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POLICE DISCRETION
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Introduction
Discretion is the ability to make sound decisions based on good judgment using the
information at hand that will yield the most desirable outcome (Gaines, and Kappeler, 2011). In
police work, much of what occurs in the field occurs “at the officer’s discretion”. An officer
must assess a situation and make a decision to react in a specific manner in just a few short
seconds. Using discretion in a volatile situation can mean the difference between life and death.
Police Discretion
In the scenario, the officer used discretion by trying to give the suspect every attempt to
stop and follow her commands. When it became apparent he had little regard for her life, it was
up to her to do what she had to do to protect herself. Each time she had tried to apprehend the
man he proceeded to fight in an attempt to remain free, each time injuring her in the process. As
he advanced towards her, she realized his intent was to continue to do her bodily harm. At that
point, apprehending the suspect became an afterthought as fear for her own life took over.
I believe the officer was well within her rights in defending herself. She had issued
several warnings and made it clear that she expected him to cease and desist. When he continued
to move forward, even though he did not verbally threaten her, his physical actions made his
intent clear. She was within her rights when she discharged her weapon.
Conclusion
Exercising discretion in police work can save the life of an officer and calm an otherwise
dangerous situation. Constantly watching and processing information allows an officer to look at
a situation with clarity. If danger is apparent and it is not dissipating, drastic measures may need
POLICE DISCRETION
to be taken. On the other hand, what is perceived as danger may be fear, in which case, talking to
the person may diffuse the situation without violence. The wisdom to know the difference is
what makes a good police officer.
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