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Use of Discretion and Force by the Police - Research Paper Example

7 pages
1896 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
Research paper
This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Based on the knowledge of criminal law, discretion is defined as the authority to be able to make a legal decision between two or more available choices. Mainly, it is considered as the capacity to identify and to document events regarding criminalist. It is worth noting that every police officer has a considerable portion of discretion concerning when to use their power, authority, force, or persuasion. Any police officers discretion is linked to how an officer views his/her duty to the society. Police discretion results to practices of selective enforcement and may result in discrimination against specific groups of people or individuals. According to criminology studies, police discretion is a vital concept in issues regarding criminal justice. There has been a consistent dilemma between law enforcers and the general spirit of justice and law. During training, the police officers are offered various options for situations that they are most likely to encounter in the field when they are out on duty. Laws do not always cover all aspects, and thus new ones are consistently being developed in the area of criminalist and justice. Similarly, there are scenarios whereby the police officers will have to disregard the stipulated interpretations of the law and employ their discretion in arriving at a proper decision regarding a crime. In other words, choice in the criminal justice department is the void in the middle of a ring consisting of policies and strategies. It is, however, important to realize that police officer are not always allowed to exercise discretion in their daily duty operations.

Discretion among police officers is mostly bound by own norms including legal, social, professional, and moral standards. In most instances, police officers option might result in one way or another force them to use power when carrying out criminal investigations. In the United States of America, there has been consistent complains by the general public that the police tends to use excessive force during their duty operations. We should all appreciate the fact that these law enforcers are sometimes forced to apply discretion in some scenarios, to arrive at appropriate decisions that support justice for all. Some of these actions by the police officers might not be stipulated by law, but they all are for the good and judgment of the people. This paper will, therefore, explore the use of force and discretion by the police officers in the United States of America, and the following results to the public. It is vital for us to have a better insight on this matter, as it affects us all members of the society we live in.

In most instances, criminal investigations happen in private rooms, away from the general public. This setting gives the police officers a better chance to use discretion in a manner that they think will yield best of results regarding justice. Over the years, there have been multiple types of research that have been conducted on this matter, mainly to get a better understanding of what transpires in the process of criminal investigations. The modern criminal investigation system has evolved to be a much complex one thus such contemporary issues as discretion. In the United States of America, the use of option is permitted by the prosecutors, judges, parole officers, and correctional officers. However, it is essential to have an understanding of the various factors that affect the use of discretion in law and justice. These factors range from; situational or offenders, environmental and organizational factors. These factors in one way or another affect the use of discretion and force among the law enforcers in the United States of America. Every law enforcer in the United States of America makes discretionary decisions at one point of time or another in their line of duty.

According to a Walker & Katz (2005), most American citizens tend to have the assumption that officers apply discretion in situations of probable arrest. It is however not true for most officers from various police departments make discretionary options on a whole diversity of varying actions of law offenders. Individual discretionary decisions are usually as a result of a wide array of factors that typically excerpt particular influence over a police officers select. As earlier mentioned, these factors range from environmental, situational, and organizational. In concern to law offenders, or situations, there exist various degrees of interaction between the law enforcers, i.e., police officers and the members of the community. Therefore, the use of discretion and extra force by the police is much influenced by the situation they find themselves in. Similarly, it is controlled by the manner in which the law offender or criminal presents them. Factors such as high point of the evidence, preference of the victim, previous criminal record, behavior, the character of the victim, visibility of the scenario, and characteristics of the surrounding environment might lead to the use of discretion and force. The most prominent situational factor that influences the use of option and effect is the seriousness of the offense. In the United States, for instance, a case of murder with sufficient evidence may force the police officers investigating the crime to use any necessary force to bring the criminal or offender into law.

Secondly, there are organizational factors that influence the use of force and discretion among police or correctional officers. Different societies have their unique cultural organizations. Law enforcers may have to use their thinking to come up with appropriate decisions that will, in turn, provide the best results to handle the criminals. One may have to change the standard ways of feeling with the law offenders to fit in their organizational culture. It is also important to note that it is personal behavior that affects individual officer will since everyone has a different manner of doing certain things. Consequently, folks have various systems of policing.

Third, there are environmental factors that affect the use of discretion and force in seeking justice among police officers and other law enforcers. Primarily, local political culture in the United States of America plays a minor role, because all policed populations are diverse. For instance; one city may have very aggressive policing on traffic infringements, enforcing the full letter of the law on all traffic violations no matter how minor; while another town lets officers use discretion choosing which traffic infringements warrant ticketing (Walker & Katz, 2005).

Having looked at the factors that influence the use of force and discretion among those with the responsibility of enforcing the law, it is essential to explore the pros and cons of the same. In the United States of America, the police have been associated with the use of excessive force to the general public. In their defense, the various police departments suggest that discretion is of utmost importance, depending on the nature of the crime at hand. This situation has developed a contemporary feel to the administration of criminal investigations all across the United States of America. The use of police discretion in the occupation of law enforcement has become regarded as a necessary positive and inevitability. It is because police exercise this practice routinely on a daily basis concerning stopping, searching, arresting or charging a suspect. Given the ambiguity and out-dated nature of the criminal law, concerning definitions and dealings with situations of conflict and disorder. The most outstanding argument underlying the use of discretion and force is the very nature of criminal law. In the USA, there occurs a wide array of crime on a daily basis.

The individual police officer on duty has to draw a clear line whether the incident at hand fits into the description that the law instructs for. For instance, in the case of an attack, one must determine whether the actions at hand entail aggravated or simple assault (Godfredson, 2010). In the United States of America's law, the crime of rape is defined. However, it is up to the police officer on duty to decide what kind it turns into. The law provided does not necessarily cover all scenarios that police officers discover themselves in on their day to day operations. Therefore, lawmakers cannot antedate future actions and circumstances with which field marshal will be presented with. Walker (2005), further argues that police option is needed since it allows for a much higher flexibility and freedom in the enforcement of the law. It will in turn help in dealing with the vast array of societal issues that are not always clearly stipulated by the law.

Likewise, other scholars suggest that the use of discretion and force by the police is necessary, as the total execution of the law is merely impossible. Police departments do not have the human resources needed or adequate resources to reply to every call for provision. Besides, they cannot arrest all and sundry who has ever committed a wrongdoing and gets them prepared for judgment. Therefore, with these limited and scarce incomes along with human resources, police are required to use preference by selective enforcement of the criminal law (Wortley, 2003). As earlier mentioned, full implementation of the penal code is impossible. Henceforth, police have to practice discretion when making decisions about: impressive specific regulations, allocating their time, investigating which crimes, probing people and vicinities, and whether to arrest or detain people. Therefore, the influence that discretion has on the police is beneficial, because it can limit the number of cases that go through the courts since the police are responsible for entering most people into the system. According to Walker and Katz, (2005), discretion allows individual officers to make their own decisions, concerning how best to utilize their time and energy and to focus on the more critical crimes and community issues. It will allow law enforcers to work much more professionally, productively and consequently, give the communal in which they serve a higher quality of service, because their judgment is valued administering the spirit of the law, rather than the full letter of the rule. Hence, it would appear a more caring gesture by the police through exercising option then by total enforcement, to achieve the same desired result. For example; dealing with the problem and ensuring the communitys needs are met at the same time. It is worth noting that the use of the option in the process of law enforcement in the United States of America concerns the variations in the seriousness of the conduct of the offenders. The police officers are forced to use force where necessary as a form of discretion. Power might be exerted to the criminals or law offenders, depending on their conduct or behavior.

According to Cunneen (2001), in the United States of America, individual situations that police encounter involve quite a high level of discretion and possible force, than when dealing with other crimes. These crimes range from; drunk driving, hate felony, domestic violence, just to name a few. Instead of applying the law as black and white as it might seem, law enforcers look at using outside help that does not want to mob the criminal righteousness system. Using people such as social labors and instructors, who have done numerous empirical studies on the effects of arrest etc. concerning these types of crimes can be brought in at the discretion of police officers for help replacements (Gaines & Kappeler, 2011).

It is said that everything has its good and bad side. The use of force and discretion in criminal investigation and partic...

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