Police discretion is freedom or the power of state officers to exercise various alternative actions towards a person. A police officer may choose to give a warning, issue a ticket of violation or arrest an offender. Not all circumstances allow police to have discretion. According to a research by Carrington and Schulenber (2004), various factors affect police discretion. These factors include the seriousness and the nature of the crime, prior contacts with the police, injury to the victim, presence of a weapon, the relationship between the victim and the apprehended youth, group crime, age, and sex (Carrington & Schulenber, 2004).
They found out that the police charged 86 percent of the youths found in robbery case, murder among other serious crimes. External and internal mechanisms that affect police discretion One of the mechanisms that influence police discretion is the lack of consensuses on what criminal behaviors the police should exercise discretion. First, there are no clear legal definitions of the offenses where discretion will apply. The community may not be able to interpret the laws in the same way as the legislatures.
Secondly, there are no laws within the police force to control use of police discretion. Police exercise discretion differently. Apart from these factors, legal measures also affected police discretion. Thirdly, the close interaction between communities and the police influence discretion. This allows for corruption within the police force. Solutions to improving police discretion It is not possible to eliminate police discretion. The best way to improve police discretion is the use of controlling mechanisms.
Such include implementation of laws, policies and procedures on the use of discretion. The establishment and implementing of the Youth Offenders Act has influenced police discretion (Bergen, 2005). The Act has profoundly regulated police discretion. Secondly, there is a need to establish legislature on “zero tolerance offenses” Strict measures regarding the use of firearms by the police should be enacted. According to Bergen, further promotion an education of the police will improve police discretion. Curbing corruption among the police officers is necessary in regulating police freedom.