Police Discretion: Necessary or Unfair? Essay

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Introduction Officer Discretion is defined as “the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation” (dictionary). Therefore, in the police department, the term “officer’s discretion” is one that allows a police officer to make a judgment call during several situations. It is an officer exercise that is used a lot more than citizens think. Officer Discretion is not something that can be explained in one simple definition. Officer discretion is variable, depending on the officer and the situation. For instance, an officer who feels as though spending eight days in a court room a month just on traffic tickets is ridiculous, might just let a speeding car go by if no harm is being done. On the contrary, an officer who feels…show more content…
Before the 1950s, when officer discretion was unheard of, law enforcers would “wr[ite] a citation or ma[k]e an arrest. Prosecutors would then prosecute the case to the letter of the law, and judges would hand down inflexible sentences that were the same for every offender regardless of station in life or circumstances” (Halliday). Since Officer Discretion has come about, there has continued to be an argument as to whether officers should be allowed to use their own decision making process or stick to the law. As officers go through and complete their training, they are presented with several different situations that may occur throughout their time on duty. However, it is impossible to present these officers with every situation that will occur and most times, when actually on duty, these officers are put “face to face with intriguing situations that demand their personal decision” (Criminology, 2012). These situations become variables in the act of discretion and have grown to be compacted into three large groups: offender, situational, and systematic. Variables of Discretion There are several factors that play into an officer’s decision to exercise discretion, but offender variables, situation variables, and system variables are the biggest discretionary categories. Offender variables include those characteristics of the offender that an officer accounts for. These include race, age, economic status, gender, and health. For instance, an officer is more
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