Does a Cop Have Discretion When Issuing Tickets?

Written by Gregory Monte.

I discovered a website recently called Officer.com which has an interesting forums section.  This is where regular peons – I mean citizens – get to ask the cops questions about traffic enforcement issues and other topics related to policing. 

I actually based one of my recent blog posts on the responses I read about speed traps on that very forum:

Why do cops hate the term “speed trap” so much?

I was checking out the forum today and saw a question which dealt with police discretion when issuing tickets.  When a member asked why a cop gave her a ticket rather than a warning, an Illinois police officer claimed that:

“He may have been on a traffic detail or otherwise have limited discretion through his agency policies.”

Limited discretion?

Bullshit – I don’t buy it. 

Are you telling me that if a fellow cop, or PBA/FOP member got pulled over, the officer would not use his discretion and let him go?

Rhetorical question, of course.

According to a Hendon Media Group survey of law enforcment:

The respondents said unanimously that their agencies grant officers complete discretion whether to issue tickets or warnings for traffic violations. Not only do they have the authority to issue verbal or written warnings or tickets at their discretion, but they can do so without supervisory permission.”

Even a report sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice says the same thing:

“Most police activity occurs in private, away from the public’s view. This creates a situation that allows police officers discretion in the way they think about what they see and how they handle those with whom they come in contact.”

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