Police Discretion

  • Created by: rachel
  • Created on: 17-05-13 16:10
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  • Discretion
    • Every decision made is discretionary = an enormous amount of discretion.
      • They include; Answering calls, writing reports, making arrests, detaining suspects in custody, deciding what evidence to collect
    • The unwritten rule that police officers have the right to be selective in how they do their jobs as long as they stay within widely prescribed departmental guidelines
    • "Discretion is the art of suiting action to particular circumstances" Lord Scarman
    • The newest recruits have the most discretion as they're the ones out on patrol the most - which is the opposite to most other jobs
    • Wouldn't be reasonable to enforce law at every single oppourtunity
    • Can they help with another case? Discretionary power to drop minor offences if they cooperate giving evidence on a bigger case
      • What are the consequences for the individual if yo u arrest them? Is it proportionate?
    • Police need reasonable suspicion for arrests and stop and search.
      • The power they have always has errors and thus discretion is needed.
    • Sources of police discretion
      • Nature of criminal law
        • Criminal law can be discretionary towards social and medical issues.
        • Law changes over time, not everyone agrees due to morals, law can show discretion where it may not be appropriate
          • I.e treason is no longer a big criminal offence although legislation hasn't changed. Unlikely to be prosecuted for it now as it's not in the public interest
      • Police work environment
        • Policing is discretionary - you have to make decisions on your own
        • Often a single officer and the citizen = can show discretion depending on the situation
          • Policing is discretionary - you have to make decisions on your own
      • Limited police resources
        • The myth of full enforcement
        • Simply not possible; lack of time, money, officers and resources mean there is  room for more discretion
    • Factors influencing police discretion
      • The incident
        • The incident is the most important when understanding when police will enforce law and when they're discretionary
        • Swearing at an officer can influence the  discretion
        • The victims wishes can influence discretion "don't arrest i wanna forget it"
        • Donna Black study
        • Seriousness is important
        • Incident is more important than individual characteristics
      • The force
        • Force priorities
        • Amazing leadership on certain issues
        • Money issues within the force?
        • Different forces focus on different forms of training and have slight differences of what's the right and wrong things to do
      • The officer
        • Depends on what else has happened that day
          • Time of day
          • End of shift
        • Man or woman?
          • Black or white?
            • Experienced or rookie?
        • Individuals read the circumstances differently
        • Individual characteristics
        • If you have a relative with mental illness or alcohol/drug problems - you'll treat that differently that someone who doesn't
      • The environment
        • Urban or rural?
        • Deprived of rich?
        • Business or entertainment
    • Cop culture
      • The discretionary nature of police work helps to create and sustain cop culture
      • Discretion withing cop cultures could lead to corruption
    • Accountability
      • Accountability can influence discretion
      • G20; police officer sacked
  • Had to be discretionary in the use of force during the riotrs
    • Accountability
      • Accountability can influence discretion
      • G20; police officer sacked


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