Essay Police Discretion

Words: 2798
Pages: 12

Police Discretion
April 20th , 2008

One aspect of the criminal justice system that has been debated for many years is that of police discretion. Police discretion is defined as the ability of a police officer, a prosecutor, a judge, and a jury to exercise a degree of personal decision making in deciding who is going to be charged or punished for a crime and how they are going to be punished. This basically is saying that there are situations when these law enforcement officers have to use their own personal beliefs and make choices coming from their own morals and ethics. The subject of police discretion was discovered in 1956 by the American Bar Foundation and has been an important problem in criminal justice since that time. When it
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This subject can be broken up into three variables that influence the amount or type of police discretion. The three variables are offender variables, situation variables, and system variables. Offender variables go as follows: Police take adult complaints more seriously than those made by juveniles. Arrest and force is more likely to be used against African Americans. Citizens who show deference (good demeanor) toward police are treated more leniently. People in middle to upper income brackets receive more and better service from police. Gender and mental health status affect how police handle many incidents. Police sympathize with and only lecture some offenders (Kleinig 1996). For example, from personal experience I believe that teenage drivers get treated differently then adult drivers do. I think that police have a bad idea of what a teen driver is and that they have bad intentions when they are under the age of 18. The second variable I found in my research was situation variables which are: Police give serious (crime) matters more attention than minor (noncrime) matters. The presence of weapons or acts of resistance often result in police overreaction. The type of property involved in a property crime determines police response and investigatory effort. Activities initiated by police are followed up more than activities initiated by citizen complaint. Visibility