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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 69577 Find in a Library
Title: Enforcing the Blue Laws - Police Discretion and the Rule of Law
Journal: Criminal Justice Review  Volume:4  Issue:2  Dated:(Fall 1979)  Pages:65-78
Author(s): F A Schubert
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 14
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The Massachusette Sunday Closing Laws as they existed in November of 1976 were used as a vehicle for examining police discretion and its relationship to the rule of law.
Abstract: During the 1976 Christmas season many Massachusetts retailers openly defied the Sunday Closing Laws (Blue Laws) by opening their stores. They did so because they believed themselves to be at a significant disadvantage compared with retailers just across the Massachusetts borders in adjacent States, who could legally open on Sundays. They sensed that public opinion was behind them, They also knew that a justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, while refusing to enjoin the laws' enforcement, had indicated his belief that the law was unconsititutional. The Governor and attorney general openly disagreed over whether the police should enforce the law. In the midst of this turmoil were the State's police chiefs who had to formulate local enforcement policy. A questionnaire was mailed to each of the 310 police chiefs to determine what policy they had taken towards enforcement, the reason for the police response, and who had communicated with the chief in the decisionmaking process; 44 percent of the questionnaires were returned. The results showed that chiefs experiencing violations reported exercising broad discretion and did not uniformly comply with the statutory enforcement mandate. The chiefs who prosecuted violators also reported that they became involved because of their own initiatives and not because of citizen requests for enforcement. The results further indicated that chiefs made few communications with nonpolice persons prior to making their policy decision. These results suggest that wider input should be made into the process by which chiefs decide enforcement policy. Legislatures could facilitate the development of control on police discretion by restructuring the statutory framework so as to provide for legitimized police discretion or by considering alternative methods for implementing administrative rulemaking in police departments. Tables, 29 references, and 9 notes are provided. (Author abstract modified)
Index Term(s): Defiance of law; Massachusetts; Police decisionmaking; Police discretion; State laws
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