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Police discretion is defined as the judgment officers make in the field, deciding to arrest someone for a minor offense

or simply lecturing and warning the person. For a long while now there has been debate between whether police officers should enforce the letter of the law or the spirit of the law. The letter of the law refers to enforcing every single violation strictly by the book and dishing out whatever punishment is mandated by the law in that state. The spirit of the law, however, refers to the concept that law enforcement officers should try to educate the public about the offenses they are committing (assuming it is minor and not endangering anyone). I, for one, believe in the spirit of the law. Law-makers cannot possibly take into account every possible scenario and circumstance. For example, a man speeding on his way to the hospital, where his wife was sent after some sort of accident, should be warned and perhaps escorted (if possible) to the hospital safely. My point is, there are times and circumstances when all of us make stupid decisions that could get us into trouble, but sometimes we dont deserve long-term ramifications because of a momentary lapse in judgment. There are problems with this approach, however. Probably the most controversial application of discretion in the field is the use of force. An officer might decide to use more force than necessary if he or she

mistakenly perceives a person as more dangerous than he or she actually is. This could possibly lead to a lawsuit and probably lose the officer their job. The benefits, I feel, are obvious. If we stopped and arrested every drunk driver and domestic disturbance participant, the jails would be filled to capacity and the officers would have little time to focus on the more serious and violent crimes. Also, it would breed mistrust amongst the public. On the flip side of that coin, the restrictions could slightly too loose. If officers ignore too many speeders or drivers just barely over the legal limit, it allows more opportunities for people to injure or kill themselves or others. To surmise, police discretion is an invaluable privilege. Used correctly, it can help the public come to trust and respect law enforcement, help keep officers fair, and keep them safe. Used improperly could lead to complaints, lawsuits, injuries, or even death in some circumstances.