Police Discretion

Police discretion is a very important aspect in matters concerning criminal justice. There has been a constant dilemma between enforcing the law to the latter and/or to the spirit of the law. Discretion in the broader sense can be defined as the individual’s ability to make a decision basing on the principle of courses of the action. During training, the police officers are presented with different possible scenarios that they may encounter when they are out on duty. However, the situations presented are not exhaustive and the police more often than not come face to face with intriguing situations that demand their personal decision. The laws don’t cover all aspects and thus there are always new laws being put in place allowing for the police officers to use discretion in the mean time. There are also situations in which the law is ambiguous and the police officer will disregard the various interpretations of the law and employ his or her discretion in arriving at a decision (Rivera, 2006). Police discretion is usually put to use when the officers are presented with many options to come up with one choice they deem necessary depending on the situation at hand. Philosophers Ronald Dworkin and H.L.A. Hart have referred to discretion as “the hole in the doughnut” (Ndsaystarr, 2006). Discretion is the void in the middle of a ring consisting of policies and procedures. However, police are not always supposed to exercise discretion. In some instances, the law and departmental policies do limit or eliminate the discretion altogether. Discretion is usually bound by certain norms including professional, legal, social, and moral norms (Scott, 2009).

Discretion variables
The police discretion takes into considerations many factors which can be summarized into three broad categories. These are the offenders’ variables which include those aspects that are directly linked to the offender including age, race, economic status, gender, and health among others. The police will sympathize and offer lectures to some law breakers depending on these variables. The situation variables also come into play when the police make a decision. Such variables include the seriousness of the crime, the type of property involved in the crime, who initiated the investigations, and many more others. The police also become more bureaucratic in the presence of the witnesses, an audience, or the media. Lastly, the systems variables include factors in the society’s systems that come into play when the police exercise discretion. Police will portray leniency when the courts and the correctional facilities become clogged, and they will be strict when the city requires revenue. Communities with enough social service resources will allow the cops to use more of non-arrest options compared to those without such resources. Again, the manner in which the cops perceive the distress call will determine how they will react on arrival at the scene (l1ndsaystarr, 2006).

Advantages of police discretion

Having understood the concept of police discretion, one would want to know whether such a concept really has some benefits to the society or not. Among the advantages of police discretion is 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). The other merit of police discretion is that it promotes realistic goals. In this regard, discretion takes into account the fact that the police are presented with unique situations on the ground that requires personal judgment depending on the situation. Discretion is also necessary for efficiency in the criminal justice system. If the cops were to follow the law to the latter, then the criminal justice system would be overwhelmed with the number of cases presented before them. 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. They are under particular circumstances allowed to route the way for the law. Finally, the discretion promotes job satisfaction for the cops in that they are allowed to exercise some powers which are provided for within the law.

Disadvantages of police discretion

The disadvantages of police discretion mostly lie in the abuse of the privileges they have in regard to exercising the discretion power. Discretion has been seen as inviting partiality in dealing with the citizens as well as forming an opportunity for corruption. Others have argued that during discretion, the cops don’t have the slightest idea about what could be the consequences of their action (Peak, 2009). Police discretion is a potential tool for abuse that might result into potential needless death and/or injury. A cop’s choice may be influenced by personal factors arriving at an irrational decision.

There are possible variations in how the cops might think of a given crime. 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).

Areas most favored by police discretion

Police discretion has been observed to be common in domestic violence and traffic offences. In matters to do with domestic violence, the police have been on the forefront asking the social workers for assistance. They have treated domestic violence as a private matter better left for counseling, cooling off periods, and social service referrals. Discretion is used especially when both parties are seen as equally involved in the violence and are either arrested or asked to separate for a few days to dissipate the anger (stánka, 2009).

In traffic, cops can allow a driver who has failed to stop at a red light to walk away as it is normal to make some mistakes. The cops can also use discretion for the drivers caught driving under influence. The cop will call a cab for the driver and have the car towed away. Other crimes that attract discretion include racially motivated crimes, crimes committed by mentally retarded individuals, and petty crimes like a homeless person stealing bread (stánka, 2009).

Controlling discretion

In order to have full control of discretion, cops would be asked to follow the laws to the latter in every situation that they encounter. However, this is not to be a reality anywhere in this world. There needs to be discretion for the situation to be fair and compatible with the community (Rivera, 2006). Nevertheless, problems associated with discretion require some control mechanism including policies and laws that limit the officer’s use of discretion. Supervision of officers may also serve as a control measure in curbing the misuse of the discretion. The development of policies and procedures on the use of deadly force had had a considerable impact in New York City. The police in this City implemented a “defense of life policy” and it was found that the new policy reduced discharges in the firearms by 30%. As other departments followed suit, the number of those killed by the police in a shoot out nationally dropped by 50% in the years 1970-84. The corresponding ratio of blacks to whites killed during this period also dropped by 50% (Walker & Katz, 2002). Legislations such as the “zero-tolerance law” which requires the use of police sanctions have also contributed to a reduction in police discretion. These laws have targeted areas that were once prone to police discretion including domestic violence, firearm crimes, and certain drug crimes (Walker & Katz 2002). Some cases involving domestic disputes that are not violent have required that one of the spouses be removed from the home to allow for tempers to cool down. Zero-tolerance can also be incorporated by the communities allowing for the deviant elements being removed from the society thereby requiring the police intervention.

The police officers do use their personal judgments in discretion and as we have seen, personal judgments can be affected by many factors including mental health and educational level. With the cops having the ability to momentarily decide on the future of an individual, there is need to test and approve their intellect. The cops have a high level of authority and therefore they need skills to enhance and justify their authority. The requirement to join the police force has been changing over the years even though they vary depending on the district and type of government. It has been established that there are changes in the amount of force and discretion used by officers depending on their levels of education. A cop is required to make quick and ethical decisions and with low level of education, this could be a problem (Petheram, 2009).

Colonialism in “Things Fall Apart"

Things Fall Apart

It is undeniable that literature, aside from depicting the creative imagination of humanity, has also served  to record the various things which has happened to humanity in the course of history. Though it is known that literature has fictitious elements in it, it also quite known that literature has been able to employ certain truths about society and the world at large by the incorporating facts in its pages. Thus, while literature has managed to be about fairy tales or romantic novels and others, it has also managed to depict serious issues concerning the psychology of being a child, the characteristics of the Victorian era and even global issues like racism, capitalism and colonialism. In fact, the latter issue, which is on colonialism is what will be explicated in this essay as to how it has affected a certain group in Africa. In the famous novel of Chinua Achebe entitled Things Fall Apart, it can be seen how colonialism has affected people and has managed to pull them apart in many directions that it even eventually destroyed relationships of families, friends and tribes. Though the novel is a work of fiction, there is a certain truth in how colonialism has indeed affected people to the point that the life of the protagonist is destroyed and resulted to his own death.

    Achebe's novel can mostly be seen as a narrative on the life of a single member in an African tribe, but on a bigger and deeper perspective, the book embodies the collective situation and life of the African people at the time wherein outside forces are trying to change the traditional practices of the people. In the novel, the strong warrior by the name of Okonkwo is depicted as the protagonist and his various struggles concerning his tribe and the changing times are shown. Okonkwo is heralded as a most apt and talented farmer from the clan of Umuofia and has become quite known for having such positive and appreciated traits. However, Okonkwo is having a hard time in trying to reign in his personality as he refrains from becoming like his father while trying to keep with the traditions and culture of his people. In the end though, as the English colonizers try to teach the people regarding the “truth” on God and certain practices, Okonkwo realizes that he cannot keep up with the changing times. He takes his own life in the end as the remaining people of his clan fully embrace change and the new things that the colonizers are teaching them.

    In the novel, it is quite evident that Okonkwo is the central figure. However, his life is not the central point or theme in the novel. Instead, the theme relies on how the battle of tradition versus modernization takes place in the form of the culture of Okonkwo's clan and the teachings of the English colonizers; as how Gikandi (2000) puts it:

    The central theme of the novel is what happens to the values that define Okonkwo's     cultural community, and his own sense of moral order, when the institutions he and     fought so hard to sustain collapse in the face of European colonialism (ix).

It may be seen that European colonialism is something which is vile as it has totally destroyed the culture and traditions of a group of people which in turn destroyed their identity. However, in how Okonkwo and his tribesmen practice their tradition, it can be seen that colonialism also has good effects since it has stripped the rather inhumane and illogical practices of the people such as how they exalt cultural violence. This type of violence can be seen in certain practices they had like “ritual sacrifices, punishment for crimes, and other kinds     of communal sanctioned violence” which is normal and accepted by the clan but is not entirely humane to the missionaries (Hoegberg, 1999, 69). Of all the positive effects of colonialism as appearing in the novel and more than the economic progress it brings, it is the lessening of ignorance of the clan and the opening of the avenue for new knowledge and erasure of such violent cultural practices which is more poignant and more impacting.

    On the other hand, colonialism has also had its negative and appalling effects by how the missionaries and the European officers have completely stripped the identity of the tribe and more than forced them to accept the new teachings while eradicating the tribe's previous teachings with the argument that such things were not true. It is not a matter of whether such traditions are true or not—what matters is that a person practices ethical customs that does not strip away the basic human right of anybody. Ironically, while colonialism wanted to put forth new knowledge on “true” faith and eradicating unlawful customs, the nature of forcing the Christian faith towards people who are reluctant to accept them can also be judged as an unlawful act.

    In conclusion, there are many aspects of how colonialism can affect a certain group or certain person as how it was portrayed in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. Economically and socially, colonialism shows its effects by the growing opportunities given to people, making them more prosperous and more open to a wide avenue of profits and discovery. On the aspect of culture, religion and traditional practices, it is inevitable that those things take a complete turn for change as people would tend to be more open or forced to new knowledge and information, making them re-think on the previous things they do know and practice.     These aspects in turn affect the most important facet of the person or the people which is the psychological aspect—in trying to influence how a person or the group thinks, it will pave the way and become the determiner if there would be a chance for a change to occur. The effects of colonialism can be seen in two ways as with all things in this world, as either positive or negative and it should be accepted as such. While colonialism showed that something as important to the people like tradition and culture can be erased or changed, it is undeniable that colonialism has also brought on positive changes for the people. In the end though, what matters is that it is important to not lose one's sense of identity in the process of change and still keep one's own pride in heritage, culture and tradition—while people embrace modernity, one should never forget one's historу.