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Walker, Chapter 11


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Walker, Chapter 11

  1. 1. Police in America Chapter Eleven: Police Discretion
  2. 2. Discretion in Police Work <ul><li>Discretion is involved in several critical decisions made by the police. </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the following: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Domestic Violence Arrests </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mental Health Commitments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Traffic Tickets </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Juvenile Court Referrals </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deadly Force </li></ul></ul>
  3. 3. A Definition of Discretion <ul><li>Definition of discretion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Official action by a criminal justice official, based on that official’s judgment about the best course of action </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Discretion: The freedom to act on one’s own judgment; refers to the latitude involved police officers’ decision making. </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Aspects of Police Discretion <ul><li>Street Level Bureaucrats </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Description for patrol officers because they make decisions that produce actual police policy as it affect citizens </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Decision to arrest makes them the gatekeepers of the criminal justice system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Police discretion determines public policy </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Potential Abuse Of Discretion <ul><li>Discrimination </li></ul><ul><li>Denial of Due Process </li></ul><ul><li>Systematic Underenforcement of the Law </li></ul><ul><li>Poor Personnel Management </li></ul><ul><li>Inconsistent Policy </li></ul>
  6. 6. Proper Exercise of Discretion <ul><li>The Use of Good Judgment </li></ul><ul><li>Efficient Use of Scare Police Resources </li></ul><ul><li>Individualized Justice </li></ul><ul><li>Sound Public Policy </li></ul>
  7. 7. Decision Points and Decision Makers <ul><li>Patrol Officer Decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Detectives’ Decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Police Managers’ Decisions </li></ul>
  8. 8. Underlying Sources of Police Discretion <ul><li>The nature of the criminal law </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Demands officers exercise discretion and decide whether the crime fits the definition of the law </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conflicting public expectations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Some people believe certain behaviors should be legal, despite what the law says </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social and medical issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Homelessness, chronic alcohol abuse, mental health problems </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The work environment of policing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Working alone vs. in pairs, lack of direct supervision, police-citizen encounters in private places </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Limited police resources </li></ul>
  9. 9. Factors Limiting Patrol Officer Discretion <ul><li>Legal Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Supreme Court Decisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>State Court Decisions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>State Law </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Administrative Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Department Policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supervisions </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Organizational Culture Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>- Peer officer culture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Situational factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Seriousness of crime </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Strength of evidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Preference of the victim </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relationship between victim and suspect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Demeanor of suspect </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characteristics of victim </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Race, Gender, Ethnicity of citizen </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characteristics of neighborhood </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Characteristics of Individual officer </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Other Factors Influencing Discretionary Decisions <ul><li>Organizational Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Official Department policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Informal organizational culture </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Social and Political Factors </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Local Political Culture </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. The Control of Discretion <ul><li>The Need for Control </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Must control police discretion in order to prevent abuse of police authority </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Myth of Full Enforcement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Exists to maintain public image of authority </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Prevent the raising of questions about equal protection of the law </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Allows supervisors to avoid closely reviewing officer behavior and developing performance expectations </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Abolish Discretion? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Joseph Goldstein argues discretion is illegal </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Police do not have legal authority to nullify criminal law by not arresting a criminal offender </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enhancing Professional Judgment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Through education and training </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Informal Bureaucratic Controls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>An arrest raises an officer’s visibility since it is reviewed by a number of higher ranking officers </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Written Policies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Administrative rulemaking </li></ul></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Administrative Rulemaking <ul><li>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. </li></ul><ul><li>Examples: Deadly force, domestic violence, high speed pursuits. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Principles of Administrative Rulemaking <ul><li>Confining Discretion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“fixing boundaries” </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Structuring Discretion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A rational system for developing policies </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Checking Discretion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Decisions are reviewed by another person </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Contributions of Written Rules: </li></ul><ul><li>- Provide directions for officers on how to handle critical incidents </li></ul><ul><li>- Promote consistent performance </li></ul><ul><li>- Provide basis for effective supervision </li></ul>
  14. 14. Impact of Administrative Rulemaking <ul><li>Has produced significant improvements in policing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>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% </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Insuring Compliance with Rules <ul><li>CALEA stands for Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Its book of rules is Accreditation Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies . </li></ul><ul><li>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. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Codifying Rules: The Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) Manual <ul><li>SOP Manual </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Written rules and policies for a police dept. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Central tool of modern police management </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many departments place their SOP manuals online to increase transparency and promote openness </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Systematic Rulemaking <ul><li>Davis and Goldstein argue that a systematic approach allows the police to anticipate problems before they become crises </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Represents a professional approach to planning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Attempts to encourage systematic rulemaking have been made through CALEA accreditation Standards for Law Enforcement Agencies </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. Citizen Oversight and Policymaking <ul><li>Policy Reviews </li></ul><ul><ul><li>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 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Recommendations for new policy are made as a result </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. The Limits of Administrative Rulemaking <ul><li>1. It is impossible to write a rule that covers every situation </li></ul><ul><li>2. Formal rules may encourage evasion or lying </li></ul><ul><li>3. Written rules may only make the situation worse and create uncertainty </li></ul><ul><li>4. Elaborate rules may create a negative atmosphere in the department </li></ul>