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Bureaucrats and Discretion
Integrity in fighting crime
Integrity is an important for public-sector professionals and workers in all government agencies. All government policies are not cast in stone; some of the policies and laws are applied depending on the circumstances and the people affected (Price, 2014). The bureaucrats, who are constantly in contact with the citizenry, need to have high levels of integrity when enforcing the laws. They should be able to do the right thing honestly and responsibly. Since many policies are flexible, unscrupulous bureaucrats may use discretion to circumvent justice and propagate their personal agendas.
It is the work of bureaucrats to study the situation on the ground, reconcile the differences that may arise and apply the law without bias as stated by Herring (Herring, 1936). In so doing, they come up with better ways of applying the policies in actual situations. For example, when administering justice, the policemen should use their discretion well. Instead of asking for bribes to set lawbreakers free, they should exercise integrity and ensure that the offenders are prosecuted. If law enforcers had integrity, prisons should not be having innocent civilians. According to Osterman (1994), any form of discretion is most likely to result in problems or conflicts between citizens and state law enforcement agencies if bureaucrats do not have integrity. Therefore, bureaucrats should apply discretion with integrity at all times when administering policy established at higher levels.
A recent press release (AV Press Releases on December 12, 2017) put the Trump administration on the spot light over immigration policy. According to President Donald Trump, all undocumented immigrants in the United States should be deported to their countries in order to pave way for the American Dream. However, the application of the policy seems to be above the discretion of bureaucrats. Law enforcers are supposed to deport any undocumented person regardless of their relationships with the victims. The policy puts the enforcers in conflict with the policy and their relatives who are victims of circumstances. In such cases, discretion introduces inconsistency and subjectivity in its application since the enforcers are torn between ethical values and the use of force to tear families aside. The policy has sparked debate in various spheres with the aim of coming up with a viable solution.
The article brings into perspective this week’s topic “Putting Policy into Practice”. While it is easy for senior government officers to come up with policies, it is not always easy for bureaucrats to implement the policies. If they implement the policies to the letter, strict adherence to the policies does not bring about social and economic cohesion anticipated United States Studies Centre (2010). Donald Trump’s immigration policy helps us learn that strict adherence to policy may be difficult to implement and may not solve problems facing citizens. Bureaucrats should help in coming up with policies that work through a non-political, social, democratic and economically viable methods (Maupin, 1993).
AV Press Releases on December 12, 2017, & Releases, A. P. (2017, December 12). Trump’s America: “‘Open Season’ on Immigrants as Discretion Fades”. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://americasvoice.org/press_releases/under-trump-discretion-fades/
Herring, E. P. (1936). Public administration and the public interest.
Maupin, J. (1993). Control, Efficiency, and the Street-Level Bureaucrat. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory: J-PART, 3(3), 335-357. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/1181788
Osterman, P. (1994). Supervision, discretion, and work organization. The American Economic Review, 84(2), 380-384.
Price, Z. S. (2014). Enforcement discretion and executive duty. Vand. L. Rev., 67, 671.
United States Studies Centre (2010, February 23). Street Level Bureaucrats with Michael Lipsky. Retrieved February 18, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX1IivgPspA