Discretion is one of the essential notions in the criminal justice system, standing for the right of judges and other officials to act and make decisions based on one’s dictates of consciousness. It is manifested in the fact that great power, from its own perspective, can use a flexible combination of forceful and non-forceful means and methods in a fairly wide range. It is used in cases when the parole boards or judges want to act leniently on the crime or avoid any disparities such as race or sex.
On the other hand, such freedom of action enables officials to pursue policies related to widely accepted social norms which do not necessarily correspond to the formal law. This creates a problem for the fact that some decisions can be too strict and the punishment too severe. The judgemental and biased opinion is the major issue the discretionary power imposes on the judges and police officers. Therefore, despite having a beneficial effect on the criminal justice system, discretion can also result in power abuse and negative outcomes.
Typically, the discretionary decision-making process is based on moral principles. The authorities are affected by the ethical standards and attempt not to cross the line when producing a judgment. Simultaneously, they stick to their own moral norms, which may mislead. It presumes that their attribute the committed crime’s severity or people’s images to their own experience, making the decision too subjective.
In the instance provided, the anti-crime efforts were made in order to wage war on drugs since the times of the Raegan Administration. A special program was formatted, and the government encouraged law enforcement to expand the range of duties for the professionals to fight the drugs. After that policy was introduced, the number of arrests quadrupled, mostly affecting the people of color. It means that police officers started to abuse their discretional power, which can apply to any issue (drugs, rape, murder, and others). In the instance where a policeman killed Anthony Lamar Smith, a teenager from Missouri, on the assumption he was transacting a drug deal (“Wide police discretion,” 2017). The discretionary decision was to use a weapon, which led to a fatal outcome. The principle of authority might have affected the police officer’s judgment. He probably did not murder the teenager intentionally, but it was rather a warning shot. Occasionally authority leads to adverse consequences since it puts much strain on the defendant.