|Based on guidelines that have been established by the community, it is assumed that the exercise of discretion in decision making by operational police officers will occur in a fair, conscientious and unbiased manner. Recent changes in political sentiments in Australia suggest that this rhetoric is far removed from reality. In one jurisdiction, New South Wales, "law and order' political policies have been reflected in results driven policing through the reduction of measurable reported crime, typically in association with increases in stop, search and detain or "move along" incidents. While the use of discretion in decision making by individual police officers is supported by the rhetoric of their executive management and government policy, the reality is that the officer who chooses to exercise their discretionary powers is significantly deterred from doing so.
In another jurisdiction, the Northern Territory, recent changes have seen mandatory custodial sentences enacted in legislation for some offences of dishonesty, including extremely minor property crimes. In these cases, officers must make critical decisions that may put them in a position of redefining government policy, as they are the ones who largely control the incarceration of people for minor offences. Decisions in either jurisdiction assume greater importance when the majority of those who come under notice are likely to be young males, drawn from indigenous or ethnic minorities.
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