Rendering Visible the Invisible: Police Discretion, Professionalism and Decision-making

Michael Rowe*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


That police officers operate with considerable discretion is a staple of criminological literature. Based on an observational study of a British police service, this article explores the impact of a positive arrest policy that considerably reduced the extent to which officers could use their discretion when dealing with incidents of domestic violence. The basis of the policy was that the police service should treat this type of crime more seriously than has often been the case, and that the tendency for such crimes to escalate in their gravity means that an early intervention offers a more effective means of risk management. The article explores the reasons why officers tended to find the limits that this policy placed on their discretion difficult to reconcile with their notion of their own professionalism, and suggests that it raises difficult questions about ethical policing and victim-centred approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-294
Number of pages16
JournalPolicing and Society
Issue number3
Early online date24 Aug 2007
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2007
Externally publishedYes

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