Police Discretionary Actions And The Criminal Justice System Essay

1011 Words Nov 7th, 2014 5 Pages
The use of force is one of the most severe and controversial types of police discretionary actions. It is defined as the amount of coercion required to control an unruly subject. Discretion is the ability to decide a course of action or inaction, and it is used in the criminal justice system when deciding how to intervene in certain situations and deciding what level of force to use in these situations (Wilson, 1968). The use of force an officer uses varies based on legal mandates, an officer’s experience, and departmental policies. Sometimes force that is not technically legal, or accountable in legal terms, is employed as a natural response to certain situations. Jennifer Hunt (1985) defines this as “normal” force. How does this factor into police discretion and accountability?
Jennifer Hunt (1985) classifies the use of force into three distinct categories: legal force, normal force, and excessive force. Legal force is the amount of force acceptable by law that an officer may employ to subdue or control a situation or subject, and it is formally taught to recruits in the police academy. Once a recruit becomes a rookie and is placed on the street among his peers, he learns informally what accounts as “normal” force, or any coercive act necessary to protect him from potential harm. Excessive force, however, is unnecessary, inappropriate, and often violent. Legal force and normal force are the two types of force expected of police officers, and can be accounted for…

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