Sample Criminal Justice Paper on Police Discretion

Police Discretion

Police discretion involves the decision making authority granted to the police by the federal government regarding whether an individual should be charged or not. The law enforcing officers make a decision whether an individual in custody should face criminal. The main reason the federal government allowed such powers to the police is because they are directly involved in upholding law and order. It is only the police who understand certain circumstances that made individuals act in the manner, which is against the law. This is the point where the illegitimate act could be interpreted in a different perspective. Police can arrest an individual for some time as a way of secluding the person from a certain environment to restore peace and order but do not press any charge given the prevailing situation (Gerstein & Prescott, 2015). It is significant for all people to recognize the fact that police have clear guiding principles concerning how they listen to them before they are arrested. For instance, the mentioned cases require the law enforcing personnel to make a decision on whether the wrongdoer should face criminal charges or not. Ordinarily, the offenders are set free but with a warning.

In cases involving domestic violence, there are instances where the affected do not exhibit any physical wounds and the police need to make a decision on whether it was a self-defense action. In a context where all the parties share the blame, the police officer might be forced send a warning to the couples or pursue other applicable courses of action. In traffic violations, for instance, when an individual is arrested as a result of overspending, the police is supposed to use the evidence that the reprobate provides. For instance, the offender could be undergoing an emotional grief that could be the reason for committing the act. The culprit could also have had a bad experience before sitting behind the wheel, for example, had an abusive argument leading to a fight hence causing the action. Subject to the situations that the driver finds himself, law enforcing officer will have to understand and acquit the driver through the warning. Another instance where a law enforcing officer may need to make some deliberations before incriminating a speed lawbreaker is a situation the where the high speed was as a result of saving a life. Under such a circumstance, the culprit should be freed but also under warning. Nonetheless, these scenarios must be real and in case of any lies involved, the police would be forced to apply strict laws.

Mentally ill felonies are committed by individuals who are not emotionally stable to stand judgements. These individuals are alleged to be insane because they are considered to be not in control of what happens both within and outside their bodies.  Under such a case, the police officer will have to make a decision on whether to set free the offender or have him or her warned against such wrongdoings. For instance, if a mentally unstable individual executes a neighbor’s pet and the affected person presses charges, it is upon the law enforcing officer to choose if the offender should be set free on a warning since the individual is rationally unstable.

There are several advantages and drawback in instances where police discretion is applied. The first advantage of police discretion is that it can be applied as a way of protecting life, property and preservation of edict. In some instances, the decision concerning discretion by the police is also significant in guarding property. For example, an individual may be doubted to be driving under the influence of drugs as a result of the smell that could come out of his mouth or in the car. In this case, the police will be forced to tell the individual to get out of the car. Nonetheless, this process should go on carefully protecting both the driver or any other person who might be on board. Moreover, if an individual drives an injured or expectant mother to a health care facility, the law enforcing officer is obliged to under the rule of law to protect the vehicle so that the person in need of doctor’s attention might reach the hospital before anything else bad happens to him or her. Therefore, the discretion of law enforcing officers can be used to safeguard a person from falling as well as evading incarcerating a guiltless individual.

It is apparent that there are fewer rehabilitation facilities or professionals working in these facilities. Moreover, there are several cases in the past where innocent individuals have been put in jail. Therefore, a candid case in point of law enforcing officer’s forethought could be to avoid such people from being jailed, which makes police discretion significant in the decision making process of the law enforcers (Nowacki, 2015)

One of the drawbacks associated with police discretion is dependent on the law enforcing officer’s principles and judgment that is dependent personal values (LaFrance, 2011). This situation can be detrimental when the police officer abuses the privilege as a result of personal gains. For instance, there are several cases where the police have taken advantage of offenders as a result of soliciting and taking bribes. Several police officers have gone to an extent of even going further to arrest innocent subjects as a way of punishing them for failing to give an enticement.

Control Mechanisms Available in the Police Department

Control mechanisms entail the process that manages variables, in this case, the police discretion. For example, a human resource manager within an organization may decide to incorporate a variety of control gadgets in the entity to assist in screening employees as well as changing the input of materials and as well as other production inputs. This is aimed at increasing the general the productivity and creation of the desired quantity of produces. There are several different control instruments available for the police officer’s discretion, for instance, inner control element, external control structure, national control system, managerial control and control by the courts.

The inside or internal control mechanism components or an organization involve the processes for warranting achievement of an organization’s or associations purposes. These incorporate operational appropriateness and effectiveness, concrete financial reporting and functioning in line with edicts and guidelines. In the police department, an inclusive controlled inside control structure can be expedient in identifying and deterring corruption and other illegitimate behavior among the law enforcing officers. According to Terrill & Paoline, (2017), restraining police officer’s discretion through internal organizational mechanism enhances the law enforcers policy decision-making The main goal of the control is to warranty the police organization good performance that is in line with its inspiration. The control mechanism is also aimed at ensuring that the law enforcing outcomes repair the infamy of the police and produce more prolific and accomplished officers. There are different tasks that are accomplished by the inside control mechanism.  The administration and operations internal control is used to evaluate whether the goals of the management or an explicit unit or operation have been attained. In terms of security, the interior control assesses if the police have incorporated all the required vital safety emphasized processes with an objective of safeguarding an imperiled area whereas the police itself assesses whether the undisclosed information is safeguarded.

External control mechanisms incorporate different processes that impact on an association’s operations, which are not created by the organization but rather the administration or different entities. Outer control mechanism integrates any policy or course that impacts on the activities of the police department. These mechanisms include valuation decrees authorized by the administration, which impacts on the flow of cash in the department, a charter, which confines what the department can or cannot do and regulations that to some extent determines the organization’s recruiting procedure. For instance, the police as a department have recruiting processes that are externally controlled since the entity is funded externally.

The other control mechanism applied in the department is control by the citizen. This involves a manner in which citizens guide the law enforcing officers in their responsibilities. From time to time in the United States, the Community Relational Service has been responsible for supervising the police. The service has been significant in assisting the police as well as other departments across the nation in controlling the tough responsibility of law and order maintenance in the ever transforming world. In most instances, these occurrences have been triggered by a group of populations who protest against the policemen application of excessive force, particularly in dealing with the marginalized groups and communities. The significance of community relations participation in the police-citizen ferocity is that it arises from the race relations in societies that have resulted in battles, which impend on the national cohesion. The essential credence control mechanism by citizens is that it ensures that the law enforcing officers power and the region they serve attain harmony on the abilities that define that police authority. To achieve this requirement, a police officer must, therefore, be in an ordinary place not just with their own specific police society but with the group society too, an aspect that is not easy especially in the regions experiencing real demographic transformations.

This legislative control on the police department is determined by how the Federal government provides regulation how the law enforcing department should and are supposed to carry out their responsibilities. The legislative control mechanism is mainly concerned with the conduct of the police and how they can be confined, for instance, time awareness, issue of police enticements, police conduct, loyalty, and reporting to their superiors. The control mechanism also provides guidelines on how the police deal with different circumstances, particularly when handling the general public. All these guidelines are provided and specified in the nations Federal Constitution, for instance, the police are obliged to comply with their superiors and obey what they are instructed to do.

The other control mechanism that is used by the constitution is by courts that impact on the police discretion. Control by the courts involves the main functions that the courts play with respect to the police department. Generally, a court is regarded as an institution established by the government whose main responsibility is to solve the discrepancies that arise between the law enforcing officers and the public (Sekhon, 2011). Normally, the people bring their discrepancies to the courts so as to decide their incongruities. Furthermore, courts may determine whether an individual is accountable of a crime convicted to or in the same manner may also determine the kind of castigation on the said person.

There are several characteristic categories of courts that handle different cases. Similarly, there are different cases that are handled in courts, for instance, civil cases that deal with conflicts between people or associations and criminal cases that handle criminal activities that are regarded as wounding to the general public. There are several instances where the police go to court particularly when they obtain guilty parties to justice that and they subject offenders under the firm scrutiny of the court. The law enforcing officers do this by either apprehending a guilty party for a violation or through issuing a notice to appear for summons. In the United States, for instance, a notification to appear entails an approved paper where the in control people completes the hands over to the offender enlightening them of what crime they are affirmed to have deliberated and the Magistrates Court they are supposed to appear for hearing as well as when that should take place. There are other several reasons why the police might appear in court. For instance, the police might appear through a court order on behalf of victims, through the court order, attending court as an eyewitness, to get consent from a Magistrate for a search of properties, attending court to file documents in relation to court matters, and attending court so as to have a courthouse operative a warrant.

A law enforcing officer is obliged to attend court proceeding and stand on the witness box to attest in relation to a crime committed when the offender does not approve to plead guilty or when requested by the law court to do so. A committal continuing involves a scrutiny of witnesses before a Magistrate as a way of deciding whether a wrongdoer indicted of a candid wrongdoing has a case to reply to. If a case is being emphasized on trial, it means that the judicial officer is indicating the case for trial in a higher court. Furthermore, the law enforcing officer, in the same manner, will have to go to court line with the defied belligerent conduct at home. As a witness, the police officer might appear in court as a researching officer, validating officer or as a witness.

There are several ways in which police officers re-join in circumstances where perpetrators appear in court. In the first place, the moment an offender is charged with a wrongdoing, the delinquent has to face a criminal court of justice. The police officer will then also have to appear before a magistrate court so as to help the judicial system handle the requests of culpable. The police will need to elucidate the serious convictions of the wrongdoing succinctly, for instance, providing the supportive documentation like the criminal and activity accounts, witness availability dates and pledges for complaint to protection. In this manner, the law enforcing officer is required to prepare an archive for the prosecuting attorney to notify the court on the details about the wrongdoer’s past history and issues connected to the crime. The record that a police officer presents to a judicial court is referred to as a court brief. This document comprises of a summary of the realities, which the police asserts will validate the felony for which a person is charged. Under this provision, there is no prerequisite that the officer will go to court since the prosecutor can explain to the court about the case. In an event that the archive brought before the court does not have some indispensable information, justice may not be attained. At this instant, the police officer is required to present evidence under the observation that needs to be candid. Therefore, in their execution of their responsibility in line with police discretion, it is vital for law enforcing officers to have an affectionate loving care and aptness.

In an event that a criminal pleads not guilty, the case heads to the trial. The police officer probing the case will consequently have to present an evidence and consolidate witnesses to attend the hearing and present their proof.  A clear and brief evidence is presented as an assortment of written papers accompanied by witnesses. The law enforcing officer then appears in the hearing with the exhibits and witnesses.

The fundamental element of police discretion is that it can be overused in some instances. This implies that there will always be developing thoughts regarding the efficacy of the police discretion system. Nonetheless, for police discretion to effectively function, there must be control measures that regulate police officer’s decision making process.








Gerstein, C., & Prescott, J. J. (2015). PROCESS COSTS AND POLICE DISCRETION. Harvard Law Review, 128(6), 268-288.

LaFrance, T. C. (2011). Targeting discretion: an exploration of organisational communication between rank levels in a medium-sized Southern US police department. International Journal of Police Science & Management, 13(2), 158-171. doi:10.1350/ijps.2011.13.2.227

Nowacki, J. S. (2015). Organizational-Level Police Discretion: An Application for Police Use of Lethal Force. Crime & Delinquency, 61(5), 643-668.

Sekhon, N. S. (2011). REDISTRIBUTIVE POLICING. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 101(4), 1171-1226.

Terrill, W., & Paoline, E. A. (2017). Police Use of Less Lethal Force: Does Administrative Policy Matter? JQ: Justice Quarterly, 34(2), 193-216.