Police Officers have the ability to exercise discretionary control within the realms of their day to day enforcement decisions. They are able to do this without judgment from their peers. This is understood to be one of the few allowances of autonomy given to an officer. Ultimately, a decision to arrest or issue a ticket should be based on the totality of circumstances and should not be related to gender. But in reality, female officers bring a different set of perspectives and experiences to policing and in some instances, are held to a different standard than their male counterparts.
Women still have to prove themselves in a male-dominated workplace. It’s the experiences and viewpoint a police officer brings to the job, along with the desire to uphold the law for the safety of the public that affects discretionary decisions, of which gender is a factor. I do not believe that female officers make similar discretionary decisions during citizen-police encounters than their male counterparts.
Depending upon your view, police discretion can be seen as a beneficial way to deal with some of the less serious crimes or it can be seen as an opportunity for police to abuse their discretion. Selective enforcement of the law allows police to set their priorities according to the greatest need for a particular time. They can use their autonomy to assess a situation and if they deem it appropriate, disregard taking any further action by ignoring the offense completely or issuing a warning.
As citizens, we hope that when police use their vast judgment to decide the course of an action, they are doing it without discriminating, violating ethical codes, using inappropriate means, or putting someone in danger (by not making an arrest). If used correctly, discretionary decisions could help alleviate the already overburdened criminal justice system. Discretionary decisions are good in a situation where police resources are limited. Police, male or female, should be able to make a judgment call as to whether or not to arrest someone for a minor infraction in order to move on to a higher priority or more serious call. (Walker & Katz, 2011, p. 350)
One main difference between how male and female officers make discretionary decisions are based upon workplace expectations. It is no secret that women have the extra burden of having to prove themselves worthy of being part of a traditionally male dominated profession. There are some who feel that women don’t belong in a profession that is known for its traditional Anglo-American (male) values. (Haar & Morash, 1999, p. 304).
In the article Women on Patrol: Analysis of Differences in Officer Arrest Behavior, it was suggested that female officers were more likely to make arrest when their commanding officer was supervising them. An interesting contrast here is that when they were in the presence of their peers, they were less likely to make an arrest. The research confirms that male and...