Define Police Discretion and its relationship to selective law enforcement.

Describe the circumstances under which police may use deadly force according to the Tennessee v. Garner case.
Define Police Discretion and its relationship to selective law enforcement.

Police officers are required to interpret the law and make immediate judgments as to whether a law has been violated, whether to make and arrest, and whether to use force in doing so. These decisions are extremely complex, and police must exercise considerable discretion in making these judgments deciding what constitutes a violation of the law, which laws to enforce, and how and when to enforce them. An outgrowth of this discretionary power is selective law enforcement. Studies of police discretion have demonstrated that the most significant factor in the decision to arrest is the seriousness of the offense, supplemented by other information, both objective and subjective. (Hendrix 5-3)

The concept of police discretion is important to understand because it is widespread and occurs in many different types of situations. When is discretion and selective enforcement of the law most prevalent, and when is it perceived as acceptable? The most common situation might be traffic violations. Take this example: The driver is speeding at more than 20 mph over the limit in a quiet, pristine residential neighborhood and almost hits the traffic cop in the process of pulling over. One would think that the $150+ traffic ticket and several license points would be unavoidable. However, since the driver was a doctor from the local hospital, he was cited only for not having his proof of insurance in the car, a ticket easily dismissible by mailing in the paperwork and a $7.50 fee. Furthermore, the brake light that was out and registration that was over two months past due were overlooked as well. (This is a true example.) Is this a case of police discretion? Or is this just preferential treatment for certain members of the community?(Hendrix 5-12).

Under common law, police were authorized to use deadly force as a last resort to apprehend a fleeing felon. Today, many departments have enacted policies focusing on deadly force. In Tennessee v. Garner, the Supreme Court held that deadly force against a fleeing felon is proper only when it is necessary to prevent escape and when the officers have probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of death or serious injury to the officer or others. Police also rely on nonlethal weapons to reduce fatal shootings (Hendrix 7-1)


Make sure that you have read Chapters 5-7 before beginning this assignment.
Read the articles Police Discretion (Links to an external site.), Driving While Black (Links to an external site.) and Suicide by Cop (Links to an external site.).
Paragraph 1: Determine the extent to which you think police should be allowed to exercise discretionary powers. Should they have full discretionary powers, should the discretionary powers be limited to certain areas like traffic, juveniles, domestic situations, drugs, etc.? Provide at least two (2) specific examples where you think discretionary powers are appropriate. This paragraph relates to your own views.
Paragraph 2: After reading the information in the description above answer the questions posed.

In your opinion when is discretion and selective enforcement of the law most prevalent?
Is the case provided above police discretion or preferential treatment for certain member of the community?
Do you believe the outcome would have been different if the individual pulled over for the investigative stop was black?
How does police education fit into the use of discretion?
Paragraph 3: Construct a coherent argument for or against the use of deadly force by police. Please make sure you understand the meaning of deadly force as used in the text. Under what circumstances do you think police are justified in using deadly force?
The common law rule page 186 of your text.
The North Carolina Rule page 186 of your text.
Current general rule page 186 of your text.
Any combination of these.
Other circumstances that you believe to be necessary for deadly force.
Paragraph 4: Locate one (1) contemporary (less than two years old) of police using deadly force where the suspect dies and conclude whether or not you think the use of force was proper and justified under the Current general rule for the use of deadly force on page 186. You may use newspaper articles, Internet, etc. You must have at least one (1) source outside of the text. However, to fully explain your answer you may need more than one (1) source to get the full story as it unfolds. Make sure you look up the outcome for the officer(s) involved in the deadly force incident. You may not use any case from the book. Discuss the following about your case.
Write a detailed summary of the case without plagiarizing.
Based on what you have learned in the chapter and the research discuss whether you feel excessive force was used in this case or was it an appropriate use of deadly force. Be specific and relate the material to the Current general rule on the use of deadly force giving quotes from the research to make your point.
Paragraph 5: Today police officers are not always given an opportunity to diffuse a situation without the use of deadly force. In the History of Homicide class, which I teach online, we see that this is particularly true in mass murder events. We also call this victim precipitate homicide. In these situations, it is more likely that the perpetrator will commit Suicide by Cop or suicide than choose to remain alive. The problem faced by the police officer is two-fold. How does the police officer know that the victim really wants to commit suicide? Secondly, making the wrong choice or even having to kill the victim causes stress on the police officer.
Conduct research and write a paragraph discussing some of the effects Suicide by Cop can have for the officer(s) involved.
Locate a case that is clearly a case of Suicide by Cop as described in Category 1 or Category 2 in the article Suicide by Cop. (Links to an external site.)
Write a detailed summary of the case without plagiarizing.
Based on what you have learned in the chapter and the research discuss whether you feel this is a Category 1 or Category 2 case. Be specific and explain your choice by using quotes from the research to make your point.


Use the proper MLA heading for the paper.
Your essay must be at least five (5) paragraphs long. One paragraph for each of the questions posed. A paragraph is more than three (3) or four (4) sentences. This part of the assignments should be no less than three (3) full pages long. You may write more but no less than three (3) full pages.
Use a search engine to locate information. You must have a minimum of six (6) sources. At least one (1) for each of your cases, one for your text book and three (3) for the articles you are to read.. For citations, follow MLA format. If there is no Works Cited and/or in-text citations the grade is zero.
Your document must be double-spaced using a 12-point Arial font with 1-inch margins. MLA suggests Times New Roman but it actually leaves a choice. I prefer Arial for readability but you may use Arial or Times New Roman.

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