Police Discretion

Running head: POLICE DISCRETION Police Discretion CJA/342 University Of Phoenix Police Discretion Police discretion is an important tool in police work due to the law sometimes being too vague or ambiguous. Police officers are trained on different scenarios that one may come across while they are at the academy. The problem tends to arise when a police officer comes across a situation that they were not trained for, and since the academy cannot cover every possible scenario that one may come across. Therefore, police officers must use his or her discretion when put into a situation where they need to make a choice on how to enforce the law.
There are however, several scenarios where police discretion is either used or in some instances where even mythical aspects are involved. Some of these cases include: domestic violence, public intoxication, trespassing, disorderly conduct, traffic enforcement, hate crimes, mentally ill, use of force, and prostitution. Domestic disturbances is also categorized and more commonly known as domestic abuse. Domestic abuse occurs when a family member, current partner or an ex-partner tries to control the victim physically or mentally.
Since domestic violence knows no boundaries it can occur with any race, gender, and class and perpetrated by both women and men (Domestic Violence, n. d. , ¶ 1). This situation for a police officer to come across is probably the most difficult due to the laws being vague in this type of situation. In these types of cases police discretion is typically used where they separate the couple even to the point where an arrest is made for the abuser for a 24 hour cool down period. The police officers can also help the victim by given them support pamphlets as well as suggest counseling for both couples to attend.

Yet, as the laws change over time most states have laws regarding this type of case that result in mandatory arrest when there happens to be physical violence present. Public intoxication considered a minor misdemeanor and depending on the state where the person is cited there can be fines that come with possible jail time. Public intoxication, which is also known as drunk as disorderly occurs when a person demonstrates belligerent behavior towards oneself or others, and when the person demonstrates physical or mental impaired due to alcohol or drugs in the system.
When police discretion becomes involved with situation like public intoxication is because a complaint is involved. Police have a couple of choices to make they can both cite the person and have them spend the night in jail which is usually the option most commonly used. Or the police can assist the individual by taking them home or release them to another individual who will then claim responsibility for them. This choice is not usually implemented because police do not know if the intoxicated person will stay at home after the effort was made to bring them to the person’s home.
There is also the possibility of harm caused by the intoxicated individual if the person lives alone. For instance, they try to do things while intoxicated like cooking a meal in which would require supervision. If not supervised the house could burn down which would lead to detrimental effects to the person’s household as well as neighboring homes. Another option is to take the intoxicated person to approved treatment facilities, which in most cases the person has to be willing to part take in for it to be effective, in which most cases they are not at the time.
Thus, the jail option is most commonly used because of the lack of alternatives pertaining to the situation. The overall decision however, depends on the behavior of the individual as well as the complainant and the officer’s own feeling towards the situation at hand. Trespassing is very straightforward and is not up for interpretation of the law. Essentially if a person is caught in a place where the person does not belong the police officer should follow the laws against trespassing to the fullest extent. Disorderly conduct discretion is applied when the person feels as to what is disorderly.
For example, the person phone’s in the police because their neighbors are playing loud music. If the music is playing at an appropriate time frame and not passed certain hours the neighbors might have to deal with the noise if there is no other commotion involved. If the music is playing at an unreasonable time then the police can exercise discretion and confront the loud neighbor and request them to stop playing the music at a loud decibel or face a citation. Traffic enforcement is noted to be an area where discretion is most commonly used.
Speeding for example is a legitimate reason to receive a traffic citation from the officer according to the law. Still, the law is not always enforced in some instances where the officer uses discretion on how the initial interaction with the driver is perceived. In some cases the officer will use his or her judgment on whether to issue a citation or give a warning pertaining to the traffic violation severity. Hate crimes be defined as criminal acts that are motivated by hatred or intimidation of particular person or group because of their beliefs, disability, race, and sexual orientation (FindLaw, n. d. , p. 1).
In the instance of a reported hate crime the police are accustomed to protecting everyone’s rights despite the officer’s principles or values. The situation is at hand is up to the police discretion on how serious the hate crime is either considered to be an annoyance or on a larger scale a community threat. When encountering the homelessness situation the cause can be intermingled with alcohol, drug abuse, and mental illness. When police decide on how to use discretion with dealing with the mentally ill the police generally let the homeless stay on the street if there are no proper facilities to take them to.
However, if there is enough complaints designated towards the homeless because they are begging or trespassing the police can forcibly relocate the homeless elsewhere. When dealing with the use of force police discretion was once a broad area on how police handled situations that required the use of force when arresting an individual. Nevertheless, over the years the use of force has been under scrutiny by citizens who have complained causing civil liability which have caused police officers to become more prudent when using force.
According to (Dantzker, 2003, chap. 7) Many police agencies are reducing the amount of discretion an officer has through policies allowing police to use only the force necessary to effect an arrest. Improved training and teaching officers methods of control using limited force or verbal commands have also been put into use by police agencies. With that most police agencies today prohibit the practice on using force unless the officer is in a life or death situation. Finally, there is prostitution, which is considered to a crime against morality and public order.
Prostitution is considered to be a victimless crime where both parties involved are willing and consensual when the crime is committed (, 1/16/04, ¶ 11). Police agencies that have specialized divisions such as vice have trained officers that use the opportunity to enforce his or her desired discretion towards the situation. Discretion plays a vital role in a police officer’s ability to do his or her job, because there is not always a law for all situations that one may come across. It is up to the police officer to use their training, experience and judgment on how to enforce the law. References 1/16/04). Police Discretion. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www5. associatedcontent. com/article/23232/police_discretion. html? singlepage=true&cat=17 Dantzker, M. L. (2003). The Use of Discretion. In Understanding Today’s Police (p. Ch. 7). Upper Saddle River NJ: Prentice-Hall. Domestic Violence. (n. d. ). Retrieved February 18, 2009, from Domestic Violence: http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Domestic_violence FindLaw (n. d. ). Hate Crimes and Criminal Civil Rights Violations. Retrieved February 20, 2009, from http://public. findlaw. com/civil-rights/more-civil-rights-topics/hate-crimes-more/

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