Pros And Cons Of Police Discretion (Essay Sample)

In Terry vs. Ohio, the police discretion was upheld by the Supreme Court to be valid and justified. This was the case where in the search and seizure of a person was based on the suspicions of Terry when he saw the suspects walk back and forth the same road and peeking a store window. This led Terry to approach the men; he stopped and frisked the men for any suspicious dangerous weapons carried by the men. He seized a gun in a pocket that led to the arrests of these men.

This is the discretion of a police that benchmarked cases of arresting a person. It is a landmark case in the history of the United States. In this case was held that the Fourth Amendment on unreasonable searches and seizures was not violated by Terry. The reason for the stop and frisk was to prevent the suspects to endanger the arresting officer from the weapons of the suspected violator or to conceal a piece of evidence.

The application of the Terry search however has seemed to be forgotten by the present police officers in the United States of America. There are two sides on which this may be argued: police officers are forced to subdue a suspected violator because of the fear; and on the other hand, the police officers are abusing the discretion the law has provided them.

Discretion in this case is not the same as how an average person would judge a person doing a criminality. There are laws to follow; rights to be upheld as reiterated in the US Constitution and in the Universal Declaration of Rights. First, there must be a probable cause that leads a police officer to suspect that a person is actually or has just committed a crime. When there is a probable cause, the police officer must see to it that the rights of the suspect must be upheld – the Miranda Rights. The Miranda Rights are those rights that are accorded to each individual who is to be arrested. They must be informed of their rights before they are arrested – the right to remain silent and the right to consult a lawyer. These rules must be followed, otherwise, the arrest is not valid and the suspected criminal must be released from custody from the authorities.

At present however, there is a question on how these rules are followed by the police. The black Americans, as an example, have been clamoring that they have been shot or arrested illegally by the policemen; in short, there was no probable cause, worse they have proven to be innocent from any crime. This case falls into the conclusion that the police are abusing the discretion that the law has given to them.

There is however a justification to the alleged abuse by the police by the discretion – fear. The violators at present have become more radical and extreme in their actions. The presence of the police appears to start a battle between them. Apparently, despite the laws being followed by the police, the violators use a greater force against the police. And to try to appease the situation, as it is the duty of the police, they use a greater force against the violators – a riot. Until it is a constant battle between the two.

Police discretion both have benefits and detriments depending on the situation. But it is the law that gave the police a discretion to arrest a violator. At the same time, the law also accords the violators rights that must never be abused. Either way, when there is a detriment or benefit in the discretion of the police, the law always has come into play. It only becomes mmore detrimental to the both when the law does not give them what is due to both the violator and the police.


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