Police Discretion and How It Impacts Communities

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Policing is the process by which police forces keep law and order in different areas. Many different areas across the United Sates are policed in different ways due to different circumstances and the impact of some of these could cause more harm than good in these communities. People in many communities not only fear police forces but also do not trust them which could cause many more things to go unsolved and for crime to become more and more apparent.

Police discretion is a big factor when it comes to how the public eye sees police forces as a whole. There are many advantages to police discretion being used in the field that helps keeping law and order. Even with these advantages there are also downsides that impacts the public in a much stronger way.

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Many factors come into play when talking about the discretion that a police officer can take at any point in time including situation, person, and even the officer’s pattern of thinking can cause different outcomes in the same situation. With so many different outcomes it can be hard to find a good balance for officers and the citizens the are intended to protect. All officers think differently and will deal with situations in different ways. While this can lead to good things it can and has led to violent situations and as a society people will remember those more than good ones.

There are many positives to police discretion some of which are allowing decisions to be made where one isn’t clear, making quick decisions in a pinch to keep a community safe, and allows or officers to pick and choose enforcement of certain laws.

When an officer is in the field sometimes things can happen that protocol or laws cannot deal with. When these kinds of situations come up it is the officer’s job to find a good solution to deal with the problem at hand. This can be helpful because there cannot be laws made for everything thus giving officers the choice of how to handle situations gives a degree of autonomy.

Officers often come across various issues that happen very quickly and they may not have time to radio in and ask what to do or how to handle something. Being able to respond quickly keeps not only the officer safe but also the citizens that may be near by and could get added into the situation. This creates the ability to deal with crimes quickly and safely.

Police departments all vary in the way they deal with certain crimes with some of the factors being how much room they have in detention facilities, the size of he beat they operate in, and the relationship the have with the community. Detention facilities have a big part in the enforcement of laws because the fuller one is the less likely an officer is to arrest someone for a smaller crime. When an officer has a smaller beat to operate in the relationship with the citizens usually becomes closer and they start to understand and empathize with them.

There are many upsides to police discretion that show the ideals of many great officers and departments, but in todays society social media has a big part in the image of police, The internet can spread many things and people have a tendency to focus on the bad things because of fear and the want to protect their community and loved ones.

Of course, there are also many negatives to police discretion that can justify some of the fear that the public feels like police brutality, arrests being too strict or too lenient, and bribing. These are major factors in why the people view the police forces.

Many people when talking about why the police scares them, they will say that they are afraid of a policeman deciding that actions the person takes are violent and it led to a violent altercation when one was never supposed to happen. Many videos and pictures can be found on the internet of this happening and it is a very frightening prospect for any person especially those of minorities that are statistically targeted more often. (see citation 3 for statistics)

Many places have officers that may enforce laws to strictly like decided to arrest someone for littering or driving without a seatbelt. These may cause more hostility between citizens and officers making it harder for people to call or help from the police. Vice versa if the arrests are to lenient then people may take advantage of these circumstances and do things that may bring harm to themselves or others.

Lastly bribing is another of the big factors that contributes to the negative way many see the police force. Corruption can happen at any level of police force and it can be daunting for any person to think that any officer they talk to is or isn’t helping them. In another version of bribing it can be an officer bribed by the criminals that they are supposed to be arresting and dealing with.

In conclusion many factors can lead to the positive or negative viewing of the police force. To be fixed and mend the bridge between citizen and officer both must work for it. Citizens should work on not viewing every officer in a bad light because of the few that have done bad. Officers should improve to help the citizens and not oppress or view them as only a job but as the ones they should protect and serve.

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