Police discretion is police best judgment that leads to actions like: arrests, use of force, distribution of service, and activities. Police discretion or judgment depends on his estimation of the costs and benefits of several actions. Police actions depend on his duty and morality (Wilson, 1968). Police discretion was rarely studied, ignored in the past, and was misunderstood. Today police discretion is the focus of most criminal justice studies. “There is today a steadily growing recognition of police discretion and increasing support for the contention that it is not only necessary and desirable, but should be openly acknowledged . Structured and controlled” (Goldstein, 1977, P. 94) .Police use of discretion has many benefits and problems. Community policing, problem oriented policing and the use of skid rows have the least potential for controlling officer discretion and providing accountability for policing. Zero tolerance; on the other hand, has the most potential for controlling officer discretion.
Police use of discretion in support of
In the past, however police use of discretion when it came to filing criminal charges was typically not an option, Valente noted. "We go by the prosecutor's office. The filing of criminal charges relating to narcotics is much different from issuing motor vehicle summonses. For example, if a patient or caller should be in possession of CDS or paraphernalia, they would be charged accordingly. Many times, however, this is the motivation needed by some to seek the counseling needed for their drug addition."
Identify factors that influence police use of discretion
Police are vested with wide discretionary power in their decision to arrest. Conflicting organizational goals, the dependence of police on the communities they serve, and various situational factors make full enforcement of the law neither possible nor desirable. The primary legal factor influencing police use of discretion is the seriousness of the offense (Terry 1967, 179) because the police are more likely to arrest adults and juveniles when the offense is a felony rather than a misdemeanor (see, e.g., Black 1971).
Police Discretion Definition - Black's Law Dictionary