Police Discretion and NSW Police Force

Introduction

Police officers in the NSW Police force have a very important role within society to maintain the peace. To be able to do this officers in the NSW Police Force need to ensure that they are following the policies and legislations that have been set out to uphold the ideals and expectation of officers in the NSW police force, apply appropriate discretion to situations and using effective communication when dealing with customers. We are going to look at how these three aspects of policing can be improved with in the scenario to better maintain the peace within the community.

The ideals and expectations of the NSW Police force are set out in legislation and policies such as the Statement of Values, Code of Conduct and Ethics and the Missions and functions of the NSW police force. In this scenario the officers fail to meet the standards expected by the NSW police force. The language and actions of the senior constable when he pushed Masud and says “Hey, shut your gob and get back” is in breach of section 2 (to act with care and diligence when on duty) and section 4 (to treat everyone with respect, courtesy and fairness) of the Code of Conduct and Ethics as the senior constable does not act with care, respect or fairness towards Masud. The code of conduct and ethics also states that employees of the NSW police force must behave honestly and uphold the values and good reputation of the NSW police force whether on or off duty. The NSW police’s reputation is being damaged in the way the officers are acting. Members of the public have started filming the incident and the video is most likely to spread throughout the community on social media.

Section (7)(c) of the Police Act 1990 NSW states that each member of the NSW police force is to act in a manner which preserves the rights and freedom of individuals. In this scenario Masud’s rights and freedoms are neglected by the police officers. This is seen when the police officers place Masud under arrest and do not give him any explanation or reason Masud even asks “what you doing, I do no wrong , I’m scared” and the officers sill provide no explanation to him of why they have arrested him or what his rights are.

In the statement above Masud states that he is scared as he doesn’t know what he has done wrong, the Missions and Functions of the police set out in section 6 of The Police Act NSW states that The mission of the NSW Police Force is to work with the community to reduce violence, crime and fear. Instead of reducing fear in the community they have increased it in the way that they have conducted themselves while dealing with Masud. The video the members of the public are taking is most likely going to spread throughout the community which will cause angst and distrust in the police form people of a middle eastern background as they will fear that they might get treated the same way as Masud is being treated.

Police Discretion

Police discretion is about making a choice between lawful alternatives to apply the law fairly and at the right level to suit the circumstances. The law allows police to apply discretion as the lawbreaker’s intent might not always be deliberate and the law cannot possibly conceive every situation. In this scenario the police show no discretion towards Masud while there is reasonable justification for them to be able to. When applying discretion, it is essential that you apply it in an appropriate manner, to do this you need to make sure that only the relevant facts are being considered, it is being applied consistently and it is applied in good faith.

Masud has committed an offence under the Summary of Offences Act 1988 (NSW) No 25 section 11 (c). In this section it states that A person must not, without reasonable excuse (proof of which lies on the person), have in his or her custody a knife in a public place or school. Masud is carrying a knife through the markets on his way home. To see if discretion can be applied to this scenario, we must consider why Masud is carrying a knife and whether there is an alternative option to arresting him. Masud has stated that he is on his way home from the wharves where he uses the knife for work. Under section 11c 2 a I the custody is reasonably necessary if in lawful pursuit of the persons occupation. As Masud uses the knife at the wharves for his job he has a reasonable excuse for carrying the knife as he is on his way home from work. The officers have also conducted a CIN check on Masud with no red flags appearing the constable named Tony believes his story that he is on his way home from work. In this situation the police officers have reasonable justification to use their discretion to not arrest Masud but instead they could issue him with a warning and make a note of it in case it happens again in the future.

Effective Communication

Communication can take many forms, to be an effective communicator we need to ensure that the verbal and non-verbal message we are sending are the same so that the correct information gets passed on. There can be barriers when we are communicating. In this scenario we are going to look at how Masud’s accent and the senior constable’s attitude and prejudices become a barrier to how they are communicating. According to Mehrabian (2016) 55% of our communication come from our body language and non-verbal communication, so as a Police officer and when you are dealing with language barriers you need to ensure that you are monitoring your body language to make sure that you are sending the correct message.

The core barrier that is affecting the senior constable’s communication is his prejudice and attitude towards Masud. Masud is described as being of middle eastern background and it is clear that the senior constable has a prejudice towards individuals who appear from that background. This can be seen when he states “he looks dodgy to me. We will let the courts sort him out.” Officers in the NSW police force should ensure that they are treating everyone fairly and not let any prejudices or stereotypes affect their interactions. In this scenario the Senior constable should have treated Masud impartially and only taken into account the facts of the situation which are that Masud is carrying a knife on his way home from work and he has no history or intel.

In the scenario the Senior constable displays very aggressive communication in the way he interacts with Masud. This can be seen when the officer shouts, “no you don’t’ and grabs Masud’s arm twisting it behind his back. The officers should use assertive behaviour not aggressive behaviour to make sure that the situation is resolved. The positives to assertive behaviour are that it assists in conflict management and offers people the change to voice their opinions in a non-threatening way. To use assertive behaviour in the scenario the officers should have approached the stall with open body language, introduced themselves and asked in a calm voice what the argument is about. This then gives both Masud and Lillith the opportunity to explain the situation, while the officers use active listening techniques such as asking questions and making eye contact to ensure that they have understood the situation correctly.

Masud is considered an vulnerable person under the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Regulation 2016 (NSW) section 28 as he is from a non-English speaking background. The officers in the scenario do nothing to accommodate his vulnerable status. When officers are communication with CALD (culturally and linguistically diverse) people they need to ensure that they are being direct, giving clear instructions and not shouting. To make sure that the message is understood officers should use any forms of communication that they can, including gestures such as hand signals and body language such as nodding their head. The officers in the scenario should have ensured that Masud understood their instructions and why he was being arrested, to do this the officers should have spoken in a clear voice giving well-defined instructions using vocabulary that Masud could understand.

Conclusion

For police to be effective in keeping the peace within society, they must follow the policies and legislation, have effective communication skills and be able to apply discretion. Above we have looked at how the officers have failed to meet the standards set out for the nsw police force in the legislation and policies. What police discretion is and how it could have been applied in the scenario and improved communication techniques that the officers could have used to be more effective.