Law Enforcement: What Factors Influence the Arresting Officer’s Discretion?


Police discretion is applied in minor incidents such as urinating in public or simple traffic offenses. In such circumstances,  the officer decides how to handle the offender. However, several factors affect police discretion.

Suspect’s Record

The number of police interactions involved previously will greatly affect the officer’s decision when dealing with the suspect. Those with a history of repeated crimes are likely to receive a severe penalty compared to first-time offenders (Larry & Victor, 2014).

Suspect Demeanor

Offenders who are disrespectful and unruly are likely to be arrested and get tougher penalties than those who cooperate (Larry & Victor, 2014).

The Attitude of the Parents

If the case involves a juvenile, the officer’s discretion may be influenced by the reactions of the parents/guardians. When the parents cooperate, the action may be less severe than those difficult guardians.


According to Larry and Victor (2014), the complaints alerting the involved officer will greatly influence the discretion since the officer may take the complaints seriously, especially during investigations.


  1. The police are faced with several challenges, especially on duty. The policing problems include:

Gun Violence. Recently, there has been an increase in gun-related violence, and some cases, it is directed at police officers.

Illegal Narcotics. Police officers involved in drug-related crimes usually end up killed by drug cartels. The cartels are robust due to the enormous revenue collected from the drug trade (Thompson, 2017). This makes it hard for the police to handle any narcotic crime.

Domestic Terrorism. Domestic involves violence against infrastructure and civilians. In most cases, local citizens perpetuate this violence (Thompson, 2017). The law enforcers may become targets of the terror attack, especially if they are involved in the investigation of a terror-related crime

Gangs. Gangs usually wreak havoc amongst the community and the police officers since they are highly organized and difficult to deal with. The gang members may attack and sometimes kill the officers on duty, making it an issue for the police.


The exclusionary rule prohibits the government from using any evidence found for any crime that has violated the United States Constitution. Under the Fourth Amendment, the law states that evidence obtained by the police may not necessarily be used against the defendant during trial. The law also prohibits illegal arrests and searches without a warrant signed by a judge since the move would amount to an intrusion of an individual’s security and privacy. Even if the law bars the police from conducting illegal searches, it does not prohibit them from collecting evidence. The police and prosecutors usually use the evidence to ensure a watertight case against the alleged offender (Legal Information Institute, 2017). However, the exclusionary rule makes it hard for the police and prosecutors to determine what evidence will be found and how it will be administered in a court of law.


  1. Education in the law enforcement department has been debated for quite a long time. To improve the quality of service offered by the police force, Law Education was introduced in 1960 (Paynich, 2009). Ever since, there have been several improvements in education rates among police officers. Officers who have acquired a college degree are seen to be better at work. College graduate officers have better communication skills and can produce better reports. They have a better understanding of policing and the criminal justice system. The officers with higher education are more tolerant of citizens and use less force, thus making it easy for the people to trust and relate to them quickly (Paynich, 2009). Education plays a crucial role in policing since officers with a college education perform better in their duties compared to….



Larry, K. & Victor, E. (2014). Policing in America. Routledge. New York.

Legal Information Institute (LII), (2017). Exclusionary Rule, Cornell Law School, Retrieved from

Paynich, R. (2009). The impact of a college-educated police force: A review of Literature. Retrieved from

Thompson, A. (2017). Challenges fFacing law enforcement In the 21st Century. Retrieved from

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