In situations involving juvenile offenders police discretion means that the police are in a position to make choices that are legally sanctioned as to what they do with a Juvenile.
The police discretion is affected by the following factors;
Offense: In exercising their discretion police pay greater attention to serious offences than they do to petty offences. Economic Status: There is some evidence to suggest that juvenile belong to lower – class families (lower class juveniles) receive different justice than their counter parts from the upper – middle class
Complains: The likelihood of arrest increases if a citizen makes a complaint and is present.
Gender: In the exercise of police discretion police are likely to arrest males compared to females. In most instances females are likely to be arrested for traditional role violations such as not obeying parents.
Race: Although research is not categorical if differential rates juvenile arrests are based on race however there is reason to believe that race affect discretion of officers in dealing will juvenile offences.
Individual Characteristics: The individual characteristics of the offender also affect the officer’s discretion. Older juveniles, those with serious records and fit the image of a delinquent and dangerous person are most likely to be arrested.
External Pressure from the Community: The status of the juvenile , the attitude of the public and the press affects the officer’s discretion so does the philosophy and recourses available from referral agencies.
Nature of Police-Juvenile Interaction: Juveniles who defer to a police officer reduce the likelihood of a formal disposition.
The different ways in which police officers process juvenile offenders are:
Informal processing on the Streets: The police officer processes juvenile offences on the streets and lets the juvenile go without him/her being taken to the station. The office could for example take note of the juvenile’s name and address for future reference.
Informal at the Station: the police officer processes the juvenile offence informally but at the police station. E.g. the officer could take the youth to the station and discuss the circumstances and situation with his/her parents after which the juvenile is sent home with the parents.
Combined informal and formal processing e.g. the officer could take the youth into custody; the juvenile is then booked, advised and released without any further action.
Formal processing: at the station e.g. the officer could take the youth into custody; where he /she is booked and fingerprinted. The juvenile may then be placed in a detection center. Parents/guardians of the juvenile are called and booked, after which the juvenile is released to go home with the parents.
Bartollas, C., & Miller, S. J. (2008). Juvenile Justice in America. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education ,Inc.