make their own decisions in different decisions. Making decisions can be made easier by following the required guidelines by the laws. The laws can be used to make quick and wise decisions that may be challenging for an officer to make alone. Clarity of the laws is very important for police officers to avoid misinterpretations. Officers should need to confirm the laws before they carry out any judgments concerning violation. The fact that officers are just like other citizens shows that they can also forget about some issues. In order to overcome forgetfulness police officers can consult one another on particular laws. Alternatively, the police can remind themselves by carrying a copy of the written laws. Before an arrest is made, an officer should ensure that the action is taken comply with the written rules and regulations (Smith & Natalier 209).

Ten police Actions

A police officer can use discretion in case of a domestic disturbance where a man and his wife may fight each other. Domestic violence is common among couples and normally results in separation or divorce. An officer has to make wise choices when judging couples to be just and fair to both of them. An arrest is made only to the person who was in the wrong but not the innocent one. In case both parties are guilty then the arrest applies to all of them. It is not reasonable to arrest only one party while the other one is spare. Other than an arrest, the officer can decide to separate the couples from each other. Discretion can be used on a person who violates the traffic rules by ignoring traffic lights. Such instances occur when the driver is unfamiliar with an area or probably while in deep thought. When making a decision, an officer confirms whether the driver was drunk or not. If the driver is not drunk then an officer can let him/her go off although with caution. This action is reasonable as an officer understands that people make mistakes. An officer can also make decisions concerning crime between people who hate each other. Such scenarios are often dangerous because they can result in the injury or death of one person. To make a reasonable judgment, an officer needs to arrest one person or both of them depending on who makes the mistakes. Making this decision is wise because the two parties might kill themselves if both of them are freed. Gambling can cause disagreement between two or more people which requires an officer to make reasonable choices. If the gamblers are consistent violators, an officer can decide to arrest them so that they may not repeat their actions. This is a sensible decision as the violators are not given the room to continue with their actions. The officer can also decide to separate the gamblers so that they may not disagree again. Mentally sick people need to be treated with a lot of care. An officer must not arrest a person who commits a crime unknowingly. It is a misuse of power if a policeman arrests someone who is well known as mentally ill. Those who sell illegal drugs need to be arrested by an officer to avoid continuity of the vice. An officer who thinks this way is logical because the freedom of the seller can result in more violations. For those who frequently buy illegal drugs, an officer can either decide to arrest a person or give a warning. An officer can choose to free a naïve individual who may not know the implications of illegal drugs. Logically, an officer can free the naïve person but arrest a frequent buyer who knows the dangers of illegal drugs. For someone who steals bread from a house, the officer can let go of the person because it is not a major crime. It would be a misuse of power if the victim is arrested. Those who trespass on restricted boundaries should be dealt with according to the rules and regulations. It is reasonable for an officer to follow the laws before making a decision (Smith & Natalier 215).


Ultimately, police officers need to make logical judgments especially when the discretion lies solely with them. Fundamentally, officers must follow the laid down rules and procedures to avoid making wrong choices. Unreasonable decisions can lead to victimization of the innocent ones. Officers should not misuse their authority to arrest those who are not guilty (Smith & Natalier 215).

Works Cited

Dantzker, Mark. Understanding today’s police. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1995. Print.

Smith, Philip and Natalier, Kristin. Understanding criminal justice: sociological perspectives. London: Sage, 2005. Print.

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