There are a number of advantages regarding
police discretion in the fact that it allows the officer to humanely treat
people, giving them a second chance, and improving on the public perception of
the police. If the police were to follow the laws to the latter, they will be
perceived to be unfair by the society and hence rejected (Rivera, 2006) Discretion
can also be said to promote autonomy in the sense that the cops and the
community at large are not enslaved by the written rules it promotes realistic
goals and takes into account the fact that the police are presented with unique
situations on the ground that requires personal judgment depending on the
situation. Fyfe (1996: 183) contends that police ought to enjoy some degree of
discretion, but like discretion in any profession, it can be justified only to
achieve a broadly agreed-upon purpose; in the case of the police, this purpose
is often hard to define. Some commentators argue that police discretion should
be limited so that, for example, the rules and regulations of the police and
ethical standards circumscribe that discretion. Reiman argues even more
radically that “police discretion has no rightful place in a free society” (Reiman
1996: 80). Others have argued that during discretion, Police don’t have the
slightest idea about what could be the consequences of their action and that
discretion is a potential tool for abuse that might result into potential
needless death and/or injury (Peak, 2009). Many argue that if police are
permitted wide discretion, a high level of accountability should match it, so
that processes and machinery exist to investigate complaints of misconduct or
abuse of discretion. REF Because of the
discretionary mistakes that are inevitably made by officers, attempts have been
made to control operational decision making among police officers (Butterfield,
Edwards, and Woodall, 2005). Lipsky (1980) notes that discretion has been
curtailed in regards to domestic assaults where police officers are encouraged
to charge offenders rather than informally resolve the situation. The issue of
police discretion has become an important public concern, for example, Lord
Scarman’s report on the 1981 riots in Brixton emphasized that “the exercise of discretion lies at the
heart of the policing function.”‘ The Scarman report led to a number
of changes in policing throughout England. The issue of police discretion
continued to be a critical issue during the Miners’ Strike of 1984, as there
were frequent challenges to the manner of police response to miners’ protest
activities. Enduring focus on the nature of police discretion in the English
criminal justice system was assured by the enactment of the Police and Criminal
Evidence Act 1984. The Act not only introduced new laws and procedures to deal
with criminal activities, but it established a system of greater police
accountability to achieve the proper balance between the investigative needs of
the police and the rights of citizens.

While police discretion is seen as inevitable
and essential, there remains an underlying fear that its exercise may lead to
arbitrary, corrupt or unethical behaviour.  An officer’s personal attributes and cultural
background may influence how they view certain crimes. Racist officers might
abuse the discretion aspect and make arrests on the basis of ethnic background.
The location of the crime also influences the police decision with crimes
committed in what has been classified as hot spots likely to result in arrests.
Arrests are most likely to happen in a more open society or a racially mixed
society since there is a high chance of crime based on the racial, economic
differences, and social disorder (Petheram, 2009).  In response legislative changes were introduced
with the aim of regulating police behaviour with the most recent being on the
15 July 2014 the College of Policing launched a ‘Code of Ethics’ which set out
nine policing principles and ten standards of professional behaviour was laid
as a code of practice before Parliament as part of the Anti-Social Behaviour,
Crime and Policing Act 2014. The Code of Ethics sets out the principles and
standards of behaviour that will promote, reinforce and support the highest
standards from everyone who works in policing in England and Wales Additionally
the code is designed to guide decision making for everyone in policing.
Combined with the standards of professional behaviour, the code will encourage
officers and staff to challenge those who fall short of the standards expected.
The principles set out in this Code of Ethics originate from the ‘Principles of
Public Life’ published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in 1995, as
these continue to reflect public expectations. The Code includes the principles
of ‘fairness’ and ‘respect’ as research has shown these to be crucial to
maintaining and enhancing public confidence in policing. Police ethics and a code of conduct were
developed in

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