Author & Researcher Delphine Jamet
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Split over young offenders

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on December 24, 2013 at 9:10 AM Comments comments (0)

Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan is calling for changes in legislation in a bid to incarcerate repeat juvenile offenders for a longer time. It appears that there are loopholes being utilised to avoid being incarcerated, which is particularly worrying as detention is believe to be a ‘constructive’ punishment modifying their offending behaviours.


“Detention or imprisonment for children shall be an extreme measure of last resort, and detention shall be for the shortest possible time” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006:118). Children are susceptible to making mistakes and are especially easily influenced, particularly by offending parents and family members, which can be explained by the biosocial theory of crime in addition to the sociological perspective (Cuneen & White, 2010: 33).


Mandatory sentencing was introduced into the Northern Territory in 1996 until it was repealed due to international criticism in 2001. Mandatory sentencing, which is still in existence in Western Australia, appears to breach a number of key articles including the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Cuneen, 2002). It is not in the best interest of the child to incarcerate them when they obviously have issues that need to be addressed or they need to be taken out of the negative environment they may be growing up in. Rehabilitation may be necessary if they are under the influence of drugs and alcohol, have a mental illness or anger management and juvenile detention may not be the appropriate facility to address these issues, particularly if they are under resourced.


Indigenous children were apprehended 19.8% for burglary and break and enter, compared to non-aboriginal youths at 9.5% (Cuneen, 2010: 150). This could be as a result of the social inequality theory of crime, they may access considerably less resources and opportunities than young members of mainstream society. Other factors that may affect their levels of offending could include their hyperactivity, impulsivity, parental supervision and discipline, socioeconomic deprivation as well as peer and situation influences (White & Perrone, 2011: 76). It would be interesting to know how incarceration in detention centre would serve to heal the offender and permanently remove these potential offending factors rather than as a temporary response.


Placing children in juvenile detention for long periods of time is not the answer and may only serve to push them into the cycle of crime as a way of life.

Police to examine strip search claim

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on December 17, 2013 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

An Indigenous female, who was taken to the Perth Lockups, was believed to have been strip searched by four female and one male officer. Although it was stated that she was under the influence of alcohol under the time of the incident and was said to be difficult to control, it would be expected that the  incident is a humiliating and degrading experience for the female offender. It is hard to find any justification or positive acts as a result of such an incident.


“Police officers should always act in an ethical and dignified manner” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006: 93). Although it is up to the police to determine whether a strip search is reasonably necessary, it must be conducted by a person of the same sex unless the searcher is a doctor or nurse. This was not the case in the above article. In addition, any person in the presence of a strip searched being carried out, must, if possible, also be of the same sex. “The number of people present should be limited to the number reasonably necessary to ensure the search is carried out safely and effectively” (Legal Aid Western Australia, 2013). There were four female officers present, once could assume that this should have been enough.


It was said to not have been an isolated incident. “Throughout Western Australia, some 97% of the women placed in police custody for drunkenness were Indigenous” (Cuneen, 2001:165). There could be many more situations where the human rights of Indigenous women have been breached, similar or worse to the situation exposed of this particular woman in the Perth Lockups. It could also be said that Indigenous women may be less likely to report discrimination and racism, particularly when they are intoxicated. It would be difficult to prevent such situations from reoccurring when it is difficult to have them exposed or perhaps even believed.

NSW premier boosts gun search powers

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on December 10, 2013 at 9:05 AM Comments comments (0)

New South Wales police will have the power to stop and search people, cars and suspicious locations for weapons, without a warrant under new legislation, particularly those who are banned from owning a weapon regardless of reason. This could mean that police will be able to seize illegal weapons held by those with no licence, subsequently assisting to decrease, however slight it may be, the amount of weapons in the wrong hands. This is lawful when authorised by law (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006: 93).


Unfortunately, the relaxed requirements for a search will mean that targets will be based on discrimination and racial profiling to name a few human right breaches. The new law comes after police seized illegal weapons from the vehicle belonging to a bikie gang member.


These laws are a breach of human rights because according to Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is stated that “no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor attacks on his honour and reputation”. It could mean that just because a person has made a mistake in the past which resulted in a ban from possessing a weapon, they are now subjected for life to searches without due cause. They may have received a fine in the past in addition to the ban but they will continue to pay the price.


Human rights “cannot be excluded from any sphere of human life” (Kleinig, 1996) and it should be expected that we have the right to protect ourselves. “Police resources are constantly stretched, so people are increasingly taking responsibility for their own safety with measures that are dangerous to criminals” (Montgomery, 2008). It could be expected that this would refer to within the person’s home to possess a weapon, although the new legislation includes this personal location.


The New South Wales Police Firearms Registry issues licences and permits to those with “a genuine reason for possessing and using a firearm” (Information on obtaining a firearms licence in NSW, 2013) in order to eliminate the possession of firearms and weapons for the purposes of criminal activity. Although this hard-hitting new law may breach the human rights of people in terms of their privacy, home, honour and reputation, those who do right by the law should not be expected to face the impact of this new legislation. In addition, human rights are not absolute and “the power to search persons, private property and buildings is a power essential to prevention and detection of crime” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006: 93).

Why is 'international policing' difficult?

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on December 3, 2013 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

It is an expensive venture to send members of a police force to another country, particularly if they are not available for full-time deployment. In addition, it is not always possible to have a surplus of staff like the military, particularly as there may not always be the need for manpower. It may be months or even years for this need to come across and in the meantime, to have the officers on hand would be a waste of resources such as time and money.

Some member countries have been forced to send officers who lack the expertise or experience to police other nation states but with a lack of suitably skilled employees, there appears to be no other alternative. Recruitment can be difficult when officers are deployed for terms of years rather than months, particularly if they have a family or some form of commitment in their home environment.

Assisting other nation states can cause disagreements about how society should be controlled and what laws enforced such as the United States attempting to make Iraq a democratic state. The western military have been training local armies and police officers to make a positive difference in the issues the nation states have faced but some have turned on their trainers, at times using deadly force. There is also the chance that authoritarian regimes may be assisted to repress their people, even if the intentions of the helping nation state are of a well-meaning nature.

On the other hand, there may be a complete reliance on the assistance but once the initiative has been completed and the police decide to wrap up their work, the nation state may return to the poor quality of life and issues experienced previously.

There are many difficulties faced in the nature of international policing, despite its well-meaning nature. Some of these issues can be overcome with time or organisation; others will continue to make the job a difficult task.

Police Ethics Sliding

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on November 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM Comments comments (0)

New officers emerging from the police academy fully equipped with positive ethics are finding the police culture on the job is diminishing their education. It’s hard to imagine what else could promote good ethics and morals in the police industry if the academy has failed in improving professionalism.  

Article 7 of the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials states that “law enforcement officials shall not commit any act of corruption. They shall also rigorously oppose and combat all such acts” but this doesn’t appear to be possible. In addition, Article 2 states that they “shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons”. The latter appears to be breached if officers are swearing at members of the public although policing being a stressful job has two sides of the stories and perhaps some people unofficially warrant this reaction. 

Police are placed in a position in society “where abuse of human rights can take place readily, if there are no systems of accountability” (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2006: 24). There is reporting of corruption and swearing at members of the public, which appears to reflect the little accountability and supervision. One could imagine that this is the tip of the iceberg and perhaps any more degrading and serious matters would be withheld to members of the media to protect the reputation of the Queensland Police Service. This working personality is regarded as important because “it is often held that this helps to shape the ways in which policing is applied in practice” (Rowe, 2010: 98). 

On the other hand, it could be the case that only a few minority cases have been reported in the study, which appears to make the entire police service of a suspicious and corrupt nature. Unless the police are equipped with the latest camera and microphone systems every time they are out on patrol, it is very difficult to determine exactly how relevant this survey is and to maintain intensive supervision on officers who are susceptible to act immorally.

How powerful is the media in influencing police work?

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on November 19, 2013 at 8:55 AM Comments comments (0)

Our knowledge of crime and media is largely informed by the media, however unjust and exaggerated it may be. This may lead to apparent crime waves, moral panics and unrealistic fear of crime such as the elderly increasingly being bashed in their own homes more than usual. At times, the media defines crime and the nature of police work, perhaps as a response; the police feel the need to adjust their methods and targets accordingly.

In the political arena, a moral panic on crimes such as elderly bashings or home invasions may lead to an increase and political bartering of increased sentences with a tough-on-order initiative. This in turn may extend the police powers, amplifying the deviancy on particular social groups of society such as young people being labelled deviant and experiencing a crackdown on their behaviour whether or not their intentions are malicious or those heavily addicted to drugs.

The media can also impact investigations by pre-releasing sensitive information, thereby hindering the police in their work. On May 1, 2006 Simon Rochford was found to have suicided after the media released his name as the prime-suspect in an infamous case involving a murdered jewellery store owner and the false conviction of Andrew Mallard. Although police believed they had enough forensic evidence to ascertain a conviction, they were unable to continue the investigation as a result.

On a positive note, the media have the ability to assist and support ongoing investigations and appeals for information, reaching a massive portion of society which would otherwise be difficult, perhaps almost impossible, for the police alone to reach out to. A vast amount of operations and crackdowns have resulted in a successful quantity of arrests and key information with the appeal to the public for help in events such as ‘dob in a drug dealer’ or ‘dob in a bikie’ In addition, the media are able to publicise footage from both the police and their own as well as assisting in their own search and surveillance operations. This at times may take the leg work out of police work, as they appear to lack resources.  

Who or what is the 'Other' in contemporary Australia?

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on November 12, 2013 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Australia has been a racist country since its foundation, which saw the destruction of Indigenous populations for the needs and wants of white settlers. Shortly after becoming a federation in 1901, the Immigration Restrict Act was introduced, forming the basis of the White Australia Policy. Officials were given the power to stop ‘undesirable’ immigrants from coming into the country through the use of a difficult dictation test until 1958. This required them to write a passage of fifty words dictated to them by an official in any European language chosen. The White Australia Policy favoured immigration from certain European countries, in particularly Britain. 

Although the White Australia Policy has since been dismantled, racism continues to appear in everyday life, particularly towards Arabs and Muslims. Although Arabs and Muslims have been the targets of racism and discrimination since the Gulf War, life has been particularly made tougher after the events of September 11, 2001. It appears to have affected women more so than men, perhaps as a result of wearing a hijab or burqa which has resulted in more abuse and having their garments torn or pulled off. There is the belief that they these ‘others’ should assimilate into the Australian way of life, the garments identifying them as different.

Since 1999, it appears there has been an increasing moral panic on boat people, who have been labelled ‘queue jumpers’, ‘human cargo’ and other degrading terms, serving to label them as the other.

Violence and attacks have victimised these social groups with many other nationalities like Asians also affected. Restaurant bombings, arson and Molotov cocktail attacks, bashings and abuse to name a few, have taken place against the other, although on the most serious end of the scale not being as common. Jack van Tongeren was the leader of the Australian Nationalist Movement, which was known as a white supremacist group and focused his actions on robbing and firebombing Asian restaurants but has since retired.

The fear of ‘the other’ stems from politics, law enforcement racial profiling and moral panics initiated by the media. The Cronulla Riot saw a massive mob of young white males fight for their right to own the beach free of the other, in particular, the Arab and Muslim. This appeared to have started from the bashing of a lifeguard the week earlier by members of this social group, setting off talk back radio and various forms of media. They saw the other as a threat, perhaps as a lack of respect for Australians and Australian territory, in this case, the locality residing with Cronulla Beach.

Police are known to use racial profiling, such as stop and search laws which may affect subgroups of society more than others, such as Asians with swords or Muslims for no particular reason. This may be just as evident when it comes to traffic policing.

There is also the perceived threat of immigrants taking ‘our jobs’, housing, territory, and place in our society. The damage has already been done with the White Australia Policy, which continues in stealth, infiltrating the minds of those who see themselves as the real Australian, excluding thoughts of the original land owners, being the Indigenous populations.

Trace Evidence in Forensic Science

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on November 8, 2013 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (0)

Trace evidence is created when objects come into contact with each other, whether it is the transfer of paint, fingerprints or gunshot residue. They can be removed from a crime scene with various techniques such as tape lifts and swabs. Although trace evidence can link a person to a crime scene, it doesn’t determine their guilt; therefore other corroborating evidence is required.


A number of techniques can be implemented to remove or analysis the trace evidence sample, some being destructive so photographing and measures that are least harmful are utilised as a primary option.


Omagh Bombing

On Saturday 15 August 1998 in Omagh, Northern Ireland, a splinter group of the former Provisional Irish Republican Army who were opposed to the Good Friday Agreement, planted a bomb in a car that killed 29 people and injured some 220 people (The Queen v Sean Hoey [2007] NICC 49).


Trace evidence containing Sean Hoey’s DNA was found on a number of items at the scene of the Omagh Bombing, in addition to several other bomb scenes, using a Low Carbon Number. This allows for DNA evidence to be recovered from crime scenes when the amount of DNA present is “sometimes as small as a millionth the size of a grain of salt” (Buchanan, 2007: n.p.). The downfall of such a sensitive sample is the greater risk of contamination and it is not as robust as conventional DNA testing (Budowie et al, 2009: 207).


DNA evidence means that investigators can link blood, semen, hair or tissue to a single individual, therefore identifying particulars secured at a crime scene can determine possible suspects. It is generally acknowledged that “the potential for false positive results, erroneous matches, is extremely low” (Freckelton, 2010: 21). This enables investigators to narrow down even further the list of suspects connected to a serious crime.


Operation Bronte

Trace evidence connecting convicted Frank Colledge with the murder of Carolyn Wilden appears to be fairly limited. Shoeprints in blood printed on the mattress stained with Wilden’s blood appears to have been made with thongs found in the rear of the yellow van parked in the backyard’s sleep out. It appears that no fingerprints or DNA of particular interest belonging to Colledge was revealed other than the fact he was a resident of the location in question, which was to later reveal the body of Wilden buried in a shallow grave next to the shed. The case appears to be heavily based on his confession.

To develop footwear impressions in blood, there are 10 techniques that can be used with the more common being Amido Black and Leucocrystal Violet (Saferstein, 2011: 529). The shoe print can be cut out of the fabric and taken to the lab for analysis using either of the two favoured techniques. It can be difficult to prove the offender because the print just shows what type of shoe made the impression and upon finding the shoe, it may be hard to prove the owner, although this may be fairly trivial.


Operation Flint

Pamela Lawrence was murdered in her Mosman Park jewellery store in May 1994 and this led to the false conviction and imprisonment of Andrew Mallard. Upon re-examination of the case file in 2006, trace evidence was found in the way of palm print lifts from the glass top service counter at the crime scene in 1994. This was not taken into account at the trial of Mallard, who was convicted based on unsigned police notes and a suspect video recording.


A person’s fingerprint is unique and does not change in the lifetime of the individual. Careful assessment of the ridge characteristics can enable investigators to identify a suspect and place them at a crime scene, although it cannot in any way determine the guilt of the suspect. For two prints to match, they must “reveal characteristics that not only are identical but have the same relative location to one another in a print” (Saferstein, 2011: 391).


The latent prints found on the glass top service counter may have been caused by “the transfer of body perspiration or oils present on finger ridges to the surface of an object” (Saferstein, 2011: 400). After dusting the print with a fingerprint powders and a fiberglass brush, tape lifts can be used which is a method employed to “lift trace particles, extrinsic materials or sebum deposited on the finger of an individual after recent handling of such materials” (Widjaja, 2008: 769).



Trace evidence was found in all three cases although convictions are not always imminent, as seen in the Omagh Bombing. Forensic evidence may assist investigators to identify suspects who may be involved with a crime but cannot prove the guilt of the offender. At times, wrongful conviction may arise out of proceedings, as was the case with Andrew Mallard. Unfortunately, Simon Rochford’s palm print, found on the service counter, was withheld in the investigation that may have prevented Mallard’s false conviction. Although the forensic evidence to link Frank Colledge personally other than a resident of the crime scene was limited, his testimony appeared to have sealed his conviction.


Trace evidence is an important component of forensic evidence and can assist forensic investigators in many ways, although no type of evidence that is more important than another.




Buchanan, M. (2007). Verdict raises DNA evidence doubt. Retrieved from the BBC News Website:

Budowie, B., Eisenberg, A. J., & van Daal, A. (2009). Validity of low carbon number typing and applications to forensic science. Croatian Medical Journal. 50(3), 207

Freckelton, I. (2010). DNA profiling: Collection, use and effectiveness. Melbourne, Victoria: Monash University.

Queen v Sean Hoey [2007] NICC 49

Saferstein, R. (2011). Criminalistics: An introduction to forensic science. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.

Widjaja, E. (2008). Latent fingerprints analysis using tape-lift, Raman microscopy and multivariate data analysis methods. The Royal Society of Chemistry. 134, 769-775.

How hegemonic is police culture?

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on November 5, 2013 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Police culture can refer to a ‘them and us’ attitude, the discretionary power they are able to utilise, as well as the strong sense of solidarity with fellow officers to protect each other and keep their unlawful actions a secret from supervisors and outsiders. It appears to be very hegemonic and cannot be avoided in this line of work, a common attribute with police agencies around the world.

Although all professions are held to a high standard, it appears that the policing is held to a higher standard and more scrutiny, whilst fostering the ‘blue wall of silence’. Junior officers may emerge from the police academy with the best intentions but may find it difficult to continue a non-group culture ethic, as group members like to fit in and emulate the ethics of their peers. When an officer is in trouble, he can usually count for his colleagues to cover for him and they may put themselves on the line as a result.

Most decisions made by police officers are not reviewed by outsiders or supervisors, which gives them the power to conduct their work using selective enforcement, which opens the door to arbitrariness, favouritism and discrimination. They have the power to prioritise which laws to enforce, to what extent and to whom, which at times may be interpreted as racial profiling. It is practically impossible for police to enforce all laws at the same time; therefore they must exercise discretion although police officers may share the same morals, negative prejudices and stereotyping.

Moral distance may be inbuilt into the culture, police officers assuming that they are a better person because of their inherent characteristics and as a result, may conduct their work using racial profiling to pick on particular people of sex, race, age or social-economic. This may be more of the case with laws such as stop-and-search, targeting young people or an ethnic social group under scrutiny.

Without this police culture, it may be that police officers would not stick together, perhaps working more independently for the people rather than each other. It is difficult to imagine, although some aspects may remain, such as individual racial profiling.

Police Discretion 2

Posted by StreetkidIndustries on August 12, 2013 at 9:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Like any other industry or organisation, police services around the world experience issues of ethics in the process of conducting their work. Perhaps more than most, police are under an intense spotlight, their everyday behaviour scrutinised through various forms of media, political power and their own hierarchy. Types of police ethics that may arise that should be considered, include behaving honestly in a bid to abstain from corruption, complying with all set policies and guidelines, avoiding conflict of interest where possible, reporting the misconduct of colleagues and most importantly, treating everyone with equal respect and courtesy, elements which may play an important role in the use of discretion.

Discretion is based on decisions police make in their everyday duty as a police officer, whether or not they decide to arrest or caution a particular person or refer them to another agency for further assistance. “Certain rules apply but ultimately; the final decision will be made by the individual officer on the scene” (Hayes & Lauchs, 2009: 87). In many situations, police can do their job without having to invoke their power and even the awareness that the power exists is all that is needed (Stobbs, 2010: 75). The role of policing should be considered to mean more than enforcing the law, it is also to “resolve disputes and to relieve social, interpersonal and cultural tensions” (p. 76). In addition, police are required at times to be “counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists, ministers and even doctors” (Sarre, 1989: 105). The nature of the expanded police role past the point of simple law and order appears to place a weighted importance in the use of discretion for police officers as each situation they are called to is likely to be unique. For example, a suicidal client may require negotiation services rather than a simple arrest, even though they may be wielding a weapon in order to harm themselves.

In considering the types of discretion used on the job, the Western Australia Police Code of Conduct describes the terminology to include “take heed of relevant facts, be honest, impartial and consistent and never act arbitrarily or with malice” (2008: 11). This essay tends to examine what is discretion, how it is applied to various sections of the community and how it is monitored in a way to encourage fairness in regards to decisions that need to be made.

By law, police officers are required to treat everyone equally but their judgement can be based on their personal beliefs and upbringing experiences in addition to police culture, perhaps subconsciously. “In real life, police officers have many opportunities on a daily basis to treat people differently” (Hayes & Lauchs, 2009: 87) as a result of the variety of work they may encounter such as juveniles, victims of domestic violence, indigenous and homeless people. For young people, police have a range of options such as a verbal warning, written caution, arrest or referral to a Juvenile Justice Team. This may depend on whether or not the young person is a first time offender, admits guilt or even communicates positively with the arresting officers. For a person inebriated, a charge may be replaced with supervision in a holding cell until they are sober enough to be released, taken to the hospital for a check-up or referral to a shelter equipped with resources to deal with such a person like The Salvation Army or Bridge House in Western Australia.

Full enforcement of the law may not always be appropriate (Pollock, 2004) as an intervention can be enough to prevent a person from committing another crime or the matter may be trivial. In situations of domestic violence, an officer has the decision to arrest a person or do nothing at all. Officers have been reluctant to intervene within the private sphere until fairly recently, one reason due to “cultural perspectives on gender relations” (Rowe, 2007: 76) enhanced with the mentality ‘what is in the family stays in the family’. It is possible that officers feel that attending to domestic violence is a waste of time particularly due to the victim “being subjected to repeated physical, sexual and/or emotional violence may result in certain behaviours and thoughts which contribute to an increasing inability to leave the batterer” (Thyfault, 1984: 486). The real controversy may emerge when police decide not to make an arrest when they have every right to or enough evidence to present a case (Kocklars, 1985: 96). Instead they may choose to unofficially counsel those involved before leaving the situation, believing that things will settle down or issue a Violent Restraining Order or Misconduct Restraining Order which is valid for 72 hours (Police Orders – Information, 2013).

In a study by Luke and Cuneen, it was found that young Indigenous offenders in New South Wales were more likely to be prosecuted by police than non-Indigenous offenders, even if they had no prior record of court appearances or cautions (1990: 155). “Evidence shows consistently that Indigenous young people will invariably receive the most punitive option available” (Cuneen & White, 2010: 142). Factors to be taken into consideration could include a lack of family stability, offending parents, a past record of willing to attend court or perhaps being a ward of the state in the care of the government. Culminating with police attitudes of trying to clean up the street and eradicate ‘street crime’ the police may fail to use discretion when dealing with Indigenous Australians who appear at risk to themselves as well as the community.

There are many factors that can influence discretion including the officer’s attitude, the offender’s willingness to cooperate, hierarchy decisions to crack down on particular groups of people or anti-social behaviour and the officer’s behavioural influences of elitism. “Moral distance can occur when an individual assumes they are a better person because of inherent characteristics such as race, sex, age or socio-economic background” (Grossman, 1995: 161). There is an expression ‘having a chip on the shoulder’ which tends to refer to someone having a grudge against another person and/or a section of society and that person waits “for someone to say the wrong thing in hopes that they can instantly retaliate with heated vengeance” (Pewewardy, 2003:28). For a police officer, this could strongly influence their use of discretion.

It should be considered that “it is practically impossible for the police to enforce all laws on all occasions” (Reiner, 2000). In addition, the law requires interpretation for it to be carried out, which “inevitably entails a degree of subjectivity on the part of the officer” (Rowe, 2010: 99) and their interpretation could reflect again, a variety of personal characteristics, morals and experience. Police officers may have to prioritise the laws they can enforce which could also reflect a lack of resources (Rowe, 2010: 98). This requires a level of subjectivity to be taken into consideration and the same could be said in many other occupations where employees “are expected to exercise discretion when doing their jobs” (p.99). Health care practitioners may decide on one course of treatment over the other in the same way an officer chooses to enforce one charge over the other, although the conditions differ due to officers exercising “their discretion in conditions of relative invisibility” (p.99). Police officers are in a special category, a “position in that they embody the symbolic power of the sovereign state” (Rowe, 2010: 99). Junior officers, who appear to comprise the bulk of the discretionary powers on the frontline, have fairly little supervision and governance in relation to their decisions, therefore enabling them to make discretions they see as appropriate (Wilson, 1968: 7). Police autonomy is a crucial element which is intertwined with discretion.

There are a few options for members of the public to lodge complaints against police officers, including the Corruption and Crime Commission, Ombudsman and Police Complaints, the latter being a unit attached to the Police Service which is also known as Internal Affairs Unit. Two of the four aims presented by the WA Police Code of Conduct attempts to strengthen ethical culture and “coordinate targeting of areas of corruption risk” (Ethics and Integrity, n.d.) as a result of complaints, largely made by the public. It could be expected that as a result of investigations brought to the attention of these investigatory bodies, improving discretion policy could be a key issue that is the subject of debate.

Discretion is one of the most important police ethics to examine because it is one of the first responses when attending to an offender or young person at risk. By understanding how police officers use this power, we can have a better understanding of how these decisions are made. Unfortunately, there are a wide range of reasons behind discretion ranging from police culture, personal attributes of the officer, hierarchy influences and pressures and even the attitude of the offender being questioned. The hidden natures make it difficult to change or to improve, particularly when policy attempts to do so. This appears to particularly affect certain subgroups of society such as juveniles, victims of domestic violence as well as the Indigenous and homeless populations. Particularly the latter two, who may experience more police attention than the other segments of society, due to the visibility of their presence in public areas. Discretion is exacerbated by the influence of a wide variety of legislation and a lack of resources in place, amongst many other elements that may affect a consistent discretionary result. As this essay attempted to show, there are a multitude of factors that need to be considered when examining the use of discretion.




Cuneen, C., & White, R. (2010). Juvenile justice: Youth and crime in Australia. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Ethics & Integrity. (n.d.). Retrieved from the Western Australia Police Website:

Grossman, D. (1995). On killing. Boston: Back Bay Books.

Hayes, S., & Lauchs, M. (2010). Oversight, integrity and ethics. In Policing in Context. Eds R Broadhurst & S. E. Davies. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Kocklars, C. G. (1985). Selective enforcement. In The Idea of Police. Beverley Hills: Sage.

Luke, G. & Cuneen, C. (1990). Aboriginal over-representation and discretionary decisions in the NSW juvenile justice system. Juvenile Justice Advisory Council of New South Wales, Sydney.

Pewewardy, C. Dr (2003). 100 defensive tactics and attributions: Dodging the dialog on cultural diversity. Multicultural Education, 11(1), p. 23 – 35).

Police Orders – Information. (2013). Retrieved from the Legal Aid Western Australia Website:

Pollock, J. (2004). Ethics in crime and justice: Dilemmas and decisions. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

Rowe, M. (2007). Who should read your mind? Time, 29 January: 76-9.

Rowe, M. (2010). Introduction to policing. London: Sage Publications.

Sarre, R. (1989). Towards the notion of policing ‘by consent’ and its implications for policy accountability In Australian Policing Contemporary Issues. Eds D. Chappel & P. Wilson. Sydney, New South Wales: Butterworths.

Stobbs, N. (2010). Police power and duties. In Policing in Context. Eds R Broadhurst & S. E. Davies. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Thyfault, R. (1984). Self defence: Battered woman syndrome on trial. California Western Law Review. 20(3), p. 485-510

Western Australia Police Code of Conduct. (2008). Retrieved from the WA Police Website:

Wilson, J. Q. (196:8. Varieties of police behaviour. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.