Managerial Influences on Police Discretion: Contextualising Officer Decision-Choices
This article highlights aspects of original research examining how police decision-making may be influenced in times of increasing public and political accountability. It reflects the author’s observations and findings as presented at CEPOL’s 2015 European Police Research and Science Conference. Applying a ‘theory of decision-choices’ (Parsons, 2015) the officer’s choice of policing response can be explained by reference to perceptions of the occupational field and situational needs (the decision-frame) as informed by the officer’s orientation to the policing function, their relationship to the organisation, its leadership and those they police. This decision-frame can be influenced by management’s instrumental use of rules, discipline and targets, which carries the risk of unintended consequences. However, using a beforeand- after survey methodology, a study into the introduction of community resolution (CR) into one UK police organisation (force) indicates management may influence officer perceptions (and potentially decision-choices) in other ways. One significant finding was a change in officers’ understanding of organisational policing priorities after being given more discretion in responding to low-level crimes and antisocial incidents. Overall the results support the theory that management can positively influence officer decision-frames through normative means (such as shared values and mutual trust), potentially improving effectiveness, confidence and police legitimacy.
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