Discretion and Ethical Decisions week 2 discussion 2 (Amb)
You are a patrol sergeant lecturing to a college class about the patrol function. Someone raises her hand and asks, “Sergeant, your officers obviously can’t enforce all of the laws all of the time. Which laws are always enforced, and which ones are not? What factors determine how police discretion is used?” The concepts of police discretion and ethics are obviously intertwined because all ethical dilemmas involve making a choice. How would you respond (without saying something like “We enforce all of the laws, all of the time,” which of course would be untrue)? How would you fully explain police discretion to the citizens’ group? How do you explain the fostering of good ethical decision making and discretion? How do you explain which laws are enforced first and the discretion involved in that ethical decision making?
Our discussion first, individuals response, good and bad of post list reference
would respond by saying that the department wishes to be able to enforce all of the laws, all of the time but due to the severity of some crimes, they would take precedence over the other crimes. An officer’s discretion would also become a factor. For example, an officer may be walking along the street during their shift and spots someone acting suspicious but at the same time, they hear something that sounds like gunfire. Rather than approaching the individual, the officer would check out the gunfire. Discretion can be explained as “an official action that is taken by a criminal justice official i.e. police officer, lawyer or judge etc. in which they use their own individual judgment, to decide the best course of action (Halliday, n.d.). An officer would be able to use their discretion to determine what may be a larger threat to public safety. The fostering of good ethical decision making and discretion can be explained as whether an officer is making decisions that have good intentions or if they are making decisions that could be seen as the “breeding ground for police corruption” (Peak, 2012). The laws that would be enforced first would be the ones that are the most severe and could be life threatening. Otherwise, officers would be able to choose what they would like to do with the other occurrences.
Halliday, G. (n.d.). Police Discretion. Retrieved from Western Illinois University: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:lA8Rbc_RY68J:www.wiu.edu/coehs/leja/cacj/research/documents/past/haliday.doc+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=firefox-a
Peak, K. (2012). Policing America: Challenges and Best Practices (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Prentice Hall.