The Advantages of Police Discretion

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The Advantages of Police Discretion
Police use discretion every day as a part of normal field work. (Police image by Zeno from

Police discretion allows law enforcement officials to effectively make decisions in the field when no clear-cut solution is illuminated by law or a handbook. This trend in police work has many advantages such as allowing officers the flexibility to handle each situation in a manner that best fits its individual needs.

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Use of Force

A police officer has the ability to utilise discretion when determining an acceptable level of force to against a suspect. An officer is able to use lethal force if he believes his life to be in danger but he is not obligated to do so. Preserving life is always the foremost concern of officers and allowing them the ability to create every opportunity to do so is advantageous to the system across the board in providing victims of an offence closure and allowing an offender an opportunity to do something with his life and amend it as opposed to simply ending it.

Crime Prevention

Police officers are not simply rule-following soldiers. Discretion, as it is used by these law enforcement professionals, acts as a deterrent to crime simply by avoiding predictable patterns that criminals can take advantage of. A police officer that has an ordered route of patrol each night can be mapped and criminals will target areas at times where police are not immediately available. Discretion in this area however allows an officer to choose his patterns, mix them up and avoid leaving locations without police presence for too long.

Arrests and Ticketing

Police officers have discretion when enforcing some areas of the law insofar as who is ticketed or even arrested. It isn't cost effective for an officer to attempt to pull over everyone he suspects of speeding or attempt to search the vehicles of those he pulls over. The advantage here allows an officer to focus his energy on those situations where he believes a law has genuinely been broken in reckless fashion or when he believes a suspect is hiding something and may have broken more serious laws.

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