Police discretion within the criminal justice system


Policediscretion within the criminal justice system

Policediscretion is the decree accorded to police officers to make verdictson how well they wish to carry out their duties but with caution notto violate the laws of the land as well as break their code ofethics. These discretions best suit minor offences such as trafficoffences where the officers may choose to let go off the offender ifthey prove apologetic or plead for forgiveness (Kelling,1999).Officers however ought to be cautious when issuing discretions assome offenders can opt to influence them with intent of getting awaywith their offences.

Policediscretion has its vicissitudes and quite often than not tends toconflict with the judicial criminal systems. Many cases of differentmagnitudes overwhelm the courts and it is for this reason that policediscretion comes in handy with intent of relieving the courts offsome minor cases. Police officers need handle petty offences such astraffic offences, domestic disagreements, and vulgar language amongothers. By so doing, the backlog in courts would ease making it easyfor judges to pass on verdicts fast. Congestion in remands ispossible as emanating from the backlog many offenders hold for longwhile awaiting trial.

Policediscretion is a robust policing tool, which aims at dealing withoffenders immediately an offence occurs. This is with intent ofavoiding the rather lengthy procedure of going for hearings at thecourt, which is time consuming. This makes work for the officerseasier given the mandate to handle criminals at the point of theiroffence. Offenders also avoid repeating offences in fear of facingruthless officers who may not be lenient or understanding as theofficers have the sole decision of passing the discretion.

Somemitigating factors also result into police discretion as offendersmay have valid reason to justify their offence irrespective of itsillegality. This however may depend on how manipulative andconvincing the offender is hence overpowering the officer. In someinstances, an offence may be ambiguous requiring clarity leading todiscretion while seeking further investigation. According to(Kelling,1999),overriding circumstances may call for police discretion. For example,students cheating on exams while invigilators walk out of exam halls.

Policediscretion however has its cons. If allowed to thrive withoutscrutiny, it can give rise to criminal profiling as well as wrongfulfines and punishments. Depending on how manipulative an individualcan be, they can easily convince the officers thereby getting awayeasily hence avoiding the long arm of the law. An officer can givewrong discretions to an enemy aimed at getting back at them andarguing their vulnerability to the officer, fined or convictedwrongfully. Because of these arguments therefore, police officersdiffer with courts. According to, (Kelling,1999) amanipulative offender who ought to be behind bars can easily escapeupon a successful convincing to the officers. This results tocriminals escaping punishment and those offenders lacking justice.

Withan aim of drawing the thin line between appropriate action andmisconduct from rogue officers, police discretion therefore ought toregulate to avoid such instances. Clear guidelines should beformulated to demarcate on the provisions for police discretion andwhat ought to pass through the court system. By so doing, instancesof misconduct are bound to reduce and an emphasis of justice to allenhanced.


Kelling,G. (1999). Brokenwindows and police discretion.Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs,National Institute of Justice.