Police in America
Chapter Eleven
Police Discretion

McGraw-Hill

© 2013 McGraw-Hill Companies. All Rights Reserved.
Discretion in Police Work
 Discretion is involved in several critical

decisions made by the police.

 Consider the foll...
A Definition of Discretion


Definition of discretion
 Official action by a
criminal justice official,
based on that off...
Aspects of Police Discretion
 Street Level Bureaucrats

 Description for patrol officers because they
make decisions tha...
Potential Abuse Of Discretion
 Discrimination
 Denial of Due Process
 Systematic Underenforcement of the Law
 Poor Per...
Proper Exercise of Discretion
 The Use of Good Judgment
 Efficient Use of Scare Police Resources
 Individualized Justic...
Decision Points and Decision
Makers




Patrol Officer
Decisions
Detectives’
Decisions
Police Managers’
Decisions

11-7
Underlying Sources of Police
Discretion


The nature of the criminal law
 Demands officers exercise discretion and decid...
Factors Limiting Patrol Officer
Discretion


Legal Factors






Supreme Court Decisions
State Court Decisions
State ...
Other Factors Influencing
Discretionary Decisions
 Organizational Factors

 Official Department policy
 Informal organi...
The Control of Discretion


The Need for Control
 Must control police discretion in order to prevent abuse of police
aut...
Administrative Rulemaking
 Administrative Rulemaking: Seeks to

guide the exercise of police discretion
through written d...
Principles of Administrative
Rulemaking






Confining Discretion
 “fixing boundaries”
Structuring Discretion
 A rat...
Impact of Administrative
Rulemaking


Has produced significant improvements in
policing
 Fyfe found that a restrictive p...
Insuring Compliance with Rules
 CALEA stands for Commission of

Accreditation for Law Enforcement
Agencies. Its book of r...
Codifying Rules: The Standard
Operation Procedure (SOP) Manual
 SOP Manual

 Written rules and policies for a police dep...
Systematic Rulemaking
 Davis and Goldstein argue that a

systematic approach allows the police to
anticipate problems bef...
Citizen Oversight and Policymaking
 Policy Reviews

 Individual citizen complaints are analyzed to
determine whether the...
The Limits of Administrative
Rulemaking
 It is impossible to write a rule that covers

every situation
 Formal rules may...
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Walker-8-chapter-11

  1. 1. Police in America Chapter Eleven Police Discretion McGraw-Hill © 2013 McGraw-Hill Companies. All Rights Reserved.
  2. 2. Discretion in Police Work  Discretion is involved in several critical decisions made by the police.  Consider the following:      Domestic Violence Arrests Mental Health Commitments Traffic Tickets Juvenile Court Referrals Deadly Force 11-2
  3. 3. A Definition of Discretion  Definition of discretion  Official action by a criminal justice official, based on that official’s judgment about the best course of action  Discretion: The freedom to act on one’s own judgment; refers to the latitude involved police officers’ decision making. 11-3
  4. 4. Aspects of Police Discretion  Street Level Bureaucrats  Description for patrol officers because they make decisions that produce actual police policy as it affect citizens  Decision to arrest makes them the gatekeepers of the criminal justice system  Police discretion determines public policy 11-4
  5. 5. Potential Abuse Of Discretion  Discrimination  Denial of Due Process  Systematic Underenforcement of the Law  Poor Personnel Management  Inconsistent Policy 11-5
  6. 6. Proper Exercise of Discretion  The Use of Good Judgment  Efficient Use of Scare Police Resources  Individualized Justice  Sound Public Policy 11-6
  7. 7. Decision Points and Decision Makers    Patrol Officer Decisions Detectives’ Decisions Police Managers’ Decisions 11-7
  8. 8. Underlying Sources of Police Discretion  The nature of the criminal law  Demands officers exercise discretion and decide whether the crime fits the definition of the law  Conflicting public expectations  Some people believe certain behaviors should be legal, despite what the law says  Social and medical issues  Homelessness, chronic alcohol abuse, mental health problems  The work environment of policing  Working alone vs. in pairs, lack of direct supervision, police-citizen encounters in private places  Limited police resources 11-8
  9. 9. Factors Limiting Patrol Officer Discretion  Legal Factors     Supreme Court Decisions State Court Decisions State Law Administrative Factors  Department Policy  Supervisions  Organizational Culture Factors  - Peer officer culture  Situational factors          Seriousness of crime Strength of evidence Preference of the victim Relationship between victim and suspect Demeanor of suspect Characteristics of victim Race, Gender, Ethnicity of citizen Characteristics of neighborhood Characteristics of Individual officer 11-9
  10. 10. Other Factors Influencing Discretionary Decisions  Organizational Factors  Official Department policy  Informal organizational culture  Social and Political Factors  Local Political Culture 11-10
  11. 11. The Control of Discretion  The Need for Control  Must control police discretion in order to prevent abuse of police authority  Myth of Full Enforcement • Exists to maintain public image of authority • Prevent the raising of questions about equal protection of the law • Allows supervisors to avoid closely reviewing officer behavior and developing performance expectations  Abolish Discretion? • Joseph Goldstein argues discretion is illegal • Police do not have legal authority to nullify criminal law by not arresting a criminal offender  Enhancing Professional Judgment • Through education and training  Informal Bureaucratic Controls • An arrest raises an officer’s visibility since it is reviewed by a number of higher ranking officers  Written Policies • Administrative rulemaking 11-11
  12. 12. Administrative Rulemaking  Administrative Rulemaking: Seeks to guide the exercise of police discretion through written departmental rules and the requirement that officers complete written reports on how they handled situations.  Examples: Deadly force, domestic violence, high speed pursuits. 11-12
  13. 13. Principles of Administrative Rulemaking    Confining Discretion  “fixing boundaries” Structuring Discretion  A rational system for developing policies Checking Discretion  Decisions are reviewed by another person  Contributions of Written Rules:  Provide directions for officers on how to handle critical incidents  Promote consistent performance  Provide basis for effective supervision 11-13
  14. 14. Impact of Administrative Rulemaking  Has produced significant improvements in policing  Fyfe found that a restrictive policy on deadly force adopted by the NYC police dept. in 1972 reduced weekly average no. of firearm discharges by 29.1%  Alpert’s study of high-speed pursuit policies found that where restrictive policies were adopted, there was a reduction in the no. of pursuits, accidents, and both officer and citizen injuries.  In the LA Sheriff’s Dept. the no. of citizens bitten by K9 unit dogs declined by 90% after the dept. put in place new controls over how dogs could be deployed. 11-14
  15. 15. Insuring Compliance with Rules  CALEA stands for Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Its book of rules is Accreditation Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies .  The primary simple strategy for ensuring compliance is to require police officers to file written reports after each incident and to have those reports automatically reviewed by supervisors. 11-15
  16. 16. Codifying Rules: The Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) Manual  SOP Manual  Written rules and policies for a police dept.  Central tool of modern police management  Many departments place their SOP manuals online to increase transparency and promote openness 11-16
  17. 17. Systematic Rulemaking  Davis and Goldstein argue that a systematic approach allows the police to anticipate problems before they become crises  Represents a professional approach to planning  Attempts to encourage systematic rulemaking have been made through CALEA accreditation Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies 11-17
  18. 18. Citizen Oversight and Policymaking  Policy Reviews  Individual citizen complaints are analyzed to determine whether the underlying cause was a lack of policy (or a bad policy) on the part of the police department  Recommendations for new policy are made as a result 11-18
  19. 19. The Limits of Administrative Rulemaking  It is impossible to write a rule that covers every situation  Formal rules may encourage evasion or lying  Written rules may only make the situation worse and create uncertainty  Elaborate rules may create a negative atmosphere in the department 11-19
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