Police Discretion

Essay by lexiandme13University, Bachelor'sA-, March 2008

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Discretion is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "the ability to make responsible decisions, individual choice or judgment, power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds." In law enforcement discretion is left up to each individual officer on the field everyday. Police officers are given the authority to make reasonable and responsible decisions out in the field. Discretion is used in many situations, such as when an officer chooses to stop a vehicle for a small traffic violation. There are also times when the officer has no choice but to use specific discretion in certain situations. Society believes that an officer can make any choice he or she chooses at anytime while on the job. This belief is "mythical"; there are many situations when an officer has no choice but to follow the law. There are also situations when an officer has to make a decision on what type of force is necessary for certain situations.

For the most part every officer has a choice when to use or not to use discretion, and enforce the law.

In the role as a police officer decision making is not easy. Society will use discretion against an officer if the situation does not involve a major crime. Many people will try to talk their way out of the simplest traffic violations, to some felonies. An officer only has so much discretion they are allowed to use. In some cases an officer depending on the situation will give out a warning, and advise the citizen to be aware of the law and not to do it again. However, there are other situations when a warning will not be sufficient enough, but the citizen will still insist on having a warning instead. An officer must use his/her own...