Police Discretion and Discrimination

In the police system, discretion and discrimination are two issues that are often confused and misinterpreted by the public. Both issues have a great impact on ethical and moral decisions accepted by police officers and determine human rights and freedoms. Criminal justice institutions can change the situation by realizing, understanding, accepting, and controlling cultural diversity and human differences in their departments and in communities. Better educated police officers (together with minority officers and women officers) may bring new ideas and approaches to their communities that can help to solve many problems with minorities, low social calluses, racial and ethnic groups.

Police discretion means that a police officer may choose an action applied against a law-breaker. A system where judgment and discretion are applied under the glare of the public spotlight, while not operating with the precision and certainty of a computer program, is also very different from the kind of system often portrayed by the talkback ‘entertainers’. Depending on the whim of the moment, they will tell you that the police do not have enough power — or that they have too much; that the lawyers are manipulating the system (for their clients or themselves); that magistrates and judges are ignoring the law, being too soft — or being unreasonably harsh; that not enough criminals are going to prison for long enough — or that too many of them are being treated brutally in oppressive conditions in goals; that the penalties prescribed by law are too soft. For instance, a police officer may take a person to jail for civil disobedience act or stern him a lecture (Jason 1991).

In contrast to discretion, police discrimination is illegal and unlawful action based on gender, racial or ethnic differences. Police discrimination is still a problem for many people involved in the criminal justice system. Today many racial and ethnic minorities have a skeptical belief for law enforcement and the criminal justice system as a whole. In order not to allow increasing in violence, the criminal justice system shall work in order to establish partnerships and friendly relations with minority communities. The criminal justice system and minorities do not work together in a good way mostly because of fear they feel from both sides. On the one side, the criminal justice system may give badges to people who suddenly realize that they have a lot of power. Discrimination is still one of the main problems that affected modern society and human relations in different spheres. Members of different groups traditionally have been underrepresented and disadvantaged socially, politically, and economically. They think that the criminal justice system is composed almost exclusively of white employees, many of whom possess little understanding of minority communities or their cultures. The task force concluded that this lack of understanding created distrust among the state’s minority populations. Besides, today some black officers may think they shall control the minorities and they act too harshly with them. Today, still many black citizens and other minorities do not believe in the criminal justice system (Schuman et al 2003). They think that different standards are used for minority communities, i.e. who have more money can expect a higher level of police service. To begin with, the criminal justice system shall teach their officers how to communicate with ethnic groups and to change the way they deal with minority communities today. Police officers in their work shall break the wall of race difference. In their communication with minority groups, police officers shall break distrust, show patience for people and provide reliable information for them. For instance, a police officer may take to jail a person of Asian ancestry but stern a lecture for a white criminal. The main problem is that police officers do not show tolerance to minorities regarding language barriers, ignorance, or misunderstanding. Police officers shall try to understand the attitudes of all members of the community, including minorities (Peak, 20the 03).

The main similarity between two concepts (discretion and discmination) is that they depend upon a personal attitudes and morals of an officer and a situation. To communicate effectively with minorities, police officers shall be aware of their cultural difference and respect traditions and beliefs of ethnic groups, their religion, and race. Police departments shall keep the tendency to be less aggressive. The number of women and minority officers shall increase in police departments. The criminal justice system shall overpower the idea that police is oriented only for man where only physical strength and manual power are needed. The criminal justice system has search for people with good interpersonal skills that can meet the requirements of twenty-first century policing (Peak, 2003). A diverse staff of police departments will help to make good relations and to understand properly both minorities and the criminal justice system. The state shall play also an important role in establishing good relations. It has to guarantee education for minorities, to inform them about their rights and duties. The prejudices are a part of the negative image of different ethnic groups associated with terrorist attacks and jihad movements. Overt behavior is likely when there is a willingness to accept the Arab Muslim ethnic group as a part of the staff. Some companies act out their anti-diversity attitudes no matter how negatively management reacts to them. These negative attitudes are learned mainly from mass media and negative publicity (Schuman et al 2003).

In sum, while discretion is legally acceptable discrimination is illegal and unlawful. Personal and individual prejudices and negative attitudes towards other racial groups are the main factors of discrimination. Police departments are the reflection of the whole society.based onlice culture developed long before on the basis of points of view of the society. The suspicion which the ethnic groups and minorities now feel about the police often reflects their negative view of the society. Twenty first countries become more diverse.


Jason B. Johnson, (1991). “Police Agencies Struggle to Rebuild Ties with Minorities,” The Dallas (Texas) Morning News, December 16, 9-A.

Peak, K.J. (2003). Policing American Methods, Issues, Challenges (Inglewood, CA: Regents/Prentice-Hall.

Schuman, H. et al (2003). Racial attitudes in America: Trends and interpretations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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