Police Officers Exercise Discretion
Joe Christensen
SLCC Criminal Justice




Police Discretion
Police officers face so many challenging situations every day and they must deal with
them amicably. To deal with these challenges, they have to make their own decisions on how to
handle them on their own without the advice of their superiors or any kind of supervision. Since
the police officers make decisions of handling these issues on their own, they are called to
exercise discretion (Parker & Sarre, 2008). This poses challenges and they have to be
accountable for their actions, hence the need to exercise discretion.
Police officers can exercise discretion in a number of ways. One of the situations that
they do is when a police officer has to make a decision after investigating a road accident. The
officer has to make a judgment whether the accident is genuine or not and has to establish the
cause of accident if it was due to careless driving or not and if so prompting the officer to take
action like arresting the driver for committing such offence. In such a case, the officer will be
expected to be guided by policies of the police service (Parker & Sarre, 2008). Another example
is well expressed when an officer makes a decision on how he can plan his or her duties in order
to manage time. For instance, a traffic officer on seeing a stranded motorist has to make a quick
decision on whether to stop to assist the motorist or to go on with his routine duties. The officer
will exercise discretion by deciding whether to assist the motorist or not.
Discretion is good as it gives the police officer to fill satisfied in his job when he can
make his own decision pertaining an issue thus creating job satisfaction; discretion is a fair act in
that it creates justice where it’s necessary. When we look at a situation where one has to follow
justice to the later, it will take a very long time to settle an issue as judiciary procedures must be
followed unlike when a police officer settles that same issue within a very short period on his or
her own, hence making justice efficient and the person being attended fill satisfied too.



Police exercise discretion so that they may take full control over the circumstances they
are investigating and they can be in a position to make decision according to their own will. In
such incident they can determine if they can arrest an individual against a crime committed or let
the culprit go (Ann, Mohr, & Carlene, 2004). In this case, discretion promotes realistic goals, as
it takes into account that police officers are presented with unique situations and they have to
make their own judgment.
Discretion allows police officers to treat people in humanly manner by giving them a
second chance; this improves the perception of police by public thus creating a good relationship
between the police officers and the society. If police officers do not follow the rules and laws that
are put in place to the later, they will be perceived to be unfair to the public since the all issue
will take a very long time to be resolved.
Police officers are human being and they are created differently like any other person,
they exercise discretion in different ways too, as every person does things in a different way. In
all situations, it is very difficult to predict the behavior expected of an officer, or what behavior
that officer can expect from the public or an individual (Parker & Sarre, 2008). Moreover, such
situations create distrust among the police officers and public due to different expectations hence
sometimes lead to quarrelling and confrontations between the police officer and members of the
Sometimes, discretion can lead to violation of human rights when an officer uses force in
delivering their duties and at long last will create enmity between the officer and member of
public leading to poor relationship between the police and the community at large. This occurs
when the police officer abuses the privileges given when exercising discretion. Police discretion
sometimes may create a room for corruption depending on how an officer exercise his duties and



it may even go further to become a potential tool for crime and abuse that can cause death when
an officer is influence by personal life factors making him to make irrational decisions.
Police discretion can be influenced by politics; politicians can take advantage of the
powers police have in discharging their duties and influence them according to their own
interests. Judiciary can also be used in influencing police discretion by amending the decisions
that the police make (Nunez, 2002). Court is used to rubber stamp the decisions made by the
police officers and no one can ask anything about it. For such injustices to be eliminated there
should be policies and rules that will guide the police force and incase of violation of this laws
disciplinary action is taken. Police discretion generally benefits the police body at large in
decision making and support of community goals. Police officers can vague some situations to
help them deal with critical issues and situations for their own good.
Police discretion can be good and bad according to situations. It is good when it’s
positively expressed and it requires full control the police force by putting policing mechanism in
place that will be guiding the police officers while they are on duty (Ann, Mohr, & Carlene,
2004). An example is the use of departmental policies and procedures in order to limit the police
officers in using discretion. Police discretion can be bad on the other hand if it becomes out of
control, leading to violation of human rights which is protected by the constitutions thus
destroying the relationship between the police officers and the public at large.
Therefore, rules and regulations has to be put in place that will limit the police officers in
exercising discretion, also supervising them can also assist to control discretion. Another issue is
that police officers use their own judgment in discharging their duties which may be influenced
by their personal life, a police officer who is undergoing stress or having mental health problem
can discharge their duties wrongly (Nunez, 2002). Therefore, it is highly advisable that before



they are given a mandate to be on duty, these issues like mental health and educational
background should be considered. Since police officers are entitled to high level of authority they
should be treated with a lot of care and a good environment should be created for them. Police
officers should also be offered training on public relation to help them handle issues in a good
In conclusion, police force is an institution that requires a lot of attention and
consideration considering the duties they discharge to the public therefore during their training
intelligent maters should be included in the training. Police discretion is good when used in an
appropriate manner but when it is misused it has bad results. Police officers should be
appreciated and given support in there line of duty by the public so that they will be able to work
without any kind of negativity. Police discretion should be considered positively and public
should work together with the police officers since they are in position of helping the society in
times of need. Police officer should be encouraged and treated to be important in the society to
avoid them filling dissatisfied.



Ann, L. P., Mohr, P. B., Carlene, W. (2004). Attitudinal and personality predictors of diversionary
behavior by police. Policing, 27(1):9-21
Nunez, E. (2002). Discretion. New York: Ballantine Books.
Parker, A. L., Sarre, R. (2008). Police operations: Theory and practice. Dublin: Thomson Round
Parker, A. L., Sarre, R. (2008). Policing young offenders: what role discretion? International
Journal of Police Science & Management, 10(4):474-485