Police discretion - Police discretion One of the most...

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Police discretion One of the most controversial distinctions of police authority is their discretion over individual rights. Our nation’s concept and respect for individual rights stems from our forefathers and the creation of the Constitution. Being a country with grassroots in freedom and revolution, our outlook towards individual rights and liberty remain strong. Therefore much emphasis is placed on the Constitution as the rule of law and its interpretation of individual rights affects the way police organizations conduct themselves. Three styles of police behavior in America have been identified: 1) legalistic style of policing; 2) watchman style of policing; and 3) service style of policing. The legalistic style of police behavior is concerned with those police officers who believe they are representatives of the law that they are sworn to uphold. Legalistic police officers refrain from judgment on the basis of the spirit of the law, trying to judge only whether a law is broken or followed. The legalistic style of policing could be equated with the "police officer who would give his own mother a ticket for speeding' philosophy. The watchman style of policing produces the opposite type of police officer. The watchman police style "overlooks" or ignores many violations of the law. These police officers, when not acting on a violation, are inclined to issue more warnings than tickets, and make fewer arrests. The service style of policing makes the greatest use of discretion. These police officers judge each situation on its own merits and base their decision to arrest on the well- being of the community. The service style of policing is a balance between the legalistic and the watchman styles of policing and has been suggested as providing one of the better forms of police-community relations. Police discretion has been defined as "the power to consider all circumstances and then determine whether any legal action is to be taken. Many citizens as well as police officers feel police should not have the authority of discretion. These individuals feel it should be left to the court's discretion whether to inflict punishment upon a lawbreaker or ultimately to decide whether an offense has been committed. The conception of police officers as nonjudges is a misnomer. Police officers must utilize judgment daily in their job performance. Police discretion is used as an arrest or not-to-arrest judgment in the same manner a prosecuting attorney uses discretion in the plea-bargaining process. However, the prosecuting attorney and the judge usually do not have the power of discretion until the police officer makes the decision to arrest. Police officers exercise a tremendous amount of discretion in carrying out their functions. Police encounter a wide range of behaviors and a variety of situations that the law hasn't even thought about yet. One of the most amazing things about policing is not who they arrest, but who and how many they let go (nonarrest options, leniency, underreaction). On the other hand, police work is dangerous, and officers sometimes
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This note was uploaded on 11/02/2011 for the course POLICING T 333 taught by Professor Crystaldickersonbynum during the Spring '11 term at University of Phoenix.

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Police discretion - Police discretion One of the most...

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