Problem in Policing

Problem in Policing

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Problem in Policing

Explain at least one tension/problem in policing that is covered in any of the readings

In the book titled Introduction to criminal justice, a sociological perspective, Kubrin & Stucky (2013). have undertaken an in-depth to highlight the various problems evidenced in policing in crime. According to the authors, crime is an action that violates various rules in society such that it harms the well-being of citizens and society. For instance, espionage crimes are known to threaten political stability in society. Although crime may be undetected, the harm is never apparent. Crimes may fall under the category of corporate crime, organized crime, collar crime, and street crime, among others. However, most of the crimes that enter the system often get excluded systematically for reasons of error, cost, and discretion. Many of the crimes that get into the system could also get excluded eventually. According to Kubrin & In Stucky (2013), officials often apply discretion when deciding on the cases that should proceed into the criminal justice systems and those that should not. Excessive use of discretion is dangerous in that it promotes racism, injustice, and unfairness in the criminal justice system.

Although police must apply discretion in their job, excessive discretion often affects the application of criminal justice goals. According to Bryant (2016), discretion is dangerous in that it promotes discrimination, high degrees of unpredictability, and injustice. Providing the police with the discretion to undertake objectives that are not in alignment with the criminal justice system is considered problematic in relation to justice and the efficiency of the police. However, the inevitability of the practice of discretion in policing is exceedingly difficult to dispute, provided the volatility, pressure, and dangerous conditions on which the police operate. Travis (2017) states that discretion is the core of policing, and every successful policing process must depend on it since it is a policeman’s daily task. This provision is important considered police are placed effectively as the main point of contact between the people and the criminal justice system in order to make essential filtering decisions.

Every effective criminal justice system depends on the efficiency of police discretion. However, although crime and policing depend on discretion significantly, the relative limits of this practice are often ignored. While police are required to practice discretion, they should adhere to the objectives of the criminal justice system in order to avoid the dangers associated with high reliance on reliance. Police should also adhere to the principles of the rule of law, such as clarity, circumvention of arbitrariness, and strict observance of the written law. According to Willis & Mastrofski (2018), police discretion is considered effective and necessary when applied moderately; however, the practice is dangerous if the interests of service stray away from the official principles and intention of the criminal law in a bid to achieve their own objectives.

Discuss at least one policing reform covered in the readings

Kubrin & Stucky (2013), have explained various ways through which law enforcement can be applied to promote the desired behaviors. According to these authors, law enforcement tasks and correction tasks are often divided across the varying state, local, and federal government branches. Law enforcement tasks, as well as correction tasks, are essential at promoting the desired reforms being evidenced in the criminal justice system. Policing reforms are essential, especially with regard to the current system where inequalities have taken over the criminal justice system in terms of police practices, arrest and prosecution policies, and the use of aggressive policing. The severity of criminal sentences, particularly when it comes to communities of color, has impacted a negative perception of the black communities about the criminal justice system. It is thus important to implement effective policing reforms to enhance the institutional policing of the criminal system.

In the future, it is necessary to facilitate increased use of special prosecutors in criminal investigators due to the inability of local prosecutors to remain impartial in circumstances that involve law enforcement in the jurisdiction. Research shows that prosecutors often depend upon the police officers to investigate cases, make arrests, carry out interrogations, and testify at trial (Travis (2017). On the other hand, police officers also expect prosecutors to facilitate convictions and investigations. However, in cases of police misconduct, sympathies by local prosecutors may hinder their effectiveness, which necessitates the need for opportunities to consider different alternatives that facilitate the understanding of conflicting interests. It is thus important for states to provide state attorneys with additional authority over issues involving police and create permanent prosecutors who provide insulation against local law enforcement. An automatic referral that is not within the jurisdiction of fatal cases should engage the use of an independent outside party to ensure police causes are carried out by neutral prosecutors.

Improvement of data collection on crime is an effective policing reform. In order to deal with the gaps that exist in the collection and analysis of criminal data, it is necessary to ensure enhanced data collection without any chances of those involved tampering with the evidence. The police officers collecting data should submit important information such as demographics, details about the victim, location, and a brief description of the issues that led to the crime. It is also important to facilitate implicit bias training on all law-enforcement officers to promote impartiality in the criminal justice system. According to Winfree & Mays (2019), there should be increased government oversight on misconduct through the provision of funding in law enforcement, training, hiring of qualified officers, purchasing necessary equipment, and the creation of jurisdiction task forces. These initiatives will help to restore justice and impartiality in the criminal justice system where racism, inequality, and ethnicity have taken root.

Explain why you believe this reform may be successful at addressing the problem

Excessive use of police discretion is considered the main cause of injustices evidenced in the criminal justice system. According to Willis & Mastrofski (2018), wide discretion facilitates the criminalization of particular classes and groups, particularly people of color and vulnerable individuals in society. Discrimination and racism play a huge role in police discretion and the various injustices being evidenced in the justice system. However, this situation can be resolved through the use of foreign or international prosecutors who are neutral in order to promote fairness in the system. Considering the fact that police discretion is inevitable in policing, promoting the efficiency and fairness in the practice of discretion can increase the confidence of prosecutors. The use of international officers can reduce the chances of officers to bend the rules in a bid to meet their targets, to follow their personal objectives and prejudices. International officers will help to reduce the injustice, unpredictability, and inconsistency evidenced in the criminal justice system and in the rule of law. Besides, this action will help to cleanse the image of police in that excessive application of discretion, particularly by local officers, leaves them vulnerable to scrutiny and resentment in the community. There is also a high likelihood of distrust by the minority community towards criminal justice, the result of which can be exceedingly dangerous and fatal.

According to Travis (2017), it is necessary to encourage the use of special prosecutors due to the limited ability of local prosecutors to remain impartial in their dealings. Discrimination is considered one of the most dangerous consequences of excessive application of police discretion. Special prosecutors have the ability to work without excessive pursuance of criminal classes who have been exposed to police officers more by low socio-economic backgrounds. Local officers are thus more likely to make contact with the underprivileged, which decreases their likelihood of assessing justice in the system. The use of special prosecutors who are unaware of local situations and the local classes which are mostly exposed to police officers can act with the desired fairness, thus diminishing all kinds of discrimination. For instance, black individuals are more likely to undergo police scrutiny than white people. Such officers will also prevent inefficient use of government funds on inappropriate prioritization of crimes.

Additionally, improved data collection on criminal proceedings will ensure that police discretion is founded on factual rather than speculative foundations. The police officers-in-charge of data collection should submit credible information that guide the decision of prosecutors and ensure that discretion is founded on verifiable facts. Increased government oversight will also increase the effectiveness of police discretion through the provision of necessary forensic equipment. The involvement of the federal government can also increase the effectiveness of police discretion through training and oversight of misconduct from police officers.


Barlow, C., & Walklate, S. (2018). Policing intimate partner violence: The ‘golden thread’ of discretion. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice.

Bryant, R. (2016). Policing Digital Crime: the International and Organisational Context. In Policing Digital Crime (pp. 129-140). Routledge.

In Kubrin, C. E., & In Stucky, T. D. (2013). Introduction to criminal justice: A sociological perspective.

Travis III, L. (2017). Criminal Justice Perspectives. An Introduction to Criminal Justice (pp. 1-36). Routledge.

Willis, J. J., & Mastrofski, S. D. (2018). Improving policing by integrating craft and science: what can patrol officers teach us about good police work?. Policing and Society, 28(1), 27-44.

Winfree, L. T., & Mays, G. L. (2019). Introduction to Criminal Justice: The Essentials. Aspen Publishers.