SOC 3750 Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Selective Enforcement, Jaywalking, Decision-Making

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Police Discretion – Chapter 8
Police Discretion:
- Can choose if they want to take action or not. Decision making comes into play.
- Tension. If they make the wrong decision they will be scrutinized, but are expected to act fast
and efficiently in their decision making
- Selective enforcement. To give or not to give the ticket (ex jaywalking). Have the ability to give
just a warning if they don’t believe it is worth their time/ effort, or resources
- “Mask”: Klockars and Mastrofski. People generally believe that there is full enforcement of all
laws but there is usually discretion involved.
- Function of the law means if the law is known it should be enforced. Upholding the law means
it will not happen again. However sometimes just contacting the authorities will deter further
- offers flexibility for officers as enforcing every single law in every single instance would
require much more time dedication; selective enforcement is enforcing the law in optimal
Discretion Rationale
- Laws. Is the law clear to the individuals or the situation on if they have broken the law? Officer
must ask themselves this when determining to make an arrest or fine, Ex. See child jaywalking,
most likely didn’t know it was illegal
- Resources are limited in the police department. Want to get the most out of our money. Have it
going towards serious crimes rather than petty one’s seems more important at the time. Ex. Stop
a speeding car or someone who just littered?
- Alienation. Makes those that are disciplined seen as outcasts if others find out they were
disciplined by the police
- Allows more time to do other tasks if they avoid disciplining small tasks
- If people cooperate and are willing to change what they did incorrectly there’s a higher chance
they will be “let off”
Relevant Variables (arrest)
- Complainant. Saves people time if they have no preference on what happens to the person in
question. Just make the arrest and leave.
- Relational distance. If friends or family of the complainant the arrest is less likely to occur.
They are under the assumption that the people will work out their differences.
- Respect. If you show respect to a cop you are less likely to be arrested (related to cooperation).
- Formal guide. Sometimes discretion is removed and they have to take action- drunk driving is
an example of this
Youth (Schulenburg, 2006)
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