The use of force is one of the issues that are continuously debated by many lawyers as well as journalists. Very often, the decisions of law-enforcement officers can give rise to controversies. This paper is aimed at examining how such a concept as police discretion can be applied to this question.
Moreover, it is critical to understand how police discretion can be structured and controlled. Overall, one can say that discretion is vital for law enforcement or maintenance of order, and police officers should have an opportunity to make decisions about the use of force to respond to a specific problem. Nevertheless, such cases should be properly investigated because, in this way, police administrators will be able to identify possible violations of the law and misuse of authority. In this way, governmental officials can strengthen the public trust in law-enforcement agencies. These are the main questions that should be examined in greater detail.
It should be noted that legal professionals speak about the use of the so-called normal force. This term is applied to describe a certain coercive act that can be regarded as excessive, but at the same time, it is quite appropriate under certain circumstances (Hunt, 1985). The problem is that various codes and instructions cannot specify every challenge or problem that police officers can face (Dempsey & Forst, 2011, p. 131; Hunt, 1985).
Therefore, they need to choose a course of action that can best fit the needs of a particular situation. To a great extent, the use of normal force is a form of police discretion. However, very often it is rather difficult to make a police officer accountable for his/her actions. In many cases, there are no distinct criteria that can determine the legality of a person’s action. This is one of the challenges that can be identified since it profoundly affects the work of police officers.
There are many attempts to describe the use of police discretion and identify the main elements of this notion. For instance, the use of force can be motivated by two tasks, namely the maintenance of order and law enforcement (Wilson, 2009, p. 83). Additionally, much attention should be paid to such factors as the need to ensure safety in the community or the protection of one’s own life.
Certainly, this analysis is necessary for providing better guidance to police officers. The study and analysis of different cases can demonstrate how a police officer should act when facing a certain situation. This is one of the benefits that can be identified. However, the use of discretion will remain an inseparable part of police work. One cannot assume that every possible situation can be foreseen or studied during training. Therefore, law enforcement officers should have an opportunity to take independent decisions; otherwise, they may not be able to ensure the safety of the community. Thus, excessive control is not always beneficial. This is one of the points that can be made.
To some degree, the use of police discretion can be controlled by investigating the cases during which law-enforcement officers might have exceeded their authority. Many of these cases are related mostly to the use of force (Banks, 2012, p. 23; Berg, 1999). This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about police shootings and the use of deadly force. It should be mentioned that there are cases when police officers can use force because they are affected by stress (Hunt, 1985, p. 327).
Sometimes, this behavior can lead to disastrous effects. This is why such situations should be scrutinized. One can say that it is necessary to exercise more control of police discretion since, in this way, one can better prevent the abuse of authority. This is one of the challenges that are often discussed in governmental officials, journalists, and lawyers. Moreover, this control can be critical for protecting the lives of people whose actions can be misjudged by police officers.
Much attention should be paid to the use of deadly force. Additionally, police administrators should make sure that groupthink does not affect the work of police officers. In other words, these professionals should not be afraid of expressing their opinions, even when these opinions do not coincide with the views of people who occupy a higher position in the workforce hierarchy. This precaution is critical for preventing the use of excessive force.
On the whole, the work of police officers is extremely complicated because very often there are no clear guidelines that can help them make decisions, especially at the time when they need to use force. These professionals may need to take actions that may seem excessive; however, this response can be the only way of protecting the lives of other people. This is one of the difficulties that should not be overlooked. Still, such cases should be investigated since, in this way, one can eliminate possible violations of the law. Such precautions are vital for upholding the rights of citizens. These are the main details that can be distinguished.
Banks, C. (2012). Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice. New York, NY: SAGE Publications.
Berg, B. (1999). Policing in Modern Society. New York, NY: Gulf Professional Publishing.
Dempsey, J., & Forst, L. (2011). An Introduction to Policing. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Hunt, J. (1985). Police Accounts of Normal Force. Urban Life, 3(4), 315-341.
Wilson, J. (2009). Varieties of Police Behavior: The Management of Law and Order in Eight Communities. Boston, MA: Harvard University Press.