Discretion and Local Policy: Local Law Enforcement

  • Steven G. KovenEmail author


Bureaucrats, particularly street-level bureaucrats, usually have great discretion in their actions. This chapter describes how local police forces have used their discretion to engage in questionable and often illegal behavior. The history of local law enforcement is replete with instances of such behavior. Contemporary actions of law enforcement agents illustrate the potential for egregious violations of due process citizen rights. High-profile cases that are discussed in the chapter highlight the need to assure greater accountability for questionable actions of law enforcement officials. Police actions have consequences. The chapter notes that major riots erupted in Los Angeles (Watts), Detroit, Newark, New York (Harlem), and other cities as a consequence of police actions. The choking death of Eric Garner in New York; the shootings of Laquan McDonald in Chicago; the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and the death of Freddie Gray following a routine arrest, among other incidents, suggest that local law enforcement bureaucracies are not acting as responsible agents of the public. The chapter describes these questionable acts. Whistleblowing is presented as a possible control on police abusive behavior. It is noted, however, that the costs of whistleblowing can be quite high as others in the organization can retaliate. Allegiance to the group often remains high.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA

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