Law enforcement Essay

United States domestic law, a term used to designate the power exercised by a state or municipal government to enact legislation regulating private interests for the protection of the safety, health, and morals of the people, the prevention of fraud and oppression, and the promotion of the public convenience, prosperity, and welfare.

The word discretion is defined as ([1]“making of choices among a number of possible courses of action (Davis 1969). This is a modified definition of what Kenneth Culp Davis actually said was “free to make choices”). Discretion, uncertainty, and inefficiency are rampant and essential in criminal justice. Nobody expects perfection. That would neither be good nor fair. Justice is a sporting event in which playing fair is more important than winning.

Law enactment, enforcement, and administration all involve trading off the possibility of perfect outcomes for security against the worst outcomes. Policing is the most visible part of this; employees on the bottom have more discretion than employees on the top; it’s a symbolic bureaucracy (Manning 1977).In this aspect The law simply does not cover every situation that a police officer encounters in the field. In cases where the law may be clear, it might be more prudent for the officer to ignore strict letter-of-the-law interpretations.

Laws are passed in a vacuum, and usually written quite narrowly. Police encounter a wide range of behaviors and a variety of situations that the law hasn’t even thought about yet. One of the most amazing things about policing is not who they arrest, but who and how many they let go (no arrest options, leniency, under reaction). On the other hand, police work is dangerous, and officers sometimes view non-dangerous situations as more dangerous than they really are (overzealous, brutality, deadly force, and overreaction). In real life, it’s more than what a soap opera or TV show could do credit to; it’s a tragicomedy. In this perspective, discretion is the empty area in the middle of a ring consisting of policies and procedures.

The definition given by the Davis’ is – (“[2]the making of choices from among a number of alternatives? The freedom of being able to make choices is called a strong sense of discretion by Dworkin”). In the weaker sense, we would consider cases in which not only the rules don’t apply, but the officer makes individualized judgments. In both senses, it’s the problem of loose definition .Discretion is not doing as you please. Discretion is bounded by norms( professionalnorms, community norms, legal norms, moral norms). The future of policing as a profession depends upon whether discretion can be put to good use.

The precise scope of police power is difficult to define. It covers, for example, the maintenance of the peace by the police; the licensing of some trades and professions; the regulation of rates charged by public service corporations; the regulation of security issues by so-called Blue Sky laws, which are statutes intended to prevent fraud in the sale of stocks and bonds; the regulation of hours of labor; and such health regulations as quarantine and compulsory vaccination. Litigation over affirmative action resulted in landmark federal restrictions on the use of preferences for minorities and women. Also making the news were a Million Woman March by African-Americans in Philadelphia, further restitution and new charges of racism involving Denny’s restaurants, economic gains by minorities, and alleged brutality by New York City police against a black Haitian immigrant. This shows the discretion of police on the common people.

According to the Gaines, Kappeler & Vaughn causes of discretion are grouped into three categories which are Offender variables, Situation variables, System variables in the offender variable: ([3]Police take adult complaints more seriously than those made by juveniles. Arrest and force is more likely to be used against African Americans).in Situation variables: ([4]Police give serious (crime) matters more attention than minor (noncrime) matters. The presence of weapons or acts of resistance often results in police overreaction).

In System variable:( Police tend to become lenient when the court and correctional systems are clogged. Police tend to become strict when the city needs revenue). On the oter aspect the force used by the police are:Along with high-speed pursuits, use of force is an area where there has been recent administrative control and structuring of discretion. The amount of force to be used by police officers is usually described in police manuals as no greater than necessary and reasonable in a given situation. Unquestionably, the use of force must be controlled and confined to protect the department from civil liability, but the following factors are also worthy of consideration: Police officers’ rights to protect themselves,

Precedent set by the past behavior of police officers and Need to build security access for future police officers.Certainly if the sources of discretion included individual police officer prejudice, whim or caprice, this would be completely wrong, but there are other, more important causes of discretion, as we have discussed. There are certain policies such as Restrictive policy, Discouragement policy and Judgmental policy these policies explains about the situations that are faced by the police officers in their point of view. By considering all aspects about police discretion appears to be a double-edged sword. It can be used for good or bad. It’s not as simple as it being right or wrong.


Books: 1 Policing in America by authors Gaines and Kappeler

 Journal: Kelling, G., T. Pate, D. Dieckman, and C. Brown (1974) the Kansas City Preventive

 Patrol Experiment: A Summary Report. Washington, D.C.: police Foundation.

[1] This definition is taken from the book of Policing in America by authors Gaines and Kappeler

[2]  This definition is given by the author Davis[3] These are the the policies which are grouped by the authors Gaines, Kappeler & Vaughn[4] These are the the policies which are grouped by the authors Gaines, Kappeler & Vaughn