Police Discretion

  • Michael S. Pike


Police discretion has long been the subject of considerable discussion and criticism particularly by those who genuinely believe that the independence of the police and their apparent lack of accountability lead to arbitrary decisions which cannot be challenged openly. The principle of independence and accountability is discussed later1 but the importance of discretion lies in the fact that it covers a wide area of police activity which is often unregulated. Although much is left to the good sense, training and judgement of the individual officer, the discretion at play is far from absolute and is qualified by a number of factors and conditions which require careful analysis.


Police Officer Police Action Criminal Procedure Enforcement Policy Discretionary Power 
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  1. 3.
    Extract from Sir Charles Haughton Rafter’s introduction to Moriarty’s Police Law (1929).Google Scholar
  2. 12.
    Thurman Arnold, Symbols of Government, 160 (1935).Google Scholar
  3. 13.
    Finckenaur, Journal of Criminal Justice (US) vol. 4 (1976).Google Scholar
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    K. C. Davis, Discretionary Justice (1969) ch. IV.Google Scholar
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    J. Bentham Judicial Evidence (1827) 524.Google Scholar
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    A. K. Bottomley, Criminology in Focus (Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1979) p. 93.Google Scholar
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    Neiderhoffer, A., Behind the Shield: the Police in Urban Society (NY: Anchor Books, 1969) p. 64.Google Scholar

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© Michael S. Pike 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael S. Pike

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