Law Enforcement

Discretion appears to be a vigorous and highly required implement, which law enforcement bodies utilize to exercise their authority and preserve social order. However, discretion should be wisely and lawfully used in the due process in order to adhere to the ethical borders, especially when police officers have a legitimate right to take away freedom or liberty. This is continuous decision-making process, which requires avoiding unnecessary arbitrariness. In case when the discretion appears to be undirected and uncontrolled, it might violate due process of law enforcement. In case, when law enforcement bodies obtain excessive discretion, there is a possibility that they will be capable of complying with juridical and ethical norms, rising the issue of the shortage of societal respect and credence. Citizens should be free from any excessive discretion and the arbitrary police power. The current paper will demonstrate the case, depicting how police officers violate due process through excessive discretion, violating ethical boundaries. In addition, it will also demonstrate that excessive discretion leads to police brutality and misuse of discretion in crises.

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Ethical considerations are highly relevant for the criminal justice, as they affect the due process, use of force, and discretion. In fact, this is the way of how morality affects the manner, in which professionals work and operate. Ethics appear to be the foundation of the criminal justice system, as it provides the possibility of evolving the moral argumentation to outline criminal activity and appropriate punishments. Criminal justice system can be regarded as most effective in case it operates in an ethical manner. Discretion stands as a forcible and solid, but dubious implement, which police utilizes to execute the power and jurisdiction in the attempt of sustaining the social order.

The Notion of Discretion

The police officer is supposed to utilize the accountability of the discretion bestowed in the position and execute it according to the law. Thus, the principle of reasonableness has o direct and guide officer’s determinations, requiring the police officer to consider all existing conditions and circumstances in defining whether any legal actions have to be taken. The wise and consistent use of discretion, grounded on professional policing competence, can be highly helpful in preserving good relationships, while retaining confidence of the public. The police officers might face difficulties when choosing between the conflicting courses of action and this will be further demonstrated in the current paper. However, it is important to understand that opportune and well-timed word of advice instead of the arrest might be more appropriate in the specific circumstances, being a much more efficient method of attaining the desired objective of law enforcement. Discretion can be outlined as the capability of choosing between two or more courses of conduct. Law enforcement professionals have a great deal of discretions concerning the time and conditions as for when to enforce the law, how to enforce it, how to handle disputes, when to utilize force, etc. Each day is filled with decisions, both minor and major. The use of professional discretion exceeds ethical boundaries, when the discretion allows a decision maker to treat a group or individual in a different manner than other groups or individuals for no justifiable reason. 

Pollock demonstrates that discretion is by no means restricted to law enforcement. He states that discretion in criminal justice has been blamed for contributing to injustice. Discretion appears to be a valuable constituent part of law enforcement. At the same time the requirement for discretion results in greater dependence on individual ethical codes in place of laws and regulations and. The facts demonstrate that patrol offices appear to be the most apparent participants of the police authority having accountability to keep guard, observe and control, and interpose in cases and situations of offenses, conflicts, accidents, and welfare. On the other hand, investigators can be viewed as the groups, which are primarily concerned with collecting evidence to be utilized in court. In fact, the ethical decisions, which the above-mentioned groups encounter, sometimes appear to be different. Thus, patrol officers might have to make a decision relevant to outlining crime and initiating the formal legal process, while undercover officers are supposed to make decisions with regard to the informant, deception, and target selection. Moreover, it is important to mention that because the majority of police departments in the country are small, numerous officers fulfill two or even more functions, which leads to the fact that their discretion exceeds above-mentioned boundaries. 

Formal tuition in regards with discretion is of crucial significance for the diversion of law enforcement bodies’ unintentional misuse or abuse of their existing power. In fact, the legitimacy of law enforcement’s activity appears to be closely related to police compliance with legal norms and standards. The major objective of assuring legality in the law enforcement bodies’ behavior is expressed in regulations directing this behavior, securing individual’s rights to freedom and ownership, disengagement from groundless encroachments, and righteous and uniform treatment. Thus, the facts demonstrate that the rule of law presupposes that the society has to be free from arbitral authority. Therefore, discretion should be confined and structured to impede needless obstinacy and despotism with regard to the decision making procedure, as unguided discretionary power actually violates the due processes, especially when the requirement adherence appears to be absent. Thus, law enforcement organizations are lawfully obliged to dedicate all actions and do everything in order to direct law enforcement bodies according to the existing laws, regulations, and rules. Discretionary authority stands for the most critical and complicated exercise of power of the law enforcement in the U.S. Police force discretion in regards with a democratical community and public is highly crucial and required for the social order sustainment. Nevertheless, the execution of the discretion might result in an intolerable and alarming antimony in a democratical community. Firstly, the juridical order confines law enforcement authority to juridical responsibilities and limits individual discretion, taking into account the existing authority. Secondly, there is a solid requirement of having clear, acceptable, and equal executing of grounds and procedures within the police interaction with citizens. In fact, the actual character of law enforcement exertion obscures the complexities that police offices encounter within the decision-making process. They consist of two major dimensions. The first one stands for the situational complicacy. The second one is related to the situational complexity of the police response. These dimensions require police to decide between appropriate and inappropriate procedures. The complicacy is exacerbated in case when the procedures executed by the police officers are subjected to the inquiry of an intricate community and indistinct office credentials. Law enforcement entails more than merely dealing with criminals. Police also deals with other types of behavior, which do not always have a criminal character, for instance, addressing citizens’ concerns. 

The Violation of Ethical Boundaries through Excessive Discretion

Law enforcement is featured by its consolidation of ethical code, discretion, policies, rules, laws, and regulations, which actually stand for the professional accountability. The above-mentioned concepts appear to be the core values of the police. Despite the fact that codes and guidelines provide guidance and directions for dealing with numerous ethical dilemmas, the majority of situations require police officers to utilize discretion grounded on professional standards and judgments. Nonetheless, the discretionary power should not be inadequate or excessive. The lack of balance in this matter can actually conserve needless, exorbitant, or inadequate discretion, which appears to be hazardous and detrimental for both the society in general and law enforcement in particular. The following case vividly portrays how excessive discretion crosses the boundaries of ethics. The case is related to Rodney King of Los Angeles, who together with his friends made a decision to drive a car in a drunken state. They traveled at a high speed and beyond the legal limits. The facts demonstrate that traffic police tried to stop the car, but the driver renounced to do it, and this resulted in the prolonged police chase. When the car was ultimately deterred, the driver exited the last, and was teased two times and “then beaten by police batons 51 times, leading to multiple bone fractures, brain and kidney damage, and other forms of physical injury”. Despite the fact that there was an eyewitness, who recorded all this brutality and provided the video to the main means of mass communication, the “white police officers were charged with the use of excessive force, the largely white jury found them non-guilty”. 

The current case vividly demonstrates that the issue of unfettered police discretion with regard to the traffic stops poses a solid concern. In fact, the influence of law enforcement discretion on minority communities stands as the main concern in terms of the analyzed concept discussion. The police officer is supposed to conduct car stops when necessary, but in case of racial minorities, numerous intercourses with the police aggravate to a more solid offense majorly resulting in arrests based on how the accused individual responds to the laws enforcement bodies. The reaction solidly depends on the resolution of either deter will lead to a premonitory give to a driver, or an accused individual being observed as a criminal appellate, or a civil rights claimant. In fact, the number of appeals from civilians regarding the police officers’ usage of authority and force is unnaturally high, standing for a minimum of 30 complains per agency. The major part of complaints is related to the fact that the police officer has exceeded discretion because of insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation. Citizens’ appellate frequently due to the fact that accused individuals or bystanders impeach police legality, because the law enforcement’s intervention does not seem to be necessary in the occurrence. These are the cases when the police are most probable to adopt the corporal coercion, increasing the hazard of traumas to both parties involved. In fact, the discretion allows law enforcement bodies to “either issue a traffic citation or give a verbal warning to the traffic offender in this case”. 

Excessive Discretion and Police Brutality

Thus, the current case reveals that the discretion is an integral part of all facets of, for instance, a traffic stop, as it defines who will be stopped, what will be the duration of the actual stop, who will be notified and apprised, who will have to be interrogated and cross-examined, who will be arrested, and apparently, who may be abused or mistreated. In fact, discretion subsists in case when officers appear to have the self-government to make an individual decision concerning their reactions in a variety of different situations. The facts demonstrate that during the last thirty years, the quantity of situations, when an police’s execution of discretion has actually infringed citizens’ freedoms in terms of the arrest decisions, has been elevating. Therefore, the abuse of deception during the arrest appears to have a solid influence on both the arrested person and the police organization. 

On the one hand, the discretion appear to be more a police’s expounding of his/her discretionary restrictions in a variety of situations than merely the administration concept. On the other hand, there is a possibility to view this situation in a form of failure of the law enforcement administration, which actually leads to the encouragement of police’s exorbitant usage of discretion. The challenge becomes evident when the law enforcement agencies and police officers disband the accountability to review and reconsider their usage of discretion or neglect tuition, which will help them in becoming more effective and efficient without negative consequences, repercussions, and violation of ethical boundaries. In fact, it is also significant to understand that social and mental agents have their impact on usage of discretion as well. The aggression and anxiety are two of the major reasons, which stimulate law enforcement bodies to overact when encountering perceivably threatening situations (Prenzler, 2009). The anxiety limits self-governing, while fear-grounded assumptions elevate adrenaline. They provoke the “amygdale in the temporal lobe of the brain”, which controls emotions and are particularly stimulated and triggered by panic, anxiety, and fear. Thus, both emotions are amygdale-driven, amplifying the destructiveness of the bias. Therefore, in situations involving aggression, law enforcement officers inwardly acquit some unfair and prejudiced procedure with the sound reasoning. Thus, in case if they encounter anger and opposition, they might react without a second thought regarding their exceeded discretion practices, which violate ethical boundaries. The excessive discretion appears to be a synonym to police brutality, as it exceeds the reasonably necessary actions, which are required for the accomplishment of a lawful police arrest or purpose. The facts demonstrate that victims suffering from the police brutality are often savagely beaten in the process of their arrest. They are unlawfully condemned and censured of a crime, might lose their property and freedom and encounter a high level of social stigmatization or might even encounter death, which are all considered to be violations of ethical boundaries. However, these people are frequently afraid of reporting the abuse so as not to complicate the situation further.


Nevertheless, law enforcement can be viewed as a significantly distinguished and venerated profession. The issue of discretion appears to be one of the most significant challenges. Thus, the discretion together with the securing of responsibility for its usage are very complicated issues, which have actually solidified in the general overt view. With increasing public perception of law enforcement, law enforcement bodies should be conscientious in sustaining their law enforcement operations and practices. Thus, for the police officers to perform their job efficiently, they are supposed to establish credence and gain respect of the public. These two notions appear only when police adheres to the rule of law pledge and ethcal codes and operate accountably in applying discretion. The latter appears to be a significant but sometimes unpredictable implement, providing police officers with an opportunity to control and sustain social order. Unguided and exceeding discretion results in the violation of ethics and freedoms, which are secured by the Constitution. 

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