1. What is police discretion? Provide a detailed discussion.

Police discretion is a loose term  that refers to an officer’s freedom as to whether a stop should be made, a suspect should be arrested, or if any other law enforcement action should be taken (AMU, n.d.). This also expands beyond just the officer in the field and encompasses administrative decisions that are related to mission (AMU, n.d.). 

I believe I have experienced a situation involving officer discretion once firsthand. I once went on a ride along with my Brother-in law. He responded to call of a fire burning in the street. When we arrived, we found out that a man was working on his boat’s motor and he drained all the fuel from the engine. He dumped it into the street and lit it on fire to dispose of it. When we arrived one the seen my Brother-in law told me he was going to give this man a warning and talking to about how he disposed of the fuel. This so far fits the definition of discretion. However, once he confronted this man things went a little bit south. The man became belligerent and uncooperative when approached about the fire burning in the street. After about five minutes of this man behaving erratically the discretion in this situation was changed to arresting him. I could not tell you the charges that would have been left as a warning had he cooperated with the police, but I feel like this is a good example of the freedom an officer is afforded in any given situation. 

2. Discuss and provide examples of internal & external controls of police discretion. 

An internal control of police discretion is an attempt to limit discretion using operation guidelines and rules (AMU, n.d.). This is done so as part of the bureaucratic structure of most police agencies (AMU, n.d.). A good example of this being controlled in through the use of promotion or transfer opportunities within the organization (AMU, n.d.). Sometimes punitive consequences are used to control discretion such as loss of pay or demotion (AMU, n.d.). 

When speaking about external controllers of discretion good examples of these come from local and federal legislative branches of government (AMU, n.d.). A good example of the external control is the mandate to make an arrest in domestic violence situations (AMU, n.d.).


AMU. (n.d.). Police Discretion. Retrieved from

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