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Police Discretion and Ethics of Policing

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The aspect of policing that is being discussed in this chapter is Discretion and Ethics in Policing. One of the main points that this chapter goes over is police discretion. Discretion within policing plays a big part when it comes to how the public and the police interact with each other. Normally newer police officers usually use more discretion than anyone who ranks higher than they do within the force. And because of this, police have the power to decide on what they would do in most situations that they are in. One example would be if a police officer sees another driving faster than they should be. The police officer is in the right to pull them over and give that driver a ticket if necessary.

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But because the driver is not going that much faster than the speed limit and there really isn’t much more traffic on the road besides the driver, the officer doesn’t pull them over because it isn’t much of a big deal. Discretion is also used to assess an officer’s integrity. Mostly in a situation when it comes to being fair and not abusing power. Another example could be if another driver is driving to the hospital at a speed limit way over what it should be because they have someone who is injured in the car and need to get to the hospital as soon as possible. Most people would also agree that the police officer shouldn’t issue a ticket or any punishment for that matter. But discretion is a two-way street. It can be perceived as both good and bad.

And on the bad side, some people can start to not trust the police and even lose all respect that they once had for them. Police shootings can be seen as police using bad discretion. A lot of people think that law enforcement officers make irrational decisions and think with their guns instead of their brains. Usually this is thought of against black men and not usually against many other races. And when discretion starts to make you look bad, that is when people start to lose trust in the police and their overall integrity. I didn’t identify any key terms which were new to me. However, what was most surprising to me in this chapter was that many police decisions can alter the public’s point of view of the police. Whether it be a positive or a negative perception. 

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