Essay Example on What discretion means is Important

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Before delving into the level of discretion enjoyed by a typical street level bureaucrat understanding what discretion means is important Although the term is commonly used to portray a decision maker s power to choose one option out of many alternatives it is a complex concept with no generally acknowledged definition Christie 1986 Carrington 2005 Before looking at different features of discretion suggested by different scholars there must be a definition for discretion According to Merriam Webster Dictionary discretion is defined as following 1 a individual choice or judgment left the decision to his discretion b power of free decision or latitude of choice within certain legal bounds reached the age of discretion 2 the quality of having or showing discernment or good judgment the quality of being discreet circumspection especially cautious reserve in speech 3 ability to make responsible decisions 4 the result of separating or distinguishing Definition for this paper What this means to street level bureaucrats Lipsky 1980 elaborates three common problems that diverse strains of street level bureaucrats run into 1 a heavy workload despite lack of adequate resources 2 existence of real and psychological threats and 3 ambiguities and inconsistencies in performance goals Furthermore there cannot be a universal standard for what would account for a substantial degree of discretion of employees works given the diversity of professions that are classified as street level bureaucrats 



A typical list of street level bureaucrats includes teachers social workers nurses police officers and other law enforcement personnel Weatherly Lipsky 1977 Lipsky 1980 Hupe Hill 2007 Hughes Condon 2016 Discretion in this sense is closely related to the concept of expertise Without expertise even if it requires only a minimal amount of effort so that anyone can easily obtain it after going through a quick training program discretion plays a role Expertise is a necessary but insufficient condition for discretion How one approaches about developing expertise may be vastly different from individuals to individuals If one goes about to measuring people s expertise s he would expect to see a lot of variances Another dimension can be individual capacity working how much is appropriate for bureaucrats to cope with problems confronted How are the incentive not necessarily pecuniary incentives only schema designed Creating enough motivation to let bureaucrats actively cope with the situations Causes of Discretion Discretion are necessary for street level bureaucrats for various reasons This section will explore a list of antecedents for discretion that are covered in past literature By no means this will be an exhaustive but the causes identified are ambiguity or uncertainties in law expertise inaccuracies in measuring performance complexity of tasks risks of tasks overwhelming amount of work and the development of technology Evidently ambiguities in law requires street level bureaucrats to exercise more discretion because how they interpret laws become vital to the types of services that citizens receive Weatherly Lipsky 1988 Maynard Moody Musheno 2000 Expertise of street level bureaucrats also determine what forms of discretion they exercise while performing the task 



They must not only fully recognize the scope of the problem appropriately identify the needs of the citizens and assess risks that are involved with performing the task Lack of expertise not only interfere with exercising routine discretion but also creative discretion in most cases where bureaucrats are not fully equipped with an appropriate level of expertise and knowledge will lead them to exercise deviant discretion Kelley 1993 In general precisely laying out performance goals that satisfy the overall citizens needs and measuring that performance of public sector are difficult often regarded to be impossible tasks Inherently the goals of public sector are ambiguous compared to the private sector not only because there are many variables that one must consider but also because these variables often conflict with one another Simon 1946 Lindblom 1953 Drucker 1980 Chun Rainey 2005 Measuring performance for street level bureaucrats however presents additional challenge as how these employees perform task depend on the context

 Naturally these employees tend to believe their tasks as inherently subjective and stubbornly rely on their discretion to perform the tasks rather than reaching out for help or advices Lipsky 1980 Complexity of tasks also presents another reason for street level bureaucrats to exercise discretion In this case they will exercise discretion to minimize or simplify the work Lipsky 1980 Lipsky also presents that risk of the task can also be a factor as street level bureaucrats will tend to be take more harsh and punitive measures when citizens are aggressive while they tend to be more generous when citizens behave the opposite Closely related to the complexity of tasks is also overabundance of tasks that street level bureaucrats must perform Compared to the resources provided street level bureaucrats need to Development of technology Bovens Zouridis 2002 Buffat 2013


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