POLICE DISCRETION WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS

POLICE DISCRETION WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
POLICE DISCRETION WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
Peter J. Carrington and Jennifer L. Schulenberg
With the assistance of:
Anne Brunelle
Joanna Jacob
Ian Pickles
Report to the Department of Justice Canada
© HER MAJESTY THE QUEEN IN RIGHT OF CANADA (2003)
The opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors alone, and do not
necessarily represent the views of the Department of Justice Canada.
The analysis in this document is based, in part, on data from the Canadian Centre for
Justice Statistics. The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not
necessarily represent the views of Statistics Canada or the data providers.
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Executive Summary
This report was commissioned by the Department of Justice in support of the
implementation and evaluation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The research had two
main objectives: to provide a comprehensive description of the ways in which police in
Canada currently exercise their discretion with youth, and to identify and assess factors
which affect that exercise of discretion. Our intention was to provide information which
could be used in two ways:
•
as baseline data which can be compared in the future with similar data on the
exercise of police discretion under the YCJA, in order to conduct an evaluation of
the impact of the YCJA on police decision-making with youth, using a “pre-post”
quasi-experimental design; and
•
to identify aspects of the policing environment and of police organizations, which
policymakers and police management could attempt to modify, in order to support
police officers in exercising their discretion in conformity with the intent and
specific provisions of the YCJA.
We collected in-depth qualitative and quantitative information on a nationally
representative sample of 95 police services, including many OPP and RCMP
detachments, by means of more than 200 interviews with officers, observation during
“ride-alongs”, police agency documents, and statistical data from the Uniform Crime
Reporting (UCR) Surveys. The sample is representative of all provinces and territories,
all types of communities, and all types of police service, including independent municipal
services, provincial police, First Nations police services, and police training facilities.
Use of police discretion
Two aspects of police decision-making with youth were analyzed: the police disposition,
or clearance, of the incident: whether to lay a charge (or recommend one, in provinces
where the Crown makes the final decision) or divert to a pre-charge diversion program or
Alternative Measures, or to resolve the incident by informal action; and the method(s)
chosen to compel the appearance of the youth in court. Most police officers do not see
these as two discrete decisions concerned strictly with the enforcement of the law, but
rather view them as inseparably interrelated parts of a repertoire of responses which they
use to resolve situations involving youth whom they believe to have committed offences.
Police officers appear to have two main objectives in deciding upon a disposition for an
incident. One is to satisfy the requirements of traditional law enforcement: to investigate
the incident, identify and apprehend the perpetrator(s), and assemble the necessary
evidence if there is to be a prosecution. Their other, less explicit, objective appears to be
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to deliver an appropriate sanction, or consequence, semi-independently of the Youth
Court and correctional system. Particularly in metropolitan jurisdictions, police officers
tended to contrast unfavourably the perceived remoteness of the Crown and Youth Court,
and the cumbersome and slow nature of their proceedings, with their own proximity to
the reality of street crime, their own ability to deliver swift sanctions, and their familiarity
with the circumstances and needs of individual young offenders.
On the basis of our discussions with police, it is possible to construct a list of the
consequences, or sanctions, usually applied by police in dealing with a young person who
they believe on reasonable grounds has committed an offence. From least to most severe,
these are:
1. Take no further action.
2. Give an informal warning.
3. Involve the parents.
4a Give a formal warning; and/or
4b. Arrest, take to the police station, and release without charge.
5a. Arrest, take to the police station, and refer to pre-charge alternative measures; or
5b. Lay a charge without arrest by way of an appearance notice or summons, then
recommend for post-charge alternative measures.
6. Arrest, charge, and release on an appearance notice, a summons, or (more
commonly) a Promise to Appear (PTA) without conditions.
7. Arrest, charge, and release on PTA with conditions on an Officer in Charge (OIC)
Undertaking.
8. Arrest, charge, and detain for a judicial interim release (JIR) hearing.
(The severity of options 6, 7, and 8 could be mitigated by recommending post-charge
alternative measures.)
A third objective of police action arises from what police see as their crime prevention
and social welfare responsibilities. On many occasions, police will refer a youth to a
diversion program, not as a sanction, but in order to address the youth’s perceived needs
– whether these needs are directly related to the crime, or are seen as problems with
which the youth needs assistance. Officers sometimes also detain a youth who is at risk
in the interests of the youth’s safety or welfare.
The proportion of apprehended youth who were charged increased under the Young
Offenders Act (YOA). This is mainly due to the enormous increase in charging in certain
provinces, notably Ontario and Saskatchewan, which appears to be related to their
reliance on post-charge delivery of Alternative Measures. The use of police discretion
with youth in Quebec and British Columbia has increased substantially in the past
decade, with the result that they now have the lowest recorded proportion of apprehended
youth charged. This appears to be due to their unique screening systems for charging
youth.
Many forms of informal action are open to an officer who has apprehended a youth –
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taking no action, informal and formal warnings, involving the parents, arresting and
taking the youth to the police station and then releasing him or her, and informal referral
to a program (i.e. without invoking Alternative Measures). The great majority of the
officers and police agencies in our sample use informal action frequently with youth.
Almost all of the agencies in our sample use informal warnings, and one-third use various
types of formal warnings. It is also common practice to take apprehended youth home
and/or involve the parents if possible. One-quarter of the sample said that one type of
informal action which they use with a youth whom they have reasonable grounds to
believe has committed an offence is to arrest and take him or her to the police station,
then release without laying a charge.
Approximately half of the sample refer youth to pre-charge diversion programs, whether
under the auspices of Alternative Measures or not. The great majority of officers feel that
they can play a useful role with some young offenders in some circumstances. Diversion
to a program or agency is often seen as a much more effective way of dealing with a
youth’s perceived criminogenic problem than referring him or her to Youth Court; also,
referral to Alternative Measures is seen as a useful intermediate sanction, representing a
consequence for the youth which is more severe than informal action, but less harsh than
laying a charge. By far the greatest source of dissatisfaction with AM programs which
was expressed by interviewees is their unavailability. In many communities, the range of
programs is inadequate; in many others, there are no programs at all.
Youth-related cases of administration of justice offences have increased exponentially in
the past 20 years. Almost all of these are violations of bail or probation conditions and
failures to appear for court. Police exercise less discretion with these offences than with
any other offence except murder. Many such cases are referred to them by other system
agents – mainly the Youth Court or probation officers – and they feel they have no
alternative but to comply with the request to lay a charge. When police themselves
discover a breach, they may well overlook it, unless there are aggravating circumstances.
Often, for example, the breach is just the tip of the iceberg – the youth has a substantial
record of prior offences, including prior breaches, and is on bail in multiple current cases
before the court, and/or on probation for past offences. None of the officers whom we
interviewed seemed to think that they could overlook a failure to appear: once a bench
warrant is issued, they perceive their discretion as inapplicable. One way in which police
do seem to be contributing to this epidemic is in their decisions concerning conditions of
release from custody. In some circumstances, police will impose, or seek to have
imposed, intrusive conditions which may inadvertently “set the youth up for failure”.
Possible methods of compelling the appearance of a youth (or adult) in court include: the
summons and appearance notice, which can be used either instead of arrest, or as a
method of release after arrest; and release on a Promise to Appear (PTA), with or without
an Undertaking involving conditions. Theoretically, police can also release a young
person on a Recognizance, but this is apparently never done.
The use of the summons or appearance notice without arrest would seem to be
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particularly desirable with young offenders, but in fact they are rarely used. The main
reason for this appears to be that when an officer contemplates laying a charge or
referring to pre-charge Alternative Measures, s/he needs to obtain enough evidence to
support a prosecution, which can be done much more satisfactorily in a police station
than in the street or police car. Also, arresting the youth and taking him or her to the
police station prior to laying a charge are seen as ways of impressing the seriousness of
the situation upon the youth.
Following arrest and temporary custody, most officers prefer the Promise to Appear to
the summons or appearance notice as a method of release, because it can be accompanied
by an Undertaking which specifies conditions of release. Many officers seem to attach
considerable significance to the conditions contained in an undertaking. They see these
conditions as relatively precise, immediate, enforceable constraints on the young person’s
future behaviour, and immediate, concrete consequences (sanctions) for the youth’s
criminal act.
The most intrusive option for compelling appearance is detention for a Judicial Interim
Release (JIR) hearing. The reasons given by police officers for detaining youth fall into
three broad categories. The first includes reasons related to law enforcement, narrowly
defined, such as establishing identity, protecting evidence, ensuring attendance at court of
a youth whom police have reason to believe would not otherwise attend, and preventing a
repetition of the offence. The second group of reasons could be summarized as “detention
for the good of the youth”. These include detaining youth who are intoxicated, who do
not have a safe or secure home to be released to, and whom social services will not or
cannot accommodate, or who are prostitutes. The alternative – releasing them to a
dangerous and possibly lethal environment – is seen by some officers as neither prudent
nor humane. The third type of rationale treats detention as another kind of police
disposition – that is, as another in the repertoire of measures which police will take in
order to administer a sanction, or meaningful consequence, for a youth’s illegal
behaviour.
Environmental factors
Police agencies operate within a complex environment, consisting of, among other things,
the nature of the local community, federal and provincial legislation, policies, procedures,
and programs, local public and private resources, and public opinion. The police have
little or no control over their environment. Nor can any federal or provincial government
agency expect to have much immediate impact on some salient aspects of the policing
environment, such as the degree of urbanization, socio-demographic characteristics, or
the level and type of crime of the communities which police serve. However, provincial
governments can have an effect other aspects of the policing environment which affect
the exercise of police discretion, namely the relationship of Crown prosecutors with the
police, and the availability of diversion programs.
The availability of external resources to which apprehended youth can be diverted is seen
by many police officers as crucial to their ability to avoid laying a charge. This
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availability varies widely. They are much more common in metropolitan jurisdictions
than in suburban/exurban communities or, especially, rural communities and small towns.
However, they are seen by officers as inadequate in all types of communities and all parts
of Canada. When there is no available agency to which police can release a youth in
need of immediate supervision or intervention, then they sometimes feel constrained to
hold the youth for a bail hearing.
Some research, especially in the U.S.A., has found that urbanization is associated with
higher crime rates and higher levels of formal action by police; whereas, there is less
crime and a more neighbourly atmosphere in rural areas and small towns, and a
corresponding less formal policing style. In Canada, there is no relationship between
urbanization and the crime rate. Crime rates in small places are as high as those in the
largest cities. However, youths commit more serious violent crime and property crime,
and more gang-related crime, in metropolitan areas. There is also a different style of
policing in rural and small town areas, and also some differences between policing in
urban centres and their suburban and exurban fringes. Rural and small town communities
have a distinctive social climate that appears also to influence police decision-making.
With a higher density of acquaintanceship, rural and small town officers feel more
accountable to the community. On the other hand, most rural areas and small towns in
Canada are policed by detachments of the provincial police, including RCMP operating
under provincial contracts, and detachment commanders in the RCMP and OPP are
accountable to their superiors, and, ultimately, to headquarters in Ottawa or Orillia.
Rural and small town officers suggested that the communities they police want the police
to be tough on youth crime but not to incarcerate their youth. Officers in rural areas and
small towns appear to make more use of informal action, but less use of pre-charge
diversion, than officers in metropolitan and suburban jurisdictions.
29% of police services said there was “a lot” of youth crime in their community, 17%
said “not very much”, and the others indicated “a normal amount”. Perceived high levels
of youth crime are more common in the Prairies and the Territories, and in metropolitan
areas. Police agencies in communities with “not very much” youth crime charge higher
proportions of apprehended youth. They are also more likely to use various forms of
informal action and pre-charge diversion, and they are more likely to detain for a JIR
hearing and to cite “legalistic” rather than social welfare reasons for detention. Officers in
most police services deal with high levels of minor property crime and minor assaults by
youth. Three-quarters of the police agencies also perceive high levels of serious property
crime by youth, especially break and enter. One-quarter identified a problem of serious
violent youth crime. One-quarter identified a problem of youth gangs. Serious violent
crime and gangs are both more common in metropolitan areas and the Prairies. 80% of
the police services in the sample perceive a serious problem of drug-related crime among
youth in their jurisdictions. These are spread across all the provinces andterritories, and in
all types of communities. 14% of the police services - all but one in
metropolitan jurisdictions - identified a problem of teenage prostitution. We found no
significant relationship between the types of youth crime identified in a jurisdiction, and
the exercise of discretion with young persons in that jurisdiction.
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42% of the agencies in the sample said that they have jurisdiction over significant
populations of aboriginal peoples, living either on- or off-reserve. They are more
prevalent in the Territories, British Columbia, and the Prairies. Police services which
police off-reserve aboriginals have rates of charging apprehended youth which are a little
higher than other police agencies. The interview data indicate that police agencies with
jurisdiction over aboriginal populations are slightly more likely than other police services
to use informal action, twice as likely to refer youth to a Restorative Justice program, less
likely to use summonses or appearance notices, more likely to use a Promise to Appear
and an OIC Undertaking, and more likely to detain for a JIR hearing because the youth is
a repeat offender, is intoxicated, or for the youth’s safety.
About two-thirds of respondents found the community to be generally or very supportive
of the police; one-quarter offered fairly neutral or mixed assessments, and 14% found the
community to be only “somewhat” or “not” supportive. We found no relationship
between the exercise of police discretion with youth and the perceived level of
community support.
Organizational factors
Probably the most salient aspect of the police organization in its decision-making with
young offenders is whether or not it has a youth squad (or dedicated youth officers – that
is, officers who are assigned exclusively to youth-related crime). Only 17 of the 92
police services in our sample have a youth squad or dedicated youth officers. These are
all independent municipal police services, and the great majority (14) are large
organizations, with more than 100 officers. They are located mainly in metropolitan
areas, especially in Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. It is difficult for smaller
police services and detachments to dedicate one or more officers exclusively to handling
youth crime. Some smaller police services and detachments have officers who specialize
in youth-related incidents, but who also do other kinds of police work. It appears that the
use of youth squads and dedicated youth officers by Canadian police services has
diminished considerably since their heyday in the 1970’s, and that this is probably largely
due to financial stringencies during the 1990’s.
Police services with youth sections and/or dedicated youth officers respond differently to
youth-related incidents. In particular, it appears from the interview data that they make
more use of referrals to external agencies and pre-charge diversion, and less use of formal
charges. They are more likely to use the less intrusive methods of compelling
appearance. When using OIC undertakings, however, they tend to use conditions that are
more restrictive and are targeted to the youth’s alleged criminal conduct. They are also
more likely to use detention, like the conditions of release, as a means of addressing what
they see as the criminogenic conditions of the youth’s life. Many innovative programs
are developed by youth officers, and they are able to involve themselves proactively with
youth in the community within a primary, secondary or tertiary capacity. Youth officers
acting as follow-up and as a resource to patrol officers facilitate the gathering of
intelligence and an increased knowledge of alternatives to formal youth court. In a sense,
the existence of a youth squad – just like the existence of a homicide or armed robbery
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unit - is an indication that the police service recognizes the unique nature of this
particular kind of crime, and places priority on developing specialist expertise in
responding to it.
83% of police agencies in the sample have School Liaison Officers (SLO’s), but only
40% assign enforcement duties (response, investigation and disposition) to their SLO’s –
in the other police services, the role of the SLO is restricted to making crime prevention
presentations in schools. SLO’s, especially with enforcement duties, are more common
in larger police services, presumably because of resource considerations. The presence of
SLO’s, especially SLO’s with enforcement duties, slightly reduces the use of charging
with young offenders. Police agencies which have SLO’s, especially SLO’s with
enforcement duties, appear to use less intrusive means of dealing with youth crime: they
are more likely to use informal action, less likely to lay charges, bring the youth home or
to the police station for questioning, more likely to make referrals to external agencies,
more likely to use pre-charge diversion, and more likely to use appearance notices to
compel attendance at court.
Community policing has four dimensions: philosophical, strategic, tactical, and
organizational. The strategic dimension of community policing comprises the adoption
and public promulgation of written policies and protocols for all aspects of policing, and
the allocation of significant resources to community policing. According to the officers
whom we interviewed, 22% of the police services in the sample have implemented the
strategic dimension by allocating significant resources to community policing. Police
services which have allocated significant resources to community policing have lower
charge rates. They use more informal action, make more referrals to external agencies,
use more pre-charge alternative measures, and more PTA’s to avoid detaining the youth,
or “as a higher consequence” (than the summons or appearance notice) for the youth.
The tactical dimension of community policing includes involvement in crime prevention
programs and the adoption of the problem-oriented policing (POP) model. Every police
agency in the sample is involved in crime prevention programs, but the degree of
involvement varies considerably. Agencies with a higher level of involvement in crime
prevention programs tend to have a lower rate of charging, especially in communities
with high levels of youth crime. More involvement in crime prevention programs is
associated with more use of informal action. Adoption of the problem-oriented policing
(POP) model does not appear to have a large impact on decision-making with youth.
About half of the sample was able to provide documentation on policies and protocols for
handling youth-related incidents and young offenders. However, only 13% of officers
whom we interviewed found their organizations’ policies and protocols helpful, and only
2% found them to be realistic. Police services which have youth-related policies and
protocols charge fewer apprehended youth: they tend to make more use of pre-charge
diversion, and of appearance notices. Officers who find their agency’s policies and
protocols for handling youth helpful or realistic are more likely to use various forms of
informal action, referrals to external agencies, pre-charge diversion, and appearance
notices; and to “follow the law” and not to invoke social welfare considerations, in
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making detention and release decisions.
There are two common models for the authority and responsibility to lay a charge: frontline autonomy, and front-line initial decision with review by another officer(s). The
impact of the procedural model for charging varies, depending on whether the police
service has a youth squad or not. The model with the lowest charge rates is front-line
autonomy in a police service which has youth specialists. The model with the highest
charge rate is front-line autonomy with no youth specialization. The implication is that
front-line autonomy results in greater use of discretion not to charge young persons if the
front-line officer has training to deal with youth, or if the police service is committed to
using discretion with youth, as indicated by its establishment of a youth squad. Agencies
in which there are no dedicated youth officers, and front-line officers decide alone on the
disposition of youth-related cases, tend to use referrals to external agencies and precharge diversion less, and lay charges more. Finally, autonomous patrol officers appear
to use less intrusive measures to compel the attendance of a young person in court.
40% of officers said their work was mostly reactive, 9% said it was mostly proactive, and
51% said that their work involved “a bit of both”. Officers whose work is mostly
proactive are more likely to use informal action, less likely to use formal charges, less
likely to detain youth for a JIR hearing, but more likely to use more intrusive conditions
on release Undertakings.
Decentralized police agencies use more informal action, more pre-charge diversion, more
Promise to Appears (PTA’s), more conditions on release Undertakings, and more
detention for JIR hearings.
Offence- and offender-related factors
The “legal” factors of the seriousness of the offence (including its Criminal Code
classification, the presence and type of weapon, and harm done to the person or property
of a victim) and the youth’s history of previous police contacts are by far the most
important determinants of the officer’s decision whether to lay a charge or resolve the
incident otherwise. However, the relationship between the type of offence and the
likelihood of charging is not a simple question of “seriousness”. Some more serious
offences have lower charge rates, and some less serious offences have higher charge
rates. A charge is much more likely if the youth was carrying a weapon, especially a
firearm (which is very rare), or if a victim suffered significant harm to person or property.
The youth’s history of previous criminal activity has a very strong influence on police
discretion. The number of prior apprehensions of the youth is the strongest single
predictor of the decision to charge.
The next strongest influence on the decision to charge is the youth’s demeanour. Officers
stressed the importance of the youth’s accepting responsibility for his/her wrongdoing, ix
and their willingness to “give him a break” when remorse and respect for the law were
expressed. They also repeatedly referred to “accepting responsibility” as a criterion of
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eligibility for Alternative Measures.
The next most important factors in the decision to charge are the victim’s expressed
dispositional preference, the extent and nature of parental involvement (whether parents
appeared to be willing and able to take custody and control of the youth, and whether
they expressed an appropriate attitude to their child’s wrongdoing), and the stability of
the youth’s home and school situations.
40% of respondents mentioned whether the crime was gang-related, and 22% cited the
youth’s gang affiliation, as factors or major factors in their decision-making.
28% of interviewees said that the youth’s age was a factor or major factor in their
decision-making. An apprehended 17 year old youth is 50% more likely to be charged,
even when other factors such as the seriousness of the offence and his/her criminal
history are controlled.
Some other factors play a minor or secondary role in the police decision to charge:
whether the incident involved one or more offenders, the location and/or time of day,
whether the youth was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, any relationship between
the youth and a victim, and whether an adult co-offender as involved.
The type of victim (person or business) and the youth’s gender and race play little or no
role in the decision whether to charge, according to officers interviewed. Analysis of
statistical data from the UCR2 Survey suggests that aboriginal youth are substantially
more likely to be charged, even when other related factors are controlled.
We compared the views on the importance of these factors of officers from different parts
of the country, different types of communities, and in different functional assignments.
The most striking result was the consistency of views across all officers (and the
consistency of the interview data with the results of statistical analysis of UCR2 data,
and, indeed, with most previous research, in Canada and in other countries).
Conclusions
Our research suggests that the main impediment to police diversion of apprehended youth
is the lack of suitable programs. The great majority of police officers whom we
interviewed believe that informal diversion and Alternative Measures are potentially
valuable responses to youth crime, but many officers are unable to use them at all, and
practically all officers are unable to use them as much as they would like to, because of
their unavailability. Thus, they feel they have no alternative but to lay a charge in
circumstances where mere informal action is, in their view, an inadequate response.
At least from the point of view of the police whom we interviewed, post-charge diversion
programs are not an attractive alternative. They have little input to the post-charge x
diversion decision, and are ignorant of its outcome. It appears paradoxical to them that
they have to lay a charge in order to divert the youth. Our analysis of statistical data
lends support to the commonsense view that post-charge alternative measures result in an
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increase in charging.
Apart from diversion programs per se, social programs which can offer help to youth in
need or at risk are, according to many of our respondents, woefully inadequate. In the
absence of these programs and agencies, police officers sometimes find themselves in the
position of surrogate social workers, seeing no alternative to the use of their powers to
arrest, charge and detain youth whose main needs are for protection and assistance, not
criminal sanctioning.
Concerning informal action, our conclusion from this research is that it is, and always has
been, widely used by police with apprehended youth, and will continue to be under the
new statute. However, there is room for a huge expansion in its use. Under the Juvenile
Delinquents Act, many police services used informal action with three-quarters or more
of apprehended youth. Quite a few police services and detachments, particularly in
Quebec and British Columbia, currently charge only 20-30% of apprehended youth. The
YOA explicitly authorized the use of police discretion with youth: to take “no measures”
or “measures other than judicial proceedings” but it seems that the implementation of the
YOA was singularly unsuccessful in legitimating, for both the police and the public, the
use by police of informal action with youth. Most police officers continue to see
informal action (and pre-charge diversion) as “giving the kid a break”, rather than as a
legitimate law-enforcement response to a violation of the law.
The YCJA encourages informal action by police, and makes it presumptive instead of
merely acceptable with non-violent first offenders. However, it seems to us that a major
educational campaign will be needed to persuade the police that informal action is a fully
legitimate and appropriate response to juvenile lawbreaking – just as legitimate and
appropriate, in some circumstances, as referral to a program or to court.
The YCJA also encourages the use of non-judicial measures with administrative offences.
However, as with the use of informal action by police, it seems to us that the
implementation of this new way of thinking about administrative offences will require a
major effort.
The two provinces in which police told us that the Crown screens their recommendations
to charge – Quebec and British Columbia1 – also have the lowest recorded rates of
charging of apprehended youth in the country. This seems unlikely to be a coincidence.
Many officers in British Columbia told us that they find the system of Crown screening
of their recommendations to charge so frustrating that they prefer, wherever possible, to
use informal action or pre-charge diversion (not Alternative Measures). The rather
perverse implication of this is that one way to reduce the use by police of formal charges
is to make the procedure frustrating so that they avoid using it.
1 Although New Brunswick is usually identified as a Crown screening
province, the police officers whom we interviewed in New Brunswick told
us that they had the authority to lay a charge without consulting the
Crown.
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Concerning organizational influences on the use of police discretion with youth, our
findings suggest that police services which want to increase their use of informal action
and of pre-charge diversion, and to reduce the use of intrusive methods of compelling
appearance, might consider any of the following measures: wholehearted adoption of the
community policing model, in all its dimensions, including a fundamental organizational
redesign and philosophical reorientation, the allocation of significant resources to
community policing, increased involvement in crime prevention programs, especially in
high-crime communities, and the adoption of the POP model by all ranks; creation of a
youth squad, or at least one or more officers who specialize in youth crime; adoption of
explicit policies and protocols for handling youth crime and young offenders; provision
of training in handling youth crime to all front-line officers, and then allowing them to
have autonomy in deciding how to dispose of youth-related incidents; assigning
investigative and enforcement functions to SLO’s who currently are limited to making
presentations in schools; increasing the use of proactive policing; and decentralizing
decision-making in the organization.
Many police managers are perfectly aware of the value of a youth squad, enforcement
SLO’s, etc., and many police services used to have youth squads, but they were
abandoned under the pressure of financial stringency during the 1990’s. The core
activities of the police, in the view of most police officers and most members of the
public, are routine patrol, and responding to calls for service, i.e. reports by the public of
a crime. Therefore, if the various organizational innovations detailed above are to be
adopted, a police service must not only receive funding for that innovation, but it must
also be assured of an adequate base budget – because if the base budget for traditional
policing functions which are expected by the public is inadequate, then inevitably ways
will be found to divert the funds for innovation to what are seen by all as core activities.
Our analysis of situational factors in police decision-making has at least one implication
for the implementation of the YCJA. This concerns the paramount importance to police
of the record of the youth’s previous apprehensions, whether or not they resulted in a
charge or a conviction. If one aspect of the implementation of the YCJA is going to be a
significant improvement in the recording of informal action, in order to track its use and
effectiveness, this may well have the effect of increasing the information available to
police on a youth’s previous criminal activity – and this may result in an increase in
charging.
We suggest several research initiatives which are complementary to the present research:
an impact evaluation of the YCJA which collects comparable data in a few years time,
and analyzes any changes that have taken place; a baseline file study of police discretion
under the YOA, which collects quantitative data on various aspects of police discretion,
such as informal warnings, formal warnings, arrest, etc.; an in-depth study of police
services which exemplify “best practices” with youth; a study of the processing of
administrative offences under the YCJA; and improvement of the UCR2 Survey as a tool
for monitoring the implementation and impact of the YCJA, by increasing its coverage
and improving the integrity of its key indicators of police discretion.
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Acknowledgments
This report relies principally on information obtained from police officers during lengthy
face-to-face interviews conducted during 2002. It also draws on documents supplied by
police services, observation of police work during ride-alongs, and statistical data from
the Uniform Crime Reporting Survey. Above all, however, it is based on the information
provided, and views expressed, by over 300 police officers in 95 police agencies. It is to
these officers that we owe our heartfelt thanks for their generous cooperation. When we
planned this project, we had no idea how much cooperation we could expect from police
services and their members. In the event, practically every police service which we
approached agreed to participate in the research, and the few which declined did so for
reasons beyond their control. Furthermore, in practically every police service which
participated, we were allowed to interview not only patrol officers, investigators, and
supervisors, but also senior management including Commanding Officers. All of these
individuals took time from crowded schedules to participate in lengthy interviews which
covered many subjects whose relevance must have been far from obvious to them.
Nevertheless, they were not only exceptionally forthcoming with information and
opinions, but also unfailingly courteous, helpful, gracious, and even hospitable – which
we much appreciated, given the rigours of Canada-wide travel. We were particularly
struck by the openness of the police services and their members – exemplified by one
officer who, when asked for permission to quote him, said “Go ahead – I’ve got nothing
to hide.” We hope they will feel that the results of the research justify the considerable
investment which they made in it.
There are too many officers and police services to list individually here, but the names of
all who participated in the research are listed in the Methodological Appendix, as a token
of our gratitude to each of them.
There are certain organizations whose support of the project and assistance with its
execution were crucial, and without which it would not have succeeded. These are the
POLIS (Police Information and Statistics) Committee of the Canadian Association of
Chiefs of Police, the National Youth Strategy of the RCMP, the Operational Planning and
Research Bureau of the Ontario Provincial Police, and the Canadian Centre for Justice
Statistics.
The POLIS Committee, chaired by Supt. Frank Ryder, OPP, then by Chief Cal Johnston,
Regina Police, provided crucial early support for the project, and helpful advice and
feedback during its planning and execution. Members of the Committee also provided us
with our first opportunities to visit and interview police services. We believe that this
committee’s endorsement and early support of the project were crucial to its acceptance
by the wider police community. We particularly wish to acknowledge the assistance of
John Turner, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, and vice-chair of the POLIS
xiii
Committee, who took a personal interest in this project and kindly arranged for us to
attend and address several meetings of the Committee.
The endorsement of the project by the National Youth Strategy of the RCMP, and by its
Officer in Charge, Dorothy Franklin, were, we believe, crucial to our obtaining access to,
and the cooperation of, the 29 RCMP detachments in which we conducted interviews.
Ms. Franklin’s staff wrote a large number of introductory letters for us to members at
several levels of the RCMP, including provincial Divisional Commanders and Officers in
Charge of detachments; the provincial Divisional Commanders in turn approved and
facilitated our access to detachments in their Divisions. In addition, on the initiative of
Cpl. Dave Gray, National Youth Strategy, we were able to interview several members
who had recently served in remote Northern detachments but who were currently
stationed in more accessible locations. This allowed us to include in the sample
detachments in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, which would otherwise have been
inaccessible to us.
We were also unable to visit detachments of the OPP in Northern Ontario, but on the
initiative of Supt. Susan Dunn, Commander, Operational Planning and Research Bureau,
and with the assistance of Acting S/Sgt. Larry Proctor and Mr. Garth Coleman,
arrangements were made for members of ten Northern Ontario detachments to travel to
OPP Headquarters in Orillia to be interviewed. This generous initiative by Supt. Dunn
and her staff, and the willingness of the officers to undertake the travel to Orillia, and of
their Commanders to permit their absence from their duties, greatly improved the
representativeness of our sample, since we would otherwise have been forced to omit
most of Northern Ontario.
Finally, the support and cooperation of the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS)
were also absolutely crucial to our ability to obtain the data which we required. In order
for us to do a satisfactory multivariate analysis of data from the Incident-Based Crime
Reporting Survey, it was necessary for CCJS to carry out a special record linkage project.
Joan Coulter, Assistant Director, CCJS, provided crucial early support for this project and
shepherded it through the initial stages of the institutional arrangements. When Ms.
Coulter moved to another branch of Statistics Canada, her work on behalf of this project
was taken over and brought to a successful completion by her successor, Jillian Oderkirk,
with the support of Roy Jones, Director, CCJS, and Orest Fedorowycz, Senior Analyst.
John Turner, Chief, Policing Services Program, also provided early support. Colin
Babyak, Lori Stratychuk, Zachary Pritchard, and Kuawa Williams, Methodology Section,
Statistics Canada, provided the statistical and methodological expertise to carry out and
evaluate the record linkage process. Holly Johnson, Chief, Research and Analysis
Program, CCJS, and Robin Fitzgerald, Senior Advisor, Special Studies, provided
institutional support and colleagueship. Above all, we wish to express our appreciation
to Tim Leonard, Manager, UCR Survey, upon whose shoulders fell the task of
coordinating the CCJS part of the project. He provided invaluable expertise concerning
the intricacies of the UCR2 Survey, assistance in arranging our visits to and work at
CCJS, acute commentary on the developing results of the record linkage project, and
continuing invaluable advice, support and colleagueship during its long genesis.
xiv
We also thank the following people, who have provided advice, support, or background
information during the research: Tony Doob, Judith Fowler, Jim Hackler, Alan
Markwart, Sharon Moyer, Jon Peat, Irene Thurston, Suzanne Wallace-Capretta, and Ivan
Zinger.
Our research staff – Anne Brunelle, Joanna Jacob, Sharalynn Krahn, Barbara Muszynski,
and Ian Pickles – satisfied all of our unreasonable demands conscientiously and
cheerfully, while working under appalling time pressures.
Finally, we gratefully acknowledge the support and encouragement of Youth Justice
Policy, Department of Justice Canada, which commissioned this research. The general
conception of the project is due to Dick Barnhorst, Senior Counsel, who has also
provided ongoing advice, support and encouragement, and very helpful comments on an
earlier draft. Catherine Latimer, General Counsel and Director General, wrote on behalf
of Justice Canada to the Commanders of all the police services in our sample to request
their cooperation; we believe that her letters of introduction were crucial to the
cooperation which we received from police. The project has been administered for YJP
by Dr. Jharna Chatterjee, who kindly arranged the initial contact with the National Youth
Strategy, RCMP, and who has patiently and conscientiously reviewed and provided
valuable comments on earlier drafts of this report.
xv
Table of Contents
Executive Summary ............................................................................................................. i
Acknowledgments............................................................................................................ xiii
Table of Contents............................................................................................................ xvii
List of Figures ....................................................................................................................xx
List of Tables ................................................................................................................. xxiii
I.
Introduction..................................................................................................................1
II.
A Descriptive Profile ...................................................................................................7
1.0
Detection of youth crime................................................................................................................ 7
1.1 Clearing the incident ................................................................................................................. 10
1.2 Proportion of apprehended young persons who are charged ..................................................... 12
1.2.1
Changes over time and differences between jurisdictions ............................................... 13
1.2.2
Differences between types of police agencies ................................................................. 19
1.2.3
Differences by type of offence......................................................................................... 21
2.0
Offences that are almost always dealt with informally, referred to alternative measures,
or charged....................................................................................................................................... 21
3.0 Informal action ............................................................................................................................... 23
3.1 Frequency of use of informal action.......................................................................................... 24
3.1.1
Statistical data .................................................................................................................. 24
3.1.2
Interview data .................................................................................................................. 29
3.2 Referrals to external agencies.................................................................................................... 31
3.3 Tracking of informal warnings .................................................................................................. 32
3.4 Use of informal and formal warnings with young persons........................................................ 33
3.5 Other types of informal action................................................................................................... 34
4.0 Use of alternative measures............................................................................................................ 36
4.1 Use of pre-charge alternative measures/diversion ..................................................................... 38
4.2 Process of making pre-charge referrals ..................................................................................... 41
4.3 Use of post-charge alternative measures ................................................................................... 41
4.4 Feedback on cases referred to alternative measures .................................................................. 42
4.5 Summary ................................................................................................................................... 46
5.0
Discretion with offences against the administration of justice....................................................... 47
6.0
Discretion with provincial/territorial offences ............................................................................... 56
7.0 Procedures used to compel appearance in court............................................................................. 56
7.1 The summons and appearance notice ........................................................................................ 59
7.2 Release on a Promise to Appear (PTA)..................................................................................... 63
7.3 Release on an Officer In Charge undertaking............................................................................ 64
7.4 Release on a Recognizance ....................................................................................................... 67
7.5 Summary: Methods of compelling appearance without detaining ............................................ 67
7.6 Detention for a judicial interim release hearing ........................................................................ 68
7.7 Offences that almost always result in arrest and detention........................................................ 72
8.0
Summary ........................................................................................................................................ 74
xvii
III. Environmental Factors Affecting Police Discretion ..................................................77
1.0
The legal environment.................................................................................................................... 78
2.0 Provincial policies and procedures................................................................................................. 84
2.2 Crown screening versus police authority to charge ................................................................... 86
3.0
External resources .......................................................................................................................... 88
4.0 The nature of the community ......................................................................................................... 92
4.1 Degree of urbanization .............................................................................................................. 93
4.2 Socio-demographic characteristics .......................................................................................... 104
4.2.1
Level of wealth .............................................................................................................. 106
4.2.2
Residential instability..................................................................................................... 109
4.2.3
Tourists .......................................................................................................................... 111
4.2.4
Aboriginal population .................................................................................................... 112
4.3 Level and type of crime in the community.............................................................................. 118
4.4 Community-police relations .................................................................................................... 126
5.0
Summary ...................................................................................................................................... 128
IV. Organizational Factors Affecting Police Discretion ................................................133
1.0
Size............................................................................................................................................... 135
2.0
Centralization ............................................................................................................................... 137
3.0
Hierarchy...................................................................................................................................... 142
4.0 Specialization ............................................................................................................................... 145
4.1 Youth squads and dedicated youth officers ............................................................................. 147
4.2 School liaison officers (SLO) and school resource officers (SRO) ......................................... 155
4.3 Policy and protocol for handling youth-related incidents........................................................ 159
5.0
Authority and responsibility for the decision to charge ............................................................... 162
6.0
Policing styles: Reactive versus proactive policing ..................................................................... 168
7.0 Support for community policing .................................................................................................. 173
7.1 The philosophical dimension: mission statements and documented mandates and objectives 175
7.2 The strategic dimension: policies, protocols, and allocation of resources............................... 176
7.3 The tactical dimension: crime prevention programs and problem-oriented policing (POP) ... 181
7.4 The organizational dimension : organizational redesign ......................................................... 190
8.0
V.
Summary ...................................................................................................................................... 190
Situational Factors Affecting Police Discretion ......................................................197
1.0
Background .................................................................................................................................. 199
2.0 Seriousness of the crime............................................................................................................... 202
2.1 Presence of a weapon .............................................................................................................. 206
2.2 Harm done to a victim ............................................................................................................. 207
3.0 The role of the victim................................................................................................................... 209
3.1 The victim’s dispositional preference...................................................................................... 209
3.2 Type of victim ......................................................................................................................... 212
3.3 Victim-offender relationship ................................................................................................... 212
4.0 Co-offenders and apparent gang-related crime ............................................................................ 213
4.1 Gang-related crime .................................................................................................................. 214
4.2 Group crime............................................................................................................................. 216
4.3 Adult co-offender .................................................................................................................... 217
xviii
5.0
Under the influence of alcohol or drugs....................................................................................... 218
6.0
Location and time of day.............................................................................................................. 219
7.0
Prior record: contacts, alternative measures, charges, convictions .............................................. 220
8.0
Demeanour ................................................................................................................................... 222
9.0
Age............................................................................................................................................... 228
10.0 Gender.......................................................................................................................................... 231
11.0 Race.............................................................................................................................................. 232
12.0 Peer group and gang affiliations................................................................................................... 233
13.0 Home and school situations.......................................................................................................... 235
14.0 Parental involvement.................................................................................................................... 238
15.0 Summary ...................................................................................................................................... 240
VI. Conclusions..............................................................................................................247
1.0
The exercise of police discretion with youth................................................................................ 248
2.0
Environmental factors influencing police discretion with youth.................................................. 253
3.0
Organizational factors influencing police discretion with youth.................................................. 256
5.0
Implications for implementation of the YCJA ............................................................................. 261
6.0 Implications for future research ................................................................................................... 265
6.1 A pre-post evaluation of the impact of the YCJA ................................................................... 265
6.2 A baseline file study of police discretion under the YOA ....................................................... 266
6.3 A “best practices” study of police discretion under the YCJA................................................ 266
6.4 A study of the processing of administrative offences under the YCJA ................................... 266
6.5 Improvement of the UCR2 Survey.......................................................................................... 267
List of References ............................................................................................................269
Methodological Appendix ...............................................................................................284
xix
List of Figures
II.1
II.2
II.3
II.4
II.5
II.6
II.7
II.8
II.9
II.10
II.11
II.12
II.13
II.14
II.15
II.16
II.17
II.18
II.19
II.20
II.21
II.22
II.23
How police become aware of youth-related incidents.............................................9
Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, Canada, 1977-2000 .............13
Percentage of apprehended young persons charged, by province, 2000 ...............14
Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, by province,
1977-2000 ..............................................................................................................15
Incident clearance status, all UCR2 respondents, 2001.........................................26
Clearance status of youth-related incidents, UCR2 Trend Database
respondents, 1995-2001 .........................................................................................27
Clearance status of youth-related incidents, all UCR2 respondents, by
province, 2001........................................................................................................28
Frequency of consideration of use of informal action ...........................................30
Tracking informal warnings in the RMS ...............................................................32
Other types of informal action ...............................................................................34
Types of pre-charge diversion programs available for referrals of youth ..............39
Feedback on Alternative Measures cases...............................................................44
Is feedback on Alternative Measures useful (or would it be, if it were
available)? ..............................................................................................................45
Rates of young persons apprehended and charged for offences against the
administration of justice, Canada, 1977-2000 .......................................................48
Proportion of young persons apprehended for offences against the
administration of justice who were charged, Canada, 1977-2000 .........................49
Rates of young persons apprehended for common offences against the
administration of justice, Canada, 1977-2000 .......................................................49
Discretion with Administration of Justice incidents ..............................................52
Use of the summons with young persons...............................................................60
Use of the Appearance Notice with young persons................................................61
Reasons for release on a Promise to Appear...........................................................63
Conditions of OIC Undertakings ............................................................................65
Reasons for detention for a JIR hearing..................................................................69
Offences for which police almost always arrest and detain....................................73
III.1 Clearance status of youth-related incidents, all UCR2 respondents, by
Province, 2001 ........................................................................................................85
III.2 Types of communities served by police agencies in the sample .............................99
III.3 Police services in communities with poverty problem areas, by region...............106
III.4 Conditions of OIC Undertakings by low-income/poverty area ............................108
III.5 Reasons to detain for a JIR hearing, by poverty problem area .............................108
III.6 Police services in communities with significant transient youth, by region.........110
III.7 Aboriginal populations served by police services ................................................114
III.8 Regional distribution of police agencies which serve aboriginal populations......114
III.9 Regional distribution of police agencies which perceive “a lot” of youth crime .119
III.10 Types of informal action used, by the perceived level of youth crime in the
community ............................................................................................................120
xx
III.11 Reasons to detain a young person for a JIR hearing, by perceived level of
youth crime in the community .............................................................................121
III.12 Types of youth crime which are prevalent in the community ..............................122
III.13 Regional distribution of police agencies which report dealing with a
significant amount of serious violent youth crime................................................123
III.14 Regional distribution of police agencies reporting youth gang problems ............124
III.15 Regional distribution of police agencies reporting teenage prostitution ..............124
III.16 Regional distribution of police agencies reporting significant numbers of
administration of justice offences involving young persons.................................125
III.17 Officers’ perceptions of community-police relations ...........................................127
III.18 Regional distribution of police officers’ perceptions of community support.......128
IV.1
IV.2
IV.3
IV.4
IV.5
IV.6
IV.7
IV.8
IV.9
IV.10
IV.11
IV.12
IV.13
IV.14
IV.15
IV.16
IV.17
IV.18
IV.19
IV.20
IV.21
IV.22
IV.23
IV.24
IV.25
IV.26
Distribution of the sizes of police services in the sample.....................................136
Size of police services, by type of community .....................................................137
Proportion of decentralized police agencies, by size of police service.................140
Proportion of decentralized police agencies, by type of community....................140
Degree of hierarchy in police services, by type of community ............................144
Degree of hierarchy in police services, by size of police service .........................144
Regional distribution of police agencies with youth specialization......................149
Reasons to detain for a JIR hearing, by specialization .........................................153
Functions of SLOs/SROs......................................................................................156
Functions of SLOs/SROs, by type of community ................................................156
Regional distribution of police agencies with SLOs/SROs..................................157
Clearance status of youth-related incidents, by type of SLO, 2001 .....................158
Procedural models for the authority to charge young persons .............................165
Regional distribution of procedural models for the authority to charge
young persons .......................................................................................................166
Style of policing by location of service ................................................................169
Regional distribution of styles of policing............................................................170
Styles of policing by type of community..............................................................171
Styles of policing by whether a First Nations reserve is in the police
agency’s jurisdiction .............................................................................................172
Regional distribution of adoption of the philosophical dimension of
community policing ..............................................................................................176
Police services which provided documentation on the strategic dimension
of community policing..........................................................................................177
Level of commitment by police agencies to community policing........................178
Regional distribution of the level of commitment by police agencies to
community policing ..............................................................................................179
Views on agency’s support for community policing, by location of service .......180
Regional distribution of the level of involvement of police services in crime
prevention programs ............................................................................................182
Types of crime prevention programs...................................................................183
Regional distribution of involvement by police agencies in youth gang
related crime prevention programs ......................................................................184
xxi
IV.27 Regional distribution of involvement by police agencies in youth violence
related crime prevention programs ......................................................................185
IV.28 Type of involvement in problem-oriented policing.............................................188
IV.29 Regional distribution of the extent of adoption of the POP model......................188
V.1
V.2
V.3
V.4
V.5
V.6
V.7
V.8
V.9
V.10
V.11
V.12
V.13
V.14
V.15
V.16
V.17
V.18
V.19
Regional distribution of views on the impact of the victim’s preference ............211
Views on the impact of victim preference, by location of service........................211
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of gangrelated crime..........................................................................................................215
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s prior record...............................................................................................221
Views on the impact of the youth’s prior record, by the officer’s location of
service ...................................................................................................................222
The effect of the youth’s demeanour on police decision-making.........................223
The impact on decision-making of the youth’s demeanour, by the type of
community and perceived level of crime..............................................................225
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s demeanour................................................................................................225
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s demeanour, by the perceived level of youth crime in the jurisdiction.....226
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s demeanour, by jurisdiction over a First Nations reserve .........................227
The effect of the offender’s age on police decision-making.................................229
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s age ............................................................................................................230
The effect of a youth’s gang affiliation on police decision-making .....................234
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s gang affiliation .........................................................................................235
The effect of home and school situations on police decision-making ..................236
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s home and school situations ......................................................................237
The effect of parental involvement on police decision-making.............................238
Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s parents’ involvement................................................................................239
Overall ranking of situational factors affecting police decision-making with
youth .....................................................................................................................241
Appendix
A.1 Locations of police services in the sample ..............................................................284
xxii
List of Tables
II.1
II.2
II.3
Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by province/territory and type of
policing, 1998-2000 .................................................................................................20
Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by offence, Canada, 2000....................22
Classification of incident clearance statuses in the UCR2 Survey ..........................25
IV.1 Officers’ use of specific types of informal action, by their views on youthrelated policy and protocol.....................................................................................160
IV.2 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, by the
procedural model for charging and youth specialization.......................................167
IV.3 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, by the level
of support for community policing and region ......................................................181
IV.4 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, relative to
the overall provincial level of charging, by the level of involvement of
police in crime prevention initiatives, and by the perceived level of youth
crime in the community .........................................................................................187
IV.5 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, relative to
the overall provincial level of charging, by the extent of adoption of the
POP model .............................................................................................................190
IV.6 Summary of relationships between organizational variables and the
proportion of apprehended young persons who were charged ..............................191
V.1
Effects of offence seriousness, use or presence of a weapon, and harm done,
on police decision-making .....................................................................................203
V.2 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by offence, Canada, 2001..................204
V.3 Proportion of each age group apprehended, by offence category, Canada
(parts), 2001 ...........................................................................................................205
V.4 Proportion of apprehended youth, by type of offence and number of prior
apprehensions, Canada (parts), 2001 .....................................................................206
V.5 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the presence and type of
weapon, Canada (parts), 2001................................................................................207
V.6 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the type of injury to a victim,
Canada (parts), 2001 ..............................................................................................208
V.7 The role of the victim in police decision-making ..................................................209
V.8 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the relationship between a
victim and the apprehended youth, Canada (parts), 2001......................................213
V.9 Proportion of apprehended youth, by type of offence and relationship with
victim, Canada (parts), 2001..................................................................................213
V.10 Effect of gang-related crime and co-offenders on police decision-making ...........214
V.11 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by whether accomplices were
Involved, Canada (parts), 2001..............................................................................217
V.12 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the number of prior
apprehensions, Canada (parts), 2001 .....................................................................222
xxiii
V.13 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the age of the youth, Canada
(parts), 2001 ...........................................................................................................228
V.14 Number of prior apprehensions, by the age of the apprehended youth,
Canada (parts), 2001 ..............................................................................................229
V.15 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the gender of the youth,
Canada (parts), 2001 ..............................................................................................232
V.16 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the race of the youth,
Canada (parts), 2001 ..............................................................................................233
V.17 Overall ranking of situational factors affecting police decision-making with
youth ......................................................................................................................240
V.18 Rankings of situational factors affecting police decision-making with youth,
for sub-groups of officers.......................................................................................244
xxiv
25
I.
Introduction
This report was commissioned by the Department of Justice in support of the
implementation and evaluation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The research had two
main objectives: to provide a comprehensive description of the ways in which police in
Canada currently exercise their discretion with youth, and to identify and assess factors
which affect that exercise of discretion. Our intention was to provide information which
could be used in two ways:
•
as baseline data which can be compared in the future with similar data on the
exercise of police discretion under the YCJA, in order to conduct an evaluation of
the impact of the YCJA on police decision-making with youth, using a “pre-post”
quasi-experimental design; and
•
to identify aspects of the policing environment and of police organizations, which
policymakers and police management could attempt to modify, in order to support
police officers in exercising their discretion in conformity with the intent and
specific provisions of the YCJA.
Although there have been several in-depth studies of individual police services in
Canada, no attempt has been made to analyze police decision-making on a national scale
since the study carried out by Statistics Canada in 1976 (Conly, 1978) – and even that
study was limited in the depth of information which it collected and the scope of the
sample which it studied. Accordingly, we set ourselves the goal of gathering in-depth
information, both qualitative and quantitative, on a nationally representative sample of
police services. Since a substantial proportion of smaller cities and towns, and most rural
areas, in Canada are provided with policing services by detachments of the provincial
police, including the RCMP working under contract to provincial governments, we felt
that the sample must include a substantial number of these detachments.
Possible sources of information on police decision-making include interviews with
officers at all levels and in all units of the police organization, observation of their work
during “ride-alongs”, police agency documents, statistical data from the Uniform Crime
Reporting (UCR) Survey and Incident-Based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) Survey,
operated by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, and the individual case files
maintained by police agencies, either in hardcopy or on their Records Management
Systems (RMS). We used all of these sources except police case files. Early in the
design phase of this project, we were advised by representatives of several police services
that it would be problematic to access these data; we recognized also that to collect file
data on a substantial number of youth-related cases from a representative sample of
Canadian police agencies would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.
Police discretion with young offenders
I. Introduction
2
We conducted over 200 in-depth interviews with more than 300 police officers in 95
police services and detachments which are approximately representative of all police
services in Canada – from all provinces and territories, all types of communities, and all
types of police service, including independent municipal services, detachments of
provincial police services including the RCMP, First Nations police services, and police
training facilities. The sample included the police services in all of the largest cities in
Canada, and a substantial number of police services and detachments in the smallest
towns and the most remote rural areas of the country. We also analyzed aggregate UCR
data for 1977-2000, and did detailed statistical analysis of UCR2 data on a large sample
of individual young offender cases for 2001.
Chapter II is a descriptive profile of the exercise of police discretion with young
offenders. It discusses the main areas of police work with young offenders in which
discretion is exercised: the detection of youth crime, clearing youth-related incidents by
informal action, referring to alternative measures, or laying a charge, and procedures used
to compel the attendance at court of youth who are charged. Special attention is given to
the handling of incidents involving offences against the administration of justice and
provincial/territorial offences.
For each of these topics, we attempt, within the limits of the data available to us, to
provide a general view which applies to police work with young offenders everywhere in
Canada, and then to point out what seem to us to be noteworthy variations – in different
parts of Canada, different types of communities, different types of police services, and for
police officers with different lengths of service.
Chapters III to V of this report explore the reasons for variations in the exercise of police
discretion which are identified in Chapter II. We draw from information provided to us
by police agencies in interviews and documentation, and statistical data from the UCR
and UCR2 Surveys.
Chapter III considers aspects of the environment in which police agencies work. Police
agencies operate within a complex environment, consisting of, among other things, the
nature of the local community, federal and provincial legislation, policies, procedures,
and programs, local public and private resources, and public opinion. The impact of these
factors on police decision-making with young offenders is analysed. Since this research
was commissioned in support of the implementation and evaluation of the YCJA, it is
worth considering the relevance to that initiative of consideration of the policing
environment. The police have little or no control over the environment in which they
work. Nor can any federal or provincial government agency expect to have much
immediate impact on some salient aspects of the policing environment, such as the degree
of urbanization, socio-demographic characteristics, or the level and type of crime of the
communities which police serve. However, it is certainly within the power of provincial
governments to affect other aspects of the policing environment which affect the exercise
of police discretion, namely the relationship of Crown prosecutors with the police, and,
Police discretion with young offenders
I. Introduction
3
above all, the availability of programs to which youth can be referred as an alternative to
being charged (and, on occasion, held in police detention).
In Chapter IV, we discuss factors related to the police force as an organization, drawing
on organizational theory in general, and, in particular, its application to police
organizations. We have deliberately avoided applying broad classificatory schemes such
as Wilson’s (1968) classic typology of watchman, legalistic, and service styles of
policing. Our purpose in this report is not to develop a scheme for classifying Canadian
police forces, but to identify specific aspects of their structure, operations, and orientation
which affect the ways in which their members exercise their discretion in dealing with
youth crime. Therefore, we present a list of organizational characteristics and discuss to
what extent each of these appears to influence police decision-making. Structural
attributes include: the size of the police service, indexed by the number of officers; the
degree of centralization, or horizontal differentiation into semi-autonomous divisions; the
degree of hierarchy, or vertical differentiation into ranks and positions; the extent of
functional specialization related to youth crime, and the locus of authority and
responsibility to lay a charge against a young person – or to recommend charging, if the
decision is made outside the police service. Aspects of the police agency’s orientation
which we examine are: the degree of proactive versus reactive policing; the level of
support for community policing; the adoption of problem-oriented policing; and the level
and types of involvement in crime prevention initiatives.
An understanding of the organizational factors affecting police discretion with youth is
relevant to the implementation of the YCJA because almost all of these aspects of police
organization are mutable. Police forces which want to modify the ways in which their
members exercise their discretion with young offenders, in order to conform to the
specific provisions and general intent of the YCJA, can effect change to most of the
aspects of police organization and culture which are identified here as affecting the
exercise of discretion – although organizational change can be difficult and fraught with
risks and unanticipated consequences (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999; Grosman, 1975).
Presumably, federal and provincial policy-makers in the areas of policing and youth
justice can play a role in encouraging such changes.
In Chapter V, we assess the impact on police decision-making with young persons of
factors specific to the individual incident and the apprehended youth. Circumstances of
the incident which we examine include: the seriousness of the crime, as indicated by the
type of offence, the presence or use of a weapon, and the harm done to a victim; victimrelated circumstances, including the expressed preference of the victim for a particular
course of action by police, the type of victim (person or business), and the relationship, if
any, between the victim and the offender; accomplice-related aspects, including whether
there were accomplices, whether any was an adult, and whether this was apparently a
gang-related crime; whether the apprehended young person was intoxicated at the time of
the incident; and the location and time of day of the incident. We examine the following
characteristics of the apprehended youth: his or her prior record of criminal activity, age,
gender, race, demeanour, any delinquent peer group or gang affiliation, home and school
situations, and the involvement of the parents.
Police discretion with young offenders
I. Introduction
4
For each of these possible influences on police decision-making, we have tried to assess
its impact in two ways. First, in our interviews with police officers, we asked all officers
who were currently, or had recently been, involved in decision-making with apprehended
youth, to what extent each factor had an impact on their decision whether to use informal
action, refer to alternative measures, or lay a charge (or recommend the latter actions, if
the decision was not theirs). At least one officer from each police service in the sample
was asked these questions. In smaller police services and detachments, where we
interviewed only one or two officers, the current assignments of the persons who
answered these questions ranged from patrol to commanding officer, but all were
currently, or had recently been, directly involved in decision-making with youth. In
larger police services, where we interviewed between two and seven officers, these
questions were not posed to senior management, since they had generally not been
involved in this kind of decision-making for several years or more.
The second method which we used to assess the impact of situational factors on police
discretion was multivariate analysis of statistical data from the UCR2 Survey. The data
which we analysed include 38,727 young persons apprehended in 2001 by 186 municipal
police services and provincial police detachments which report to the UCR2. For each
apprehended young person, the decision which we analysed (i.e. the dependent variable)
was the police disposition: whether the young person was charged (or recommended to
be charged in Crown screening jurisdictions) or processed otherwise (i.e. by informal
action or referral to alternative measures, although these two actions are unfortunately not
distinguished in the available data). The factors whose impact were analysed include:
the type of offence (using grouped Criminal Code classifications), the number of prior
apprehensions of the youth, the youth’s age, sex, and race (aboriginal or not), whether the
incident involved a lone offender or accomplices, any weapon present, any injury
suffered by a victim, and any relationship between a victim and an apprehended person.
Using multivariate analysis, the impact of each factor was assessed, while holding other
related factors constant; also, the relative weight of the various factors was estimated.
This statistical analysis is similar to that used in a previous study of police discretion with
young offenders in Canada in 1992-1993 (Carrington, 1998a), but there are two
innovations. One is the use of UCR2 data for 2001. Not only are these data more recent,
but they include substantially more police services than were included in the UCR2
Survey during the period of the earlier study. However, the more important innovation is
the inclusion of the young person’s record of prior contacts with the police
(apprehensions) as an independent variable. Although this information is not captured in
UCR2 records, it was constructed by a record linkage project carried out by the Canadian
Centre for Justice Statistics especially for this project.
Chapter VI summarizes the main findings and conclusions of the research. It also
comments on some implications of the findings in relation to the implementation and
evaluation of the YCJA, and suggests several research initiatives related to police
discretion with youth which would, in our opinion, complement the present research.
Police discretion with young offenders
I. Introduction
5
Details of the qualitative and quantitative methodologies, including the samples, methods
of data collection and data analysis, which were used in this research are provided in the
Methodological Appendix.
II.
A Descriptive Profile
This chapter is a descriptive profile of the exercise of police discretion with young
offenders. It discusses the main areas of police work with young offenders in which
discretion is exercised: the detection of youth crime, clearing youth-related incidents by
informal action, referring to alternative measures, or laying a charge, and procedures used
to compel the attendance at court of youth who are charged. Special attention is given to
the handling of incidents involving offences against the administration of justice and
provincial/territorial offences.
For each of these topics, we attempt, within the limits of the data available to us, to
provide a general view which applies to police work with young offenders everywhere in
Canada, and then to point out what seem to us to be noteworthy variations – in different
parts of Canada, different types of communities, different types of police services, and for
police officers with different lengths of service.
Our aim in this chapter is to describe the exercise of police discretion with young
persons, not to explain it. Our attempts to explain the phenomena described herein are
reported in the following chapters.
1.0
Detection of youth crime
Detection of crime can occur in one of two modes. Proactive policing involves policeinitiated activities by either an individual officer or the police organization (e.g., traffic
tickets, crime prevention initiatives). Proactive mobilization occurs when officers make
spontaneous decisions to stop citizens for further investigation, or reflects administrative
and supervisory decisions to focus on certain groups of people who are believed to be
crime-prone (Ericson, 1982).1 Reactive policing involves a police response to a specific
request by a citizen (e.g. telephoning the police to report a crime). These requests can
range from individuals asking for help handling their difficulties, or from community
groups requesting a certain level or pattern of service to meet their interests (ibid.).
Police work predominantly involves reactive policing. Black & Reiss (1970) found that
72% of police-juvenile encounters were citizen-initiated. Similarly, Webster’s (1970)
findings indicated less than 20% of police encounters were self-initiated (proactive).
More recent findings indicate the same trend but to a lesser degree: approximately 50%
(Cordner, 1989) and 53% (Ericson, 1982) of police encounters were reactive and a large
proportion of the balance involved administrative work. A study of a large police force
1
For example, Ericson (1982) found proactive policing directed at lower status citizens who either
presented problems in the officer’s view or were out of place in the neighbourhood.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
8
in eastern Canada found that even reactive policing does not involve a large number of
calls that relate to crime control (approximately 35%) (Shearing, 1984). Hence, earlier
conclusions that “the moral standards of the citizenry have more to do with the definition
of juvenile deviance than do the standards of policeman on patrol” (Black & Reiss, 1970:
66-67) are borne out by existing Canadian research.
In the reactive situation, a police officer can exercise his or her discretion only after two
events have occurred: (i) a decision has been made by either a member of the public
(observer, parents, school authorities, etc.) or the victim to call the police, and (ii) the
dispatchers have decided this incident warrants sending a patrol car to the scene. Stated
differently, typical mobilization scenarios are: (i) police are called by a complainant or
witness while the incident is in progress, (ii) police are called by a complainant or witness
after the incident is completed, (iii) police discover an incident in progress, (iv) police
discover a completed incident, or (v) police are notified by other agents in the criminal
justice system (judge, probation officer, etc.). Thus, the detection of crime can be seen as
an organizational mobilization (Black & Reiss, 1970).
Within our sample, interviewees were asked whether they felt their work was mostly
reactive, mostly proactive, or a bit of both. About one half (51%) told us they felt their
work was a bit of both, just under one half (40%) indicated their work was mostly
reactive, and 9% suggested it was mostly proactive. The responses suggest three
different understandings of the word ‘proactive’. First, some officers indicated that even
when they respond to a call from dispatch, which is traditionally considered reactive
policing, they can choose to deal with the incident proactively (e.g. informally mediating
between parties). Second, officers suggested that they not only responded to calls for
service by dispatch but proactively went to known ‘hot spots’ for youth-related deviance
(e.g. parks, donut shops). Finally, some officers working within specialized programs
(e.g. SHOCAP, SHOP) would proactively check for probation condition compliance by
actively door-knocking to ensure the young person was home during the curfew period.
All of these conceptualizations of the term ‘proactive’ led to their answering our question
with ‘a bit of both’. Those officers that indicated their work was mostly proactive tended
to focus on crime prevention initiatives as a community service officer, or were assigned
as a school liaison officer who did not perform any enforcement-related duties within the
schools. Finally, a large proportion of those who felt their work was primarily reactive
worked in patrol or the general investigation section (GIS).2
There are several different ways that police officers become aware of youth-related
incidents. These include: dispatch, patrol investigation, parents calling in, coming across
an in-progress incident while in the field, proactively going to hot spots, through weekly
meetings, or via other system agents (e.g. social services, probation, and school officials).
Figure 1 presents the percentage of police services that indicated the various ways they
become aware of youth-related incidents (percentages add to more than 100% since
multiple answers were permitted).
2
The influence of proactive versus reactive policing on the exercise of discretion is discussed in Chapter
IV, Section 6.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
9
Figure II.1. How police become aware of youth-related incidents
100
Percent of police services
90
85
80
77
70
60
55
53
50
40
40
39
30
20
15
10
0
Dispatch
Patrol
Parents
In-progress
Hot spots
Meetings
System
The majority of officers indicated that the most common ways they find out about
incidents involving youth are via dispatch (85%) or coming across an incident while it is
in progress (77%). However, they also receive information from other system agents
(55%) and parents (53%). In some jurisdictions, police services have worked very hard
to improve their links with the community as well as with other parts of the criminal
justice system. With over half of the respondents indicating system agents and parents,
this suggests these efforts have been successful to some degree. Finally, officers also told
us that they find out about incidents through patrol investigations (40%), proactively
going to hot spots (39%), and through weekly meetings with other police officers,
community members, or system agents (15%).
Police officers predominantly agreed (88%) that the way they become aware of youthrelated incidents does not impact on their use of discretion. Of the 12% whose exercise
of discretion was affected, some said that it was the amount of time which had elapsed
after the incident that might affect them: they might exercise discretion differently if they
were receiving the information several days later (regardless of the way in which they
received that information). A few also mentioned that they would respond differently,
based on the type of offence (e.g. serious violent offences).
How police officers become aware of youth-related incidents can vary by location of
service, type of community, and by province or territory. There was no variation
between police types (independent municipal, First Nations, RCMP, or provincial).
When police officers are assigned to general duty (patrol), they tend to find out about
youth-related incidents through dispatch or coming across them in the field. However,
detectives in GIS, officers in a youth division, or school resource officers can potentially
find out about these incidents in all of the ways previously discussed.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
10
Two aspects of the detection of youth-related incidents appear to vary with the type of
community (metropolitan, suburban/exurban, rural/small town). Learning of the incident
from the youth’s parents, who have called about it, is more likely to be cited by officers
in metropolitan areas (53%) and in rural/small town jurisdictions (59%), and less in
suburban/exurban areas (37%). This may due to the nature of the suburban community
(“bedroom community”), in which a significant proportion of the population commutes to
a metropolitan area. However, this is speculation and no theories have been offered to
explain differences in crime detection between these three types of communities. The
highest proportion of officers who indicated parents calling in were in Ontario (73%) and
the smallest proportion were in the Prairies (35%). System agents provide police with
information about young persons more often in metropolitan areas (77%) than in
suburban/exurban (42%) or rural/small town areas (45%). This may be due to differences
in the human resources available in different types of communities.
A very clear difference is seen when comparing by province and territory the proportion
of officers who proactively go to hot spots. 78% of officers in the Yukon, Northwest
Territories, and Nunavut indicated that they find out about youth-related incidents
through proactively seeking them out. This can be attributed to a very different style of
policing that occurs in the Territories. Officers stated that to be accepted by the
communities, which tend to be quite small, they spend very little time in their detachment
offices and interact with the residents on a daily basis on and off shift. Members indicated
they were out on the road all the time stopping and chatting with the kids at the
skateboard park, the arena or wherever the local youth congregated. One officer
stationed in Nunavut suggests that officers should “always try to have an open door
policy, open to every conversation. I think the best approach is to be very visible, not
stay in the office that was the best thing”. Another officer stationed at an isolated
detachment says that “up north, a police officer has to get out and meet people,
particularly children. The children will tell you exactly what’s going on, in what house,
and who does it”.
1.1
Clearing the incident
The process of dealing with an incident can be broken down into five stages, or decision
points (Klinger, 1996). The first stage is gathering initial information and making a
decision as to whether further investigation is warranted; i.e. deciding whether the
incident involves a criminal violation (is founded or unfounded). In the second stage,
investigation results in the identification of the offender(s), or “clearing” the incident.
The third stage involves the choice of disposition for each apprehended offender. This
can entail the police laying a charge (or referring a recommendation to the Crown to
charge in some provinces), with or without a recommendation for post-charge Alternative
Measures; referring the youth to pre-charge Alternative Measures or a Youth Justice
Committee, or taking informal action. The next decision is whether to make a police
(occurrence) report. If the suspect is charged or referred to Alternative Measures, a
report must always be completed. However, if an officer chooses to use informal
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
11
measures to handle the incident it is up to the officer’s discretion or departmental policy3
whether a report is completed. Finally, if charges are (to be) laid, an officer (or officers)
make a decision concerning the mode of compelling his or her attendance at court:
whether the youth is to be given an appearance notice, summonsed, or taken into custody
(arrested); and, if arrested, whether to be released or held for a judicial interim release
hearing. Thus, officers make three fundamental decisions: (i) whether a youth should be
charged or dealt with in other ways; (ii) if not charged, what type of diversion is
appropriate (Hornick et al., 1996); or, (iii) if charged, how to compel attendance at court.
The typical process involved in clearing youth-related incidents varies, depending on the
type of officer who is responsible for making the decision: patrol, general detective, or
youth bureau detective. A member on patrol tends to deal with the investigative process
in a similar fashion for youths and adults, with a few exceptions. The officer decides
whether an offence was committed, and, if so, who did it. Subsequently, the officer
determines whether the youth should be arrested and brought back to the station.
Officers often mentioned they would be more likely to let a 16 or 17 year old go at the
scene with an appearance notice, as they were able to notify the parents by telephone.
However, with a 12 to 15 year old they were more inclined to have the parents come to
the station to pick up the young person. One officer summarized this process thus:
A 16 or 17 year old we can release them on an appearance
notice and notify the parents later. But if he’s under 16
then we make every effort to contact the parents, we don’t
release him unless we can find a parent. If we have to
bring them in as a result, they are arrested.
Thus, the requirement (under the YOA) to notify the parents, coupled with a concern
about the young person’s welfare, increases the use of the power of arrest.
Depending on the organizational structure, some police services refer certain types of
offences to a youth bureau or the general investigative (detective) section (GIS). In those
circumstances, the patrol officer will conduct the preliminary investigation, possibly
arrest the young person, and pass the file off to the appropriate investigative section. It is
once the file has been taken on by the youth bureau or GIS that the parents are notified,
the Section 56 waiver is repeated, statements are taken, and decisions for compelling
appearance are made. In one Ontario police service, all files that involve young persons
are referred to the youth bureau where the decision is made whether the case will be dealt
with informally, by alternative measures, or by way of charge. However, in most police
services, if informal action is chosen it is done at the level of the patrol officer.
An officer’s and police agency’s attitudes towards informal action and alternative
measures can also have an impact on how youth-related incidents are cleared. Many
3
Some jurisdictions (e.g. Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police) have internal policies that dictate the use of a
formula-based decision-making model such as the Prevention Intervention at the Pre-Court Level (PIP)
Program or the John Howard Pre-Charge Diversion Program (Hornick et al., 1996).
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
12
police services have departmental policies that specify which youth-related offences can
be considered for alternative measures. None of the police services which we
interviewed had policy regarding informal action. However, officers did indicate that
there were unwritten rules regarding when informal action is considered appropriate.
Some police officers felt very strongly that informal action and alternative measures
either work or don’t work. For officers who were sceptical about the efficacy of informal
action and diversion, only the most minor offences would be considered appropriate to be
dealt with outside the formal system.
1.2
Proportion of apprehended young persons who are charged
The main statistical indicator of the exercise of police discretion with respect to laying
charges is the proportion of young persons apprehended by police who are charged.
The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey provides aggregate numbers of young
persons charged (or recommended by police for charging, in provinces with Crown
screening) and young persons not charged (but apprehended), by police service, by year,
for all of Canada. The numbers of ‘youth not charged’ reported in the UCR do not
distinguish among the reasons for not charging; in particular, they do not distinguish
informal action from referral to alternative measures (although this is done by another
statistical indicator of police discretion, which is presented later in this section).
From these numbers, we can calculate the proportion of apprehended youth who were
charged, which is a rough indicator of the “amount” to which police use their discretion
not to lay charges in all cases. It is by no means a perfect indicator of police discretion,
for at least three reasons. First, when officers resolve an incident informally, they do not
always make a record of it; and if it is not in the RMS (Records Management System) of
the police service, it cannot be reported to the UCR. However, a record is always created
when officers lay a charge. Second, police services in Canada vary in the degree to
which they take the trouble to report numbers of ‘youth not charged’ to the UCR. The
more of these ‘youth not charged’ who are omitted from the UCR return of a given police
service, the more its use of discretion will be underestimated by the variable, ‘proportion
charged’. In the extreme case, a police service such as Toronto, which has a practice of
not reporting numbers of youth not charged, will have a ‘proportion charged’ of 100%,
and appear to exercise no discretion at all with apprehended young persons. Thus,
‘proportion charged’ tends, to an unknown extent, to underestimate the amount of police
discretion. On the other hand, not all ‘youth not charged’ represent the exercise of police
discretion: some apprehended youth cannot be charged, for reasons beyond the control of
the police, such as the death, disappearance, or diplomatic immunity of the accused
youth. Thus, ‘proportion charged’ overestimates, to an unknown extent, the extent of
police discretion. For these reasons, this indicator is not a reliable basis for comparisons
of the use of police discretion by individual police services. Nevertheless, it can be used
to compare the use of police discretion, aggregated to the level of the province/territory,
and to track changes in police discretion over time within provinces and territories
(Carrington 1999; Scanlon 1986: 94-95).
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
13
1.2.1 Changes over time and differences between jurisdictions
Carrington (1999) found that the proportion of apprehended young persons charged by
police was stable at about 55% during 1977-1983, under the Juvenile Delinquents Act,4
jumped to approximately 65% after the Young Offenders Act came into force, and
remained, with minor variations, at that level until 1996. Figure II.2 updates Carrington’s
analysis to 2000, and shows what appears to be a declining trend from 1991 to 2000
(when 59% of young persons apprehended in Canada were charged), although additional
years of data will be needed to establish this apparent trend with certainty. The average
proportion of apprehended young persons charged from 1986 to 2000 was 64%, which is
substantially greater than the average of 55% for the period, 1977-1983.
Figure II.2. Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, Canada, 1977-2000
100.0
90.0
Not Charged
80.0
Not Charged
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
20.0
Charged
10.0
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Sources: 1977-1996: Carrington (1999); 1997-2000: UCR Survey.
Looking at the trends over time in separate provinces and territories, Carrington (1999)
identified two groups: those in which police had exercised a relatively low degree of
discretion not to charge under the Juvenile Delinquents Act (charging 50% - 80% of
apprehended youth in 1983), and continued to exercise a low degree under the YOA
(Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia, and the
Yukon); and those (P.E.I., Nova Scotia, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and the Northwest
Territories) in which police had exercised a relatively high degree of discretion under the
JDA (charging 25% - 50% of apprehended youth in 1983) but suddenly started to charge
higher proportions when the YOA came into effect, so that the amount of discretion
exercised approximated that in the first group of provinces. The change in Saskatchewan
– from an average level of 24% of apprehended youths charged during 1977-1983 to an
average level of 67% during 1986-1996 – was the most spectacular, but the second
largest increase was in Ontario – from an average level of 34% of apprehended youths
4
Data are not available for years prior to 1977.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
14
charged during 1977-1983 to an average level of 64% during 1986-1996 – and is
particularly significant because Ontario accounts for such a large part of the population of
Canada.
Figure II.3 shows the proportion of apprehended youth charged in each province and the
Territories in the year 2000, and Figure II.4 (on the following pages) shows the trends
over time since 1977.5
Figure II.3. Percentage of apprehended young persons charged, by province, 2000
2000
100.0
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
Canada 59%
71
65
73
66
60
50
40.0
55
54
50
46
40
30.0
20.0
10.0
0.0
Nfld.
P.E.I.
Nova
Scotia
New
Brunswick
Quebec
Ontario
Manitoba
Saskatchewan
Alberta
B.C.
Territories
Sources: 1977-1996: Carrington (1999); 1997-2000: UCR Survey.
Three patterns are evident in Figures II.3 and II.4. The most striking pattern, noted by
Carrington (1999), occurred in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and the Territories, and to a lesser
extent in Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. This is a sudden shift when the YOA
came into force from a regime of high levels of police discretion (low charging) with
young offenders to much lower levels of discretion, bringing these jurisdictions into line
with the rest of the country. Carrington (1999) pointed out that this change was probably
caused, at least in part, by the change in the age jurisdiction of the youth justice system
mandated by the YOA; since these four provinces and two territories make up six of the
eight jurisdictions in Canada which underwent the major change from a maximum age of
15 years under the JDA to a maximum age of 17 years under the YOA. However, the
increase in proportions charged was not simply due to 16 and 17 year olds being charged
in higher proportions than 12 to 15 year olds: as Carrington (1998b) showed,
apprehended young persons of all ages from 12 to 17 were charged in substantially
higher proportions in Ontario and Saskatchewan after the YOA came into effect.
5
1984 and 1985 are omitted due to the difficulty of calculating per capita annual rates for those years, when
the change in age jurisdiction of the youth justice system was being phased in.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
15
Figure II.4
Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, by province, 1977-2000
Newfoundland
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Prince Edward Island
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Nova Scotia
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
16
New Brunswick
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Quebec
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Ontario
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
17
Manitoba
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Saskatchewan
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
20.0
Charged
10.0
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Alberta
100.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
90.0
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
18
British Columbia
100.0
90.0
Not Charged
Not Charged
80.0
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Territories
100.0
90.0
Not Charged
80.0
Not Charged
70.0
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
Charged
Charged
20.0
10.0
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Note: 3-year moving averages have been used for smoothing.
Sources: 1977-1996: Carrington (1999); 1997-2000: UCR Survey.
The second pattern, occurring in Quebec and British Columbia, is an increase in the use
of police discretion (declining levels of charging6). This is most pronounced in Quebec,
which has been transformed from the province with the highest average levels of
charging during 1977-83 to the province with the second-lowest level in 2000. The level
of charging of apprehended young persons in British Columbia has declined from a high
of 66% in 1981 to the lowest level in Canada (40%) in 2000. Many police officers whom
we interviewed in British Columbia expressed dissatisfaction with the Crown screening
regime, which they see as taking an important tool out of their hands; and we speculate
that the decline in recommendations to charge by police in that province may, to some
extent, reflect the preferences of police to dispose of youth-related incidents in other
ways which remain under their control, such as informal action or referral to pre-charge
diversion.
6
Actually, recommending charges, since, in both Quebec and British Columbia, it is the Crown that makes
the final decision concerning laying a charge against a young person.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
19
It appears that one effect of the YOA has been to impose greater uniformity across
Canada in the use of discretion concerning the charging of youth (see Figure II.3). In
1977, there was wide variation among the provinces and territories in the proportions of
apprehended youth who were charged: from 23% in Saskatchewan to 84% in New
Brunswick. Nine of the eleven jurisdictions (combining the Territories) were more than
10% higher or lower than the national rate of 56%. In effect, the jurisdictions were
polarized into low-charging and high-charging regimes, with only two jurisdictions
(Alberta and the Territories) close to average. Low-charging regimes included - in
ascending order of proportion charged – Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Ontario,
and British Columbia. The other five provinces charged high proportions of their
apprehended youth. In 2000, the range of provincial/territorial proportions charged had
narrowed considerably: the lowest was 40% in British Columbia, and the highest was
73% in Manitoba. Only four jurisdictions differed by more than 10% from the national
rate of 59%: British Columbia and Quebec on the low side, and Manitoba and Ontario on
the high side.
1.2.2 Differences between types of police agencies
In order to compare the use of discretion not to charge young persons by different types
of police agencies, we calculated from UCR data the proportion of apprehended young
persons charged by each of the 93 police services in our sample. We chose a period of
three years (1998-2000) combined, in order to smooth out any anomalies that might have
occurred in any police services in any one year. Eight police services, in four provinces,
reported charging 95% or more of apprehended youth; we omitted these from the
analysis, in case they represented under-reporting of number of youth not charged. The
three First Nations police services were also omitted from the analysis, since this is too
small a number for reliable calculations.
The resulting sample of 82 police services reported charging an average of 61% of
apprehended youth. This is the same as the overall rate of charging of apprehended youth
for all police services reporting to the UCR in 1998-2000. This suggests that our subsample of 82 police services is representative of all services in Canada, at least with
respect to this phenomenon. However, as is shown below, the sample is more
representative in some provinces than in others.
Overall, independent municipal police services in our sample (n = 46) reported charging
an average of 61% of youth whom they apprehended. RCMP detachments (n = 26) had a
slightly lower rate of charging apprehended youth (56%), and provincial police
detachments (OPP and RNC, n = 10) had a considerably higher rate (79%).
However, clearer patterns emerge if the comparison is made within provinces. Table II.1
shows that, in British Columbia, Alberta, and Manitoba, RCMP detachments in our
sample reported charging considerably lower proportions of apprehended youth than the
independent municipal services in those provinces. Little difference is observed in
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
20
Saskatchewan or New Brunswick. In the Territories, where RCMP detachments are the
only police services, overall rates of charging (Table II.1, last column) are either similar
to (in the Yukon and Northwest Territories) or lower than (in Nunavut) the overall
national rate. Since the RNC and RCMP are the only police services in Newfoundland,
and since the rate of charging reported by the two RNC detachments in our sample (80%)
is much higher than the overall provincial rate (65%), we can deduce that in
Newfoundland, RCMP detachments must have a considerably lower rate of charging than
the RNC. The OPP detachments in our sample reported charging an average of 79% of
youth whom they apprehended, which is a considerably higher rate than that reported by
the independent municipal services in Ontario.
Table II.1
Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by province/territory and
type of policing, 1998-2000
Independent
Municipal
Police
sample
(n=46)
%
RCMP
sample
(n=26)
Provincial
police
sample
(n=10)
Overall
sample
(n=82)
Overall
(all UCR)
%
%
%
%
British Columbia
Alberta
Saskatchewan
Manitoba
Ontario
Quebec
New Brunswick
Nova Scotia
Prince Edward Island
Newfoundland
Yukon
Northwest Territories
Nunavut
73
64
75
95
65
44
64
70
76
42
46
77
80
56
51
76
85
69
46
63
70
76
80
61
68
47
44
59
73
81
70
46
69
69
57
65
61
62
51
Overall
61
61
61
Province/territory
79
60
80
61
68
47
56
79
Source: UCR Survey.
In summary, based on a sample of 82 police services, it appears that in provinces in
which the RCMP serves as the provincial police force, it exercises considerably more
discretion not to charge young persons than the independent municipal services in those
provinces. On the other hand, the two provincial police services in our sample appear to
charge apprehended youth in considerably higher proportions than the independent
municipal services in those provinces. These comparisons must be interpreted with
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
21
caution, both because of the unreliability of UCR data on numbers of youths not charged,
and also because of the small size of our sample and its apparent non-representativeness
in some provinces (suggested by a comparison of the last two columns of Table II.1).
1.2.3 Differences by type of offence
The importance of the type, or seriousness, of the offence in the exercise of police
discretion has been emphasized by practically every writer on the subject. The impact of
various case-related factors on the decision to charge, including the type of offence, is
explored in depth in Chapter V. In Table II.2 (below), we present data from the UCR
Survey for 2000 to describe the variations in proportions of apprehended young persons
charged, by the type of (alleged) offence.
This simple distribution gives the lie to the truism that the exercise of police discretion is
related in a straightforward way to the “seriousness” of the offence. For example, less
discretion is exercised with offences against the administration of justice than with any
other offence except homicide and attempt murder – although administrative offences
have no victim and cause no harm, except expense and inconvenience to the justice
system.7 If discretion varies inversely with seriousness of the offence, then possession of
stolen property is more serious than abduction, major assaults, drug trafficking, break and
enter, sexual assaults, etc.; impaired driving is more serious than break and enter, sexual
assaults, sexual abuse, etc.; arson is less serious than almost any other offence; and
violent crimes, as a group, are slightly less serious than victimless (“Other”) crimes.
Clearly, there is some relationship between the seriousness of the offence and the amount
of discretion exercised by police, but the relationship is not straightforward, as Carrington
(1998a) also found.
2.0 Offences that are almost always dealt with informally,
referred to alternative measures, or charged
In view of the common belief that the type or seriousness of offence is the principal
factor determining the way in which police officers exercise their discretion, we asked
officers whether there were any types of offences which they “almost always” cleared in
a particular way.
Few police officers whom we interviewed were willing to identify specific types of
offences that they almost always charge, refer to alternative measures, or deal with
informally. Rather, they emphasized that their decisions on clearing an incident were
invariably “case-specific”: that is, based on a constellation of factors in each case.
7
The exercise of discretion by police with offences against the administration of justice is discussed in
detail in Section 5.0 below.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
22
However, almost half (44%) of our respondents volunteered that they almost always
charge “serious” offences. A small contingent of officers (7%) reported that they almost
always charge minor offences; these tended to be working for independent municipal
police services. A few officers did say that they would almost always charge for drug
offences (5%) or gang-related offences (1%).
Table II.2 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by offence, Canada, 2000
Offence category
Homicide and related
Attempted murder
Offences against the administration of justice
Kidnapping
Robbery
Possession stolen property
Abduction
Criminal code traffic
Major assault
Traffic/Import drugs
Other federal statutes (primarily YOA)
Impaired driving
Break and enter
Sexual assault
Fraud and related
Weapons and explosives
Sexual abuse
Other criminal code offences
Theft
Common assault
Possession of drugs
Morals – sexual
Arson
Morals - gaming/betting
Property damage / Mischief
Public order offences
Total Violent Crimes
Total Property Crimes
Total Other Crimes
TOTAL - CRIMINAL CODE
Percent
charged
100.0
100.0
95.6
95.3
87.4
83.6
80.0
79.9
79.2
77.4
76.3
76.1
71.1
67.7
64.5
62.4
55.0
54.3
52.7
52.2
47.1
46.0
45.0
40.0
38.1
28.5
62.7
55.7
63.6
58.9
Source: UCR Survey.
One-third of our interviewees indicated there were no offences that they would almost
always refer to alternative measures, despite the clear stipulation in most departmental
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
23
policy that there are certain types of offences that officers must consider for diversion. A
further 22% of officers indicated they would almost always refer youth to alternative
measures if they committed a minor offence. These offences tended to involve minor
theft (e.g. shoplifting), mischief, or very minor crimes against the person. In the Atlantic
Provinces, half of the officers interviewed responded in this fashion. Finally, very few
officers told us they would almost always refer serious offences (1%) or
provincial/territorial offences (1%) to alternative measures.
The use of informal action also does not appear to be determined simply by the type of
offence. One-third of the responding officers indicated that there are no offences where
they almost always would use informal action. A small percentage suggested they would
almost always use informal action with provincial offences (14%) and minor offences
(13%). Less than 1% identified serious offences or shoplifting as offences where they
would “almost always” use informal action. However, 19% of the officers who worked
in rural/small town services and detachments said that they almost always use informal
action with minor offences, compared to 11% in metropolitan and suburban/exurban
areas.
Comments made during the interviews suggest that the primary reason officers felt
compelled to indicate there were no specific offences for any of these categories is their
belief that each case must be judged on its own merits; thus, the decision is case-specific
and cannot be reduced to a formula. One officer says “we’ve all tried to climb trees, and
we all had ways to test our boundaries”. A School Resource Officer in Alberta suggests,
Every time I have a young person in my office and I’m
dealing with them in a criminal investigation I always look
at their marks, I look at their attendance, their make-up,
their behaviour towards life, I look at their relationship with
their friends, their demeanour, the way they’re sitting, the
way they talk. But the most critical aspect is, I extrapolate
four years of their life from the time of the incident, I go
back four years and I ask them to tell me what it’s been like
for the last four years. 95% of the time, probably 100% of
the time, the common denominator is lack of parenting,
effective parenting, alcohol or drug abuse, bad decisions
based on friends showing them, lack of dignity and respect,
that is the common denominator. When I know that those
are the issues, as a policeman, and even as a parent of two
young kids, how do you charge somebody like that?
3.0
Informal action
When officers decide not to lay (or recommend) a charge, or to recommend alternative
measures, they have a choice among several kinds of informal action. They may give an
informal or formal warning, involve the parents and/or social services, arrest and question
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
24
the youth at the police station and release him or her, make a referral to a communitybased intervention program, or simply take no action, except possibly to file an
occurrence report (Bala et al., 1994a). According to Mueller and Heck (1997:116),
A number of criminologists (including Tittle, 1980;
Braithwaite, 1989; Sampson and Laub, 1993) have argued
that informal sanctions are more influential and costeffective than formal sanctions that the police can muster in
fighting juvenile crime.
Little is known about the use of informal action by police in Canada, or about their
screening practices (Hackler & Don, 1990). According to some writers, young offenders
are handled informally in circumstances involving less serious crime (Ericson &
Haggerty, 1997; Meehan, 1993). There is evidence of less use of informal action since
the inception of the YOA (see Section 1.2 above; Carrington 1999; Carrington & Moyer,
1994; Schissel, 1993). Informal warnings have been found to be used more frequently in
rural areas or by school resource officers than by regular front-line officers (Hornick et
al., 1996), raising the possibility that rural and Youth Officers may use this approach
more with youth due to their familiarity with their ‘clientele’.
British research suggests that the use of informal warnings is largely influenced by the
administrative and ideological support within a department (Steer, 1970). Although
formal, recorded warnings (“cautions”) are used by police in other countries, there is no
evidence in the literature that they are currently used in Canada, although caution letters
issued by Crowns are used in some provinces as alternative measures (Engler & Crowe,
2000; Task Force, 1996). However, we did find evidence of the use of caution letters by
some police services in Canada (see Section 3.4 below).
3.1
Frequency of use of informal action
3.1.1 Statistical data
Statistical information on the use of informal action and pre-charge diversion by police is
available from the Incident-Based Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (“UCR2”),
maintained by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. This survey, which operates in
parallel with the UCR Survey, collects data on the characteristics of individual incidents,
apprehended offenders, and victims of crime. Thus, it can provide data which are much
more detailed than those available from the traditional, aggregate UCR Survey. Its
drawback is that it is relatively recent, and some police services do not yet participate in
it. Although it began operation in 1988, it did not achieve significant coverage of
recorded crime in Canada until 1995, when it included 42% of all recorded incidents in
Canada, and 50% of young persons charged (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics,
2003). By 2001, it covered 59% of recorded incidents in Canada, and 71% of young
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
25
persons charged (ibid.). For 2001, the UCR2 covers practically all of the Province of
Quebec, much of Ontario (including the OPP and 13 independent municipal police
services), and a small number of municipal services in each of the other provinces, except
Prince Edward Island. Its major omission is the RCMP, which provides policing services
to much of rural and small town Canada, and many larger centres, outside Ontario and
Quebec; but many independent municipal police services are also missing. Therefore,
distributions of variables in the UCR2 may not be representative of Canada as a whole
(Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2002a).
The detailed information in the UCR2 can provide a useful complement to the limited
information available in the UCR Survey. The UCR2 records the “clearance status” of
incidents. Incidents which are cleared (i.e., in which at least one chargeable suspect, or
“accused”, is identified), are classified as “cleared by charge” (at least one suspect in the
incident has been charged) or “cleared otherwise”. For incidents which are cleared
otherwise, the reason given by police for not charging any suspects is classified under
several headings, which are shown in Table II.3.
Table II.3 Classification of incident clearance statuses in the UCR2 Survey
Cleared by charge
No charges laid, for reasons beyond the control of the police department
Suicide of the accused
Death of the accused (other than suicide)
Death of a key witness/complainant
Extra-departmental policy (e.g. a directive from the Attorney General)
Diplomatic immunity of the accused
Accused is less than 12 years old
Accused is committed to a mental hospital
Accused is in a foreign country and cannot be returned
No charges laid, police discretion (police could lay a charge but decide not to)
Complainant declines to lay charges (i.e. to cooperate with police)
The accused has been charged in other incidents
The accused is already serving a sentence in a correctional facility
Other discretionary reasons
The accused is being diverted into a (pre-charge) alternative measures program
Source: Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2002b.
We grouped these clearance statuses into four categories: 1) cleared by charge, 2) no
charges laid due to reasons beyond the control of the department, 3) no charges laid due
to informal action (all “discretionary” reasons except diversion), and 4) no charges laid
due to diversion of the accused to alternative measures.. Figure II.5 shows the breakdown
of clearance statuses of incidents involving at least one apprehended young person, for all
respondents to the UCR2 in 2001.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
26
Figure II.5 Incident clearance status, all UCR2 respondents, 2001
6%
18%
Cleared by charge
Beyond control of
department
Informal action
2%
Alternative measures
74%
Source: Incident-Based UCR Survey, 2001.
The proportion of incidents cleared by charge is 74%, which is much higher than the
proportion of apprehended youths who were charged in Canada in 2000 (59%), according
to the UCR Survey (Figure II.2). There are several possible reasons for this discrepancy.
One is the omission of the RCMP and other police services which tend to use charges less
than the police services included in the UCR2 (see Section 1.2.2). Second, many
incidents involving young persons include more than one accused (Carrington, 2002),
and if any one of the co-accused is charged, then the incident is classified as “cleared by
charge”: e.g. if there were two co-accused and one was charged and one was not, this
would contribute a count of one incident “cleared by charge” to the UCR2 clearance
status variable, but counts of one accused charged and one accused not charged to the
“charge status” variable from which we computed that 59% of apprehended youth were
charged in 2000. Third, some of the incidents captured in Figure II.5 include adult cooffenders as well as young persons, and adults are more likely to be charged than young
persons (Carrington, 2002) – and if any co-offender in the incident is charged, then the
incident is classified as “cleared by charge”.
The fact that only 2% of all incidents, or 8% of incidents “cleared otherwise”, involved
“reasons beyond the control of the department” confirms that it is reasonable when
analyzing data from the aggregate UCR Survey to use the variable “proportion of
apprehended youth not charged” as an indicator of the use of police discretion (as in
Section 1.2.1 above). If a large proportion of incidents which were “cleared otherwise”
involved reasons which were beyond the control of police, then “not charging” would not
be a good indication of the exercise of police discretion.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
27
Of the 24% of youth-related incidents which were cleared without charge due to police
discretion, one-third were diverted to alternative measures, and two-thirds were cleared
by informal action. This underestimates the proportion of apprehended youths dealt with
by informal measures and informally, because, for the many incidents in which more than
one person was apprehended, the incident is classified according to the most serious
“police disposition”. Therefore, if one co-offender is charged, and others are diverted or
dealt with informally, the incident is classified as “cleared by charge”; or, if none is
charged but one youth is diverted to alternative measures and others are dealt with
informally, then the incident is classified as “cleared otherwise: diversion”.
Figure II.6 Clearance status of youth-related incidents, UCR2 Trend Database
respondents, 1995-2001
100%
27
8
7
7
6
7
24
21
21
22
20
28
80%
Pre-charge AM
60%
Informal action
40%
Beyond control
of department
69
67
65
68
1997
1998
70
70
70
Cleared by
charge
20%
0%
1995
1996
1999
2000
2001
Source: Incident-Based UCR Survey, Trend Database, 1995-2001.
Figure II.6 shows the trend since 1995 in the clearance status of youth-related incidents
recorded in a sub-sample of police services reporting to the UCR2.8 There is no trend
over time: the proportion of incidents cleared by charge fluctuates around 68-70%, and
the proportions of incidents cleared by informal action and by alternative measures
fluctuate around 20-22% and 7% respectively.9 The overall proportion of incidents
8
The police services participating in the UCR2 Survey change each year as new forces join the Survey, and
occasionally, a police service leaves the Survey. In order to have comparable data over time, we used the
“UCR2 Trend Database”, which is restricted to police services which reported continuously to the UCR2
from 1995 to 2001. Coverage of this sub-sample is approximately 42% of recorded incidents, and 50% of
young persons charged, in Canada.
9
Referral to alternative measures and informal action were not distinguished before 1997.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
28
cleared by charge is lower than in Figure II.5, and closer to the proportions of
apprehended youth charged shown in Figures II.3 and II.4, because some of the police
services which are included in the data shown in Figure II.5, notably the OPP, have
relatively high proportions of youth charged and of youth-related incidents cleared by
charge (see Section 1.2.2 above).
Figure II.7 shows the clearance status of youth-related incidents in police services
reporting to the UCR2 in five provinces. The number of police services is shown in
parentheses after the name of the province. As in Figure II.5, the proportion of incidents
classified as cleared by charge is higher in each province than the proportion of young
persons charged in the UCR (Table II.1 above); the reasons for this are discussed above.
Figure II.7 Clearance status of youth-related incidents, all UCR2 respondents, by
province, 2001
100%
9
12
1
2
19
14
15
14
80%
12
25
Pre-charge AM
60%
40%
Informal action
80
76
83
73
Beyond control
of department
55
Cleared by
charge
20%
0%
New
Brunswick
(10)
Québec
(all)
Ontario
(OPP + 13)
Saskatchewan
(4)
Alberta (4)
Source: Incident-Based UCR Survey, 2001.
Note: So few police services in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia reported to
the UCR2 in 2001 that it would be misleading to include them in this analysis.
Proportions of incidents cleared by informal action vary from 12% in Alberta (where
only four police services report to the UCR2) to 25% in Quebec. It is noteworthy that,
although police services in Ontario which reported to the UCR2 in 2001 had a relatively
high overall charge rate (80% of youth-related incidents were cleared by charge; cf.
Figure II.3 and Table II.1, above), this appears to be entirely due to the unavailability of
pre-charge alternative measures; their rate of clearance of youth-related incidents by
informal action (19%) is exceeded only by that of police services in the province of
Quebec. Similarly, the even higher overall charge rate of the four respondents in
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
29
Saskatchewan (83%) is primarily due to the minimal use of pre-charge AM: their rate of
informal action (14%) is no lower than that in New Brunswick and Alberta.
3.1.2 Interview data
We asked officers about the extent to which their police service used informal action with
young offenders, and classified their answers into four categories. Always was used
when officers indicated they always consider using informal action in virtually any
situation. This is not to say that they do not ultimately proceed by way of charge. There
are some circumstances where sufficient evidence exists to proceed on several charges;
however, the officer considers dealing with some or all of them informally if possible.
Usually refers to officers that indicated they consider informal action in most cases;
however, they offered qualifications to explain their decision-making. For example, an
officer might not consider using discretion with charges against the administration of
justice, serious offences or with a youth who has an extensive prior record. Occasionally
means that officers consider informal action only for minor or very minor offences such
as shoplifting or mischief. Never indicates the responding officer will consider only a
charge or alternative measures. These officers felt either that choosing informal action
was not their prerogative, or had concerns regarding liability (e.g. from a supervisor
questioning their judgment). Figure II.8 summarizes the distribution of our sample in
terms of the frequency with which officers from our sampled police agencies told us they
use informal action.
Over three-quarters (78%) of the police services in our sample indicated that they would
usually or always consider using informal action with young persons. Only 22% of the
police services indicated they never or occasionally consider using informal action. Their
responses differed by type of police, type of community, province/territory, and location
of service.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
30
Figure II.8 Frequency of consideration of use of informal action
57
Percent of police services
60
50
40
30
22
20
20
10
2
0
Never
Occasionally
Usually
Always
Frequency
Provincial police forces (76%) are more likely “usually” to consider using informal
action with young persons when compared to independent municipal police agencies
(43%). When looking at the range of responses, independent municipal forces are
distributed more widely over the range, “never” to “always” (e.g. 30% answered
“occasionally”); whereas, the RCMP and OPP detachments are clustered in the “usually”
to “always” categories.
Looking at the use of informal action by type of community, two interesting response
patterns are evident. First, there is virtually no difference by type of community when
looking at the services that “usually” consider using informal action with young persons.
However, a significant proportion of suburban/exurban services (41%) “never” or
“occasionally” consider using informal action; compared with only 17% of metropolitan
forces and 19% of rural/small town forces. To put it differently, metropolitan (83%) and
rural/small town forces (81%) were much more likely than suburban/exurban forces to
consider using informal action “usually” or “always”.
In all regions of Canada, the majority of police services in the sample “usually” consider
using informal action with young offenders. This is the case for 100% of the
detachments located within the Territories.
The literature suggests that Youth Officers may divert more youth due to an increased
familiarity with their clientele. However, up until now there has been very little research
to support this supposition, and it was done when the Juvenile Delinquents Act was in
effect (Doob, 1983; Leeson & Snyder, 1981). Three-quarters (75%) of the officers
working in a Youth Squad or assigned as School Liaison Officers told us they “usually”
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
31
or “always” consider informal action. In contrast, 59% of the officers from all other
locations of service (e.g. patrol, GIS, management) consider using informal action
“usually” or “always”. Therefore, our data do suggest that Youth Squads and SLO’s are
more likely to consistently consider informal action as a legitimate method of dealing
with youth-related incidents. The role of specialized youth officers is considered in more
depth in Chapter IV, Section 4.
3.2
Referrals to external agencies
Almost two-thirds (62%) of the police forces in our sample make referrals to external
agencies for minor and serious offences. These referrals are predominantly to social
service agencies, and, in Quebec, to La Direction de la Protection de la Jeunesse (DPJ).
However, there are some differences in response patterns by type of police agency and
province/territory.
Almost two-thirds (64%) of provincial police detachments indicated that they “never”
refer young persons to external agencies compared to 18% of municipal independent
police forces. This difference may be the result of a lower availability of external
resources in the areas in which provincial detachments operate. We can explore this
possibility by examining the distribution by type of community and by province and
territory. Officers in 43% of suburban/exurban police forces or detachments, and in 49%
of rural/small town services, reported that they are never able to make referrals to
external agencies, compared to only 23% of metropolitan area police agencies. In
Quebec, all of the police agencies in our sample reported making referrals to external
agencies (primarily the DPJ). Similarly, over half of the agencies in the Prairies and the
Atlantic region make referrals for minor and serious offences. However, in British
Columbia and Ontario, in which most of our rural/small town agencies are located, a
larger proportion of agencies report they make no referrals or only for minor offences.
Most strikingly, in the Territories, 71% of the detachments interviewed are not able to
make any referrals to external agencies due to a lack of community and social service
resources in their jurisdictions.
This is a theme which came up repeatedly during the interviews, and which will recur
under various headings in this report. When police are dealing with a youth and an
offence which, in their view, require a more effective intervention than mere “informal
action”, but they are reluctant to invoke the heavy hand of the law by laying a charge,
then referral to a program or agency, either informally or through Alternative Measures,
is an attractive “intermediate sanction”. However, in a great number of cases, such an
alternative is not available, and police must resort to laying a charge. This issue is
explored in more depth in Chapter III, Section 3, “External resources”.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
3.3
32
Tracking of informal warnings
There is a great degree of variation across the country in how often police officers’ use of
informal action is documented within their record management systems (RMS). Rarely
denotes agencies that do not record informal action except in some rare circumstances
where the officer feels it is crucial. This may be the result of management and
supervisors creating a somewhat unsupportive environment for informal action, or, in the
case of Quebec, where the alternative measures system is highly effective. Sometimes
refers to agencies where informal warnings do not consistently enter the RMS. Usually
refers to agencies where it is expected that officers enter informal warnings and they felt
confident that it usually occurred. Always indicates those police agencies where they
consider it mandatory to create a record of all interactions with youth. Finally, officer
dependent codes the answer, “as long as the officer entered it”. This category was
created as some officers indicated their police agency would fall under the “always”
category; however, the policy directive or unwritten rule that all informal action is
documented is not always followed. For example, if an officer comes across a minor
incident in the field, he or she may not create a contact entry in the RMS. Several officers
argue that as soon as you make a notation into the RMS, the action taken by the officer is
no longer informal as a record has been created. Others suggested that, due to time
constraints, they are not always able to enter everything in the RMS.
A large proportion of our interviewees suggested that the recording of informal action
follows one of two typical scenarios. The first is when an incident is reported by a
member of the public. In this situation a notation is almost always made in the RMS.
The second category refers to informal action taken by officers when they come across a
young person in the field. It is in those circumstances that there may or may not be an
entry made into the RMS. Figure II.9 illustrates this variation by police agency.
Figure II.9 Tracking informal warnings in the RMS
Percent of police
services
50
41
40
27
30
20
20
10
7
6
0
Rarely
Sometimes
Usually
Frequency
Always
Officer
Dependent
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
33
Just over two-thirds (67%) of the agencies in our sample reported that they “usually” or
“always” record informal action in the RMS. 7% indicated it is dependent on the
individual officer. However, the frequency in which officers record informal warnings
varies by police agency type, type of community, and province/territory.
Provincial police forces (70%) are much more likely to record their use of informal action
in the RMS. Among independent municipal forces, the range varies from “rarely” to
“always” with 10% indicating that they never record informal warnings in the RMS. Just
under half of metropolitan (43%) and suburban/exurban (47%) police agencies reported
that they “always” record informal action. However, there was slightly more variation in
recording practices for rural/small town police agencies where 33% reported they usually
record informal action. The majority of agencies in Canada reported they “always”
record informal warnings and action. However, 38% of those in our sample from the
Prairies stated they “sometimes” record informal action.
Evidently, there is much room for expansion in the tracking of informal warnings; but by
its very nature, some informal action – perhaps much of it – will always go unrecorded.
3.4
Use of informal and formal warnings with young persons
Informal warnings generally involve a police officer discussing the young person’s
behaviour with him or her and the parents, warning them that further law-breaking will
result in formal action. As a textbook for law enforcement students puts it, “…It is not
unusual for an officer to give a stern lecture or a warning to a juvenile, advising of the
possible consequences if arrested” (Dantzker & Mitchell, 1998: 59). As previously
mentioned, whether this informal warning is documented varies considerably.
A “formal” warning, as the phrase is understood by our respondents, usually involves a
police officer entering the incident in the RMS, or even occasionally having a letter
issued to the youth and the parents which alleges the criminal behaviour and the issuance
of a warning by police (or by the Crown, on the recommendation of police).
The vast majority of police agencies (93%) in our sample indicated that they use informal
warnings with young persons. In addition, 32% of our sample told us they did use some
form of a formal warning. However, the nature of the formal warning varies
considerably between the agencies that answered in the affirmative. For example, in one
Ontario police force the youth squad issues the letters and has the young person and
parents (or legal guardian) sign the document as well. In other jurisdictions the police
will recommend to the Crown to issue a caution letter. Others will make extensive
notations in their RMS.
There are some variations by province and territory in terms of the use of informal and
formal warnings. In Quebec, 25% of the agencies in our sample did not indicate to us
that they used informal warnings with young persons. The numbers for the other regions
in Canada ranged from 0% to 9%. Perhaps this is evidence of net-widening in Quebec:
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
34
the extensive use of alternative measures may mitigate against other forms of informal
police action.
Formal warnings tend to be used in the Prairies, the Atlantic region and the Territories.
92% of the agencies in British Columbia and 88% of the agencies interviewed in Quebec
do not use formal warnings. However, the figure for British Columbia should be
interpreted with caution as the Crown Attorneys frequently issue Crown cautions. The
reason this does not appear in our data is that officers in British Columbia say they rarely
have any feedback on Crown decision-making; consequently, they do not know how
often a Crown caution letter is issued. For Quebec, the low usage of formal warnings is
consistent with the lesser use of informal warnings than the rest of Canada.
Apparently there is considerable variation across the country, and even within individual
police agencies, in the understanding of what constitutes an informal or formal warning.
If these forms of informal action are going to be recorded and monitored – e.g. in the
UCR2 Survey, it will require a substantial effort – involving education and persuasion –
to achieve consistency across the country in their operational definitions.
3.5
Other types of informal action
Figure II.10 shows several other types of informal action that officers use when dealing
with youth-related incidents (percentages add to more than 100% since multiple answers
were permitted).
Figure II.10 Other types of informal action
100
Percent of police
services
90
91
75
80
70
60
50
40
27
30
20
6
10
0
Parents
Youth Home
Questioning
Internal Referral
Types
The majority of police agencies (91%) consider parental involvement mandatory when
dealing informally with youth-related incidents informally. Many officers suggest that
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
35
the effectiveness of informal action is highly dependent on parental involvement. An
officer in Ontario told us, “I place a lot of weight on the parents’ input and it’s not only
getting the young offender on board, it’s getting his parent or parents on board”. On
many occasions officers indicated that they are better able to assess the situation due to
the input of first hand knowledge from the parent(s). In some cases, officers indicated it
can have a large impact on their decision-making process if they feel that the young
person will face a consequence for their behaviour at home. If an officer feels that the
young person’s behaviour will be dealt with by Mom or Dad, he or she feels much more
comfortable not laying charges or referring to alternative measures: “…Occasionally, the
best punishment an officer can provide is to take the juvenile home and release him or her
into the custody of the parents” (Dantzker & Mitchell, 1998: 59).
Three-quarters (75%) of the police agencies indicated they will take the young person
home, or if absolutely unavoidable, to the police station in order to have the parents take
care and control over the young person. In the majority of cases, they deliver the young
person directly home. However, in some jurisdictions they may bring the young person
to the station as a “higher consequence” (i.e. a more severe sanction), as it
inconveniences the parents to have to come to the police station to pick up their child.
Further, several officers indicated that having the parents pick the youth up at a police
station reinforces the message that the behaviour was criminal and needs to be treated as
such, even though they are not proceeding by way of charge or alternative measures:
“…If the officer wishes to emphasize the situation, the juvenile is taken to police
headquarters and, when it exists, to the Juvenile Unit where the release…requires no
further action” (Dantzker & Mitchell, 1998: 59). These officers suggest that having the
parents come to the police station make them more accountable. They also noted it is
much easier to make referrals when the parents and the young person are at the police
station.
Despite most officers indicating that they try to avoid bringing a young person with
whom they intend to use informal action to a police station for any reason, 27% of the
police forces and agencies indicated that they bring a youth to the police station for
questioning even if they know they will be dealing with the incident informally. This
practice is especially prevalent in Ontario, and especially among independent municipal
police forces, rather than the OPP. In Quebec, none of the agencies in our sample
reported bringing a youth back to the station for questioning, in the context of informal
action. However, it must be remembered that the police agencies in Quebec which we
interviewed rarely mentioned using informal or formal warnings.
Finally, a small proportion of police agencies (6%) refer youths internally to a police-run
diversion program. These are all independent municipal police forces. Perhaps it is
noteworthy that agencies policing aboriginal peoples are no more or less likely to use
informal action than those who do not.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
4.0
36
Use of alternative measures
Rather than using informal action or laying (or recommending) charges, police may
choose to refer to or recommend Alternative Measures. 99% of the police agencies in our
sample use or recommend either pre- or post-charge alternative measures with youthrelated incidents. Typically, alternative measures are considered appropriate for less
serious offences and first offenders.10 The most common alternative measures programs
assigned to youth are community service, an apology, social skills improvement, writing
an essay, restitution or compensation, and other activities geared toward the specific
young person (Kowalski, 1999). A discussion of alternative measures involves an
examination of specific procedures and legislation in each province and territory, as there
is considerable jurisdictional variation. As of 1998-99, two jurisdictions (Ontario and
Yukon) had exclusively post-charge programs (i.e. required that charges be laid before
referral to alternative measures); three (New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta) had
exclusively pre-charge programs; and the rest had both modes of referral to alternative
measures (Engler & Crowe, 2000). Under both modalities (pre-charge and post-charge),
the police are responsible for referral, assessment and development of a plan,
implementing the plan, and in some cases monitoring the youth’s compliance with the
plan (Hornick et al., 1996).
Alternative measures refers to programs formalized under Section 4 of the Young
Offenders Act where youth are diverted from formal court proceedings at either the preor post-charge stage of the proceedings. In most jurisdictions, the referral agent is the
Crown Attorney. However, in Manitoba and the Northwest Territories the police can be
designated to refer youth to alternative measures programs (MacKillop, 1999). In New
Brunswick, police officers are designated as agents for the Attorney General and in
Quebec, all referrals are made by the Provincial Director (MacKillop, 1999).
Although the YOA provides for the establishment of formal diversion programs (i.e.
alternative measures), this does not automatically entail that the police “cannot continue
their former informal procedures in respect of the discretion to lay a charge or not in any
given circumstance (Platt, 1991: 87). However, the possibility exists that the availability
of alternative measures programs (pre- or post-charge) may lead to the phenomenon
known as net-widening, in which a measure which is intended to be relatively nonintrusive and to divert people away from other, more intrusive measures, is used with
people who would, in its absence, have been dealt with even less intrusively (Lundman,
1993: 99). Thus, the use of pre-charge alternative measures with a youth who would, in
their absence, have been dealt with by a police warning, is an example of net-widening;
as is the use of post- charge alternative measures with a youth who would otherwise not
have been charged. Net-widening would also have occurred if a youth’s experience in
alternative measures, including the process and the assigned “measure”, was more
intrusive than the court process and disposition which s/he would have experienced if
s/he had been processed “formally”. It is not always easy to define, let alone measure,
10
In contrast, all offenders (regardless of offence) are eligible for alternative measures in Quebec
(Kowalski, 1999).
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
37
“intrusiveness”, so whether net-widening has occurred in any particular case is not
necessarily clear. Nevertheless, in the aggregate, we see a prima facie case for netwidening if pre-charge AM has been used where otherwise an informal action would
have been used, or if post-charge AM is used where otherwise pre-charge AM or
informal action would have been used.
According to Platt (1991), police may prefer to refer to alternative measures because the
participation in AM has evidentiary value in future encounters with the law; whereas
informal action does not. Post-charge AM has additional potential for net-widening,
because the fact that a charge was laid represents the application of “more law” (Black,
1976), which may increase the probability of police laying a charge in a future
encounter.11 Further net-widening may occur if, on a subsequent offence, the prior
participation in pre- or post-charge alternative measures is considered as an aggravating
factor in the sentencing decision (Platt, 1991). This issue is also discussed in Chapter III,
Section 2.1, below.
Section 69 allows for the creation of community-based youth justice committees (groups
of citizens) by provincial governments to aid in the administration of any component of
the YOA. Committee membership is voluntary and may also include the police or other
professionals that have an interest in youth crime and justice. These committees can be
used in a variety of ways including: (i) working in conjunction with alternative measures
programs as an alternative to formal youth court, (ii) providing recommendations to
judges regarding alternatives to sentencing, (iii) providing community service order
opportunities, (iv) arranging for reconciliation between victim and offender, and (v)
providing community support in various forms to victims and offenders (Bala et al.,
1994a).
According to Bala et al. (1994a: 36), “the use of these committees appears to be limited,
even though they provide an excellent vehicle for communities to exercise greater
authority and control in juvenile justice matters.” When the Federal-Provincial-Territorial
Task Force on Youth Justice was doing its research, the Northwest Territories,
Newfoundland, and Alberta had begun to use Youth Justice Committees more frequently
(Task Force, 1996). Saskatchewan was in the process of developing guidelines to
increase their use, Ontario did not have any formally designated YJC’s, and British
Columbia used designated YJC’s only as local advisory boards with respect to family and
youth court and they did not have direct involvement in working with young offenders
(Task Force, 1996: 52). Current examples of the use of these committees can also be
found in Manitoba where they are used extensively and are considered particularly
appropriate for use with aboriginal youth (Bala et al., 1994a; Task Force, 1996).
When we asked our interviewees whether they found alternative measures effective, twothirds answered in the affirmative; that is, they said they found it effective “always”
(4%), “usually” (52%), or “yes, to an unspecified degree” (11%). The other one-third of
11
For a discussion of the substantial impact of indications of prior criminal activity on police decisionmaking, see Chapter V.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
38
respondents found it effective only “occasionally” (30%) or “never” (4%). Only 50% of
respondents in British Columbia answered affirmatively, compared to 58% of Ontarians,
and 90% of those in the Prairies (the number of persons answering this question in
Quebec, the Atlantic region, and the Territories was too small to provide reliable
percentages).
4.1
Use of pre-charge alternative measures/diversion
Figure II.5 (in Section 3.1.1 above) shows that, in police services reporting to the UCR2
Survey in 2001, 6% of incidents were cleared by referral to pre-charge diversion. This
underestimates the proportion of apprehended youths referred to diversion, because, for
the many incidents in which more than one person was apprehended, the incident is
classified according to the most serious “police disposition”. Therefore, if one cooffender is charged, and others are diverted or dealt with informally, the incident is
classified as “cleared by charge”. Figure II.6 (above) suggests that the use of pre-charge
diversion by police (in the agencies reporting to the UCR2 since 1995) has not changed
appreciably since data were first collected in 1997. Figure II.7 (above) shows wide
variation among police in five provinces (who reported to the UCR2 in 2001) in the use
of pre-charge diversion. As expected, it is hardly used in Ontario; but it is also hardly
used in the four municipal police services in Saskatchewan which report to the UCR2.
More substantial proportions of incidents are cleared by diversion in New Brunswick,
Quebec, and Alberta (four municipal police services).
Our respondents were asked to indicate whether pre-charge alternative measures was an
option used by their police service for dealing with youth-related incidents. We quickly
learned that most police officers, especially frontline officers, do not make a distinction
between pre-charge diversion programs which are and are not officially authorized as
Alternative Measures under Section 4 of the YOA. Indeed, when we asked them if a
program to which they referred was authorized under Section 4, we were usually met
with a blank look. The police officers whom we interviewed tend to use the terms
“diversion program” and “alternative measures program” interchangeably, to refer to any
program to which youth can be referred as an alternative to formal court processing. They
are concerned with finding practical solutions to immediate problems, not with the legal
niceties of Section 4 of the YOA. Thus, in what follows, we use the term “pre-charge
diversion programs”, in order to avoid misleading the reader who might think that they
are necessarily official Alternative Measures programs.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
39
Figure II.11 Types of pre-charge diversion programs available for referrals of
youth
Percent of police services
50
48
40
30
25
20
15
12
9
10
4
0
Pre-Charge
Internal
JHS/B&G
Government
RJ
Community
RJ Police
Types
If the officer answered that pre-charge diversion programs were used in his or her
jurisdiction, then we proceeded to explore the different types of pre-charge diversion.
Internal pre-charge diversion refers to programs that are run within the police agency.
An officer would fill out specific forms to refer a young person into the program. Precharge diversion by the John Howard Society, the Boys and Girls Club, etc. includes
those police agencies that would make pre-charge referrals to an external agency which
would execute the diversion agreement and monitor compliance. Pre-charge by
government ministry includes those police forces and agencies that make referrals to
some branch of the provincial/territorial government (e.g. Probation, Social Services).
Pre-charge RJ community based refers to those agencies that make referrals to a youth
justice committee that is run by a community organization and volunteers. Finally, precharge RJ police refers to those agencies where a police officer conducts the forum as a
facilitator and organizes the conference, records the agreement, and monitors or assigns
monitoring completion. Figure II.11 shows the various forms of pre-charge diversion
programs to which police agencies in our sample can refer youth (percentages add to
more than 100% since multiple answers were permitted).
Just under one-half (48%) of the police agencies we spoke to indicated they used some
form of pre-charge diversion with youth-related incidents. Of all the various types of
policing agencies, 69% of the RCMP detachments and 49% of the independent municipal
police forces use some form of pre-charge diversion. The majority of rural and small
town forces (66%) do not have access to pre-charge diversion, whereas 63% of
metropolitan areas and 53% of suburban/exurban areas do. If rural and small-town police
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
40
agencies have access to pre-charge diversion for youth it tends to be community based
restorative justice.
Reports based on the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Alternative Measures Survey
(MacKillop, 1999; Engler and Crowe, 2000) indicate that alternative measures programs
for young persons in Ontario and the Yukon are exclusively post-charge. Data from the
UCR2 Survey confirm that pre-charge alternative measures are used rarely in Ontario
(Figure II.7, above). However, of the police services which we interviewed, 37% of those
in Ontario, and 3 of the 4 police agencies in the Yukon, said that they used pre-charge
alternative measures. It may be that some of these are examples of the terminological
confusion discussed above. Others may have come into existence after the cited sources
were compiled. In Cornwall, Ottawa, Windsor, Toronto, and Whitehorse, what we
believe are authorized pre-charge alternative measures programs have been set up in
cooperation with the Crown Attorney and the John Howard Society. (Of course, precharge diversion and alternative programs may also exist in the many jurisdictions in
Ontario and the Yukon which were not included in our sample.)
Although virtually all the provinces and territories have mandated pre-charge alternative
measures, comments made in the interviews suggest that this option is not exercised as
often as police believe that it could be.
Only 4% of the police forces in our sample have the option of referring youth to an
internal (police-run) pre-charge program. In all cases, these programs were run by
independent municipal police forces. Comments made in interviews suggest that the
percentage is low due to a lack of financial and human resources.
Of those police agencies in our sample, 15% make pre-charge referrals to an external
organization such as John Howard Society or the Boys & Girls Club. All of these types
of programs are used by independent municipal forces and tend to be in metropolitan
areas. A slightly smaller proportion (9%) of pre-charge referrals are made to a
government ministry. Our data suggest that these types of referrals occur only in
Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island.
One-quarter of the police agencies we spoke to indicated they can divert youths precharge to a community-based restorative justice forum. Over half of the RCMP
detachments (58%) in our sample made these types of pre-charge referrals, compared to
only 16% of the independent municipal forces in our sample. 50% of the forces in
British Columbia and 55% of those in the Territories have community based restorative
justice committees. Over one-quarter of the agencies in the Prairies (29%) and the
Atlantic provinces (27%) made pre-charge referrals. Further, of those police agencies
which have jurisdiction over aboriginal peoples – whether on- or off-reserve - 35% had
the opportunity to make referrals compared to 18% of those agencies that do not police
aboriginals.
A small percentage of police agencies (12%) reported they use pre-charge diversion by
running restorative justice conferences themselves. The RCMP detachments in our
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
41
sample were twice as likely as other police force types to engage in police-run
conferencing. One-quarter of the agencies in the Atlantic provinces (27%) and the
Territories (22%) ran conferences themselves.
4.2
Process of making pre-charge referrals
The police play an integral role in the process of making pre-charge referrals. In some
jurisdictions, police have the authority to refer directly to an official Alternative
Measures program (e.g. Manitoba, Northwest Territories). In New Brunswick, the
investigating officer refers the case to a senior police officer who is designated as an
agent for the Attorney General. The senior officer then reviews the case to see if the
young person is eligible for pre-charge Alternative Measures. If the case meets certain
prescribed conditions it is then forwarded to the Alternative Measures Coordinator for
that region who makes the final referral to an alternative measures committee.
In most jurisdictions that use pre-charge diversion, police officers are given instructions
based on Department or provincial policy regarding which cases can be considered for
pre-charge diversion. However, in most cases the final decision still rests with the Crown
Attorney whether a young person will be diverted without a charge being laid. In
Quebec, the Crown Attorney refers the case to the Provincial Director to consider
whether it is appropriate for alternative measures.
In Nova Scotia the pre-charge diversion process has become much more formalized. In
particular, Halifax Regional Police has instituted a checklist that must be filled out with
each young offender case that is processed. This checklist ensures that officers have
considered the possibility of pre-charge diversion. Officers are required to articulate the
reasons why a case cannot be considered for diversion. The case is then forwarded to a
senior police officer who reviews all files dealing with youths under the age of 15 to
ensure that all young persons who are eligible for pre-charge diversion are indeed
diverted.
Of those police agencies that provided procedural protocols and policy documents, the
majority did not include a section that dealt specifically with pre-charge referrals.
4.3
Use of post-charge alternative measures
Because of the involvement of the Crown in post-charge diversion screening, we presume
that when police officers talked about post-charge diversion or alternative measures, they
were talking about authorized Section 4 Alternative Measures programs.
Almost all (91%) of our sample indicated that youths were diverted post-charge to
alternative measures in their jurisdiction. It appears that jurisdictions policed by the
RCMP rely less on post-charge alternative measures than jurisdictions policed by other
police agencies: 73% of the RCMP detachments which we interviewed said that post-
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
42
charge AM was used in their jurisdiction, compared with 93% of provincial police
detachments, 98% of independent municipal forces, and 100% of First National police
services. This may be because many of the RCMP detachments which we interviewed
operate in the one province and three Territories where post-charge AM are less widely
used: in British Columbia, only 75% of police services in our sample said post-charge
AM was used in their jurisdiction, and in the Territories, it was just over half.
If the use of post-charge alternative measures does indeed encourage net-widening,
because of the necessity of laying a charge in order to qualify a youth for a program (see
Section 4.0, above), then it appears that considerable net-widening occurs, since a high
proportion of our sample, including all types of police (independent municipal, First
Nations, and provincial), said that this mode of alternative measures is used in their
jurisdiction.
A case that is referred post-charge to alternative measures does not differ in the
procedures and paperwork that officers complete from a case that proceeds to youth
court. All forms and reports are filled out exactly as they would be for the case to
proceed to court. The differences occur once the paperwork has reached the Crown
Attorney.
The majority of officers indicated they did not make any notations on the Crown Brief
concerning their thoughts on eligibility for post-charge alternative measures. A few
stated they might tell the Crown Attorney in a private conversation that they would not
object to alternative measures. However, the majority of police officers felt that, since
the decision rests with the Crown, it was not their place to offer their input. The majority
of officers also indicated that, in order for the young person to receive counselling or
make reparations for the harm done, they had to charge the young person, since there
were no pre-charge alternatives available in their jurisdiction. This finding supports the
notion that post-charge alternative measures leads to net-widening.
Several officers raised strong concerns about the use of Crown discretion over alternative
measures. There were many examples given of cases where, in the opinion of the officer,
the young person was not remorseful and the crime had serious consequences for the
victim; yet, despite the officer’s communicating concerns to the Crown Attorney, the case
was still diverted post-charge to alternative measures. Others expressed dismay at the
volume of cases that the courts are contending with. As one officers put it, “It’s the
system, you’ve got one crown attorney, 40 cases in the docket, what are you going to do?
You’re not going to trial through every one of them”. They suggested that cases get
referred post-charge to alternative measures as the courts do not have the human
resources available to try every case.
4.4
Feedback on cases referred to alternative measures
The few research studies available indicate that police perceptions of program
effectiveness hinge on meaningful consequences and accurate knowledge (Caputo &
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
43
Kelly, 1997; Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1988; Task Force, 1996). Results from focus
group interviews with a small sample of Canadian police officers found that the police
use of community-based alternatives would be higher if the consequences which youths
faced for their actions were seen as meaningful and timely (Caputo & Kelly, 1997).12
Further, a portion of the variability in the use of alternatives to formal processing appears
to be due to the lack of feedback (Hornick et al., 1996). Police officers require accurate
knowledge on how other officers respond to similar situations and the consequences of
their decisions (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1988). Police officers working in the same
community will react differently towards similar youthful offending situations (Brown,
1981a), if they have inadequate knowledge of discretionary options and the most
effective use of community alternatives (Hornick et al., 1996).
Most police officers appreciate the long-term benefits of making the transition from the
traditional reactive style of policing to a more problem-solving proactive approach. 13
However, the police officers surveyed identified two inherent difficulties in making this
transition. First, many jurisdictions contend with a high volume of paperwork and
service calls. Second, the current system under the YOA is not graduated. In other
words, when officers choose not to charge a youth their only options are seen as informal
warnings (where they see accountability and tracking as problematic) or referrals to
alternative measures (where they seldom find out what happens to the case).
Specifically, internal programs created through community links (primary, secondary, or
tertiary) do not provide follow-up information or the police are unable to pursue feedback
due to time and resource constraints. These problems have led to frustration with the
system, a lack of closure for officers, and an inability to assess the effectiveness of their
decisions and use of discretion.
The literature led us to ask the officers whether they received any feedback on cases that
were referred to alternative measures (pre- or post-charge). We coded their responses
into four categories. None indicates that they received no feedback at all concerning
cases that went to alternative measures. Informal (if requested) denotes situations where
officers could inquire about the outcome of an incident that was referred to alternative
measures; however, if they did not go out of their way to phone the Crown Attorney they
would not receive any feedback. Occasionally but not consistently refers to police
agencies which do receive some feedback, but the circumstances under which they
receive feedback are not consistent. Further, in some jurisdictions police are supposed to
receive consistent feedback from the organizations that run the alternative measures or
from the Crown, but do not receive it consistently. Others that fell under this category
12
Examples of “meaningful consequences” which were offered by respondents in this study were: “loss of
privileges or freedoms” via a curfew or no-association provision, “public accountability” for wrongdoing,
and restitution. “Timely” was apparently not defined precisely by respondents, but one explanation was
“not six months down the road” (Caputo & Kelly, 1997: 10-11).
13
This paragraph relies on Hornick et al. (1996). These results are from a small sample questioned through
focus groups. These findings appear to be the only ones that have addressed this area. Consequently, the
impact of various facets of community policing needs further exploration, with a focus on handling youth
crime and the creation of comprehensive assessments of “what works”.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
44
were police services where the Court Liaison officer might find out about youth-related
incidents that were dealt with by way of alternative measures but the investigating officer
probably would not. Yes (unspecified) refers to the police agencies that indicated they do
receive feedback fairly consistently but did not indicate when or to what degree.
None of the police agencies or detachments specified that they systematically or routinely
receive feedback on cases referred to alternative measures.
Figure II.12 shows that just under half of the police agencies (46%) indicated they do not
receive any type of feedback at all on the outcome of alternative measures referrals.
Approximately 27% of those within our sample told us they receive feedback
occasionally (but not consistently) or informally if requested by the officer, and the
remaining 27% receive feedback to an unspecified degree.
Figure II.12 Feedback on Alternative Measures cases
Percent of police
services
50
46
40
27
30
20
12
15
10
0
None
Informal
Occasionally
Yes
(unspecified)
Frequency of Feedback
These responses differ by province/territory and type of community. Relatively high
proportions of police agencies in British Columbia (67%), Ontario (59%), and Alberta
(57%) say that they receive no feedback at all on alternative measures cases. In Ontario
and British Columbia, this may be due to the active role of the Crown, in decisionmaking concerning alternative measures in Ontario, and in screening police
recommendations, in British Columbia.
Police agencies in the Atlantic provinces (73%) and the Territories (75%) are much more
likely to receive feedback on cases referred to alternative measures than those in the other
regions (all under 35%).
Police services in rural and small town areas are more likely to receive feedback (50%)
than those in metropolitan (38%) and suburban/exurban jurisdictions (20%).
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
45
We asked respondents who do receive feedback whether they found it useful. We also
asked respondents who do not receive feedback whether they would find it useful. Figure
II.13 shows the range of answers we received from individual police officers (only 92 of
our sample of 194 officers answered this question).
Figure II.13 Is feedback on Alternative Measures useful (or would it be, if it were
available)?
12%
13%
Yes
Unsure
No
75%
Three-quarters (75%) of the officers who answered this question felt that feedback on
cases referred to alternative measures is or would be helpful for their decision-making
processes. One provincial police officer stated, “I think it would be helpful because then
you’d know whether to direct others that way. That’s important”. An officer from Ontario
summarized the usefulness of feedback as follows,
I think […] you have to have the feedback because then he’ll know if it’s working or not.
An officer on the road who might be getting 15-20 calls a day, from the time they start
they’re kicked out on the road, away you go. It’s very hard to do your follow-up on it, so
you don’t know. So a letter back makes it easier. Things that work, you’ll use more.
Things that you don’t really know, you’ll try it; well I didn’t hear anything back. You’ll
just revert back to your old ways again.
A very large proportion of officers in Saskatchewan (100%), Quebec (92%), and New
Brunswick (80%) said that they find, or would find, feedback on alternative measures
cases useful for their decision-making with youths. OPP officers were more likely than
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
46
others to say that they would not find feedback useful. Part of the reasoning provided
was that they did not have the time and resources to analyze any feedback if they were to
receive it. Officers who were unsure if feedback would be useful suggested that, since
they have never received any feedback, they cannot judge its usefulness.
Overall, three-quarters of police officers who expressed an opinion said that they find or
would find feedback on alternative measures cases useful, even though almost half of the
officers in virtually all of the provinces do not get any.
4.5
Summary
Although some officers remain sceptical about the value of pre-charge diversion and
Alternative Measures, it appears that the great majority feel that they can play a useful
role with some young offenders in some circumstances. In their view, diversion to a
program or agency can be a much more effective way of dealing with a youth’s perceived
criminogenic problem than referring him or her to Youth Court; also, they see referral to
Alternative Measures as a useful “intermediate sanction”, representing a “consequence”
for the youth which is more severe than informal action, but less harsh than laying a
charge.
By far the greatest source of dissatisfaction with AM programs which was expressed by
interviewees is their unavailability. In many communities, the range of programs is
inadequate; in many others, there are no programs at all.
A second deficiency of alternative measures which many officers identified is the lack of
mechanisms to provide them with feedback on the outcomes of their recommendations –
whether they were accepted, and whether the resulting placement was effective. In the
absence of information, they can only speculate about the appropriateness and
effectiveness of their past and future recommendations.
Although many officers were interested in discussing pre-charge diversion with us, and
many had definite opinions on this subject, very few showed any such interest in
discussing post-charge AM. Apparently, this is largely foreign territory for police
officers: many said that this is entirely a matter for the Crown, and they did not offer
input to the Crown on a decision which is entirely out of their hands.
In summary, pre-charge diversion and alternative measures seem to have been accepted
by the great majority of police officers and police services as a very useful method of
dealing with certain kinds of offending youth in certain circumstances. However,
according to police whom we interviewed, the available facilities and programs are
woefully inadequate.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
47
5.0 Discretion with offences against the administration of
justice
The great majority of offences against the administration of justice by young offenders
are failure to appear for court and breach of probation (usually prosecuted as the offence
under the YOA of “failure to comply with a disposition”), but this category also includes
violations of bail conditions (both JIR and OIC undertakings), escaping from a facility
(“escape custody”), or leaving a facility without permission (“unlawfully at large”, or,
colloquially, “going AWOL”), and rare instances of other offences.
Offences against the administration of justice differ from other offences in that (i) they
rarely involve harm to a victim, other than to the justice system itself; (ii) they do not
involve behaviour that is popularly considered “criminal”: rather they involve disobeying
orders of the court or other system actors; (iii) they can be committed only after a
another offence has already been committed, or alleged; i.e. they are “secondary”
offences; for this reason, they are particularly at risk of contributing to the “revolving
door” syndrome.
There has been a very large increase in the reported incidence of offences against the
administration of justice by young persons since the inception of the YOA. Since very
high proportions of these offences are subject to charging, prosecution, conviction, and
custodial dispositions, the increase in their reported incidence has resulted in their
becoming a substantial and growing proportion of the caseloads of police, prosecution,
youth courts, and custodial facilities – a development viewed with alarm by some
commentators (Bell, 2002; Schissel, 1987; Task Force, 1996).
Per capita rates of young persons apprehended for offences against the administration of
justice, which were declining under the Juvenile Delinquents Act, have climbed very
rapidly under the YOA from 115 per 100,000 youth population in 1984 to 734 in 2000
(Figure II.14).14 Rates of young persons charged have followed this trend closely, since
approximately 90% of these offences result in charges being laid: that is, they are subject
to lower levels of police discretion than any other type of offence except murder
(Carrington 1998a). As indexed by the proportion of apprehended young persons
14
The UCR Survey does not distinguish between offences under the YOA and offences under
miscellaneous federal statutes, such as the Bankruptcy Act, the Income Tax Act, etc. However, almost all
young persons apprehended and charged since 1984 under the UCR category ‘Other Federal Statutes” were
in fact implicated in the offence under the YOA of “failure to comply with a disposition”. According to
Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (2003), approximately 93% of young persons recorded in the 2001
UCR as charged under “Other Federal Statutes” were charged with an offence under the YOA – and,
according to the Youth Court Survey, 98% of cases of offences under the YOA heard in Youth Court in
1999/2000 were failure to comply with a disposition under the YOA (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics,
2001b). Therefore, in computing rates of young persons apprehended and charged from 1984-2000 for
Figures II.14 and II.16, we have used 93% of the total number of young persons apprehended and charged
for “Other Federal Statute” offences as an estimate of the number apprehended and charged with
administration of justice offences under the YOA. For 1977-1983, we have used the total number of young
persons apprehended and charged in the UCR category ‘offences under the Juvenile Delinquents Act’ as an
estimate of breaches of probation under the JDA.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
48
charged, the non-use of police discretion with administration of justice offences leapt
from about 40% in 1980 to almost 80% in 1985, and stabilized at about 90% in the
1990’s (Figure II.15).
Figure II.14 Rates of young persons apprehended and charged for offences against
the administration of justice, Canada, 1977-2000
800
Rate per 100,000 population
700
600
500
400
300
200
100
Apprehended
Source: UCR Survey; see note 15.
Charged
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
49
Figure II.15 Proportion of young persons apprehended for offences against the
administration of justice who were charged, Canada, 1977-2000
100.0
90.0
80.0
70.0
Percent
60.0
50.0
40.0
30.0
20.0
10.0
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0.0
Source: UCR Survey; see note 15 above.
Figure II.16 Rates of young persons apprehended for common offences against the
administration of justice, Canada, 1977-2000
450
Rate per 100,000 population
400
350
300
250
200
150
100
50
Bail violations/Fail to appear
Source: UCR Survey; see note 13 above.
Breach probation (under the JDA or YOA)
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
0
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
50
About 90% of offences against the administration of justice committed by young persons
are bail violations and failures to appear for court, and breaches of probation conditions
(which is usually charged under S. 26 of the YOA, failure to comply with disposition,
rather than under S. 733.1 the Criminal Code, failure to comply with a probation order).
Both offences have increased sharply under the YOA, but the increase in bail violations
and failures to appear has been most spectacular, from 20 juveniles per 100,000 in 1983
to 412 per 100,000 in 2000 (Figure II.16). In 2000, over 9,000 young persons were
charged with bail violations or fail to appear, and more than 4,800 were charged with
failure to comply with a disposition. Altogether, approximately 16,000 young persons
were charged with offences against the administration of justice in 2000: they made up
approximately 16% of youth charged for all crimes.
Per capita rates of young persons appearing in youth court for offences against the
administration of justice almost doubled between 1987 and 1992, and increased steadily
after that (Bell, 2002: 89). By fiscal 1999/2000, cases in which the most serious charge
was an offence against the administration of justice accounted for 27% of all youth court
cases in Canada (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001b: Table 3). Because of high
rates of conviction and of custodial dispositions for these offences, they also accounted
for a very high proportion of custodial sentences: 40% of custodial dispositions in youth
court in fiscal 1999/2000 were for cases in which the most significant charge was an
offence against the administration of justice – whereas, only 18% of custodial
dispositions handed down in 1999/2000 were for cases involving violent offences
(Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001b: Table 8).
However, to our knowledge, there is almost no published Canadian research on the
processes generating these remarkable and alarming numbers (the few extant studies are
reviewed below). Accordingly, we made a point of asking police about the processes by
which they became aware of this type of offence, to what extent and in what
circumstances they exercised their discretion not to lay charges, and what kinds of
considerations affected their decision-making.
Officers become aware of administration of justice offences in one of three ways:
•
the police service is notified by another system agent; typically, when a youth
fails to appear for court and the judge issues a bench warrant, or when the
probation service notifies the police of a breach of probation or community
service order, or when an open or secure custodial facility in the area notifies
police of an escape or a resident “going AWOL”; in the case of fail to appear, the
charge (i.e. the information) is often laid by an officer assigned to this and other
administrative duties, or by the Court Liaison Officer, if there is one;
•
a police officer apprehends a youth for another offence and learns of an
outstanding bench warrant, bail violation, breach of probation condition, etc.,
through a records check;
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
•
51
a police officer discovers a violation of a condition of bail or probation in the
course of a proactive sweep for such offences, e.g. curfew violations discovered
during curfew checks done as part of a monitoring program such as SHOP
(Serious Habitual Offender Program) or SHOCAP (Serious Habitual Offender
Comprehensive Action Program) (see below).
Why, then, are so few cases of offences against the administration of justice dealt with
informally or diverted by police? On the face of it, they would appear to be excellent
candidates for informal action or diversion, since they are not indictable offences (fail to
comply with a disposition is a summary offence; fail to appear is a hybrid offence), and
involve no harm to a victim.
In interviews, we were told that officers are much less likely to use their discretion not to
charge when they are notified of the offence by a system agent, because the notification is
understood as, in effect, a request to charge. This is often explicit when a request comes
from a probation officer or official of a custodial facility. However, we were unable to
determine precisely the process by which the failure of a youth to appear in court, and
subsequent issuance of a warrant to arrest (“bench warrant”) on the original charge by the
judge, leads to the police laying a fresh charge of failure to appear. Typically this charge
is laid as a matter of course by the court liaison officer, after being informed by a court
clerk of the issuance of the bench warrant; or the court liaison officer may be present in
court when the warrant is issued. The few court liaison officers with whom we discussed
this process treated it as one in which police discretion was inapplicable, since, in their
view, the judge had indicated that s/he wanted the charge laid, and they would not want
to disappoint or disagree with a judge. It is unclear to us whether judges actually
communicate such a wish, explicitly or implicitly, or whether this is an unwarranted
assumption on the part of police. If judges are indeed initiating the laying of charges by
police, is this an appropriate activity for them to be performing in their judicial role?
Since charges of failure to appear constitute a substantial proportion of all administrative
offences, it would be worthwhile to investigate this process more closely than we were
able to do.
A second factor that appears to play a large role in the decision whether to charge is
whether the youth is a “known” repeat offender. Many officers told us about youths
apprehended for bail or probation violations who were simultaneously on bail and/or
probation orders in multiple cases. In these fairly common cases, laying a charge for a
bail or probation violation is seen as a response not just to the particular violation, but to
a pattern of flagrant disregard for the orders of the justice system.
A factor that can mitigate against laying charges might be described as “absence of
wilfulness”: just the opposite of the wilful disregard described above. This appears to be
more prevalent in rural/small town jurisdictions. As one officer described it:
You have to go back to the socio-economic description of
the citizenry, there’s an awful lot, quite a few who aren’t
very educated and quite a few that I’ve come across, an
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
52
inordinate amount, that are absolutely illiterate and have no
clue of what a promise to appear says. You just about have
to stick it on a post and whack it on their forehead if you’ve
got a court date that’s coming Friday, you write it and stick
it on their forehead, and then they’ll be there. So when it
comes to reading a probation order, you watch these people
when they sit in court […] and he hasn’t got a clue what the
guy [judge] is talking about. And then it gets explained to
him afterwards, he signs it all up, yeah, no problem and
then you catch them out after 7 o’clock at night [… they
tell you] I didn’t know that. In their mind they didn’t. So
in those kinds of cases you might cut him a bit of slack.
We asked officers to describe in detail the factors which influence their use of discretion
with offences against the administration of justice. Figure II.17 outlines the responses
(percentages add to more than 100% since multiple answers were permitted).
Figure II.17 Discretion with Administration of Justice Incidents
70
62
Percent of interviews
60
50
45
40
33
30
24
20
17
11
10
9
6
9
0
None
None Case Minor RapportProgram Avoid Avoid No point
with S/ASpecific
Door Instit'n
Reasons
One-third (33%) reported that they use no discretion at any time with offences against the
administration of justice. When probed for further clarification, three distinct themes
emerged. First, the officers reported that there was either departmental policy15 or an
15
Despite officers indicating the existence of departmental policy, we did not find any specific directives
within the documentation collected which instructs officers to use “no discretion” with administration of
justice offences.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
53
understanding within the department that no discretion should be used with these types of
offences. Second, officers reported feeling uncomfortable using their discretion when a
judge has ordered this young person to adhere to conditions. The fact that the young
person is in breach is seen by the officer as evidence of a lack of respect for the criminal
justice system. Officers who fell in this category generally told us that these young
persons are not new to law-breaking and they had already been “given a break” by
receiving conditions. In several instances, officers reported young persons laughing
because “probation means nothing to them”. Finally, some felt that the youth justice
system provides so few consequences for a young person’s behaviour that to “give them a
break” would further enforce this perception.
Approximately one-quarter (24%) of our interviewees indicated that if they found out
about the administration of justice offence from another system agent they would not
exercise their discretion. Officers who indicated they use no discretion when reported to
them by system agents were more likely to work in metropolitan police forces (37%),
compared to only 21% of respondents in suburban/exurban areas and 18% of respondents
in rural/small town jurisdictions. They are also more likely to work in the Prairie
provinces (53%) or the Atlantic region (55%). Finally, officers with 5 or less years of
experience were much more likely to say they would not exercise discretion with cases
referred by other system agents (36%) than officers with 6 or more years experience
(10%).
Almost two-thirds of the interviewees (62%) responded that their exercise of discretion in
cases of offences against the administration of justice is case-specific. When asked to
clarify, responses ranged from the circumstances of the offence to characteristics of the
young person. For example, if the offence against the administration of justice was
committed at the same time as another offence they would probably charge the young
person. Or, if they looked on their records management system (RMS) and saw that the
young person had been “given a break” already, they would proceed by way of charge.
Conversely, if a records check showed the young person did not have a lengthy prior
record, they might consider using informal action. On the other hand, if the breach is
serious or the young person has a lengthy record, officers suggest they are more inclined
to proceed by way of charge and arrest the young person. Respondents’ answers also
differed by type of police force, province, and whether they police aboriginal persons.
87% of respondents from provincial police forces (including RCMP and OPP) would
view each incident on a case-by-case basis, compared to 47% of the independent
municipal police agencies surveyed. 100% of the detachments interviewed in the
Territories and 87% of the agencies in Ontario indicated they use their discretion
differently, depending on the unique circumstances of each case. Finally, 78% of those
agencies that police on or off reserve aboriginals said that they use their discretion on a
case-by-case basis, compared to 51% of those agencies that do not police aboriginals.
Almost half (45%) of the officers told us that they use their discretion not to charge when
the incident involves a minor breach of release conditions or probation. For example, if a
young person has a curfew of 10:00 pm and was found on his or her way home at 10:15,
the likelihood of charges being laid would be low. Or, if there is a condition not to
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
54
consume alcohol and the young person had had a few drinks, but was clearly not
intoxicated, the officer would also consider using informal action. If the condition was
not to associate with certain individuals and it was conceivable that the young person,
although associating, did not intend to breach that condition, the officers might exercise
discretion. However, several officers indicated when a young person has a lengthy
record or has committed another offence (in conjunction with even a minor breach) they
will more than likely charge the young person. Certain types of police agencies were
more likely to say they would not charge in the case of a minor breach. 74% of provincial
police agencies (including RCMP and OPP) indicated they would use their discretion
with a minor breach compared to only 27% of independent municipal forces. 89% of the
detachments interviewed in the Territories indicated that discretion is used with minor
breaches. 63% of the police agencies that police on or off reserve aboriginals indicated
they used discretion with minor breaches.
Officers volunteered several other circumstances under which they exercise their
discretion not to charge with offences against the administration of justice. 17% of those
interviewed stated they used their discretion to build rapport: that is, by not charging
when they clearly could have, they sought to build a good relationship with the youth.
These agencies differed by type of policing, type of community, province, and whether
they police aboriginal peoples. Of the provincial police detachments, 29% used
discretion to build rapport, compared to 9% of independent municipal police forces. 23%
of police forces located in rural areas or small towns mentioned rapport-building,
compared to 12% located in metropolitan or suburban areas. 44% of the detachments
interviewed in the Territories indicated that they used discretion to build rapport. Finally,
of those agencies that police aboriginal peoples 28% indicated rapport as a reason for
discretion compared to 9% of those that do not police an aboriginal population.
Several police agencies we interviewed run special programs which intensively monitor
high risk youth (e.g. SHOP – Serious Habitual Offender Program and SHOCAP - Serious
Habitual Offender Comprehensive Action Program). Other police agencies (e.g. Guelph
Police Service) do not have an official SHOP or SHOCAP program, but officers –
usually specialist youth officers – do the sort of intensive monitoring of high-risk
offenders that characterizes these programs. Officers indicated that if the offence
involved a youth in one of these specialized programs they would consider using
discretion. During ride-alongs with officers involved in these programs, we observed that
they would routinely find youth not at home in violation of their bail or probation curfew
condition. They would then make a note of the violation, leave their card with a parent or
other resident, ask them to tell the youth to call the officer “as soon as s/he gets in”, and
take no further action. Thus, by proactively detecting, but not acting on, large numbers of
violations of bail or probation conditions, they were able to remind the youth that s/he
was being monitored, but also to “build rapport” by repeatedly giving the youth “a
break”.
These monitoring programs tend to be run within independent municipal police forces (of
which 16% said that they run such a program) and they tend to be located in metropolitan
(20%) or suburban/exurban areas (16%). Only 2% of the agencies located in rural/small
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
55
town agencies had a program of this type in effect. Officers indicated that a lack of
resources is the most salient factor in determining the programs they are able to provide.
9% of officers indicated that they used their discretion to avoid the ‘revolving door’
syndrome, 6% responded that they used discretion to avoid institutionalization of the
youth and another 9% used their discretion because there was no point in processing the
charge (e.g. because it would always be pled away) or it was too much work. On the
whole, there were no variations in these responses by type of police force, type of
community, officer characteristics or province/territory. However, those that policed an
aboriginal population were four times more likely to use their discretion to avoid the
‘revolving door’ syndrome. Some such officers claimed that charging youth for
administration of justice offences did “absolutely no good.” As one officer put it, the
original offence which the youth committed might be a minor mischief, theft, or minor
offence against the person, and the rest of his record is filled with 8 or 10 breaches of
probation. Further, detaining youth for multiple breaches can institutionalize them. An
officer explained it thus:
We try to work it out and inform, explain the whole thing,
just tell them the whole process. Because once [they’re] in
a jail setting they start to network. So now you’ve
introduced this really young, impressionable individual to a
new culture and wham-o. Guess what!
Many officers argued that charging youth for administration of justice offences is simply
sending them through a revolving door without addressing the initial problem that
brought the youth to police attention. An officer in British Columbia summarized “the
door” thus:
So you arrest him, take him back to the institution or the
youth detention centre, and they network in there. You
write a really fancy report. So now you get a new separate
charge for breaching conditions, so now you’ve got the
original charge, new charges, revolving doors. You can see
our frustration, come on […] there must be a better way.
Some officers expressed considerable frustration concerning the processing of offences
against the administration of justice by Crowns and youth court. Many officers working
in metropolitan areas told us that in order for a charge to stand up in court they had to
show a pattern of wilful disregard for the order. In British Columbia, one officer
summed it up by saying, “quite often, just because we find a kid out past their curfew, in
their no-go, doesn’t mean the JP [Justice of the Peace] is going to approve the charge,
they’re going to want to see a pattern of this misbehaviour, so quite often it’s a waste of
energy”. Of those officers with 6 or more years experience, 8% responded in this manner
compared to none of the officers with 5 years or less experience. One officer
summarized the sentiment of too much work as follows: “Take into consideration that
you work an 11 hour shift, spend 4 hours at the hospital, spend 2 hours doing paperwork,
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
56
and one kid just tied you up for half your shift, and where are the rest of your service
calls?” The paperwork involved for processing a charge against the administration of
justice is exactly the same as any other Criminal Code offence and these officers
suggested that they used their discretion not to charge, in order to concentrate on what
they saw as more important and productive cases.
In summary, the volume of youth-related cases of breach of conditions of bail or
probation, and failure to appear in court, has grown to alarming proportions. In the year
2000, offences against the administration of justice accounted for 16% of all youth
charged. In fiscal 1999/2000, 27% of all Youth Court cases, and 40% of all custodial
dispositions were in relation to offences against the administration of justice.
The police see themselves as playing only a limited role in this phenomenon because they
feel that they have very little discretion in these cases. When an allegation that a youth
has committed an offence against the administration of justice is made by another system
agent – e.g. a bench warrant is issued by a judge for failure to appear, or a breach of
probation is reported by a probation officer – police interpret this as a request to charge,
and generally feel that they have little choice but to comply. On the other hand, when
they discover a breach as a result of apprehending for another offence, or as part of an
intensive monitoring program for high-risk youth, they exercise a great deal of discretion.
When police do lay a charge in these circumstances, it is usually because there is some
aggravating circumstances: the substantive offence is serious, or the youth is a known
repeat offender, or is simultaneously involved in several cases, and violations of court
orders.
6.0
Discretion with provincial/territorial offences
Our sample was evenly split between police services whose members said that they use
the same amount of discretion with provincial/territorial offences as with Criminal Code
offences, and those that said they use more discretion with provincial/territorial offences.
exceptions.
There were few differences among types or locations of police services in this respect. In
Alberta and Nova Scotia, 75% of police agencies indicated they used more discretion
with provincial/territorial offences. Notably, officers with 6 or more years of service were
much more likely to say that they use more discretion with provincial/territorial offences
(70%), compared to respondents with less than 5 years experience (30%).
7.0
Procedures used to compel appearance in court
Concern has been expressed in many quarters about the excessive reliance on
incarceration of young persons in Canada, which exceeds that of many other western
countries (Department of Justice Canada, n.d.). Although most of the attention is focused
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
57
on sentenced custody, young persons incarcerated on remand – that is, while awaiting
trial, or during trial – constitute a substantial proportion of all youth incarcerated in
Canada. In fiscal 2000/01, remand admissions of young persons accounted for 39% of
custodial admissions (Marinelli, 2002; not all provinces reported to the survey on which
this report is based). Due to the relatively short stays of remanded youth, they accounted
for a smaller, yet still substantial, proportion (22%) of young persons held in custodial
facilities on an “average day” in 2000/01 (ibid.).16
Studies of bail hearings in youth court have found that judges sometimes stretch the
interpretation of the Criminal Code grounds in ordering detention for young people,
especially for youths who come from unstable or deleterious home situations. Yet, as
many writers have pointed out, detention before conviction –that is, of persons presumed
innocent – is an undesirable expedient whose use should be minimized, particularly in the
case of young persons, who are especially vulnerable to its ill effects (Bala et al., 1994b;
Task Force, 1996; Doob and Cesaroni, 2002; Varma, 2002). Unless it is absolutely
necessary, pre-trial detention of young persons would appear to be contrary to the intent
of the Bail Reform Act (see Law Reform Commission of Canada, 1988), the Young
Offenders Act, with its emphasis on minimal interference in the freedom of the young
person (Platt, 1991: 80), and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(Task Force, 1996). Also, detention before trial in criminal court has been found by
several researchers to increase the probability of conviction and a custodial sentence
(Griffiths and Verdun-Jones, 1994: 226).
Attempts to explain the surprisingly high rates of pre-trial detention of young persons in
Canada have been directed mainly to the bail hearing itself (e.g. Gandy, 1992 (cited in
Doob and Cesaroni, 2002, pp. 139-146); Varma, 2002). However, police are the
“gatekeepers” of pre-trial detention, because it is they who make the initial decision to
arrest, and the subsequent decision whether to release or to hold for a JIR (Judicial
Interim Release) hearing. Although we have no data on this, it seems likely that a
substantial proportion of youth who are being held at any given time in pre-trial detention
are in police custody, i.e. have not yet had a JIR hearing. Furthermore, only those youth
who are arrested and not released by police come to the attention of bail courts: thus,
police constitute the initial “screening” mechanism for pre-trial detention. Also, it seems
likely (although we have no data on this) that the Crown’s position and arguments at the
bail hearing are heavily influenced by input from the police.
According to Grosman:
When the Bail Reform Act was first introduced in Canada
in 1972, police officers were concerned about the wide
discretion given them under this new legislation. The
police officer was given the task of deciding whether it was
16
Doob and Cesaroni (2002: 142-143) report that in fiscal 1998/99, remand admissions accounted for 60%
of youth custody admissions, and 18% of average daily counts of youths in custody in Canada (excluding
some non-reporting provinces).
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
58
“in the public interest” to take a suspect into
custody….Accordingly, rather than run this risk [of
misinterpreting “the public interest”], police officers
refused to take suspects into custody unless they were
found committing or about to commit a serious crime.
They refused to exercise the broad discretion given to them.
(1975: 49)
The only Canadian research which we could find on police decision-making concerning
the detention specifically of young persons was the study done by Carrington, Moyer and
Kopelman (1986; 1988), using data collected when the Juvenile Delinquents Act was still
in force. They found that rates of detention at arrest in five major cities in 1981-82 varied
widely, from detention of 18% of juveniles arrested in Toronto to 63% in Edmonton.
Factors affecting the probability of detention included “legal” variables (the prior record
of the juvenile, the seriousness of the offence, and a history of failure to appear for court);
a “socio-legal” variable ( “lack of community roots”), and “extra-legal” variables (the
gender and age of the juvenile, whether s/he had previously been detained, and, in
Winnipeg only, whether s/he was an aboriginal).
If the youth is not arrested, attendance at court can be compelled by an Appearance
Notice (issued by police and later confirmed by a Justice of the Peace, when the charges
are laid), or by a summons issued by a Justice of the Peace when the charges are laid.
If the youth is arrested, in considering whether the (continued) detention of a youth is
appropriate, the Criminal Code requires the arresting officer (S. 497) or the Officer In
Charge of the police custody facility (S. 498) to assess whether detention is required to:
(i) establish the identity of the person,
(ii) secure or preserve evidence of or relating to the
offence,
(iii) prevent the continuation or repetition of the offence or
the commission of another offence,
or because the officer has reason to believe
(b) that, if the person is released from custody, the person
will fail to attend court….
In making this assessment, the police typically consider the personal history of the
accused (any prior breaches, education, family, and employment), the circumstances of
the specific charge, and the victim’s reaction (Bala et al., 1994a). One Canadian study
found that an “uncooperative” accused is more likely to be held in custody by the police
(Hagan & Morden, 1981). Accused persons who are not released from detention by the
police are supposed to be brought before the court for a judicial interim release (“bail”)
hearing within 24 hours, or “as soon as possible” thereafter. According to Bala, “in
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
59
practice, some youths may be detained for a few days before being brought before the
court” (1997: 137).
As an alternative to continued detention, there are three different methods police can use
to release an accused youth from custody. These methods, and the criteria for their use,
are the same for young offenders as for adults. These various release methods exhibit
substantial variability in the degree of intrusiveness (what Klinger (1996) calls “the
amount of law applied”). First, police may release the youth on an Appearance Notice,
which the youth should sign, or with the intention of having a summons issued. Second,
they may release the youth by way of a Promise to Appear, which is signed by the
accused. Third, the police can release on a Recognizance which requires the suspect to
formally acknowledge a debt to the Crown for an amount up to $500 which may or may
not require a deposit. Both the Promise to Appear and the Recognizance can be
accompanied by an Undertaking, in which the youth agrees to conditions on the release
such as a curfew, limitations on movement, or parental supervision.
We questioned police in detail concerning the options available to them for compelling
the attendance at court of young persons whom they had charged, and the circumstances
and considerations which influenced their decision-making.
7.1
The summons and appearance notice
The summons and appearance notice are the only methods of compelling appearance that
do not require arresting the young person and bringing him or her back to the police
station. Therefore, their use would appear to be particularly appropriate with young
persons, consistent with the YOA principle of “least possible interference with freedom.”
However, according to our interviewees, they are rarely used in Canada with young
offenders. Figure II.18 summarizes the answers we received when we asked officers
about their use of summonses with young persons (percentages add to more than 100%
because multiple answers were permitted).
Almost two-thirds (62%) of the police agencies interviewed never use summonses with
young persons, or do so rarely. 41% said that they used summonses for minor offences.
Only 4% use them with most offences.
When we asked why the summons was not used, or rarely used, with young persons,
many officers offered no reason except that it was not the procedure used in their police
service.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
60
Figure II.18 Use of the summons with young persons
Percent of police services
50
40
41
37
30
25
20
10
0
5
Never
Rarely
Difficult to
track
4
Minor Offences Most Offences
Degree of Use
When reasons were given for arresting rather than using summonses with young persons,
the main one cited was the need to take him or her to the police station in order to
conduct a proper investigation. This would typically involve establishing identity, taking
a statement, possibly fingerprinting, possibly notifying the parents, and completion of one
or more forms, all of which can be done much more satisfactorily in a police station than
in the street or police car.
Another reason given for not using summonses was the difficulty of tracking the youth in
order to serve the summons (which must be done by an officer in person, not by mail).
This reason was cited more often in large metropolitan police services, which deal with
significant numbers of transient youth. Over half (53%) of the police agencies who said
that they never use a summons with young persons, came from metropolitan areas.
Although the majority of respondents indicated that they do not use summonses with
young persons, OPP officers are much more likely to summons a young person (64%)
than the other types of police forces (38%). OPP officers indicated that, for most of the
crimes committed by young persons, it is the most appropriate method of compelling
appearance. They do not feel they need to bring a young person to the police station for
minor offences (e.g. mischief, shoplifting, offences on school property).
Summonses appear to be used with young offenders much more frequently in the Atlantic
provinces and the Territories than elsewhere in Canada: only 33% of police services in
the Territories, and 45% of those in the Atlantic region, said they rarely or never used
summonses with young persons, compared with 83% in Ontario, 88% in the Prairies, and
92% in British Columbia.17
17
There were too few responses from police services in Quebec to analyze.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
61
Responses to our questions about the use of appearance notices with youth fell into three
groups. Used when none of the other options apply indicates agencies that use an
appearance notice if the youth-related incident is not appropriately dealt with by
detention, a Promise to Appear (PTA), an undertaking, or a summons. Police agencies
whose answers fell into this category tended not to use summonses for young persons,
and therefore would use an appearance notice for minor offences when there is no need to
arrest and no concern about attendance in court. In provinces that have post-charge
alternative measures, an appearance notice is commonly used if the officer feels the youth
will probably be diverted from youth court. For very minor offences indicates those
agencies that said they will use an appearance notice only in circumstances where they
have defined the incident as very minor. The officer’s classification of the offence as
“very minor” may also be influenced by the youth’s prior contacts with the police
(interactions that did not result in formal action being taken). Finally, some police
services indicated that they rarely use appearance notices with youth. Figure II.19 shows
the distribution of answers (percentages add to more than 100% since multiple answers
were permitted).
Figure II.19 Use of the Appearance Notice with young persons
Percent of police
services
50
42
40
31
32
30
20
10
0
No other options
Very minor
Rarely used
Frequency
It is noteworthy that none of the police services which we interviewed said that they use
appearance notices “frequently,” or “with many offences.” Their answers universally
exhibit a lack of enthusiasm for the appearance notice, as for the summons, as a means of
compelling attendance of young persons, and vary only in the degree of disinterest.
As with the summons, the main reason given for the non-use of appearance notices is the
need to arrest and bring the youth to the police station in order to investigate the incident.
Another reason cited was that often a youth is apprehended in the company of peers, and
it is necessary to arrest in order to separate him or her from the others in order to elicit
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
62
some degree of co-operation, since youth are generally reluctant to be seen co-operating
with police.
A third reason for the preference for making the arrest was not stated explicitly, but
seems to us to be implicit in officers’ views that taking the youth to the police station
represents a form of informal action (i.e. an alternative to diversion or charging). It seems
that, in some circumstances, arresting the youth and taking him or her to the police
station, then releasing without charge, is seen by some officers as more of a
“consequence” than releasing at the scene but less than referring to alternative measures
or laying a charge. It is, in effect, a form of “formal warning”, which may impress the
youth with the unacceptability of his or her conduct, without the necessity of subjecting
him or her to a formal charge. (Of course, the arrest as informal action is only an option
when legal grounds for arrest exist.)
Finally, officers in 31% of the police services said that they use appearance notices in
“very minor” cases. To some extent, this limitation is mandated by the Criminal Code,
which says (S. 496) that the Appearance Notice (unlike the summons) may be used only
with summary, hybrid, and minor indictable offences (the “absolute jurisdiction”
indictable offences in S. 553, such as theft, fraud, and possess stolen goods). However,
offences for which the Criminal Code allows the use of the appearance notice comprise
the vast majority of youth crime: theft under, most frauds, mischief, common assault, bail
violations, fail to appear, and drug possession are hybrid offences, and fail to comply
with a disposition under the YOA is a summary offence. Thus, the only offences
committed with any substantial frequency by young persons for which the use of the
appearance notice is precluded by S. 496 are break and enter (dwelling) and robbery.
Arresting the youth and taking him or her to the police station do not preclude the use of
a summons or appearance notice, since they can also be used when releasing from the
station; but officers usually prefer other methods of compelling appearance on release:
these are discussed below.
There are some variations among police forces in their use of the appearance notice.
Police agencies in rural areas and small towns are especially unlikely to use appearance
notices. They were less likely to say they used appearance notices with youth “for minor
offences” (16% said this, compared with 32% of suburban/exurban, and 32% of
metropolitan police services). They were also less likely to say that they use an
appearance notice when no other options apply (32%, versus 51% of suburban and
metropolitan services). They were more likely to say they “rarely used” appearance
notices with youth (43%, compared with 22% of suburban and metropolitan police
services).
Consistent with these differences by type of community in the use of appearance notices,
provincial police detachments (including the OPP and RCMP), which tend to police rural
and small town jurisdictions, were much more likely to say that they use appearance
notices rarely with youth (50%, versus 20% of independent municipal services); and
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
63
much less likely to say that they use appearance notices even for minor offences (23%,
versus 40% of independent municipal services).
7.2
Release on a Promise to Appear (PTA)
Many police agencies rely on the Promise to Appear to compel the attendance at court of
young persons who have been arrested and taken to the police station. Explanations
which were offered for the use of the PTA are summarized in Figure II.20 (percentages
add to more than 100% because multiple answers were given).
Figure II.20 Reasons for release on a Promise to Appear
100
Percent of police services
90
80
70
60
60
50
60
45
40
30
20
15
14
10
0
Without
Detention
Youth at Police
Station
Used with
Undertaking
Minor Offence
Higher
Consequence
A majority (60%) of police agencies said that they release on a PTA whenever they have
taken a youth into custody temporarily, but continued detention is unnecessary. Officers
in 45% of the police agencies gave a similar explanation: that the PTA was the usual
method of release from the police station. This confirms the finding reported above, that
summonses and appearance notices are rarely used as a method of release at the police
station. A major reason for this is suggested by the 60% of officers who said that the PTA
is used in conjunction with an Officer In Charge (OIC) Undertaking (discussed below),
which imposes conditions on the accused, and which cannot be used with release on a
summons or appearance notice.
Small numbers of interviewees (15%) indicated that the PTA is appropriate for “minor
offences” – the implication presumably being that detention for a JIR hearing was more
appropriate for major offences.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
64
Small numbers (14%) identified release on a PTA, especially with an Undertaking, as a
“higher consequence” than release on a summons or appearance notice. This is
reminiscent of the view (discussed above) that arresting the youth, taking him or her to
the station, then releasing without charge is, in itself, a form of “consequence”: a useful
element of the police officer’s repertoire of dispositions. In effect, the arrest/release
process becomes a form of sanction, or consequence, in its own right, independent of any
subsequent action by the court.
Provincial police detachments (including RCMP and OPP) were more likely to say that
they use a PTA to release without detention (73%) than independent municipal agencies
(54%). This occurs more frequently with detachments and agencies located in the
Prairies (82%) and Ontario (83%), compared to the Atlantic provinces (27%), where the
summons is used more often to compel appearance (see above). Finally, officers with 5
years or less experience were more likely to say that they release young persons on a
PTA (71%) than officers with 6 years or more experience (44%).
Agencies located in metropolitan areas (23%) were the most likely to say that they use a
PTA as a “higher consequence”, compared with rural and small town agencies (9%) and
those located in suburban/exurban jurisdictions (11%).
7.3
Release on an Officer In Charge undertaking
Sixty percent of the agencies in our sample said that they use a Promise to Appear with
an OIC undertaking. This led us to explore the types of conditions that are attached and
how frequently they are used. Interviewees’ responses are summarized in Figure II.21
(percentages add to more than 100% because multiple answers were permitted).
The no go condition refers to a youth being restricted from going to a certain place or
area. This could include places such as donut shops, schools, neighbourhoods, or
shopping malls. About one-quarter (26%) of those agencies that use undertakings told us
they commonly attach a “no go” clause. Further, provincial police detachments
(including the RCMP and OPP) are twice as likely (40%) to attach a “no go” clause as
independent municipal agencies (18%). Not surprisingly, only 9% of the police agencies
in the Atlantic provinces said that they include a “no go” clause. This is consistent with
the previous finding that the police officers in the Atlantic provinces are less likely to use
a PTA with an undertaking than police in other regions in Canada.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
65
Figure II.21 Conditions of OIC Undertakings
Percent of police services
60
56
50
40
30
36
31
26
24
19
20
10
6
2
0
No Go
No
Keep the
Asociation
peace
Alcohol or
No
Drugs
weapons
Curfew
School
Unspecified
The condition of no association refers to the youth being restricted from coming in
contact with certain specified individuals. For example, this clause may be added in
cases of assault (to stay away from the victim), gang-related crime (to stay away from
fellow gang members), or crimes committed in groups (to separate the co-accused). Just
over one-third (36%) of police agencies indicated they commonly attach a “no
association” clause to the undertaking. Again, provincial police detachments (including
the RCMP and OPP) are more likely (45%) to attach this condition than independent
municipal agencies (32%). This clause is also used more often in the Prairies (47%) and
Ontario (53%) than in the other regions in Canada.
Undertakings commonly include the clause, keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
Our data suggest the precise meaning is somewhat contentious. Many officers indicated
that it is a very difficult clause to enforce as it is open to almost any interpretation. About
one-quarter (24%) of police agencies told us they commonly attach this condition.
However, we suspect it occurs much more frequently. We speculate that it was not
mentioned on a more consistent basis, due to the degree of importance officers assign to
the various conditions. Since this clause can have a myriad of interpretations, in the
cases where officers did reply affirmatively, it was as an afterthought. They frequently
told us that this clause could mean anything. For example, if a young person did not go
to school or obey their parents, they could be in breach of this clause. Most officers
wanted the conditions in the undertaking to be much more offender- and offence-specific.
40% of the provincial police detachments interviewed indicated that they commonly
attached this condition, compared to only 14% of independent municipal agencies.
Further, agencies located in rural and small town jurisdictions were much more likely to
attach this condition (32%) than other community types (18%). This may be a reflection
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
66
of the higher social cohesion characteristic of rural areas and small towns, in which the
police are more likely to know the young person, their friends, and their families.
Finally, as expected the agencies in the Atlantic provinces were the least likely (9%) to
attach this condition to an undertaking.
Officers also attach a condition stipulating no alcohol or drugs to their undertakings with
youth. This condition is meant to control a young person’s substance abuse. It is
commonly attached when the young person committed the crime under the influence of
either alcohol or drugs. 19% of the agencies indicated that they commonly attach this
condition to youth-related undertakings. Provincial police detachments (including the
RCMP and OPP) are twice as likely (28%) to attach “no alcohol or drugs” to the
undertaking than independent municipal agencies (14%). This may be a reflection of the
types of youth crime and social issues in the jurisdictions that the RCMP and OPP police.
This condition is attached more often in the Prairies (35%), Ontario (30%), and the
Territories (22%) than in other regions of the country.
The condition referred to as no weapons restricts youth to not being in possession of a
weapon. Only 2% of the agencies in our sample indicated they commonly attach this
condition. Many officers indicated this condition is much more frequently used with
adults than with youths.
The condition of curfew refers to a time limit set for the young person to be at home. The
curfew is usually set with specific starting and stopping times, such as dawn to dusk or
7:00 pm to 7:00 am. We were repeatedly informed by officers that they do not have the
legal authority to attach a curfew to an OIC undertaking - that it can only be ordered by a
Justice of the Peace. Despite many of our respondents across the country indicating they
were not legally empowered to attach a curfew, 31% commonly did so. Some
interviewees informed us that the judges commonly uphold the curfew conditions which
they have included in Undertakings.18 Others said they need to “control” the young
person to ensure that the offence is not repeated prior to the first court appearance. As
with the other conditions, provincial police detachments were more likely (38%) to attach
the condition of a curfew than independent municipal agencies (28%), although the
difference is not large. There appears to be a distinct relationship between the imposition
of a curfew and the type of community. Of the metropolitan police agencies, 40%
indicated that they attached curfews, compared to 32% of suburban/exurban and 25% of
rural/small town agencies. This suggests that it is not necessarily the type of police force
that determines the extent of use of the curfew, but the type of jurisdiction which is being
policed. The condition of curfew is more commonly attached in the Prairies (47%),
Ontario (43%), and the Territories (33%).
Another condition that interviewees mentioned is the requirement to attend school. In
some cases, the youth is committing crimes during school hours, and, upon consultation
with the school, officers have discovered the youth is frequently absent. In those
circumstances, officers indicated they will attach a condition of attending school.
18
Cf. “bail” conditions in Section 7.6 below.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
67
However, in most cases these are not patrol officers but School Liaison officers that also
conduct investigations within their schools.
The final category of conditions unspecified includes those police agencies that indicated
they did use undertakings with conditions for youth-related incidents, but did not clearly
specify which conditions they most commonly use. 56% of police forces in our sample
fell into this category. Some of these police forces were coded under this category as
well as another category, because the interviewee made it clear that they commonly
attached unspecified conditions in addition to the specified one(s).
Many officers seemed to attach considerable significance to the conditions contained in
an undertaking. They see these conditions as relatively precise, immediate, enforceable
constraints on the young person’s future behaviour, and immediate, concrete
consequences (sanctions) for the youth’s criminal act. These are contrasted with what
they see as the remote, delayed, unpredictable, and perhaps inappropriate constraints and
sanctions which may (or may not) be imposed eventually by the Youth Court and
correctional system.
7.4
Release on a Recognizance
The Criminal Code provides that the arresting officer or Officer In Charge may release a
young person (or adult) on the person’s “entering into a recognizance…in an amount not
exceeding $500” (S. 498). Unless the person lives more than 200 km. from the place of
custody, no deposit can be required. Like the Promise to Appear, the Recognizance may
be accompanied by an Undertaking specifying conditions.
When we asked interviewees about the use of the recognizance with young persons,
every one said that they are not used with young persons. No reasons were offered – that
is simply “how things are done here” – but we would speculate that the use of the
financial condition is seen as inappropriate with young persons. This mirrors the apparent
views of Youth Court judges, who rarely assess a fine as a disposition. Perhaps also, there
would be a legal impediment to enforcing a recognizance, since it is a debt instrument,
with a person under 16 years of age.19
7.5
Summary: Methods of compelling appearance without detaining
Before embarking on a discussion of the use of detention, we will summarize our
findings concerning the various other methods used by police to compel attendance at
court. These include: the summons and appearance notice, which can be used either
instead of arrest, or as a method of release after arrest; and release on a Promise to
Appear (PTA), with or without an Undertaking involving conditions. Theoretically,
19
For the enforcement of debts against children, see Bala and Clarke (1981: 223-225).
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
68
police can also release a young person on a Recognizance, but this is apparently never
done.
Although the use of the summons or appearance notice without arrest would seem to be
particularly desirable with young offenders, because of the non-intrusiveness of these
measures, they are in fact rarely used. There are several reasons. The main reason
appears to be that when an officer contemplates laying a charge or referring to pre-charge
Alternative Measures, s/he needs to obtain enough evidence to support a prosecution
(whether or not a prosecution actually takes place). This would typically involve
establishing identity, taking a statement, possibly fingerprinting, possibly notifying the
parents, and completion of one or more forms, all of which can be done much more
satisfactorily in a police station than in the street or police car. Another reason is that
arresting the youth and taking him or her to the police station prior to laying a charge are
seen as ways of impressing the seriousness of the situation upon the youth, who might not
take a summons or appearance notice as seriously. Related to this is the necessity, in
some circumstances, of establishing control of the situation, and of separating the youth
from his or her peers, in order to elicit cooperation. A final reason is the difficulty, in
some circumstances and jurisdictions, of serving a summons.
Following arrest and temporary custody, most officers prefer the Promise to Appear to
the summons or appearance notice as a method of release. The main reason is that the
PTA can be accompanied by an Undertaking which specifies conditions of release. Many
officers seem to attach considerable significance to the conditions contained in an
undertaking. They see these conditions as relatively precise, immediate, enforceable
constraints on the young person’s future behaviour, and immediate, concrete
consequences (sanctions) for the youth’s criminal act. These are contrasted with what are
seen as the remote, delayed, unpredictable, and perhaps inappropriate constraints and
sanctions which may (or may not) be imposed eventually by the Youth Court and
correctional system.
7.6
Detention for a judicial interim release hearing
The final, and most intrusive, option for compelling appearance is detention for a Judicial
Interim Release (JIR) hearing. The explanations given by police for the use of continued
detention are summarized in Figure II.22 (percentages add to more than 100% since
multiple answers were permitted).
A large majority of police agencies (82%) indicated that they follow the law when
determining whether a young person will be detained or released. This category captured
all of those interviewees who answered by saying that they do not detain a young person
unless the law gives them the authority to do so. They tended to characterize the decision
to detain or release as relatively non-discretionary, determined by the provisions of the
Criminal Code. However, further discussion of the issue often elicited additional
considerations, and the decision began to appear more complex.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
69
Figure II.22 Reasons for detention for a JIR hearing
Follow the law
82
4Ps & RICE
11
Repeat Offender
46
Multiple breaches
36
Before the courts
26
Bail conditions
28
Under the influence
24
Best Interests
20
Social Services
6
Program admission
4
Gang related
6
Prostitution
3
Attitude
3
0
10
20
30
40
50
Percent
60
70
80
90
The 4 Ps and R.I.C.E. is an acronym commonly referred to by police officers in Ontario.
The acronym itself is not listed in the Criminal Code; however, the content originates
from Criminal Code Sections 497 (1.1) and 498 (1.1). The “4 Ps” are used to teach new
recruits when they cannot release an adult or young offender. They represent: (1)
Protection of the public interest, (2) Protection of the accused,20 (3) Protection of
property, and (4) Prevent a breach of the peace. The acronym “R.I.C.E.” represents:
R=
I =
C=
E=
Repetition (of the offence)
Identity (of the accused)
Court (likelihood of appearing for)
Evidence (protection of).
If there is no concern about the accused repeating the offence, the identity of the accused,
whether s/he will appear in court, or destroy the evidence, then the police officer must
release the young person. 11% of police agencies indicated the “4Ps and R.I.C.E.” as one
of the reasons they use to detain young persons. These agencies were predominantly
independent municipal services, which suggests that the training programs for the RCMP
and the OPP do not use these acronyms.
20
This is what we were told, and the example was given of a notorious (alleged) criminal such as Paul
Bernardo, who would not be safe from public vengeance if he were released; however, Sections 497 and
498 do not mention protection of the accused; only protection of any victim or witnesses.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
70
Almost half of the police agencies (46%) consider detaining a young person who is a
repeat offender. Some officers indicated this consideration would come into play if the
youth had committed the same crime previously. However, the clear majority suggested
that any lengthy prior record would make them more likely to detain. Although this was
not mentioned explicitly, the implicit rationale here seems to be that there is an indication
of a propensity to re-offend if released. However, some officers took the rather different
view that it was a necessary measure, since the young person obviously did not
understand the seriousness of his or her actions and perhaps spending a night in jail might
impress this upon them. As in the discussion of other measures, we see here the use of
detention by police as a practical, immediate sanction or “consequence” for the youth’s
illegal behaviour, or in response to the youth’s apparent lack of respect for the law.
RCMP officers were more likely to suggest that they will detain a repeat young offender
(65%) than other types of police services (42%). Police agencies in metropolitan areas
were much more likely to cite repeat offending as a reason for detention (63%) than
suburban/exurban (37%) and rural/small town jurisdictions (41%).
A special type of repeat offender is one who has a record of multiple breaches which can
include breaches of probation, undertakings, or bail conditions. 36% of the police
agencies indicated that they considered this as a reason to detain a young person. Similar
rationales were provided to those given for detaining a repeat offender. Provincial police
detachments (including the RCMP and OPP) are slightly more likely to detain a young
person for multiple breaches (45%) than independent municipal agencies (32%). As with
detention of repeat offenders, police agencies in metropolitan areas are more likely to
detain for multiple breaches (50%) than those in other types of communities (30%).
The category if they are before the courts refers to youths who are detained because they
still have charges before the courts. In other words, they were released on a prior offence
and have committed another offence before their first court appearance, or during their
trial, for the previous offence. 26% of the police agencies indicated they would detain a
young person for this reason. Police agencies in metropolitan and suburban/exurban
jurisdictions (35%) are much more likely than those agencies policing rural and small
town jurisdictions (18%) to indicate that they detain for this reason. Police agencies
working in Ontario are much more likely (43%) than those in any of the other regions in
Canada to detain because a youth is before the courts.
Some police agencies indicated that they would detain a young person in order to get bail
conditions at the JIR hearing: that is, in expectation that the youth will be released on
conditions by the judge or JP. Agencies which detain for this reason tend not to use OIC
undertakings. 28% of the police agencies in our sample indicated getting “bail
conditions” as one of the reasons they detain a youth for a JIR hearing. Some other
officers indicated that the conditions assigned by a judge or JP are much more “binding”
than those given under an OIC undertaking. They also added that a judge or JP can
assign an enforceable curfew for high-risk offenders. It should be noted that
organizations with a high-risk offender monitoring program (e.g. SHOP, SHOCAP) rely
on bail conditions and probation conditions to monitor their clients. Almost all of these
programs occur in independent municipal police forces, which is probably why
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
71
independent municipal agencies are more likely to detain to get bail conditions (38%)
than other types of police agencies (20%). Similarly, agencies in metropolitan areas are
much more likely (50%) than suburban/exurban (37%) and rural/small town jurisdictions
(11%) to detain for bail conditions.
Almost one-quarter of the police agencies indicated they would detain a young person
who was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs (under the influence). In several
instances, officers indicated they did not have any other place to put the young person, as
the parents could not take care and control of the young person, since they were
themselves intoxicated, and/or that there were no detoxification facilities for youth in
their jurisdiction. This scenario was cited by police in all types of community and in
virtually all provinces and territories. In many cases, police expressed great concern
about releasing a young person who was intoxicated, on grounds of the youth’s own
safety. In jurisdictions that have high rates of adolescent drug and alcohol consumption,
officers also expressed concern about their own legal liability in releasing an intoxicated
young person without parental supervision. They suggested that they put the young
person in danger of victimization as well as an increased likelihood of committing an
offence. Agencies in metropolitan areas are much more likely to detain a young person
because of intoxication (37%) than in other types of communities (19%). Further, 55%
of agencies in the Atlantic provinces indicated they detain young persons for this reason.
This was considerably higher than the other regions in Canada which ranged from 0% to
30%.
A rationale for detaining a young person which is closely related to intoxication is the
best interests of the youth (no responsible adult). Officers in 20% of police agencies
gave this as a reason for detention. Other circumstances (than intoxication) that would
fall under this category would be an officer unable to find a responsible adult, or to make
arrangements with social services, to take care and control of a young person. In some
provinces and territories, once a young person reaches the age of 14, it can be difficult for
the police to have social services place the young person in a foster home if s/he has
never been previously placed. Several officers indicated that social services will not take
a young person into custody who is over the age of 14. This was mentioned more often
by police in metropolitan areas (40%) than in other types of communities (11%). As with
intoxication, police agencies in the Atlantic provinces are much more likely (55%) to
detain young persons for their own good (other areas range from 0% to 27%). This is
clearly, as with the previous category, a social welfare issue, and raises the question of
the adequacy of social services coverage in many jurisdictions. 6% of police agencies
explicitly cited the lack of social services support (e.g. foster care) as a reason for
detaining young persons. Similarly, 4% of police agencies indicated they had to detain a
young person in order to get them admitted to a program (e.g. substance abuse program).
One officer stated that, unless he detains them first to “dry out,” he is unable to refer
youths to any of the substance abuse programs operating in the big city in which he
works, because youths had to be sober and substance-free for at least 72 hours to be
accepted – a condition which is next to impossible for youths who are addicted to heroin
and living on the streets.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
72
Several other kinds of reasons for detention of youth were given less frequently. 3% of
police agencies indicated they detained a young person to remove them from prostitution.
These agencies were all in metropolitan areas. Another 3% indicated they detained
young persons due to their attitude. Finally, 6% of agencies indicated they would detain
a young person if the incident was gang-related. These agencies are almost entirely in
big cities in the Prairies and Ontario.
The reasons given by police officers for detaining youth fall into three broad categories.
The first includes reasons related to law enforcement, narrowly defined, and are
exemplified by “the 4 P’s and RICE”. The second group of reasons could be summarized
as “detention for the good of the youth”. These include detaining youth who are
intoxicated, who do not have a safe or secure home to be released to, and whom social
services will not or cannot accommodate, or who are prostitutes. In these circumstances,
police find themselves acting, not as law enforcement officials, but as staff of the “only
24-hour emergency service in town”.21
The third type of rationale treats detention as another kind of police disposition – that is,
as another in the repertoire of measures which police can take in order to administer a
sanction or “meaningful consequence” for a youth’s illegal behaviour. This view seems
to underlie some officers’ statements that they will detain a repeat offender or a youth
with multiple breaches, or a youth with a “bad attitude”, or a youth in a gang-related
incident. A variant of this is the use of detention and the JIR hearing to get judicial bail
conditions, in order to impose immediate control on the young person, and, in some
cases, to facilitate the work of monitoring programs for high-risk youth, such as SHOP
and SHOCAP.
7.7
Offences that almost always result in arrest and detention
We attempted to simplify the complexity of the reasoning behind the detention/release
decision by asking if there were any offences which would almost always result in
detaining the young person for a judicial interim release hearing. We met considerable
resistance to this question, as many of our interviewees insisted that these decisions are
case-specific: that is, they are made on the basis of a constellation of factors which are
specific to each case. Figure II.23 summarizes the responses we received.
Over half (60%) of the police agencies in our sample indicated that they almost always
arrest and detain young persons for serious offences. However, it was extremely difficult
to elicit a succinct definition of “serious offence”. The example that officers gave most
often involved assault causing bodily harm and most offences that involve a weapon.
Police agencies in metropolitan areas are more likely (73%) to say that they almost
always arrest and detain for serious offences than those in suburban/exurban (63%) and
rural/small town areas (52%). In the Territories, the police are the least likely (22%) to
21
Similar considerations arise at judicial interim release hearings; research on this is reviewed in Doob and
Cesaroni, 2002, pp. 139-146.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
73
say that they almost always arrest and detain for serious offences. We speculate that this
is due to the lack of custodial facilities within reasonable travel distance, as a significant
proportion of the detachments in the Territories are remote and isolated.
Figure II.23 Offences for which police almost always arrest and detain
Percent of police services
60
60
50
40
34
36
30
19
20
10
5
0
Serious
offences
Repeat
offenders
Dept. policy
Release
conditions
Other
Reasons
Almost one-third (34%) of the agencies indicated they would almost always arrest and
detain repeat offenders. Most officers indicated that these types of offenders are what
they consider their “regular clientele”. In most circumstances, these repeat offenders are
detained because of both the nature of the offence and their prior record.
Over one-third (36%) of the police agencies indicated that they almost always arrest and
detain due to departmental policy, as set out in departmental guidelines. For example,
the OPP lists fifteen Criminal Code offences as “benchmark” crimes, for which the
accused is always arrested and detained (e.g. murder). 93% of the OPP detachments
which we interviewed indicated that they “almost always” arrest and detain young
persons only in cases of benchmark crimes.
A reason provided by 19% of our respondents for “almost always” arresting and
detaining was to get release conditions. As noted above, the majority of these
respondents do not routinely use OIC undertakings. The remainder would detain for
release conditions if the youth had previously breached an OIC undertaking. Independent
municipal police agencies are more likely (26%) to say that they almost always arrest and
detain to get conditions than other types of police agencies (12%).
Finally, a small proportion (5%) of police agencies indicated that they would almost
always arrest and detain young persons for alcohol- or drug-related offences.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
8.0
74
Summary
Our discussions with police concerning their use of discretion in decisions whether to
arrest, whether to charge, use informal action, or divert, and how to compel appearance at
court when a charge is laid, suggest to us that police officers (and police services) tend to
see their powers as providing, in combination, a multidimensional repertoire of options
for “resolving”, or disposing of, an incident. Within the limitations imposed by the law
and provincial policy, police choose among these options on the basis of a myriad of
case-related factors, which are so complex as to defy analysis. During interviews, officers
repeatedly resisted our attempts to induce them to disentangle their decision-making
process into discrete, prioritized, factors, and instead insisted that their disposition of
each case depended on its own, unique, set of circumstances.
Police officers appear to have two main objectives in deciding upon a disposition for an
incident. One is to satisfy the requirements of traditional law enforcement: to investigate
the incident, identify and apprehend the perpetrator(s), and assemble the necessary
evidence if there is to be a prosecution. Their other, less explicit, objective appears to be
to deliver an appropriate sanction, or “consequence”, semi-independently of the Youth
Court and correctional system. Officers repeatedly stressed the importance of youths’
experiencing appropriate consequences for their illegal actions, and many, but by no
means all, expressed scepticism about the ability of the courts and correctional system to
do so; and therefore, the necessity of their dispensing street-level justice. This is not to
suggest any impropriety or illegality in the actions of police, but rather to suggest that
their own view of the police function in preventing, responding to, and suppressing youth
crime is somewhat more expansive than the traditional view of police merely as law
enforcement agents.
Particularly in metropolitan jurisdictions, police officers tended to contrast unfavourably
the perceived remoteness of the Crown and Youth Court, and the cumbersome and slow
nature of their proceedings, with their own proximity to the reality of street crime, their
own ability to deliver swift sanctions, and their familiarity with the circumstances and
needs of individual young offenders. In rural areas and small towns, officers were more
likely to have closer working relationships with the Crown and court officials, and
therefore more confidence in the ability of these agencies to resolve youth crime
satisfactorily; and officers in rural/small town RCMP detachments in particular were
more likely to have confidence in the ability of the local community and/or local
diversion agencies to deal with young offenders, thus reducing their own felt need to
resolve the situation entirely themselves.22
On the basis of our discussions with police, it is possible to construct a list of the
consequences, or sanctions, usually applied by police in dealing with a young person who
they believe on reasonable grounds has committed an offence. From least to most severe,
these are:
22
This contrast between policing youth crime in metropolitan and rural/small town jurisdictions is explored
in Chapter III, Section 4.1.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
1.
2.
3.
4a
4b.
5a.
5b.
6.
7.
8.
75
Take no further action.
Give an informal warning.
Involve the parents.
Give a formal warning; and/or
Arrest, take to the police station, and release without charge.
Arrest, take to the police station, and refer to pre-charge alternative measures; or
Lay a charge without arrest by way of an appearance notice or summons, then
recommend for post-charge alternative measures.
Arrest, charge, and release on an appearance notice, a summons, or (more
commonly) a PTA without conditions.
Arrest, charge, and release on a PTA with conditions on an OIC Undertaking.
Arrest, charge, and detain for a JIR hearing.
(The severity of options 6, 7, and 8 could be mitigated by recommending post-charge
alternative measures.)
Apart from these two main objectives – law enforcement and informal sanctioning – a
third objective of police action arises from what police see as their crime prevention and
social welfare responsibilities – responsibilities which in some cases they would prefer
not to assume, but feel that they are forced to do so by the inadequacy of existing social
services. On some occasions, police will refer a youth to a diversion program, not as a
sanction, but in order to address the youth’s perceived needs – whether these needs are
directly related to the crime, or are seen as problems with which the youth needs
assistance. Furthermore, when a youth has been arrested, an officer may feel, in some
circumstances, that it would be irresponsible to release the youth back “out on the street”,
but is unable to contact the parents, or the parents are unable, unwilling or unsuitable to
take custody, and no agency can be found that will take the youth in. Circumstances
which are seen as involving a risk to the youth’s well-being include intoxication,
involvement in prostitution, or a dangerous home environment. In these circumstances,
the officer feels constrained to detain the youth; and research on bail hearings suggests
that the judge may then approve continued detention, also for welfare reasons (Doob &
Cesaroni, 2002: 139-146). In many jurisdictions, police said that this expedient is forced
on them by the lack of suitable facilities and agencies for youth.
Police discretion with young offenders
II. A Descriptive Profile
76
III.
Environmental Factors Affecting Police Discretion
Chapters III to V of this report explore the reasons for variations in the exercise of police
discretion which were identified in Chapter II. Chapter III considers aspects of the
environment in which police agencies work. We draw from information provided to us
by police agencies in interviews and documentation, and statistical data from the UCR
and UCR2 Surveys.
Since this report was commissioned by the Department of Justice in support of the
implementation and evaluation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), it is worth
considering the relevance to that initiative of the policing environment. The police have
little or no control over the environment in which they work. Nor can any federal or
provincial government agency expect to have much immediate impact on some salient
aspects of the policing environment, such as the degree of urbanization, sociodemographic characteristics, or the level and type of crime of the communities which
police serve. However, it is certainly within the power of provincial governments to
affect other aspects of the policing environment which affect the exercise of police
discretion, namely the relationship of Crown prosecutors with the police (Section 2.2),
and, above all, the availability of programs to which youth can be referred as an
alternative to being charged (and, on occasion, held in police detention) (Sections 2.1 and
3).
In Chapters III, IV and V, variations in the exercise of police discretion are the
“dependent” variables - phenomena to be explained - and environment and organizational
characteristics of police agencies are the “independent” variables, which provide the
explanation. Some of the dependent variables used in this part of the report are measured
at the level of the individual officer1 because we felt that they represented the views of
the persons interviewed, rather than “facts” about the police agency in which they
worked. These individual-level variables include answers to our questions about offences
which “almost always” involve informal action, whether the use of alternative measures
is seen as effective, whether feedback on alternative measures is seen as useful, and
whether there are any offences that “almost always” involve alternative measures or
laying charges. Analyses of these variables have the officer, or interview, as the unit of
analysis.
Most of the dependent variables were measured at the level of police agency. These
include the use of informal action in general, and specific forms such as informal
warnings, formal warnings, parental involvement, taking the youth home or to the police
station, questioning the youth at home or at the police station, referrals to external
1
Actually, the unit of analysis is the individual interview, which, in some cases, was conducted with two
officers, or even a small group of officers (see Methodological Appendix).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
78
agencies, internal referrals, tracking of informal warnings, use of pre-charge and postcharge alternative measures, and the various means of compelling appearance. These are
normally analysed with the police agency as the unit of analysis. Occasionally, they are
analysed at the level of the individual officer (interview), because the independent
variable was measured at the level of the officer.
The way in which any organization functions is strongly influenced by its environment.
According to Terreberry,
…environments are becoming more “turbulent,” in that
there are accelerating rates and new directions of change. In
order to survive, organizations must be able to adapt to this
turbulence…(cited in Hall, 1972: 297-298).
Most police officers – from patrol constable to upper management – would probably
agree with this assessment. As Grosman put it, in his study of police leadership in
Canada,
The police organization today finds itself located in a
dynamic and changing environment. The growth of the
police role in society is closely related to increasing
problems of adapting to and managing change. (1975: 139)
Police agencies operate within a complex environment, consisting of, among other things,
the nature of the local community, federal and provincial legislation, policies, procedures,
and programs, local public and private resources, and public opinion. The impact of these
factors on police decision-making with young offenders is analysed in this chapter.
1.0
The legal environment2
Decision-making by Canadian police in individual cases is governed by common law,
statutes, and case law. In common law, Canadian police have a duty to enforce the law,
but the authority not to charge in any particular case - even the most serious cases
(Hornick et al., 1996). However, this original authority is conditioned by certain statutes.
For example, each jurisdiction in Canada has its own statute that defines the obligations,
structure and governance of police services, in some of which there is specific reference
to a police officer’s common law duty to enforce the law (e.g. Police Act of British
Columbia Section 26(2); Police Act of Nova Scotia Section 10(b)) (Hornick et al., 1996:
32).
2
The authors are not legal scholars and we have therefore tried to avoid venturing legal interpretations or
opinions of our own. Rather, we attempt in this section to summarize the views of the authorities which we
consulted: primarily Bala (1997), Bala et al. (1994a), Hornick et al. (1996), and Platt (1991).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
79
The main legal principles and constraints relevant to the arrest, questioning, charging,
and pre-trial detention of a suspected young offender are stipulated in the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code, and the Young Offenders Act (Bala, 1997).
The applicability of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to criminal
proceedings with young persons is explicitly noted by Section 3(1)(e) of the Young
Offenders Act. The sections of the Charter which are most directly relevant to police
work with young persons (and with adults) are:
7.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of
the person and the right not to be deprived thereof
except in accordance with the principles of
fundamental justice.
8.
Everyone has the right to be secure against
unreasonable search or seizure.
9.
Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained
or imprisoned.
10.
Everyone has the right on arrest or detention
(a) to be informed promptly of the reason therefore;
(b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and
to be informed of that right; and
(c) to have the validity of the detention determined
by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the
detention is not lawful.
These Charter rights put considerable limits on the discretion which police may exercise
with suspects or accused persons, whether youth or adults (Greenspan and Rosenberg,
2001: CH/4-CH/39).
The main sections of the Criminal Code which constrain the police use of discretion with
young persons – as with adults – are the rather tortuous provisions governing arrest,
detention and release in Part XVI (Criminal Code Ss. 493-529; for interpretations, see,
e.g., Bala, 1997: Chap. 4; Greenspan and Rosenberg, 2001; Platt, 1991: Chap. 10). In
general, the effect of these provisions, which were created by the Bail Reform Act in
1972, is to establish a presumption that young persons (or adults) should not be arrested
or held in police custody or detention unless this is necessary in order to conduct a
legitimate criminal investigation, to ensure attendance of an accused in court, or to
protect the public – and then, for no longer than is necessary. This presumption is in
sharp contrast to the presumption which existed prior to the enactment of the Bail Reform
Act, that the onus as on the accused to demonstrate why s/he should not be held until trial
(Hagan and Morden, 1981: 11).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
80
The Young Offenders Act “establishes a philosophical, procedural, and dispositional
framework” for handling youth crime (Bala et al., 1994a). The principles underlying the
YOA include the accountability of youth, the protection of society, the recognition of
special needs of youth, the use of no action or diversion from formal proceedings in
appropriate cases, protection of legal rights of youth, the least interference possible by the
criminal justice system and the involvement of parents (ibid.).
The parts of the YOA most pertinent to police use of discretion are Sections 3(1), 4, 56,
and 69, dealing, respectively, with the principles of the legislation, Alternative Measures,
the admissibility of statements from young persons, and the legal basis for communitybased youth justice committees.
The Declaration of Principle [Section 3(1)] focuses on the accountability (subsections a,
b, c, d, f, and h) and the rights of accused young persons (subsections e and g). Section
3(1)(a) was added in 1995:
Crime prevention is essential to the long-term protection of society and
requires addressing the underlying causes of crime by young persons and
developing multi-disciplinary approaches to identifying and effectively
responding to children and young persons at risk of committing offending
behaviour in the future (Bala, 1997: 35).
This amendment emphasizes the need to adopt multi-agency approaches in order to
prevent youth crime and rehabilitate young persons. This section has been interpreted to
include programs that reduce an individual’s inclination to commit crimes (crime
prevention through social development), measures to reduce the opportunity to commit
crime (situational crime prevention), and programs that aim to prevent future crime either
by deterrence or incapacitation (Bala, 1997; Hornick et al., 1996). Thus, the
interpretation of “crime prevention” has varied (Doob & Beaulieu, 1991); however, this
amendment has been interpreted to mean, among other things, that the rehabilitation of
the young offender takes precedence in any dispositional decision (Bala, 1997).
Evidently, this subsection allows considerable discretion in dispositional decisions, the
exercise of which may partly reflect the police officer’s or judge’s personal values; this,
in turn, may be a contributing factor to Canada’s relatively high rates of youth custody
(Bala, 1997).
Section 3(1)(a.1) states that:
While young persons should not in all instances be held accountable in the
same manner or suffer the same consequence for their behaviour as adults,
young persons who commit offences should nonetheless bear responsibility
for their contraventions (Bala, 1997: 36).
This provision has been applied not only to court dispositions following a finding of
guilt, but also to decisions involving pre-trial detention and transfer hearings (Platt,
1991). This section also has consequences for any type of informal disposition decided
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
81
upon by the police. In virtually all circumstances, informal action is predicated on the
young person’s accepting responsibility for his or her actions. This accountability may
vary according to the type of case. For example, it appears that youths are held much
more accountable in cases involving offences against the administration of justice (see
Chapter II, Section 5, above). Particularly important to note is the provision for leniency
where offences may be the product of immaturity instead of malice (e.g. vandalism).
Sections 3(1)(c) and (f) provide for a variety of levels of formality and intrusiveness in
responding to youth crime:
3(1)(c): young persons who commit offences require supervision, discipline
and control, but, because of their state of dependency and level of
development and maturity, they also have special needs and require guidance
and assistance;
3(1)(f): in the application of this Act, the rights and freedoms of young
persons include a right to the least possible interference with freedom that is
consistent with the protection of society, having regard to the needs of young
persons and the interests of their families (Bala, 1997: 36).
These subsections form an integral part of the legal framework influencing police work.
Subsection 3(1)(c) leans heavily towards the “welfare” model which was implicit in the
Juvenile Delinquents Act. For example, some police forces have adopted a multi-agency
approach to make more informed decisions that account for a youth's special needs (e.g.,
home situation, or disabilities such as Attention Deficit Disorder) (Hornick et al., 1996).
The term “special needs” has also been interpreted as referring to the “root causes” of a
young person’s behaviour in support of a recommendation to the appropriate diversion
program, or in deciding whether to deal with the incident formally or informally.
Subsection 3(1)(f) is premised on the notion that “official intervention has the potential to
be disruptive or even harmful to a youth’s development” (Bala, 1997: 49). Police officers
may consider this subsection when considering whether to lay charges or use informal
methods, and whether to detain or release. Subsection 3(1)(f) does not apply only to
youths who are believed to have committed an offence (Platt, 1991), and has been a
factor in the development of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention programs (either
internal to the police department or involving community resources).
Subsection 3(1)(b) acknowledges that a rehabilitative response to youth crime is not
always appropriate, and allows for the protection of society:
Society must, although it has the responsibility to take reasonable measures to
prevent criminal conduct by young persons, be afforded the necessary
protection from illegal behaviour (Bala, 1997: 36).
This subsection has been interpreted in support of the pre-trial detention of youth
suspects and for dispositions involving incarceration. However, the efficacy of
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
82
incarceration is questioned as “the literature on the size of sanction suggests that this is
likely to be irrelevant to whether or not a young person commits an offence…[as]
changing levels of punishment will not change youth crime” (Doob et al., 1995: 81).
The recognition of police discretion concerning non-enforcement practices is explicit in
Section 3(1)(d):
Where it is not inconsistent with the protection of society, taking no measures
or taking measures other than judicial proceedings under this Act should be
considered for dealing with young persons who have committed offences
(Bala, 1997: 36).
This subsection has particular relevance to police and Crown prosecutors, who are
responsible for the decision to charge. It provides a reaffirmation of the common law
right of police officers not to charge. This is particularly important in view of the fact that
each jurisdiction in Canada has its own statute that defines the obligations, structure and
governance of police services, in some of which there is specific reference to a police
officer’s common law duty to enforce the law (e.g. Police Act of British Columbia
Section 26(2); Police Act of Nova Scotia Section 10(b)), but in none of which is there an
explicit provision for non-enforcement (Hornick et al., 1996: 32).
This subsection promotes either alternative measures or “no measures in circumstances
where societal interests do not demand judicial proceedings” (Hornick et al., 1996: 33).
This provision has also been used as the basis for provincial legislation to create
diversion programs (Platt, 1991). However, substantial variation exists in terms of the
amount of funding diversion programs receive and the types of cases referred (Bala,
1997). The actions of police officers may reflect this subsection, as they balance the
“protection of society” against the desirability of non-intrusiveness when making
decisions concerning formal, informal or no action, and whether to detain. Police
understandings of the concept of the protection of society may reflect the values of the
community in which they work, and can result in jurisdictional variations in charging.
Subsections 3(e) and 3(g) recognize the same rights and freedoms for young persons as
for adults, and accord them additional rights. These subsections acknowledge the
vulnerability of young people within the context of criminal process. For example, under
the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adults have the right to retain counsel in relation to
certain criminal proceedings. The YOA guarantees this right, as well as the payment for
legal services if the youth is unable to obtain or afford legal representation (Bala, 1997).
These sections serve as a preface to some more specific provisions contained in the YOA,
such as Section 56 that pertains to the taking of statements by police.
Section 4 allows a youth to be diverted from formal processing to alternative measures
programs, provided that he or she accepts responsibility for commission of the offence
and freely consents to waive the right to a trial, and that there is sufficient evidence to
prosecute. The nature of these programs varies across jurisdictions in terms of
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
83
application (pre-charge, post-charge), eligibility (types of offences, prior record), the
degree of record-keeping, and availability (scope).
Under Section 56(2), the YOA makes unique provisions for taking oral and written
statements by police above and beyond those articulated in the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. The extensive provisions include:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
A full explanation of the youth's rights in language appropriate to the youth’s age
and understanding
A confirmation that the youth has understood his or her rights orally, in writing,
or by videotape
A youth may consult with a parent or other adult relative in private prior to giving
a statement
A youth may consult with a lawyer prior to giving a statement
If a youth waives his or her right to prior consultation with a lawyer the police
must make him or her aware of the consequences of their actions
A youth must be warned of the possibility and consequence of transfer to adult
court when the youth is over 14 and charged with an indictable or hybrid offence
The police must ensure the statement is voluntary and not given under duress
A statement is not admissible if given while the youth is under the influence of
drugs or alcohol
A youth can have parents or an adult relative present while giving a statement
If the youth consulted with a parent or adult relative prior to giving the statement,
he or she must be given a reasonable opportunity to be present while the youth is
giving the statement unless the youth specifies otherwise
If a youth is re-questioned, the police must re-caution and re-advise him or her of
all of these rights
If the admissibility of the first statement is questionable, the police must inform
the youth that he or she is under no obligation to make another statement
(Bala et al., 1994; Bala, 1997)
Spontaneous oral statements are considered admissible only when the person in authority
does not have the opportunity to advise the youth of his or her rights (Section 56(2)) and
the statement was voluntary (Section 53(3)). This may occur when a young person
simply blurts out a statement at the scene.
Sections 56(2) and (3) pose various difficulties for police officers. For example, it could
be argued that section 56(3) does not apply when a young person, who is not a potential
suspect or when arrest is not anticipated, makes a statement (Platt, 1991). Since the
statement is not anticipated by officers it is questionable whether the provisions under
Section 56(2) apply. Or, the admissibility of a statement may be questioned under
Section 3(1)(f) if a youth is held at the police station for an unreasonable amount of time
(Platt, 1991).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
84
The impacts of the relevant provisions of the Charter, the Criminal Code, and the Young
Offenders Act, on police work with young persons have probably been immense, but are
difficult to assess within the framework of the present study. We rely, in assessing the
impact of various environmental conditions, on the comparative approach: we compare,
or correlate, the approaches used by different police services operating under different
environmental conditions, and impute differences in approach to differences in
environment. In the case of federal law, this methodology cannot be applied, because all
police in Canada are subject to these provisions, so there is no comparison group.
Ideally, one would have comparative data on police handling of youth crime and young
offenders from the period prior to the Charter, the Bail Reform Act, and the YOA, but
little systematic information is available. An analysis in Chapter II of rates of young
persons charged since 1977 sheds some light on changes in charging practices due to the
YOA, but such data are not available for years prior to 1977. No systematic national data
are available on arrests, detention, and release of young persons, for any period.
We did ask officers about changes which had taken place in their police agency’s
approach to youth crime, but few had begun their policing careers prior to 1984, let alone
1972; and the memories of the few long-serving officers were hazy. Therefore, other
than the time series analysis of charge rates in Chapter II, we can provide no systematic
analysis of the impacts of these pieces of legislation on the exercise of police discretion
with youth. However, in Chapter II, we describe in some detail the current procedures
used, and the rationales given, by police across Canada for the arrest, detention, and
release of young persons, and for laying charges against them; and some idea of the
impact of federal legislation may be inferred from these descriptions.
2.0
Provincial policies and procedures
2.1 Modalities of delivery of Alternative Measures: Pre-charge,
post-charge, and mixed models
According to reports based on the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics Alternative
Measures Survey (MacKillop, 1999; Engler and Crowe, 2000), authorized Alternative
Measures programs for young persons in Ontario and the Yukon are exclusively postcharge, those in New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Alberta, are exclusively pre-charge, and
the other provinces and territories have both types of programs (“mixed” model);
however, programs in Quebec are predominantly pre-charge, and those in Saskatchewan
are predominantly post-charge (MacKillop, 1999).
These decisions by the provincial authorities concerning the modalities of delivery of
Alternative Measures have an obvious impact on decision-making by police in youthrelated cases, because they define the available alternatives to charging or informal
action.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
85
In provinces with exclusively, or almost exclusively post-charge programs, police must
lay a charge against a youth whom they consider suitable for alternative measures. This
represents a form of net-widening if these youth would otherwise have been dealt with
informally or by pre-charge alternative measures; since the laying of a charge, even if it is
subsequently withdrawn or stayed, represents a greater penetration of the formal youth
justice system by the young person than if s/he had been dealt with informally or by precharge alternative measures. The issue of net-widening in relation to post-charge AM is,
then: Would (some of) the youth who are referred to post-charge alternative measures
have been dealt with by informal action - or by pre-charge alternative measures, if that
option had been available?3
Figure III.1 Clearance status of youth-related incidents, all UCR2 respondents, by
province, 2001
100%
9
12
1
2
19
14
15
14
80%
12
25
Pre-charge AM
60%
40%
Informal action
80
76
83
73
Beyond control
of department
55
Cleared by
charge
20%
0%
New
Brunswick
(10)
Québec
(all)
Ontario
(OPP + 13)
Saskatchewan
(4)
Alberta (4)
Source: Incident-Based UCR Survey, 2001.
Note: So few police services in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia reported to
the UCR2 in 2001 that it would be misleading to include them in this analysis.
A partial answer can be gleaned from UCR2 data on the clearance status of youth-related
incidents in 2001 (Figure III.1). These data are rather incomplete, since the number of
police services which reported to the UCR2 in 2001 was sufficient to support an analysis
of clearance statuses in only five provinces; and in two of those five, only four
(municipal) police services reported. Also, some police services under-report their use of
informal action, to an unknown extent. With these limitations in mind, we can still see
that in Ontario, which has an exclusively, or almost exclusively, post-charge model, and
3
The net-widening potential of pre-charge AM is assessed later in this section.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
86
in Saskatchewan, which depends heavily on post-charge alternative measures
(MacKillop, 1999: 9.32, Table 1), the proportions of youth-related incidents resulting in
charges being laid are considerably higher than in the other provinces (80% and 83%,
compared with 55% - 76% in the other provinces, and 70% for all respondents in the
UCR2 Trend Database – see Figure II.6, above). This is strong evidence that the cases in
these two provinces which were referred to post-charge alternative measures via a charge
were additional to those which would in any case have resulted in a charge; i.e., of netwidening. Since the proportions of youth-related incidents resulting in informal action in
these two provinces are not too different from those in the other three provinces, it
appears that the cases which resulted in charges and then post-charge alternative
measures were those which in other provinces would have been dealt with by pre-charge
alternative measures.
We can use the data in Figure III.1 also to assess the argument that pre-charge alternative
measures also represent a form of net-widening, because cases referred to pre-charge
alternative measures would, in the absence of such programs, have been dealt with by the
less intrusive means of informal action by police. Figure III.1 does not support this
argument, although it does not clearly refute it either, due to the incomplete nature of the
data. In Quebec, pre-charge alternative measures does not appear to cause net-widening
(relative to the other provinces), since it has a higher proportion of youth-related
incidents (25%) cleared by informal action than either of the provinces which have no, or
very few, pre-charge programs (Ontario and Saskatchewan). New Brunswick and
Alberta, the two other exclusively pre-charge provinces, have approximately the same
proportions of incidents cleared by informal action as mixed-model Saskatchewan, and
somewhat lower proportions than Ontario, with its post-charge model. Thus, the three
provinces with exclusively, or almost exclusively, pre-charge alternative measures,
include the one with the highest level of use by police of informal action (Quebec), the
one with the lowest level of use (Alberta), and one which is intermediate (New
Brunswick). Thus, the limited statistical evidence available to us neither supports nor
refutes the argument that pre-charge alternative measures have resulted in net-widening.
2.2
Crown screening versus police authority to charge
In two provinces – Quebec and British Columbia – it is the Crown, not the police, which
makes the decision whether to charge a young person.4 In these provinces, police make a
recommendation to charge, but Crown approval is needed before a charge may be laid.
However, crucially, it is only the decision to charge which requires Crown approval: a
police decision to resolve the incident by informal action is not reviewed by the Crown.
Almost one-third (31%) of the police agencies in our sample, and slightly more than one4
According to some published sources (e.g. Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, 2001a: 73), New
Brunswick is also a “Crown screening” province. However, in all four New Brunswick police services in
our sample, officers whom we interviewed said that police, not the Crown, made the decision to charge.
Since any impact of Crown versus police authority on the exercise of police discretion would be by virtue
of police perceptions of their authority, we have respected their views and classified New Brunswick as a
“police charging” province.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
87
third of the population of Canada, are in these two “Crown screening” provinces. In this
section, we examine whether the location of the authority to lay a charge (with the
Crown or with the police) affects police decision-making with youth-related incidents.
In most aspects which we examined, the location of the authority to charge did not appear
to influence the decision-making with young offenders of our respondents. However,
differences were evident in the responses to two questions: whether there are any
offences which “almost always” result in using informal action, and whether alternative
measures are effective.
The responses which we received concerning the use of informal action were somewhat
contradictory. On the one hand, almost half (45%) of the officers interviewed in
provinces where they have the authority to charge said that there are no offences that
“almost always” result in the use of informal action, compared to only 11% of officers in
the Crown-approval provinces. This suggests that requiring Crown approval increases
the likelihood that officers will use informal action. On the other hand, officers that have
the authority to charge were more likely to say that they use informal action for “minor”
and provincial offences than those in the Crown screening provinces. When asked for
further clarification, officers in police-charging provinces suggested that they have more
flexibility and do not look at each case solely on the basis of the type of offence when
determining whether to use informal action.
Officers in provinces that require Crown approval appear to feel much more distanced
from the process of charging. They offered two explanations for their difficulties with
this regime. First, repeat young offenders know that the likelihood of a charge or
prosecution for a breach of probation or failure to appear has become remote, and they do
not hesitate to let these officers know. One officer succinctly stated, “by moving the
process of charging away from the public [sic], the process is no longer accountable and
it’s open to unchecked bias”. In other words, in his view, the Crown Attorney has
determined the form and content of the charge, the sufficiency of the evidence, and
approves the laying of a charge only if a good likelihood of conviction exists. One police
chief in British Columbia informed us that he had sent a Report to Crown Counsel
(RTCC)5 back three times because the Crown refused to lay the charge. This particular
young person had an extensive prior record and committed a new offence “virtually every
day from theft to breaches”. However, the Crown Attorney didn’t want to proceed, as the
offence was minor (theft under). Each time the RTCC was sent back, more information
was added to try to present the case better, so that the Crown would realize that this
young person was victimizing the same person and stealing small things repeatedly. A
month and a half later, the charge was still not approved. As a result, many officers in
British Columbia indicated that they try to use informal action and pre-charge diversion
wherever possible, in order to ensure that the young person will receive at least some
“consequence” for his or her wrongdoing.
5
I.e. a recommendation to charge.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
88
Differences also emerged when officers were asked if they found alternative measures
effective. Over half of the officers who have the authority to charge (60%) find
alternative measures “usually” effective compared to only 17% of officers who require
Crown charge approval. The majority of officers whom we spoke to in Crown screening
jurisdictions find alternative measures only “occasionally” effective with young persons.
When we asked these officers to elaborate, it became clear that the police in Crown
approval jurisdictions are not usually aware of the outcome of referrals, or even
necessarily which cases that are referred to alternative measures. Thus, they have
difficulty assessing the effectiveness of alternative measures. Officers in both types of
jurisdictions suggested that alternative measures are not right for everyone; however,
officers without the authority to charge tended to feel that if a young person is to be
referred out of the court process, the officer should have some input, since s/he initiated
the case.
The analysis of UCR data which was reported in Chapter II (Section 1.2.1) found that the
two Crown screening provinces have the lowest rate of charging of apprehended youth in
Canada (Figure II.3). It is difficult to know if this is the result of Crown screening, or
other attributes of the youth justice systems of these two provinces. Until the early
1990’s, the charge rate in Quebec was higher than the national average, and the rate in
British Columbia was approximately equal to the national average (Figure II.4). It is only
in the past decade that charge rates in these two provinces have declined substantially;
whereas the Crown screening regime has been in place much longer.
3.0
External resources
Research has identified a range of circumstances unrelated to the police service, the
incident, or the offender that influence the officer’s decision to divert or charge (Caputo
& Kelly, 1997; Task Force, 1996). One major factor appears to be the range and
diversity of public and private resources available as alternatives to formal processing.
The availability of informal alternatives influences a police officer’s decision to rely on
discretion rather than youth court (Gottfredson & Gottfredson, 1988). If a police force
has a comprehensive crime prevention strategy in place, based on adequate community
resources, the short term effect is the lowering of the number of youth that are processed
formally (Hornick et al., 1996). More importantly, the long term effect is a more
proactive police role, which tends to reduce the rate of crime and victimization (Hornick
et al, 1996).
Our data suggested four types of external resources that are seen by police officers as
affecting their decision to charge, and increasing their use of discretion. First, S.69 of the
YOA allows for the formation of youth justice committees (YJCs). Many officers
indicated that the absence of these committees reduced their options for dealing with
youth-related incidents. In some jurisdictions which have YJCs, they have adopted a
restorative justice approach. Officers often refer first- or second-time offenders to the
committee. These officers deal with youth on a “sliding scale” if possible (depending on
the seriousness of the offence). If the young person has no prior contacts with the police,
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
89
they may consider using informal action (e.g. cases where there is parental involvement,
or very minor offences). If the youth has had a prior contact with police, but not with
youth court, an officer may make a pre-charge referral to alternative measures or to a
youth justice committee, if one exists. In general, officers will take each circumstance
into consideration, but upon subsequent offences will usually make a recommendation for
post-charge alternative measures or court (depending on the seriousness of the offence).
Yet, officers were also willing to use informal action or a YJC, even in cases where the
youth had a prior record. It is the availability of a YJC which makes this option viable
for them. Thus, they suggested that the presence of a youth justice committee allowed
“meaningful consequences” for the young person, without the necessity of exposure to
the youth court. These sentiments were often expressed in British Columbia, where it
appears that police often refer youths to YJCs instead of filing a RTCC (recommendation
to charge) for a minor first or second offence.
A small proportion of the police agencies in our sample (16%) provided documentation
for external resources that use a restorative justice approach. One-third of metropolitan
police agencies have access to these programs, compared to 16% of suburban/exurban
agencies, and 5% of rural/small town police services. The majority of these programs are
located in British Columbia (33%) and in the Atlantic provinces (36%). As a province,
Nova Scotia has adopted restorative justice as the official alternative measure program
for youths and adults. In British Columbia, most of the restorative justice programs are
in jurisdictions policed by the RCMP. Our data also suggest that medium-sized police
services (with 100-499 officers) are more likely (35%) to have the internal and external
resources to facilitate restorative justice practices. Our interview data suggest that
virtually all of these programs are facilitated by the existence of YJCs staffed by
community volunteers who have received the requisite training. Further, most of these
YJCs have a coordinator whose salary is funded by the municipal government.
Officers told us that the availability of appropriate pre- and post-charge alternative
measures programs plays a role in their decision-making. The type of community
appears to have an effect on the availability of external pre-charge programs. Just over
one-third (37%) of the police agencies located in metropolitan areas provided
documentation for pre-charge programming, compared to 5% in suburban/exurban
jurisdictions, and none in rural/small town areas. Similarly, large police services (with
500 or more officers) were more likely (50%) to have the option of referring youth to precharge diversion, compared to 4-18% of smaller services. 66% of police officers in rural
and small town areas said they had no pre-charge programs available. In comparison,
more than half of the officers in metropolitan and suburban areas stated that pre-charge
diversion programs existed within their area. Jurisdictions that do not have the option to
refer youth prior to laying a charge often mentioned that this was detrimental to dealing
effectively with the youth-related incidents they encounter. They felt this would be an
appropriate response in many circumstances, in relation to the type of incident as well as
the particular offender. Several officers in Ontario told us that they felt compelled at
times to deal with a case which did not warrant simple informal action by laying a charge
in order for the youth be eligible for alternative measures , thereby experiencing a
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
90
“consequence” for his or her actions6. These officers in Ontario told us that even in
jurisdictions that have pre-charge programs in place, the majority are still referrals made
by the Crown Attorney or a representative of the provincial Attorney General’s office,
not the responding police officer.
It was quite common for officers to voice their frustration about inadequate sanctions
given by alternative measures. For example, we were told about “flimsily written”
apology letters being sent to the complainant or victim, which were ultimately more
upsetting than the offence itself. In this example, the complainants took the time to call
these officers and leave messages for them expressing their dismay and the lack of
remorse exhibited in the letters. Other examples cited were Crown Attorneys sending a
caution letter instead of forwarding the case to alternative measures, even though the
young person and the offence were eligible for AM. In these circumstances, the officers
pointed out that nine times out of ten these youth have already been dealt with informally
several times. Thus, they felt the young person “got away with it again”. Also, some
officers expressed concerns about the quality of pre-charge programming available. They
suggested that one location or agency process all pre-charge referrals, instead of having
several to choose from that had no regulatory control or stipulations to provide feedback
to officers and the Crown.
Appropriate programming for social problems commonly experienced by young people
appears to be uniformly lacking across Canada. In all provinces and territories, officers
felt that they did not have the appropriate external resources for the effective handling of
youths with alcohol or drug addiction, anger management issues, or mental illness
(including Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effect). Officers in many police
agencies said that there were absolutely no programs available for these young people.
Finally, officers were concerned about the coverage provided by Children’s Services. In
some provinces, youth over the age of 14 do not necessarily have access to their services.
One officer explains that this becomes a problem when he has charged a young person
for an offence but has no social service agency to call. It is the middle of the night and
the safety of the young person is the most important consideration. For example, Mom
and Dad might be drunk themselves and cannot take care and control over the youth (or
don’t want to). In this case, the officer feels that s/he has no choice but to hold the young
person for a judicial interim release hearing so that the judge or JP can order the social
service agency to investigate.
Several police agencies across the country have undertaken to improve the referral
options for their officers, in order to facilitate the use of discretion with youth. In
Ontario, official alternative measures programs are practically all post-charge. However,
the Windsor Police Service and the Ottawa Police Service have both developed
innovative systems for dealing with young offenders. Both organizations have a youth
6
As a result, net widening occurs in two ways. On the one hand, more youths are charged and brought into
the system in order to participate in alternative measures. On the other hand, the record of the charge, even
if it is withdrawn for alternative measures, influences officers to be more likely to charge these youths on
subsequent offences.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
91
bureau. The Ottawa Youth Intervention Section handles all interventions and diversion
referrals, the School Resource Officer program, missing/runaway youth, and street gangs.
The Windsor Youth Section deals with all youth-related incidents.
Since 1978, a pre-charge alternative measures program called Project Intervention has
been available to police officers in Windsor. A young person becomes eligible for precharge diversion if there is sufficient evidence for prosecution. A meeting is held with
the investigating officer from the Youth Section, the young person, and the family, at the
police station. If Project Intervention is chosen, the youth and the parents sign a referral
form which includes the date of the offence, name of the officer, school, grade, address,
telephone number, date of birth and the following caption:
I realize that my behaviour has interfered with the rights of
other persons. I am prepared to meet with a project worker,
share information about myself and make a plan to undo
any harm I caused to others. I understand that assuming
responsibility for my behaviour and undoing harm is a way
of staying out of youth court. You may be charged at the
discretion of the police should you not comply with
conditions imposed by Project Intervention.
This form and the occurrence report are given to the Project Intervention co-ordinator and
a letter is sent to the family within 24 hours with instructions on how to set up an
appointment. The meeting is held in the young person’s home. If appropriate, the
worker calls the victim and attempts to set up a further appointment with the young
person, the victim, and the worker. Resulting from the home visit or the meeting with the
victim, a compensatory contract is drafted and signed by all parties. Some of the
sanctions imposed are:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
7
One to fifty hours of community service
A written apology to the victim for the offence
Partial or complete restitution for damage
Donation to charity
Write an anti-shoplifting assignment or essay
Attend and complete anger management sessions
Attend and complete victim awareness sessions
Other sanctions which are appropriate given the nature of the offence (e.g. TAPPC Program7)
TAPP-C is an arson prevention program for children aged 2 to 17. It is designed to reduce fire-setting
behaviour through an assessment protocol and fire safety education sessions. The educational component
is delivered by the Windsor Fire and Rescue Department. The assessment protocol is conducted by mental
health professionals. All of the TAPP-C programs which we became aware of were located in metropolitan
areas.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
92
Referrals are also made to other social service agencies if further help is required for the
young person and/or the family (e.g. family counselling)8. If the young person fails to
complete the compensatory tasks or comes to the attention of the police again during this
time period he or she may be dismissed from the program. Finally, a letter is sent to the
police officer and the family informing them that the young person has completed the
agreed-upon sanctions. A youth can only be referred to Project Intervention once. On
subsequent offences, other actions are taken by the youth officer (i.e. other informal
action or charging).
Similarly, the Youth Intervention/Diversion Section of the Ottawa Police Service
developed a “hot sheet” entitled “Police Options in Resolving Youth Issues”. The Hot
Sheet includes referral contacts for prevention, offenders under 12, pre-charge diversion,
alternatives to justice, shoplifters under 12, shoplifters over 12, drug and alcohol related,
aggressive behaviour, and psychiatric problems. The Youth Section coordinates all
referrals within the agency. Project Intervention at the Pre-Court Level (P.I.P.) is used as
the primary referral for pre-charge diversion.
4.0
The nature of the community
According to Grosman, “…Variations in police policies and priorities depend to a large
extent on the nature of the community policed and the subtle pressures placed upon the
force and its leadership” (1975: 7). Taking the community into consideration is
important when analyzing police decision-making, as officers “are boundary personnel
who are utterly immersed in the environment of the districts they patrol” (Klinger, 1997:
287). To understand the police reaction to youth crime, one must take into account the
nature of a patrol district, as the maintenance of public order and law enforcement are
affected by community-level characteristics and crime patterns (Hale, 1992; Klinger,
1997; Werthman & Piliavin, 1967). Thus, the stance which a police officer adopts is, to
some extent, a function of the area policed. However, the police are not passive actors
within an environment; rather, they adapt their exercise of authority, based on their
perceptions and understandings of the areas they patrol (Meehan, 1993; Sampson, 1986).
A predominant feature of Canadian policing is the variety of environments in which
departments operate and the distinct community divisions within each jurisdiction. These
attributes can place differential demands on police that vary between divisions in a police
force and between police jurisdictions, which may account for a portion of the regional
variation in formal and informal processing of young persons. However, there is very
little research that explores the social context of discretion and police behaviour across
physical space (Klinger, 1997) within a Canadian context.9
8
The John Howard Society operates a program for youth under 12 called “Kids 1st Program”. Referrals are
accepted from the Windsor Police Service Youth Section officers (not patrol officers), school boards,
community agencies, and parents.
9
The few Canadian studies are reviewed below.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
93
Most American research indicates that community-level variables are significant
predictors of the police arrest decision (Cohen & Felson, 1979; Crank, 1990, 1992; Hale,
1992; Klinger, 1997; McCarthy, 1991; Riksheim & Chermak, 1993). Werthman &
Piliavin argue that “residence in a neighbourhood is the most general indicator used by
police to select a sample of potential law violators” (1967: 76; emphasis in original).
Communities characterized by low socio-economic status tend to have higher crime rates
and higher arrest rates (Hale, 1992). As the level of deviance in a neighbourhood
increases, a higher proportion of deviant individuals are encountered by police officers
(Klinger, 1997; Skolnick, 1967; Stark, 1987), and police become more likely to arrest
them (Klinger, 1997; Morash, 1984; Sampson, 1986; Stark, 1987).
Typical ecological research involves an examination of the percentage of suspects
charged, the crime rate, the unemployment rate, residential stability (moving rates, home
ownership/rental rate), economic variables (unemployment rate, low income family rate),
and the population (or population density). However, deriving conclusions concerning
police behaviour based only on ecological variables from individual police forces does
not allow for the consideration of variation in the composition of areas being policed
(Leonard, 1997). Thus, it is important also to incorporate qualitative data to understand
police perceptions of the neighbourhoods within their jurisdiction, as the use of an entire
police jurisdiction, such as Toronto, as the unit of analysis does not capture the variety of
distinct communities (e.g. wealthy and poor neighbourhoods, youth hangouts, and areas
with high crime rates) that might elicit different types of police response.
4.1
Degree of urbanization
A great deal of theoretical work and empirical research has been done on the
relationships among urbanization, crime, and the police response to crime. Much of this
work was motivated by concern about very high rates of crime in the inner-city areas of
large American cities.10 Ecological theories of crime attempt to explain this observed
positive relationship between the size of a community and its crime. Urbanization theory
characterizes life in big cities as culturally heterogeneous, anonymous, impersonal, and
uncaring, in contrast with life in villages and small towns, which have close-knit
relations, common values, and high social cohesion. Deviance and crime are constrained
in small communities by various forms of informal social control exerted by family,
friends, and neighbours; whereas, in the big city, deviance and crime flourish unchecked,
and there is more demand for formal social control of the type exemplified by the police,
and for the more formal modes of police intervention, such as arrest and charging.
Social disorganization theory elaborates on urbanization theory by specifying the
circumstances in which, and the processes by which, urbanization leads to an attenuation
of informal social control, and resultant higher crime rates. Urbanization is said to lead to
social disorganization – a state in which the residents of neighbourhoods are unable to
police themselves through informal social control because neighbourhood relationships
10
This and the following 3 paragraphs are based on Schulenberg (2003).
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have become dis-organized. The networks of relationships which are characteristic of
small communities, and through which informal social control is exerted, do not exist, or
are much more attenuated, in city neighbourhoods (Lyerly & Skipper, 1981; Gardner &
Shoemaker, 1989, Weisheit, et al., 1999). Indicators of social disorganization include any
social problems which inhibit the formation or activation of neighbourly social networks:
poverty, unemployment, ethnic or racial heterogeneity, non-conventional family
structures, and residential instability manifested by high rates of geographic mobility, the
presence of transients, and high proportions of rental housing.
The basic premise of the urbanization and social disorganization theories of crime and
social control – a positive relationship between the size of the municipality and the crime
rate – does not hold in Canada. As Leonard put it:
Many Canadians believe that there is more crime in a large
city than in a small city or rural community. However,
statistics do not support this perception…..In 1995, 61% of
Canadians lived in 24 major metropolitan areas…and 61%
of Canada’s 2.6 million Criminal Code violations occurred
within these metropolitan areas. Thus, a proportionate
amount of crime occurred within these big cities…Another
commonly held perception is that violent crime, in
particular, tends to occur in major metropolitan areas…in
fact, in 1995, 58% of violent crime occurred in the 24
biggest cities, which accounted for 61% of the
population…of the 18 million Canadians living within a
CMA [Census Metropolitan Area, or city of 100,000 or
more and its periphery], 80% lived in the nine largest
CMAs…[and]…these CMAs accounted for nearly 80% of
all crime. Thus, crime occurred in larger and smaller CMAs
[i.e. urban areas] in equal proportions.” (1997: 2)
Why does Canada differ from the United States in this regard? According to Ouimet, the
high crime rates characteristic of big American cities are the result of social conditions
which are specific to that nation, namely inner-city slums and ghettos characterized by
extremes of poverty and social decay. In Canada, “there are no real ghettos…although
some areas of major cities have become more and more disorganized over the past few
years” (1999: 402-404). In this respect,
…most important is the fact that the majority of social
services…are administered at the provincial or federal [and
not the municipal] level…Therefore, there are no pressures
toward a centralization of the poor within the limits of a
central city…Also, the solution adopted by many American
cities has been to group welfare recipients in contiguous
areas, often in high-rise buildings. This solution has been
disastrous…In Canada, many jurisdictions have instead
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dispersed welfare apartments across much of the city’s
territory. (1999: 404-405)
Several researchers have found differences between urban and rural communities in
crime rates and policing patterns, particularly in the degree of formal police action
employed; however, research results on this topic are mixed (Jackson, 1984; Ouimet,
200011). In relatively homogenous communities or where there is a stable community
power structure (as in most rural areas), the police have been found consistently to
enforce the law more informally (Cain, 1973; Conly, 1978); whereas, within cities that
are more heterogeneous, the police rely on a more formal approach to crime (Cain, 1973).
Research has also indicated that an area with a large number of young people seems to
have a lower crime rate (Jackson, 1984). This is consistent with the notion that in
suburban areas with higher levels of socio-cultural homogeneity and social cohesion,
there is a higher probability of using informal means to handle youth crime. In rural
areas, increases in the per capita income were associated with increases in arrest rates
while the percentage unemployed had no significant relationship (Crank, 1990). In
contrast, increases in per capita income and unemployment were positively associated
with an increase in the charge rate for urban areas (Crank, 1990). Yet, Riksheim &
Chermak (1993) found that decreases in the average per capita income increase the
likelihood of arrest12 and Hartnagel & Lee (1990) found a strong negative relationship
between poverty and violent crime rates.13
To some extent, differences in these findings may be the result of rural areas having
unique characteristics. Features such as geographic isolation, economic factors, and a
distinctive social climate (Weisheit, Falcone & Wells, 1999) can influence both the types
of crime and the operation of the criminal justice system. Informal social control is
facilitated by the “density of acquaintanceship” (Weisheit et al., 1999), which refers to
the degree to which people in a geographic area are familiar with one another.
Freudenburg (1986) found that communities where there were high levels of density of
acquaintanceship reported being victims of crime much less frequently.
The degree of urbanization has also been found to be associated with official modes of
response to crime in Canada. Caputo and Kelly (1997: 9) interviewed representatives of
150 police forces, and found that police in larger communities are more likely to say that
they use warnings and pre-charge diversion. This could be the result of a larger number
of community-based programs available to police for informal dispositions.14 However,
Schulenberg’s (2003) ecological analysis of UCR data found that the probability of police
laying charges against young persons rather than using informal action increased with
population of the municipality. She also found that the probability of laying charges
increased with the unemployment rate and the proportion of rental dwellings, both of
which increase with municipal population.
11
Ouimet (2000) compared youth crime rates in neighbourhoods in Montreal.
However, when differentiated by type of offence, the relationship held for property but not for violent
crimes.
13
Hartnagel & Lee (1990) examined ecological variables from 88 Canadian cities.
14
See Section 3.0 External Resources, above.
12
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However, ecological relationships – whether positive or negative - between formal action
by police and municipal population may be spurious. It is possible that rural areas which
are close to urban centres might exhibit higher charge rates as a result of youth traveling
between jurisdictions (Osgood & Chambers, 2000). Also, suburban areas have lower
crime rates than the urban centres and “any differences in the mix of urban/suburban
areas policed by various police forces can result in artificial differences” (Leonard, 1997).
Since low crime rates have been found in areas of high and low population density,
(Neuman & Berger, 1988), it is possible that population is a contextual variable that
might condition the effect of other variables.
Variations in style of policing among different types of communities have not been
adequately addressed within the Canadian context. Treating everything outside
metropolitan areas as rural can distort or conceal important patterns. It has been
suggested that the differences in policing conditions among rural communities are larger
than most differences between metropolitan and rural communities (Weisheit et al.,
1999). This may be particularly true in Canada, because of its unique arrangements for
providing police services to rural areas and small towns. Each province is responsible for
providing police services to its rural areas (i.e. areas outside municipal boundaries); and,
in addition, establishes a threshold municipal population, below which the provincial
government undertakes responsibility for municipal policing. This threshold varies
between 500 and 50,000, depending on the province (Seagrave, 1997: 32).15 All
provinces except Ontario and Québec contract with the RCMP to fulfill their provincial
policing responsibilities.16 The RCMP also provides both territorial and municipal police
services in the three Territories. In addition, the Ontario Provincial Police, and the
RCMP, in the eight provinces in which the RCMP provides provincial policing, provide
police services under contract with “mid-sized” municipalities which are not entitled to
provincial policing because they are over the threshold size. In Québec, many mid-sized
municipalities are also policed by the provincial police, the Sécurité du Québec, though
as a provincial responsibility, not under municipal contract. In 1995, the RCMP alone
provided contract municipal police services to 201 municipalities, or 32% of all
municipal police jurisdictions in Canada. Everywhere in Canada except Ontario and
Québec, the RCMP provides police services to all but a handful of the largest
municipalities, as well as to all rural areas (see, e.g., Dunphy & Shankarraman, 2000: 3263). The result is that all of the vast expanse of rural Canada,17 and many small and midsized towns, are policed, not by small, local agencies staffed by local residents, but by
three very large, modern, professional, and bureaucratic police agencies.
15
Seagrave gives 5,000 as the largest threshold value, but the Province of Québec has recently raised its
municipal threshold population to 50,000 (Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec, 2002b.).
16
In Newfoundland, as in other provinces, the RCMP does rural and municipal policing under contract; the
“provincial” police force – the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) – does only municipal policing,
in the three largest towns in Newfoundland (Dunphy & Shankarraman, 2000).
17
Except rural areas which fall within the boundaries of municipalities which have an independent police
service; many larger municipalities, particularly “regional” municipalities. have incorporated rural fringe
areas.
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Inevitably, this calls into question the applicability of much of the literature on rural and
small town policing, which is based mainly on research done in the U.S.A., where small,
local police agencies are the rule. For example, the authors of one text on rural and small
town policing in the U.S.A. describe the policing environment thus:
…The major difference between rural and urban [policing]
settings is the far greater importance of the county sheriff’s
office in the administration of rural policing and law
enforcement…all unincorporated areas outside of
municipal units…are by statute the primary jurisdiction of
the county sheriff…even incorporated places in rural areas
may depend on the county sheriff for basic policing
services…the sheriff is an elected official in all but two
states…[this] means that the sheriff is directly subject to
the community and to the power of public opinion…but
this does not mean that small-town municipal chiefs are
free of political influences…those pressures can often be
more intense and less predictable…For [small-town]
municipal chiefs, the pressure is less from the electorate
than from local political and business leaders…(Weisheit et
al., 1999: 98-100).
The contrast between the situation of one of these county sheriffs or local municipal
police chiefs in the U.S.A., and a detachment commander of the RCMP, OPP, or SQ
could not be greater. Both the RCMP and OPP make explicit attempts to insulate
members of their detachments from local affiliations or pressures.18 According to
Murphy, detachment police are intended to be “detached” from the community; the
RCMP, OPP, and SQ do not allow members to police in their home community, and
rotate them regularly from place to place in order to maintain their “detachment” from
local conditions (1991: 335-336). Seagrave points out that RCMP detachment
commanders see themselves as accountable primarily to their superiors in the RCMP,
and, ultimately to Headquarters in Ottawa, rather than to local or provincial residents or
officials; and that the official policy with respect to contract policing of the RCMP is that
“…control remains with the government of Canada” (1997: 198).
To the authors’ knowledge, no systematic research has been done on the conditions and
style of rural and small town policing in Canada.
In order to investigate the relationship, if any, between urbanization and the use of
discretion by police in dealing with youth, we classified our sample into three types of
communities. A metropolitan area refers to either the core of a Census Metropolitan
Area (CMA) or the equivalent urban core which has insufficient population (100,000+) to
qualify as a CMA (e.g. Charlottetown, P.E.I.). A suburban/exurban area includes all
other places in a CMA or the equivalent areas surrounding a non-CMA metropolitan area.
18
We were unable to obtain information about the approach of the SQ to this issue.
Police discretion with young offenders
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A rural/small town area is any other police jurisdiction: that is, an area which is neither
an urban centre nor an area peripheral to one.
Several principles motivated this classification. First, we freely acknowledge that there
are many “valid” ways of defining the level of urbanization of a community (Weisheit et
al., 1999: 179-196). Second, we did not want to categorize the communities in our
sample simply by population. To do so would be to exclude cities such as Whitehorse or
Charlottetown from being classified as urban centres, since their populations are well
below 100,000. Similarly, to classify communities by population density could also be
misleading, since some metropolitan areas have low population densities due to their
incorporation of large rural fringe areas; and rural policing jurisdictions vary enormously
in their geographic size. Third, our classification is oriented toward what we take to be a
community’s relationship with policing conditions. We presume that if the “degree of
urbanization” affects the style of policing, it is due to differing ways of life in
communities with different levels of urbanization, and our expectation is that these
different ways of life are captured at least as well by this classification into urban centres,
their peripheries, and rural areas and small towns which are relatively remote from urban
centres, as by other typologies. Finally, although population data are readily available for
municipal police jurisdictions, systematic data on the populations of rural jurisdictions
are difficult to obtain. The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics cannot supply them,
because CCJS relies on population data from the Census, and is not able to match the
boundaries of rural police jurisdictions with Census subdivision boundaries, as it does
with municipal jurisdictions. Also, the populations of many rural jurisdictions vary
substantially on a seasonal basis, due to tourism.
Before ruling out the use of community population or population density as indicators of
urbanization, we calculated correlations between the proportion of apprehended youth
who were charged, and municipal population and population density.19 No relationships
were found; thus confirming that simple population or population density may not be the
best indicators of urbanization, when analyzing its relationship with police practices.
Figure III.2 shows the distribution of the three types of community in our sample. We
tried to sample as evenly as possible between metropolitan, suburban/exurban, and
rural/small town police agencies.20 The actual sample is divided almost evenly between
rural and urban/suburban jurisdictions, with 52% of the agencies and detachments located
in metropolitan or suburban/exurban areas, and 48% located in rural or small town
jurisdictions.
19
20
This information was not available for 31 rural police agencies in the sample; see previous paragraph.
See the Methodological Appendix for details of the sampling procedures.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
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Figure III.2 Types of communities served by police agencies in the sample
48
50
Percent of police services
45
40
35
32
30
25
20
20
15
10
5
0
Metropolitan
Suburban / Exurban
Rural / Small Town
During the interviews, we raised the issue of differences between rural, suburban, and
urban policing conditions and styles. The answers were inconsistent: rural officers say
that they use either (1) less discretion, or (2) the same amount or more discretion, than
urban and suburban police. All of our rural and small town respondents agreed that
policing in an urban area would be like “night and day,” compared to their experiences.
Rural and small town officers suggested that police in metropolitan areas may be able to
divert more youth as their use of police discretion is not as visible. In smaller
communities, there is a higher density of acquaintanceship (the extent to which members
of a community know each other). Rural and small town police officers said that they
face a high degree of accountability to their community as they also interact with citizens
socially. An officer stationed in the Northwest Territories said “even my private life is
scrutinized against their moral ideas of what I should be like”. It appears that in
metropolitan and suburban areas, a police officer could expect respect by virtue of his or
her official position; whereas, respect is earned (or not) by a rural or small town police
officer on the basis of his or her character and “record”. When a rural or small town
officer wishes to use informal action, s/he must anticipate that members of the
community will learn about, and remember, his or her handling of the incident. Thus, we
found that rural officers tended to be focused on being responsive to the young person
and to the anticipated responses of the members of the community, although they are, in
many cases, employed by non-local police agencies, such as the RCMP or OPP.
We are not suggesting that our data portray rural and small town officers as using less
discretion with young offenders. We found rural and small town officers were more
likely to say that they “almost always” use informal action “with minor offences”.
Middle and upper management in rural and small town jurisdictions hinted at the notion
that more arrests and more tickets are indicative of poor policing. It appears that making
Police discretion with young offenders
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too many arrests may reflect the junior officer’s inability to handle youth-related
incidents informally. Respondents in rural and small town police agencies commonly
referred to shoplifting and drinking offences as examples of minor offences that should
be dealt with informally or sent to alternative measures. This corresponds with our
findings concerning the recording of informal action. About one-half of the officers in
metropolitan and suburban areas indicated that they always record their informal actions;
whereas, only one-third of rural and small town officers said that they usually record their
informal dealings with youth. In some of these smaller jurisdictions, officers said that
recording informal action turned it into a formal action since a permanent record is
created. Thus, when dealing with youth on very minor offences they would only make
notations in their notebooks and notify other officers informally. This approach does not
appear to inhibit the distribution of intelligence, due to the ease of communication in
small police services, and the high level of knowledge these officers had about the youths
in the area. However, it does suggest that the amount of informal action reported in rural
and small town police agencies is underestimated by the statistics.
Suburban/exurban and rural/small town police agencies do share one characteristic in
terms of using informal action with young offenders. In both of these community types,
almost half of the officers indicated that they are never able to make referrals to external
agencies; whereas, only about one-quarter of the officers in metropolitan areas felt they
had the same limitations. This raises the issue of how local economic factors can
influence the exercise of police discretion. In some cases, exurban areas can be as
isolated as rural or small town jurisdictions. An exurban area does not operate in the
same manner as a metropolitan or suburban area, which is more likely to have its own
resources and sufficient tax base to pay for them. In many cases, the human and financial
resources are minimal or nonexistent. Thus, officers in these jurisdictions must do their
job in a different way.
Some writers suggest that “the larger the community the more likely citizens were to
believe that police should limit their role to enforcing criminal laws” (Weisheit et al.,
1999: 110). Our data support this assertion. Our respondents in smaller communities
suggested that traditional law enforcement is by no means the only service their
community expects of them. On the contrary, many of these communities do not have
the resources to cope with many social problems, and the responsibility for compensating
for this deficit falls upon the police service. We found that exurban and rural/small town
police agencies showed much more concern for non-crime-related services than agencies
in metropolitan areas.
Metropolitan and suburban/exurban areas also differ in how police officers decide to use
informal action. These differences originate with how police become aware of youthrelated incidents. Officers in suburban/exurban areas were the least likely of the three
types of police to find out about youth-related incidents by a call from a parent or
guardian. One of the defining criteria for a suburban/exurban jurisdiction is the concept
of a “bedroom community”. This implies that a significant proportion of the population
commutes to a metropolitan area to work for the day. Whereas over one-half of the
police officers in both metropolitan and rural/small town areas indicated that parents call
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them about youth-related incidents, the nature of a suburban/exurban bedroom
community appears to change police-community relations. Suburban/exurban officers
told us that they commonly have difficulty reaching the parents when they have arrested a
young person. They also gave examples of a youth having to wait at the police station all
day for one of their parents to finish work to come and get him. For minor offences,
these officers may bring the youth back to school and have the principal take care and
control of the young person. However, for more serious offences, this is not an option.
Officers in the different types of communities also differ in how often they become aware
of youth-related incidents from another system agent. Over three-quarters of police
officers in metropolitan areas indicated that they find out about youth crime through other
system agents, compared to less than half of the officers in suburban/exurban and
rural/small town agencies. This finding suggests differing levels of communication
between organizations in the criminal justice system. As respondents generally felt that
they have little or no discretion with offences referred to them by other system agents,
awareness of youth-related incidents from system agents would tend to play a larger role
as a factor in the proportion of youth charged in metropolitan areas. Similarly,
suburban/exurban officers were the least likely to receive feedback about alternative
measures dispositions.
Among the various methods used to compel appearance, clear distinctions arose between
metropolitan and rural/small town police officers. Officers in metropolitan areas were
the least likely to use a summons to compel the appearance of a young person. More
officers in suburban/exurban and rural/small town agencies considered a summons to be a
viable method of compelling appearance for youth-related incidents. They tended not to
see a problem in locating the youth for service after the fact. Many metropolitan officers
(e.g. in the Toronto Police Service) indicated that they deal with quite a few transient and
out-of-town youth. This presents unique problems in serving process (e.g. a summons or
a Notice to Parent). These officers tend to release a young person on an appearance
notice or PTA whenever possible. In contrast, officers in rural/small town areas were
much more likely to use a summons to compel appearance. Just under one-half of
rural/small town police officers said that they rarely use appearance notices.
Suburban/exurban officers fell in the middle of this continuum. This suggests that the
density of acquaintanceship plays a role in the method of compelling the appearance of a
young person. Compared to metropolitan areas, “rural life is characterized by greater
levels of physical distance among citizens but lower levels of social distance” (Weisheit
et al., 1999: 164; emphasis in original). The density of acquaintanceship varies inversely
with community population (or population density), as does the feasibility of using a
summons to compel the appearance of a young person.
Differences between types of community also arise in the use of conditions with an
Officer in Charge Undertaking. Rural and small town officers in our sample are more
likely to attach the condition of keep the peace and be of good behaviour. Officers in
metropolitan and suburban areas generally told us that this clause was meaningless and
had very little impact on the young person. In contrast, officers in rural and small town
areas tended to feel that this condition is meaningful and enforceable. An officer in a
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small town in the Atlantic region gave the example of having lunch and watching a youth
on this condition through the window. The young person should have been in school and
was hanging around a “questionable establishment”. The officer did not charge the youth
with a breach but used his discretion. He was pleased to report that the youth did not get
into any further trouble with the law. Granted, this is an ambiguous example, but it does
shed some light on how officers view the use of this condition in smaller jurisdictions.
Officers in metropolitan areas do not seem to have the same expectation that they will
come across a young person who is on release conditions in the course of an ordinary
day’s activities. In contrast, officers in metropolitan areas are more likely to attach a
curfew to an undertaking. They said that a curfew condition is imperative to control
youths who commit crimes at night. Rural officers did not feel this condition was as
necessary since they tended to see “listening to your parents” (i.e. abiding by a parental
curfew) as part of “keeping the peace and being of good behaviour”. Again, the
likelihood that an urban officer would know the parents of a young offender is much
smaller.
When we asked under what circumstances an officer would detain a young person for a
judicial interim release hearing, rural and small town police officers were less likely than
others to cite “serious” offences, repeat offending, multiple breaches, the youth being
before the courts, getting judicial bail conditions, intoxication, or the youth’s best
interests. Several factors appear to contribute to this finding.
First, the remote location of many rural/small town police agencies makes it difficult to
detain young offenders (cf. Canadian Criminal Justice Association, 2000). Many rural
and small town detachments and police agencies in our sample were more than three
hours’ drive away from the nearest juvenile detention facility. Thus, transportation of a
juvenile would require at least six hours and two police officers. In some cases, this
would constitute the entire complement on duty at that time. Sometimes they have used
one officer to transport a youth; however, this occurs infrequently. Coupled with the cost
of transporting the youth is the distance which the family will have to travel in order to
visit their son or daughter. Officers frequently cited the family as a reason for not
detaining a youth in these jurisdictions. In some cases, the family does not own a vehicle
and the youth is then completely isolated from his or her family for an unpredictable
period of time (as s/he may be held until trial). These officers consider it undesirable to
separate a youth from his or her family in this way. As a result, rural and small town
officers tend only to detain youth if they feel that they have no choice, given the nature
of the offence and the circumstances of the offender.
Second, rural and small town police agencies in our sample were more likely to have
written policy and protocols for handling youth (30%) than suburban/exurban (21%) and
metropolitan police agencies (17%). Even though the majority of the policies and
procedures for youth are not extremely detailed, they do include the sections of the
Criminal Code pertaining to arrest, detention, and release of both adults and youth.
Junior officers told us that they found these aids helpful in their decision-making.
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Further, in cases where a youth could be released on a PTA or be held for a judicial
interim release hearing, a senior officer or watch supervisor might help with the decision.
In larger forces, the average patrol officer does not usually make the final decision to
detain for a JIR hearing. In most cases, an officer (the “Officer in Charge”), usually a
sergeant, has been assigned to the cell blocks and reviews all incoming prisoners. It is
the cell block sergeant who makes the final determination concerning detention. Thus,
the existence of written policy and protocol regarding detention and release is not as
pivotal in the decision-making process of suburban and metropolitan patrol officers, as it
would be for those in rural and small town agencies.
Officers in rural and small town areas also expressed different views from police in larger
communities of the role which the nature of the offence and the characteristics of the
offender play in their decision-making. These officers were more likely to say that they
consider the presence of a weapon, the extent of harm done, victim/complainant
preference, the relation between the offender and the victim, and the age of the offender
in deciding how to deal with youth-related incidents. Suburban/exurban and metropolitan
officers were more likely to cite the location and time of day of the incident, the
demeanour of the accused youth,21 and the involvement of peer groups and gangs.
In summary, analysis of the interviews suggests that rural and small town police are the
most likely of the three types to use informal action to resolve youth-related incidents,
and the least likely to use pre-charge diversion, due to the unavailability of programs.
They also appear to be the least likely to detain youth for a JIR hearing. Police in
suburban and exurban jurisdictions appear to fall somewhere between rural and
metropolitan police on these dimensions of police discretion.
These findings from the interview data can be verified by analysis of UCR data on the
proportion of apprehended youth who were charged. The problem with the UCR data is
that they classify an apprehended youth as either charged or not charged, and do not
distinguish between informal action and pre-charge diversion to a program. Thus, the
higher use by rural and small town police agencies of informal action and lower use of
diversion to a program which are suggested by the interview data may cancel each other
out in the UCR statistics. Also, we have some suggestions from rural and small town
police that they often do not record the use of informal action, which would cause the
UCR to underestimate their use of it. Nevertheless, of the 85 police agencies which
reported less than 95% charging of apprehended youths,22 40 were in rural areas and
small towns, and reported charging an average of 61% of apprehended youth; whereas,
the 27 metropolitan police services charged, on average, 66% of apprehended youth.
Suburban/exurban police services reported charging the lowest proportion – 57% perhaps because they are able to combine the more informal style of rural and small town
agencies with the access to diversion programs characteristic of big city police agencies.
21
In turn, metropolitan officers were much more likely (63%) than officers in suburban/exurban areas
(39%) to say that they take demeanour into account.
22
We omitted police services which reported charging 95% or more of apprehended youth; see Chapter II,
Section 1.2.2.
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We also tried to test the applicability of social disorganization theory, which suggests that
police respond to higher levels of “social disorganization” in more urban areas by relying
more on formal methods of control such as arrests and laying charges. We were able to
obtain data at the level of the police jurisdiction (municipality) on indicators of social
disorganization for 61 non-rural communities in the sample: the mean household income
of residents of the municipality, the proportion of adults with incomes below various
poverty cut-off lines, proportion of households living in owned, versus rented, homes,
and an index of ethnic heterogeneity.23 None of these had any relationship with the
proportion of apprehended young persons who were charged during 1998-2000 in that
jurisdiction. This is not surprising, since social disorganization theory assumes a
relationship between urbanization, social disorganization, and the crime rate; and it was
shown above that in Canada, larger urban areas are not characterized by higher levels of
crime.
The findings from the interview data suggest a different style of policing in rural and
small town areas, and also some differences between policing in urban centres and their
suburban and exurban fringes. Rural and small town communities have a distinctive
social climate that appears also to influence this aspect of police decision-making. With
a higher density of acquaintanceship, rural and small town officers feel more accountable
to the community. On the other hand, detachment commanders in the RCMP and OPP
are accountable to their superiors, and, ultimately, to headquarters in Ottawa or Orillia.
American research has found that, in rural areas, characteristics of the community are
better predictors of police style than organizational factors (Crank, 1990). As a result,
individual officers are held accountable to the community for their actions to a much
larger extent than in other types of communities. Rural and small town officers whom we
interviewed – whether in independent municipal agencies, or RCMP or OPP detachments
- suggested that the communities they police want the police to be tough on youth crime
but not to incarcerate their youth. Each jurisdiction handles these pressures differently.
However, to some degree it affected all of our respondents in rural and small town areas.
This topic has been studied by American criminologists, but has received practically no
attention in Canada, although there is enormous variation in the types of communities
served by Canadian police agencies. Further research is needed that focuses exclusively
on the impact of these differences.
4.2
Socio-demographic characteristics
Research on police suggests that - like most people - they believe that lower socioeconomic status individuals commit more crimes (Morash, 1984; Sampson, 1986;
Wilson, 1968). This belief may be partly a result of middle class crime being less
evident, as it frequently occurs within private space. According to Sampson (1986), the
higher vulnerability to arrest within perceived high crime rate areas is independent of the
23
These data were kindly provided by Joanna Fein-Jacob. She took them from the 1996 Census; for details
of the variable definitions, see Fein (2002).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
105
area's actual crime rate. In other words, “ecological contamination” occurs, as the type of
community (based on public and police perceptions) where police-juvenile encounters
take place will influence the actions taken by police (Bittner, 1970; Sampson, 1986: 884,
887; Werthman & Piliavin, 1967: 75-85). Thornberry (1973) found that lower-class
youth were treated more severely regardless of their offence and prior record; however,
the class differences were the largest with more serious offences.
Some Canadian research has found that police attitudes toward, or perceptions of, crime
prone areas, coupled with citizen complaints, were strong predictors of official
delinquency rates. Hagan et al. (1978: 100) argue that “actual class differences in the
experience of juvenile crime are amplified by underclass housing conditions and
complaint practices, and in turn, even more so by police perceptions”, suggesting a
community-specific bias in police departments (Bursik, 1988). These findings are based
on neighbourhood characteristics, independent of individual level factors such as the sex,
race, or demeanour of the accused, the type of crime, etc. Overall, the literature suggests
that the probability of police-juvenile encounters ending in arrest declines in
neighbourhoods that have a higher perceived socio-economic status.
Variations in the degree of formal police response in any given area may be partly
determined by the tolerance of crime by the adults within the community. When a
community has high levels of crime and deviance, only the more serious acts may be
punished (Klinger, 1997; Stark, 1987). Thus, areas with high levels of crime will see a
decrease in the arrest rate (relative to the number of incidents), as only the more serious
offences will elicit formal action. The implication is that “variation in levels of deviance
across patrol districts means that…officers will have different approaches to the police
mandate to regulate deviance and different work to do and that ultimately work group
negotiations will occur in different structural contexts” (Klinger, 1997: 287).24 For
example, although police officers were more likely to file official reports in high crime
communities, they were less apt to file victimization reports (Smith, 1986; Worden,
1989).
We asked respondents to describe their communities in terms of level of wealth, age
profile, ethnic or racial diversity or homogeneity of the residents, and whether they
considered the population to be predominantly stable or to include a substantial number
of transients. We then attempted to relate their characterizations of their communities
with the ways in which they exercise their discretion with youth. Although interviewees’
descriptions of their communities might be considered “subjective”, they are, in our view,
at least as relevant as “objective” indicators of community characteristics, because it is
surely officers’ perceptions of their environment, regardless of their accuracy, which
condition their attitudes and decision-making. However, we also did statistical analysis
of the correlations between the proportion of apprehended youth who were charged by a
police service during 1998-2000, and indicators of socio-demographic characteristics of
the community.
24
"Negotiations" refers here to the way in which police define and structure their work.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
106
4.2.1 Level of wealth
Because our respondents police entire towns, cities, and even regional municipalities, our
queries about the overall “level of wealth” and income in the community elicited rather
vague answers. How can one characterize the level of wealth of a heterogeneous area like
Toronto, or even Kelowna? However, we also asked whether there is an area in their
jurisdiction that presents a policing problem due to low income or poverty. Almost onequarter (23%) of the sample answered in the affirmative. This was much more common
in metropolitan areas: 50% of metropolitan police services identified a poverty problem
area, compared with only 16% of suburban/exurban services, and 9% of rural and small
town services. Poverty problem areas were identified most often by police in the Prairies
and least often by police in the Territories and Quebec (Figure III.3).
Figure III.3 Police services in communities with poverty problem areas, by region
50
47
Percent of police services
45
40
35
30
27
25
25
20
15
10
17
13
11
5
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Analysis of UCR data on the proportion of apprehended young persons who were
charged showed that police services which identified a poverty problem area were
slightly more likely to charge: on average, 65% of apprehended young persons were
charged in these areas, versus 61% in areas with no identified poverty problem.
Officers in agencies and detachments which police poverty problem areas were slightly
more likely (100%) than others (90%) to say that they use informal warnings. Similarly,
they are more likely (45%) to use formal warnings than agencies with no identified
poverty problem area (27%). This suggests, contrary to the findings from analysis of
UCR data (above), that formal action (laying charges) is used less by police agencies
which serve “problematic” areas, corresponding with the theory discussed above that in
communities with high levels of crime and deviance, only the more serious acts are
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
107
punished. However, this does not necessarily contradict the opposing theory that the use
of arrest in police-juvenile encounters is lower in neighbourhoods that have a higher
perceived socio-economic status, since our data on formal and informal action pertain to
entire towns and cities.
Police in agencies with an identified problem poverty area in their jurisdiction were less
likely to say that they would resolve an incident by questioning a youth at home or at the
police station (18%) than police in other jurisdictions (30%). We can only speculate as to
the reasoning behind this trend. It appears that officers policing these types of areas are
more likely either to deal with a young person informally at the scene, or to charge him or
her. They appear to be less inclined to bring a youth back to the station unless they are
going to process a charge.
We found no significant differences between police services which do or do not have
poverty problem areas in relation to their use of pre- or post-charge alternative measures.
Police services with poverty problem areas also tend to differ from the others concerning
the method of compelling appearance. They are less likely to use a summons (45%) than
other police services (19%), and more likely to say that they use an appearance notice for
“minor offences” (55%) than other police services (23%). This may be due to the
mobility of youth and the difficulty of serving process in metropolitan areas.
Agencies policing poverty problem areas are also more likely to attach certain conditions
to OIC undertakings. Figure III.4 (below) shows the frequency of use of various
conditions with young persons by police services with and without poverty problem
areas.
Police services that police low-income and problem areas are more likely to attach the
condition of no go, no association, keep the peace and be of good behaviour, no alcohol
or drugs, no weapons, and attend school.
Similarly, police agencies that police these areas will tend to detain young persons more
often for specific reasons. Figure III.5 (below) shows the frequency of reasons given to
detain young offenders.
Police agencies that police poverty problem areas are more likely to detain for repeat
offenders, if they are before the courts, multiple breaches, intoxication (alcohol or drugs),
bail conditions, in the best interests of the young person and to say that they “follow the
law” in detention and release decisions. Similarly, these police agencies are also more
likely to “almost always” detain a young person for a serious offence (77%), repeat
offenders (50%), and to get judicial release conditions (45%), compared to agencies that
did not identify a poverty problem area (55%, 29%, and 11% respectively).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
108
Figure III.4 Conditions of OIC Undertakings by low-income/poverty area
4
Attend school
14
30
Conditions
Curfew
1
No weapons
32
5
16
Alcohol/Drugs
27
22
Keep the peace
32
32
No association
50
22
No go
0
10
41
20
30
40
50
Percent
Poverty problem area
None
Figure III.5 Reasons to detain for a JIR hearing, by poverty problem area
38
Repeat offender
19
Before the courts
Reasons
73
50
29
Multiple breaches
59
16
Intoxication
50
23
Bail conditions
18
Best interests
45
27
78
Follow the law
0
20
40
60
80
95
100
Percent
Poverty problem area
None
We also calculated correlations between the proportion of apprehended youth charged
during 1998-2000 in each jurisdiction, and indicators of its level of wealth: the mean
income of adults in that municipality, the proportion of adults living below a certain level
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
109
of income (using several different cut-off points), and the proportion of households living
in owned, versus rented, homes. None of these had any relationship with the proportion
of apprehended youth who were charged.25
Overall, the existence of an identified area of poverty appears to affect police decisionmaking to a certain degree, in relation to the use of informal action, laying charges, and
compelling appearance. We cannot be sure, however, because most of these police
services are located in metropolitan areas, so the differences could be due more to the
conditions of metropolitan policing than to the existence of the poverty problem area per
se.
4.2.2 Residential instability
Since the literature suggests that police are more likely to use formal action in areas
characterized by “residential instability”, we calculated correlations between the
proportion of apprehended youth who were charged during 1998-2000 in each
jurisdiction and two indicators of instability: the proportion of rented homes in the
municipality, and the proportion of the population who had moved in the past 5 years.26
No relationships were found.
We also asked officers whether the population which they served tended to be stable or to
experience significant geographic mobility. Officers in 28% of our sample answered this
question by identifying a problem with young persons who were “transients”.
The distribution across Canada of police services which identified a significant
population of transients is shown in Figure III.6. Police services in metropolitan areas
were much more likely (60%) to identify a problem with transient youth than rural and
small town (18%) or suburban/exurban agencies (5%). One would expect, then, that it
would be mainly independent municipal agencies that deal with transients, but, in fact,
42% of the OPP detachments in the sample mentioned transient youth, compared with
32% of independent municipal agencies, 19% of RCMP detachments, and none of the
three First Nations police services. Many of the transients identified by these OPP
officers in our sample, who were stationed predominantly in small Northern Ontario
municipalities, are “passing through” areas which straddle major highways, such as the
Trans-Canada Highway; and do not fit the stereotype of the urban, homeless, skid-row
transient.
25
The lack of a relationship could be due to the omission of 31 rural jurisdictions, for which these data
were not available; see note 42 above for details.
26
See preceding note.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
110
Figure III.6 Police services in communities with significant transient youth, by
region
40
40
36
Percent of police services
35
30
25
22
25
24
20
15
13
10
5
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Analysis of UCR data showed that police services which identified transients were no
more or less likely to lay charges against apprehended youth.
Officers in police services that have a significant transient population were more likely
(89%) than those which do not (71%) to say that they use informal action with young
persons. They were also more likely to say that they use each individual type of informal
action (informal warning, formal warning, parental involvement, taking the youth home
or to the police station, questioning the youth at home or at the police station, or referring
a youth to an internal or external program). Thus, it appears that police officers that have
transients within their jurisdictions are on the whole more likely to use informal action in
all types of cases. There were no significant differences in the use of pre- and post-charge
alternative measures between police agencies which did and did not mention significant
transient populations.
Differences also emerge in the methods that are used by police services who police
transients to compel appearance in court. Over one-half (52%) of police agencies that
police transients said that they will use an appearance notice when no other options are
available compared to 39% of the agencies that do not police transients. This is not
surprising since over one-half of these police agencies (56%) said that they do not use a
summons to compel attendance, compared to 29% of the agencies which do not police
transients. Another 37% of agencies policing transients “rarely” use a summons.
If the youth is arrested and brought back to the police station, police agencies that police
transients are slightly more likely to use a Promise to Appear with an attached OIC
undertaking (70%) than other agencies (56%).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
111
The various reasons which were given for detaining a youth for a JIR hearing were all
offered more frequently by officers in police services with significant transient
populations. They are twice as likely to say that they detain “in the best interests of the
youth” (30%) as agencies that do not police transients (16%). They are considerably more
likely (41%) than agencies which do not police transients (24%) to say that they will
detain a youth in order to get bail conditions. They are twice as likely (41% versus 18%)
to detain a youth because s/he is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. More than half
(59%) of the police agencies with transients in their community will detain a youth for
multiple breaches compared to only just over one-quarter (26%) of the agencies without
significant transient populations. Almost three-quarters (70%) of police agencies with a
transient population will detain a repeat young offender compared to just over one-third
(37%) of the agencies without transients. Finally, all of the responding agencies that
indicated they would detain a youth in order to get them admitted to a program have a
significant proportion of transients. Thus, it is not surprising that agencies that police a
transient population are more likely to say that they “almost always” detain young
offenders for serious offences, repeat young offenders, due to departmental policy, to get
release conditions, and for offences committed under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It
is striking that 81% of these police agencies will “almost always” detain for serious
offences, compared to just over half (51%) of those agencies who do not police a
transient population.
Thus, police agencies which police a significant transient population have different
patterns in their use of informal action and methods of compelling appearance. Our data
suggest that transient youth present a different type of problem to the police, which they
see as requiring a different type of response. Officers in all types of communities agreed
that transient youth are usually youth in crisis as a result of alcohol and/or drug
addictions, abusive home situations, or prostitution. Respondents emphasized that these
youth are the ones that require the most intervention and are at the highest risk of reoffending.
4.2.3 Tourists
When we asked police officers about residential instability in relation to crime and law
enforcement, many referred to “tourists” rather than “transients”. The distinction is that
“tourists” refers to people who make the area their destination for recreational activity, or
who are seasonal visitors, such as cottagers; whereas “transients” was used to denote
people who are merely “passing through” the area and/or are homeless.
32% of police agencies and detachments said that their communities experience a
significant amount of tourist traffic. As a result, their populations fluctuate seasonally.
For example, the North East Region of the OPP, which has its headquarters in North Bay,
serves a “permanent” population of 285,000, which “increases to 400,000 in the summer
months” (Ontario Provincial Police, 2003).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
112
We found no significant differences in the use of police discretion with young persons
between police agencies with, and without, a significant tourist population.
4.2.4 Aboriginal population
One of the major areas of concern for Canadian criminologists and criminal justice
policy-makers has been the relationship of aboriginal Canadians to the criminal justice
system (Canadian Criminal Justice Association, 2000; Normandeau and Leighton,
1990).27 Aboriginals are greatly over-represented in the courts and prisons (Canadian
Criminal Justice Association, 2000; LaPrairie, 1993, 1995; Nielson, 1992). According to
Forcese (1992) and Harding (1991), it is likely that aboriginals are disproportionately
apprehended and charged by police, although this is difficult to determine with any
certainty, since many Canadian police services do not provide breakdowns by race of
persons charged to Statistics Canada (Gabor, 1994; Roberts, 1994; cf. American
Sociological Association, 2002). One study, using UCR2 data for parts of Canada for
1992-1993, found that aboriginal youth who were apprehended by police were much
more likely to be charged, even when other aspects of the case, such as the seriousness of
the offence and use of alcohol or drugs, were controlled (Carrington, 1998a). 28
According to a review of the literature by Griffiths & Verdun-Jones (1994: 641-642),
…relations between the police and Aboriginals are often
characterized by mutual hostility and distrust, increasing
the likelihood of conflict and high arrest rates…[relations
are] seriously deficient…there are strong feelings of
mistrust, if not hatred, directed towards RCMP members in
some areas…[many officers have] a lack of knowledge of
Aboriginal culture…[there are] a lack of communication
and misperceptions…police officers place too much
emphasis on law enforcement and do not spend enough
time on other activities that would better address
community needs…the transfer policy of the RCMP, which
often results in officers spending only two or three years in
a community, has been identified as a major obstacle to the
development of positive police-community relations.
It should be noted that this characterization is based on public inquiries conducted more
than 10 years ago, and that the philosophy of the RCMP has changed dramatically in the
intervening period (e.g. the adoption of the National Youth Strategy). Furthermore,
27
The role of the race (aboriginal status) of the individual offender in police decision-making is discussed
in Chapter V below; here, we are interested in the effect, if any, on police decision-making of working in a
community with a significant aboriginal population.
28
However, that study was unable to control for prior record, demeanour and victim preference, which
might explain part or all of the elevated charge rates.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
113
Griffiths & Verdun-Jones point out that mistrust and conflict might well have arisen from
lack of knowledge, miscommunication, and misunderstanding, rather than from any
“conscious bias” on the part of officers (1994: 642). As will be seen in Chapter V, our
own research found no evidence of racial bias on the part of the officers whom we
interviewed.29
Many aboriginal Canadians live in areas of poverty and social exclusion which might
well be described as “socially disorganized” (Canadian Criminal Justice Association,
2000; Griffiths & Verdun-Jones, 1994: 635-637; LaPrairie, 1988, 1995; Léonard &
Trevethan, 2003). Therefore, according to social disorganization theory (see Section 4.1
above), the communities in which they live could be expected to be subject to higher
levels of crime and of formal action by police. There is evidence of higher crime rates
among aboriginals, especially assaults and alcohol-related crime (Griffiths & VerdunJones, 1994: 638-639).
On the other hand, some of the key ideas associated with informal social control and
alternatives to formal court processing of offenders are derived from traditional
aboriginal practices which rely on the community, rather than officials, to respond to
deviant and criminal behaviour (Depew, 1992; Jobson, 1993; LaPrairie, 1992); and
Canadian law and judicial practice have afforded some recognition to the unique
circumstances and culture of aboriginal Canadians. Therefore, there is reason to expect,
at least in principle, that police who work in communities with significant aboriginal
populations, whether on- or off-reserve, might use more informal action to resolve
incidents involving aboriginal youth (Griffiths & Verdun-Jones, 1994: 652-653).
We asked officers (a) whether their police service was responsible for policing a First
Nations reserve, (b) whether there was a reserve nearby which they did not police, and (c)
whether there were substantial numbers of aboriginal Canadians living off-reserve in
their jurisdiction. The distribution of answers is shown in Figure III.7 (percentages add to
more than 100%, since multiple answers were possible). We then combined these
answers into two mutually exclusive categories: agencies which have jurisdiction over a
significant number of aboriginals (i.e. who answered that they policed a reserve and/or
that there were significant numbers of aboriginals living off-reserve in the community),
and those which do not.
29
However, our findings are limited by the fact that we interviewed only police officers and not the
members of the communities which they police.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
114
Figure III.7 Aboriginal populations served by police services
Percent of police services
50
47
40
34
30
22
20
14
10
0
No significant
aboriginal
population
Off-reserve
aboriginal
population
Reserve nearby, not Provide policing
policed
services to reserve
42% of the police agencies in our sample police an aboriginal population: 24% of the
independent municipal services, 43% of the provincial police detachments, 73% of the
RCMP detachments, and, of course, all 3 First Nations police services. Exactly half of
the police services in metropolitan areas said that they had significant numbers of
aboriginals Canadians in their jurisdiction; as did exactly half of the rural and small town
police services; whereas, only 16% of suburban/exurban police services identified an
aboriginal population in their jurisdictions. The regional distribution is shown in Figure
III.8.
Figure III.8 Regional distribution of police agencies which serve aboriginal
populations
Percent of police services
100
90
100
80
70
60
75
53
50
40
30
20
30
13
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
18
Atlantic
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
115
The police services which have jurisdiction over aboriginal populations differ from other
police services in their use of informal action, alternative measures, and methods of
compelling appearance. Some of these differences are slight; however, in some cases the
difference is substantial, suggesting a different style of policing.
According to UCR statistics on the proportion of apprehended youth who were charged,
police services in our sample which police aboriginals are slightly more likely to lay
charges (64% of apprehended youth charged) than those which do not (60%). This
difference is entirely due to the police services which police off-reserve aboriginals (65%
of apprehended youth charged), since those 17 police services which police a First
Nations reserve are slightly less likely than average to charge an apprehended youth
(60% of apprehended youth charged).
Police services that police aboriginal populations are slightly more likely to say that they
use various forms of informal action. Virtually all (98%) of the agencies which police
aboriginals use informal warnings, compared to 89% of other police services. These
agencies are also slightly more likely to employ formal warnings (38%) than agencies in
communities with no aboriginal youth (27%). Agencies policing aboriginals are less
likely to bring a young offender home or to the police station for questioning (20%) than
other agencies (33%). When asked whether there are any offences with which officers
would almost always consider using informal action, officers in services which police
aboriginals are more likely to consider informal action in all circumstances (minor
offences, serious offences, provincial offences, and shoplifting). Furthermore, 23% of
these officers said that they would almost always consider informal action with provincial
offences compared to 10% of those officers who do not police an aboriginal population.
Agencies which police on- and off-reserve aboriginals are almost twice as likely (35% vs.
18%) to use a community based pre-charge restorative justice program to divert youth
prior rather than laying a charge. These agencies are also less likely to use post-charge
alternative measures (78%) than other police services (100% of which use post-charge
alternative measures). Thus, the net-widening which is associated with the use of postcharge alternative measures may apply less in communities with aboriginal populations.
Agencies which police aboriginals are less likely to use a summons to compel the
appearance of a young person (31%) than agencies that do not police aboriginals (45%).
Further, 43% of the agencies policing aboriginals “rarely” use an appearance notice
(compared to 24% of other police agencies). Thus, it is not surprising that agencies
policing aboriginals are more likely to use a Promise to Appear with minor offences
(25%) than other agencies (7%). They are also more likely (65%) to use a PTA with an
attached OIC undertaking. There were no differences between agencies for the
conditions of a curfew or attend school. However, agencies policing aboriginals were
more likely to attach the conditions of no go, no association, keep the peace and be of
good behaviour, no alcohol or drugs, and no weapons; however, there was no difference
between the two types of police agencies in the use of a curfew or school attendance as
conditions of an OIC undertaking.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
116
Some differences are evident in the reasons given for detention. Agencies policing
aboriginals are slightly more likely to detain because the youth is a repeat offender (53%)
than other agencies (42%). They are also slightly more likely to detain “in the best
interests of the youth” or if the youth is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Officers
suggested that alcohol and drug abuse are rampant in aboriginal communities; and, in
many cases, the entire family has a substance abuse problem. As a result, in many more
cases than they would prefer, they detain a young person for his or her “own safety”.
These agencies are also more likely to detain a young person for a judicial interim release
hearing for multiple breaches (45%) than agencies that do not police aboriginals (29%).
In general, officers told us that policing aboriginals can be quite different from policing
other types of youth. First, they have found high levels of substance abuse within
aboriginal communities. This is a phenomenon that they say occurs not only on reserves
or in big cities but also in isolated detachments and “dry” communities. Police officers
stationed in the Territories related stories about the increasing levels of solvent abuse in
the North. Coupled with alcohol and drug addictions is the lack of social services and
programming for these high-risk youth. Second, officers suggested that the aboriginal
communities they police tend to be relatively poor. The youth do not have as many
opportunities as non-aboriginal youth whom the officers encounter. Finally, officers said
that they commonly see low levels of school attendance among aboriginal youth. One
officer in Alberta suggested that the youth from the reserve he polices go to school for
“maybe a month or two” out of the whole academic year. An RCMP officer stationed in
Nunavut described an experience he had with an aboriginal male. His story contains the
typical elements of many such stories which we were told: the criminogenic conditions in
which many aboriginal youth live, the remarkable extent of the “informal action” used by
officers dealing with aboriginal youth, and the ambiguous outcome.
[This was a] real sad situation. It was a guy, [called] John30
in Nunavut31, [who] I was arresting 2-3 times a week, for
sniffing hair spray, propane, [and] everything else. I sat
down with him, spoke to him, basically his parents were
from Nunavut, alcohol, sexual abuse, drugs, you name it.
Basically he was a lost lamb. I worked with him, checked
up on him regularly, I spoke, got him into the school
program, he was on community service work, but we
followed up on it, checked on it, gave him lots of support.
How you doing? Made sure he wasn’t left alone. He joined
the drama department in Nunavut, he passed his courses, he
wasn’t stellar, he passed, he travelled with the drama show
in Nunavut, made a video of it as well. Sense of pride,
sense of belonging. Then, because of his community
service work he got a job with the hamlet part-time, and
30
31
The youth’s name has been changed to protect his identity.
The names of specific locations have been changed to Nunavut to protect the youth’s identity.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
117
they liked him so much they wanted him to go to Inuvik, as
a recreational counsellor. Raised funds, got sponsorship,
spoke with the airlines to get him to Outward Bound in
Thunder Bay, that was all paid for. Half these people have
never been out of their settlement. He came back, I sent an
itinerary, he travelled all by himself, he was alone in
Ottawa in a hotel, 16, 17, maybe 18. I phoned him every
day, checked up on him, told him exactly what to do, phone
the front desk, tell them you want a wake up call, I will
phone you at 5 am. By the end of the Outward Bound
program it was all good. He came back, he had a spark of
life in his eyes, you could see the change, rather than [that]
lost glaze. Everything was going great, he went to Inuvik,
except his girlfriend was 15 years old, she got pregnant,
their family environment was not motivated and their
motivation was on substances, getting a lot of pressure,
why should you seek a goal, why should you seek
aspirations, I’m having a child, we can collect welfare.
According to the story I heard, all of a sudden he went to
speak to a counsellor in Inuvik, and the counsellor went,
relax, gave up and came back, started slipping again. At
least he got a job in Nunavut, he still had problems, but,
and was dragged down again, but he was at least employed,
he got his drivers licence, now he’s a garbage collector,
[…] But, that’s the support a lot of these kids need,
structure, support all the way along, self worth. In the
programs or whatever for success, that needs to be
incorporated. And it’s not a temporary basis, it needs to be,
something they can realize a difference, sending them out
to Frog Lake for a treatment, that’s the magic word,
treatment, treatment.
Despite these dismal observations, some of the RCMP officers stationed in the Territories
and members of the Winnipeg Police Service have developed innovative programming
specifically for aboriginal youth. One RCMP officer described a program he developed
in Nunavut called the “Miss School Miss Out” program.
What I did, I phoned all across the country, went to
Yellowknife and […] got prizes, as many prizes, anything,
I got the airlines to fly it in, I got [a local company] to take
a 45 gallon drum, cut it in half and make a BBQ, donated
charcoal, and what we’re going to do is basically bribe the
kids to stay in school. The schools, it was 76 people in the
school, kindergarten to grade 11. What had happened, if
you had perfect attendance every month, you’d win a prize.
We gave away jackets, Polaroid cameras, and [it] worked,
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
118
If there were bigger prizes, for the kindergartens they
would get candies, baseball caps, toys, something, so the
kids now wanted to go to school, they wanted perfect
attendance. And I’d get Pizza Hut Pizza flown in from
Yellowknife, it was frozen, donated, then those people with
perfect attendance, we watched a movie, had pizza and pop
and we got pop from the co-op, the rest that didn’t have
perfect attendance had to work for that afternoon. [With
these kids], we had the BBQ, we went and shot a musk ox
and caribou and we had boom burgers and musk ox
burgers, we made them. We’d go out sliding for the
afternoon, while the other kids had to stay in. So now what
you had is people wanting to come to school. They don’t
want to miss out, they need to sleep, you didn’t have half
the violence anymore – why? It became structured. At the
end of the year we gave away a computer, a mustang
jacket, every month they’d receive something, they’d have
some activity, we’d put them in the plane, fly them over
Polaris mine where they’d go swimming, have a meal
there, [and] fly back. It worked wonders in the sense, the
first year, they had their first ever graduate and the next
year they had 5 graduates.
Unfortunately, only some aspects of the program are still in operation at that detachment.
A commonly occurring problem is that an officer is dedicated to a program, and then is
transferred elsewhere. The incoming officer is not as interested and does not continue to
put as much effort into the program, and it founders. Police officers in all types of police
forces agree that innovative programming will last if the police get the program up and
running and then the community takes over the supervisory role. The police are still
involved but in a secondary way. Officers in Winnipeg have designed diversion
programs geared specifically to aboriginal youth. They established links with the local
aboriginal elders and, as a result, primary, secondary, and tertiary programs are delivered
to aboriginal youth (including many healing circles for all types of offences).
4.3
Level and type of crime in the community
The literature suggests that decision-making by police can be influenced by their
perceptions of the level of crime in their jurisdiction (Sampson, 1986). We asked our
respondents how much youth crime existed in the area which they policed. 55% of the
police agencies and detachments suggested they had a “normal amount” of youth crime;
29% had “a lot” of youth crime, and 17% answered “not very much”.
Although crime statistics show no relationship between the size of communities in
Canada and their crime rates (see Section 4.1 above), officers perceived a relationship:
40% of officers in metropolitan agencies perceived “a lot” of youth crime in their
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
119
jurisdiction, compared to 31% in suburban/exurban services, and only 19% in rural and
small town police services. Similarly, 22% of officers in rural and small town agencies
identified “not very much” youth crime in their jurisdiction, compared to 19% of officers
in suburban/exurban, and only 8% of those in metropolitan police services. The regional
distribution is shown in Figure III.9.
Figure III.9 Regional distribution of police agencies which perceive “a lot” of youth
crime
60
Percent of police services
60
50
43
40
30
25
20
20
15
10
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Urbanization and social disorganization theories of social control propose that, in urban
areas, which suffer from higher rates of social disorganization and perceived deviance
and crime, police will compensate for the breakdown of informal social control in the
community by using more formal social control themselves, in the form of more arrests
and more charging. On the other hand, the “overload hypothesis” proposes that police in
urban areas are “overloaded” with crime, and respond by only arresting or laying charges
in more serious cases; with the result of a relatively low charge rate.
Analysis of UCR data on the proportion of apprehended youth who were charged
produces a surprising result. Police agencies in our sample which work in communities
in which officers perceive “not very much” youth crime have the highest average rate of
charging (on average, during 1998-2000, they charged 66% of apprehended youth); those
in communities with “a normal amount” of youth crime have the lowest charge rate
(59%), and those with “a lot” of youth crime are intermediate in their use of discretion
(62%). This is particularly surprising because officers who perceive “not very much”
youth crime tend to work in rural areas and small towns, in which there is a tendency for
police to charge less; and those who perceive “a lot” of youth crime tend to work in
metropolitan areas, in which police tend to charge more (Section 4.1, above).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
120
Apparently, police in perceived high crime jurisdictions respond by using neither more
discretion, as the overload hypothesis would suggest, nor less discretion, as urbanization
and social disorganization theories predict. The relatively high rate of charging in
communities where police perceive “not very much” youth crime may be explained by
the overload hypothesis: in communities where police are not overloaded with a great
deal of crime, they are able to make more use of formal measures such as laying charges.
Alternatively, they may be under-reporting (to their own RMS and to the UCR) the
number of youth apprehended but not charged, thus artificially inflating their statistical
charge rate statistics (cf. Section 4.1, above)
Figure III.10 shows the use of three kinds of informal action, broken down by the
perceived level of youth crime in the community. (The other types of informal action are
unrelated to the level of crime.) The use of each type of informal action increases with
the perceived level of youth crime, consistent with the overload hypothesis, and with the
findings from analysis of UCR data (above).
Figure III.10 Types of informal action used, by the perceived level of youth crime in
the community
Percent of police
services
100
80
60
40
93
69
100
93
95
64
62
52
31
20
0
Not very much
Normal amount
A lot
Level of youth crime
Informal Warning
Parental Involvement
Pre-charge AM
Whether police agencies find feedback on alternative measures dispositions helpful is
also related to their perception of the level of youth crime in the community. Police
agencies that perceive a lot of youth crime are slightly more likely to find feedback useful
(74%) than those who perceive a normal amount (69%) or not very much youth crime
(60%). There were no differences for post-charge alternative measures.
A few differences also emerge in the methods which police officers use to compel the
attendance of young person in court. Police agencies that perceive a lot of youth crime
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
121
are more likely not to use a summons (55%) than agencies perceiving a normal amount
(36%) or not very much youth crime (8%). This suggests that police officers in these
areas rely on other means, such as an appearance notice, or a promise to appear.
However, there were no noticeable differences in the use of an appearance notice or PTA
between agencies which perceived different levels of youth crime. Thus, we speculate
that the increased use of informal action in areas where officers perceive “a lot” of youth
crime may decrease the number of minor offences that result in a charge. This is
consistent with the hypothesis that only the more serious offences are formally processed
in (perceived) high crime areas.
In cases where the young person is arrested and detained, a clear relationship appears
between perceived levels of youth crime and the reasons for detention. Figure III.11
shows the differences in the reasons given for detaining a young offender. Each of these
five reasons is more likely to be cited with increasing levels of perceived youth crime.
Figure III.11 Reasons to detain a young person for a JIR hearing, by perceived
level of youth crime in the community
60
55
50
Percent of police services
50
41
40
41
38
36
33
29
30
23
26
23
20
15
14
10
7
0
0
Bail conditions
Multiple
breaches
Repeat offender
Before the
courts
Gang-related
Reasons to Detain
Not very much
Normal amount
A lot
A similar pattern exists in the answers to our question about offences that would “almost
always” result in arrest and detention. Police agencies with high levels of youth crime
are more likely almost always to detain for serious offences (73%) than agencies in areas
with a normal amount (64%) or not very much of youth crime (54%). These agencies are
also more likely almost always to detain repeat offenders (45%) than police services with
a normal amount (33%) or not very much youth crime (23%). Interestingly, agencies that
perceive high levels of youth crime are more likely to almost always detain due to
departmental policy (50%) than agencies with other levels of perceived youth crime
(29%).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
122
In the decision-making areas discussed above, the interview data suggest that police
officers tend to use more discretion if they identified their jurisdiction as having a lot of
youth crime. They are more likely to use various forms of informal action, and they are
more likely to cite the “legalistic” reasons for detention: a serious offence, multiple
breaches (of probation orders, OIC undertakings, or bail conditions), if the youth is
already before the courts, or repeat offenders.
We also asked respondents about the types of youth crime they were dealing with on a
regular basis. Figure III.12 shows the responses.
Figure III.12 Types of youth crime which are prevalent in the community
Percent of police services
100
96
83
80
80
71
60
40
40
25
24
20
14
0
Minor
property
Minor
person
Serious
property
Serious
person
Gangs
Drugs
Prostitute
Admin of
Justice
Virtually every police agency and detachment (96%) indicated that youth commit minor
property crimes (e.g. theft under, shoplifting). Over three-quarters (83%) also mentioned
many minor crimes against the person, such as minor assaults.
Almost three-quarters of the sample (71%) mentioned serious property offences (e.g.
break and enter). This was more prevalent in metropolitan jurisdictions (87%), and less
in rural areas and small towns (61%). These agencies were spread fairly evenly across
the provinces and Territories, with higher proportions in the Prairies (82%), and lower
proportions in Quebec (56%) and British Columbia (58%).
Not surprisingly, only one-quarter (25%) of the police agencies and detachments cited a
significant amount of serious violent crime (e.g. assault causing bodily harm). Once
again, this was cited more frequently by metropolitan police services (43%) than
suburban/exurban (32%) or rural/small town agencies (11%). The higher prevalence of
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
123
serious personal and property crimes reported by our respondents in larger centres is
consistent with the statistics on recorded crime (by persons of all ages): Leonard reports
higher recorded per capita rates of serious violent and property crime in Census
Metropolitan Areas (CMAs) than in non-CMAs, and higher rates of minor assaults and
weapons offences in non-CMAs (1997: 3). The regional distribution of agencies
reporting serious violent youth crime as prevent in their jurisdiction is shown in Figure
III.13.
Figure III.13 Regional distribution of police agencies which report dealing with a
significant amount of serious violent youth crime
45
41
Percent of police services
40
35
30
30
25
25
19
20
15
10
11
9
5
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Some results were unexpected. 80% of the police agencies and detachments indicated
that they deal with a significant number of drug offences and drug addiction with youth.
These include 90% of metropolitan agencies, 84% or rural/small town agencies, and 63%
of suburban/exurban police services. These are spread evenly across the regions of
Canada, with the exception of the Territories, where 100% of agencies in the sample
reported drug problems among youth in their jurisdiction.
Almost one-quarter of the sample of police services (24%) indicated that they have youth
gangs in their jurisdiction. Once again, gangs were cited more often by metropolitan
agencies (43%) than by suburban/exurban (32%) or rural/small town agencies (9%). The
regional distribution is shown in Figure III.14, and underlines the extent of the youth
crime problem in the Prairie provinces.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
124
Figure III.14 Regional distribution of police agencies reporting youth gang
problems
45
41
Percent of police services
40
35
30
30
31
25
20
17
15
10
5
0
0
Territories
0
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Similarly, 14% of the sample (13 police agencies) indicated they have a “kiddie stroll”
where youths under the age of eighteen are involved in prostitution. Twelve were in
metropolitan areas, and one in a rural or small town jurisdiction. This concentration in
large cities is also consistent with Leonard’s findings: the rate of recorded prostitutionrelated incidents (by persons of all ages) in CMA’s was more than 12 times as high in
CMA’s as in non-CMA jurisdictions (1997: Table 1). The regional distribution is shown
in Figure III.15.
Figure III.15 Regional distribution of police agencies reporting teenage prostitution
Percent of police services
35
33
30
25
20
18
15
18
13
10
5
0
0
Territories
0
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
125
40% of police services identified offences against the administration of justice (e.g.
breach of conditions) as a problem.32 These were somewhat more prevalent in
metropolitan areas (53%) than in suburban/exurban (32%) or rural/small town
jurisdictions (36%). The regional distribution is shown in Figure III.16.
Figure III.16 Regional distribution of police agencies reporting significant numbers
of administration of justice offences involving young persons
80
71
Percent of police services
70
60
56
55
50
40
40
30
25
20
10
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
In summary, the overall numbers of police agencies in the sample which reported
significant amounts of minor and major property and violent crime by young persons is
consistent with statistical reports based on the UCR Survey. However, surprisingly high
numbers of police agencies reported significant problems involving young people and
drugs, gangs, and prostitution. All types of youth crime problems except minor property
offences and minor assaults were cited most often by metropolitan police officers, and
least by rural and small town police. This is consistent with statistics on crime by
persons of all ages (Leonard, 1997). Just as agencies in the Prairies were most likely to
report “a lot” of youth crime in their jurisdictions, so they were the most likely to cite
significant problems with serious violent and property crime, youth gang problems, and
administration of justice offences. The exception is teenage prostitution, which was most
likely to be cited by agencies in British Columbia. Just as police agencies in the Atlantic
region were most likely to say that they had “not very much” youth crime, so they were
least likely to identify significant amounts of youth-related serious violent crime, or
youth gangs. However, it was in Quebec that police agencies in our sample were least
32
This issue is discussed in detail in Chapter II above.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
126
likely to mention problems with teenage prostitution and administration of justice
offences.
There were no significant relationships between officers’ perceptions of the types of
crimes that were problems in their communities and their exercise of discretion with
young offenders.
4.4
Community-police relations
Because of the importance of the community as the immediate environment of police
work, and its likely impact on the ways in which officers do their work, we expected that
the tone of the relationship between officers and the community would have an impact on
their use of discretion. Policing has experienced a shift in philosophy over the past 15
years towards a “community policing” model, which fosters good relations between
police and the community which they serve (Trojanowicz et al., 2002). According to
Horne (1992), “By the 1990’s, virtually every police force [in Canada] had incorporated
the term ‘community policing’ in their written mandates.” Therefore, we felt it was
important to try to gauge how officers perceived the relationship between their agency
and the community, and how, if at all, this affected the way in which they exercised their
discretion with young persons.
We asked officers about the relationship between their agency and the community, and,
in particular, if they found the community “supportive” of their work. We coded their
responses into five categories. Very supportive includes responses where officers
indicated they have strong relationships with the community and receive regular feedback
as well as provide feedback. Generally supportive refers to relations that on average are
supportive. There may be areas where the community is “not pleased”; but, on the
whole, they are happy with the level and type of policing provided. Mixed refers to
those respondents who said that the community was either neutral, or both unsupportive
and supportive. Somewhat supportive refers to relations of lukewarm support: not hostile
but definitely not overly supportive. Not supportive indicates answers ranging from a
terse “not supportive” to that of one patrol officer, who said: “the community… they hate
us”.
In order to classify each police agency, we had to combine answers from more than one
officer in the agency. This necessitated creating a new category - multiple answers –
denoting police agencies in which the officers who were interviewed disagreed on the
quality of community-police relations. 54% of the agencies and detachments in our
sample fell into this category, indicating a great deal of disagreement (which was not
evident in most of the other interview topics). Therefore, we explored this topic using the
individual police officer, rather than the police agency, as the unit of analysis. Only 56 of
the 194 officers in the sample answered this question. Figure III.17 shows the
distribution of responses.
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
127
Figure III.17 Officers’ perceptions of community-police relations
Percent of officers
50
41
40
30
23
21
20
10
0
7
None
7
Somewhat
Mixed
Generally
Very
Level of Support from Community
The results are generally consistent with other Canadian research.33 62% of the
respondents indicated that the relationship with the community is either “generally
supportive” or “very supportive”. Almost one-quarter (23%) suggested the relations are
neither supportive nor unsupportive. Only a minority of respondents (14%) reported the
relations with the community as “somewhat supportive” or “not supportive”.
Police in suburban and exurban jurisdictions tended to perceive more support from the
community than those in metropolitan or rural/small town jurisdictions. 83% of
suburban/exurban officers found the community generally or very supportive, compared
with 63% of rural/small town, and 56% of metropolitan officers. Similarly, no
suburban/exurban officers found the community not supportive or only somewhat
supportive, versus 6% of rural/small town officers and 33% of those in metropolitan
police services. The regional distribution of responses is shown in Figure III.18.
Some previous research has found “mutual distrust and suspicion” between aboriginal
Canadians and police (Griffiths and Verdun-Jones, 1994: 92). Although we did not ask
directly about relations with aboriginals, the answers to our question about policecommunity relations provide some support, though it is not strong, for this view. Officers
in agencies which have jurisdiction over a First Nations reserve are less likely to find the
community generally or very supportive than other respondents (46% versus 67%).
Those in agencies which have a reserve nearby, which they do not police, are also less
likely than other officers to find the community generally or very supportive (50% versus
65%). Those in agencies which have significant numbers of off-reserve aboriginals in the
community which they police are also less likely to find the community generally or very
33
Reviewed by Griffiths and Verdun-Jones (1994: 89-92).
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
128
supportive (56% versus 66%), and are also twice as likely as other officers to find the
community not supportive or only somewhat supportive (22% versus 11%).
Figure III.18 Regional distribution of police officers’ perceptions of community
support
88
Percent of officers who find the
community generally or very
supportive
90
80
80
80
70
64
60
50
40
40
33
30
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
There were no systematic relationships between different levels of supportiveness in
community-police relations and the exercise of discretion with young offenders. One
minor exception is that officers who perceive the community to be generally or very
supportive are more likely (28%) than officers in less supportive communities (0%) to
work in an agency which uses an appearance notice with very minor offences.
Generally, officers seemed to feel that good community-police relations facilitate their
work but do not influence how they exercise their discretion in youth-related incidents.
Looked at from another perspective, the absence of relationships between perceived
community-police relations and the exercise of police discretion suggests that the
community’s support for their police is rarely affected by the way in which the police do
their job.
5.0
Summary
The nature of the environment in which an organization functions has a strong effect on
the way in which its members do their work. Members of an organization who are in
close and regular contact with the environment – “boundary personnel” – are particularly
susceptible to its influence. Front-line officers and supervisors whose positions require
them to exercise discretion with apprehended youth certainly fit the description of
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
129
boundary personnel. However, police in management positions are also boundary
personnel, because their decision-making is subjected to scrutiny and comment by the
community and its representatives. Therefore, police at all levels of the organization may
be expected to be sensitive to the influences of environmental variables.
In this chapter we examined several aspects of the policing environment and attempted to
assess the extent to which they affect police decision-making with young persons. We
began by reviewing the provisions of the most relevant federal legislation and concluded
that - apart from the analysis in Chapter II of UCR data on changes over time in charge
rates - we were unable to assess the impact of federal legislation on the exercise of police
discretion. However, this report, in its entirety, can be seen as the first half of a possible
assessment of the impact on police decision-making of the Youth Criminal Justice Act,
because it depicts the exercise of police discretion just prior to that Act’s coming into
force. Thus, the information in this report can be used as baseline data, against which the
exercise of police discretion under the new Act can be compared.
We reviewed two aspects of provincial policies and procedures: the delivery of
Alternative Measures programs, and the locus of the decision to lay a charge – whether
the decision is made by police or by the Crown. By comparing data on provincial
charging levels from the UCR2 Survey, we inferred that the use by a province of postcharge Alternative Measures, whether exclusively or predominantly, appears to result
in net-widening; that is, the laying of charges against youth who would, in other
provinces, have been dealt with by pre-charge alternative measures. We found no
evidence that pre-charge Alternative Measures results in net-widening; that is, no
evidence that youth who are referred to pre-charge AM would, in its absence, have been
dealt with by informal action. However, the UCR2 data are incomplete, and the
reasoning from provincially aggregated data is necessarily indirect, so these conclusions
must be somewhat tentative.
Police in two provinces – Quebec and British Columbia – told us that their decisions are
subject to Crown screening: that is, police submit a recommendation to charge, and the
Crown makes the final decision. However, crucially, it is police who make the decision
to use informal action, as in the other provinces. It is difficult to assess the impact on
police decision-making of Crown screening in Quebec, because Crown screening is only
one aspect of a unique system of youth justice in that province. However, many police
officers in British Columbia told us that they prefer to use informal action and pre-charge
diversion (e.g. to a Youth Justice Committee; see below) wherever possible with
apprehended youth, because these represent immediate and certain consequences;
whereas, the response of the Crown to a recommendation to charge is unpredictable.
UCR data show that the two Crown screening provinces currently have the lowest rate of
charging of apprehended youth in Canada; however, this is a relatively recent
phenomenon, and is therefore not necessarily due to Crown screening itself.
The availability of external resources to which apprehended youth can be diverted is
seen by many police officers as crucial to their ability to avoid laying a charge. This
availability varies widely. They are much more common in metropolitan jurisdictions
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
130
than in suburban/exurban or, especially, rural communities and small towns. However,
they are seen by officers as inadequate in all types of communities and all parts of
Canada. In all provinces and territories, officers felt that they did not have the
appropriate external resources for the effective handling of youths with alcohol or drug
addiction, anger management issues, or mental illness (including Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effect). Officers in many police agencies said that there were
absolutely no programs available for young people with these problems. Lack of suitable
diversion programs is associated with increased use of charging, and with increased use
of detention. When there is no available agency to which police can release a youth in
need of immediate supervision or intervention, then they sometimes feel constrained to
hold the youth for a bail hearing (Chapter II, Section 7.5).
We looked at several characteristics of the community in which the police work. Some
research, especially in the U.S.A., has found that urbanization is associated with higher
crime rates and higher levels of formal action by police; whereas, there is less crime and
a more neighbourly atmosphere in rural areas and small towns, and a corresponding less
formal policing style. In Canada, there is no relationship between urbanization and the
crime rate. Crime rates in small places are as high as those in the largest cities.
However, youths commit more serious violent crime and property crime, and more gangrelated crime, in metropolitan areas. Another major difference between the Canadian and
American situations is that most rural areas and small towns in Canada are policed by
detachments of three very large, professional, and bureaucratic police services – the
RCMP, OPP, and Sûreté du Québec; whereas, in the U.S.A., small towns and rural areas
are often policed by elected sheriffs or small-town police forces recruited locally. The
findings from the interview data suggest a different style of policing in rural and small
town areas, and also some differences between policing in urban centres and their
suburban and exurban fringes. Rural and small town communities have a distinctive
social climate that appears also to influence police decision-making. With a higher
density of acquaintanceship, rural and small town officers feel more accountable to the
community. On the other hand, detachment commanders in the RCMP and OPP are
accountable to their superiors, and, ultimately, to headquarters in Ottawa or Orillia.
Rural and small town officers whom we interviewed – whether in independent municipal
agencies, or RCMP or OPP detachments - suggested that the communities they police
want the police to be tough on youth crime but not to incarcerate their youth. Officers in
rural areas and small towns appear to make more use of informal action, but less use of
pre-charge diversion, than officers in metropolitan and suburban jurisdictions.
Rural/small town and suburban/exurban jurisdictions are particularly likely to have no
external agencies to which police can divert youth: almost half of the officers whom we
interviewed in non-metropolitan communities said that they are never able to make
referrals to external agencies. Officers in rural/small town communities and in
suburban/exurban communities are more likely to use a summons to compel appearance,
because they do not face the same problems of serving it as do officers in larger centres;
and officers in rural areas and small towns are less likely to detain a youth for a JIR
hearing, because the distance to the nearest youth detention facility makes access
problematic, both for the police and for the youth’s family. There are also some
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
131
differences between metropolitan and rural/small town police in the types of conditions
used in OIC Undertakings when releasing on a Promise to Appear.
The criminological literature suggests that crime and formal policing methods are more
prevalent in poor neighbourhoods. One-quarter of the police services in the sample said
that there was a poverty problem area in their jurisdiction: an area characterized by
extreme poverty, in which youth crime was a particular problem. There were more
prevalent in the Prairies and in metropolitan jurisdictions. However, there were only
small differences in the use of discretion between these police services and those which
did not identify such an area in their jurisdiction – perhaps because we measured the use
of discretion by entire police services (or detachments), rather than in particular
neighbourhoods. Police services which identified a poverty problem area are slightly
more likely to charge apprehended youth, according to UCR data; they are slightly less
likely to use informal action, according to the interviews. They are more likely to use an
appearance notice than a summons, less likely to arrest a youth and take him or her to the
police station, more likely to attach certain conditions to a release Undertaking; and more
likely to detain for a JIR hearing. It is possible that some or all of these differences may
be due to the prevalence of this type of problem area in metropolitan areas.
Significant numbers of transient youth were mentioned by officers in 28% of the police
services, particularly in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces. UCR data indicate no
difference in charge rates between these and other police services. According to the
interview data, officers in police agencies dealing with transient youth are more likely to
use informal action, more likely to use an appearance notice than a summons, and more
likely to detain for a JIR hearing, than officers in other communities.
Officers in 32% of the police services mentioned significant numbers of tourists in their
jurisdiction. No differences in the use of discretion with youth were evident between
these and the other police services in the sample.
The literature on the history of police-aboriginal relations in Canada suggests that they
have been characterized by conflict and mutual distrust. 42% of the agencies in the
sample said that they have jurisdiction over significant populations of aboriginal
peoples, living either on- or off-reserve. They are more prevalent in the Territories,
British Columbia, and the Prairies. The UCR data indicate that police services which
police off-reserve aboriginals have rates of charging apprehended youth which are a little
higher than other police agencies. The interview data indicate that police agencies with
jurisdiction over aboriginal populations are slightly more likely than other police services
to use informal action, twice as likely to refer youth to a Restorative Justice program, less
likely to use summonses or appearance notices, more likely to use a Promise to Appear
and an OIC Undertaking, and more likely to detain for a JIR hearing because the youth is
a repeat offender, is intoxicated, or for the youth’s safety.
Concerning the level of youth crime in the community, 29% of police services said they
had “a lot”, 17% said “not very much”, and the others indicated “a normal amount”.
Perceived high levels of youth crime are more common in the Prairies and the Territories,
Police discretion with young offenders
III. Environmental factors affecting police discretion
132
and in metropolitan areas. UCR data indicate that police agencies in communities with
“not very much” youth crime have higher rates of charging apprehended youth than
others. These are confirmed by data from the interviews, which suggest that police
officers tend to use more discretion if they identified their jurisdiction as having a lot of
youth crime. They are more likely to use various forms of informal action and pre-charge
diversion, and they are more likely to detain for a JIR hearing and to cite “legalistic”
rather than social welfare reasons for detention: a serious offence, multiple breaches (of
probation orders, OIC undertakings, or bail conditions), if the youth is already before the
courts, or repeat offenders.
When we asked about the types of youth crime which are characteristic of their
jurisdictions, officers in most police services reported, not unexpectedly, that they deal
with high levels of minor property crime and minor assaults. Three-quarters of the police
agencies also perceive high levels of serious property crime by youth, especially break
and enter. One-quarter identified a problem of serious violent youth crime. These were
more prevalent in metropolitan areas and in the Prairie provinces. One-quarter identified
a problem of youth gangs; these were also more common in metropolitan areas and the
Prairies. Surprisingly, 80% of the police services in the sample perceive a serious
problem of drug-related crime among youth in their jurisdictions. These are spread
across all the provinces and territories, and in all types of communities, although they are
slightly more prevalent in the Territories, and in metropolitan jurisdictions. 14% of the
police services, all but one in metropolitan jurisdictions, and many in British Columbia,
identified a problem of teenage prostitution. We found no significant relationship
between the types of youth crime identified in a jurisdiction, and the exercise of
discretion with young persons in that jurisdiction.
The characterizations by respondents of police-community relations in their
jurisdictions are consistent with the results of previous research. About two-thirds of
respondents found the community to be generally or very supportive of the police; onequarter offered fairly neutral or mixed assessments, and 14% found the community to be
only “somewhat” or “not” supportive. Police in suburban/exurban jurisdictions were
most likely to find the community generally or very supportive; those in rural/small town
agencies were slightly more likely to find the community generally or very supportive
than those in metropolitan agencies. Police in British Columbia and the Prairies, and
those which have jurisdiction over a significant aboriginal population, are less likely than
other officers to find the community generally or very supportive. We found no
relationship between the exercise of police discretion with youth and the perceived level
of community support.
IV.
Organizational Factors Affecting Police Discretion
In this chapter, we discuss factors related to the police force as an organization, drawing
on organizational theory in general, and, in particular, its application to police
organizations. We have deliberately avoided applying broad classificatory schemes such
as Wilson’s (1968) classic typology of watchman, legalistic, and service styles of
policing. Our purpose in this report is not to develop a scheme for classifying Canadian
police forces, but to identify specific aspects of their structure, operations, and orientation
which affect the ways in which their members exercise their discretion in dealing with
youth crime. Therefore, we present a list of organizational characteristics and discuss to
what extent each of these appears to influence police decision-making.
This report was commissioned by the Department of Justice in support of the
implementation and evaluation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA). An
understanding of the organizational factors affecting police discretion with youth is
relevant to the implementation of the YCJA because almost all of these aspects of police
organization are mutable. Police forces which want to modify the ways in which their
members exercise their discretion with young offenders, in order to conform to the
specific provisions and general intent of the YCJA, can effect change to most of the
aspects of police organization and culture which are identified here as affecting the
exercise of discretion – although organizational change can be difficult and fraught with
risks and unanticipated consequences (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999; Grosman, 1975).
Presumably, federal and provincial policy-makers in the areas of policing and youth
justice can play a role in encouraging such changes.
The internal structure, processes, and orientation of an organization have a large effect on
the behaviour of its members (Hall, 2002). In relation to the exercise of individual
discretion, it is generally (though not universally) accepted that the more formalized, or
bureaucratic, an organization is, the less opportunity, and perhaps motivation, its
members will have to use their own judgment in carrying out their duties. Indeed,
bureaucracy – by which we mean the application of rationality to organizational design
and action through the formalization, standardization, and depersonalization of
organizational roles and decision-making (Weber, 1947) – can be seen as a mechanism
by which the organization exerts coordination and control over the decision-making of its
members (Perrow, 1972: 56). In relation to policing, Grosman characterizes bureaucracy
as:
…a refined organizational mechanism for the most efficient
implementation of goals and the provision of services.
(1975: 31)
In the extreme case, bureaucratization can eliminate individual discretion and initiative:
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
134
…Impersonal rules delimit, in great detail, all the functions
of every individual within the organization. They prescribe
the behaviour to be followed in all possible events.
(Crozier, quoted in Hall, 2002: 168).
Bureaucratization is seen as one aspect of the modernization of policing (Murphy, 1991).
The formal structures of police organizations, and their relationships with the
performance of individual officers, have been studied by several researchers (Alpert &
Dunham, 1992; Crank, 1990; Fisk, 1974; Franz & Jones, 1987; Harrison & Pelletier,
1987; Klinger, 1997; Morash, 1984; Riksheim & Chermak, 1993; Walker, 1992).
Research has demonstrated that organizational factors do influence arrest rates for all
offence categories to varying degrees (Crank, 1990, 1992; Slovak, 1986; Wilson, 1968).
Aspects of police organizational structure which have been associated by researchers
with police behaviour include: bureaucracy, professionalization, size, stability of
assignment, and supervisor’s span of control (Seagrave, 1997: 143-144).
In addition to the structure of the police service, officers are influenced by its orientation.
The emerging role of the front-line officer involves prevention, diversion, and
enforcement (Hornick et al., 1996). The basic organizational structure of a police
department is built with these duties or functions as the cornerstones. Reiss (1974)
contends that the exercise of discretion depends upon the task organization of law
enforcement agencies. One concern is the minimization of organizationally induced role
conflict. The organization can apply differential levels of stress, depending on the types
of activities that management supports and encourages within the occupational
environment (Skolnick, 1967). The management style of a police force may support or
discourage the use of police discretion. If there is a lack of congruency between what
police officers are officially supposed to do (use their discretion) and what they are in
fact rewarded for, then there will be a high degree of role conflict, and the possibility of a
higher reliance on formal action.
Wilson (1968) began the investigations into the jurisdictional variations in arrest rates
from an organizational standpoint. He attributed policy style to the characteristics of the
organization in relation to discretion. His research indicated three models of
management styles: legalistic, service, and watchman. These, in turn, are strongly related
to the structure of the police force, and to the environment in which it operates. In the
legalistic model, there is an emphasis on the strict enforcement of laws, resulting in a
limited use of discretion by officers. Under this law enforcement approach, universal
standards are applied to all communities within a given jurisdiction. Further, departments
that operate under this model lean towards a highly specialized division of labour
involving a high supervision of front-line officers. Departments that exhibit high arrest
rates are seen as using a more aggressive ‘legalistic’ police style (Crank, 1990; Slovak,
1986). Departments that adopt a ‘service’ management style are characterized by a
decentralization of authority, a high emphasis on community relations, and front-line
officers taking a broad view of their role through the exercise of initiative, independence
and discretion (Wilson, 1968). Within the service orientation, community-based
interventions are seen as viable alternatives to charging with less serious offences (Conly,
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
135
1978). Finally, departments who have adopted a ‘watchman’ model emphasize the
maintenance of order and the status quo thereby limiting opportunities of initiative and
the decentralization of authority and responsibility (Wilson, 1968). These organizational
distinctions are determined by one or more factors that include either internal
departmental policy, municipal government police policy, provincial child welfare and
juvenile justice legislation, federal juvenile justice legislation, and resource allocations
from these sources (Conly, 1978).
The distinction in management style appears most frequently when comparing urban and
rural police forces. Crank suggested that the legalistic management and policing style is
“a latent function of organizational survival in turbulent urban environments” (1992: 403)
and that rural communities are in a better position to adopt a service model.
Organizational variables consistently explained more variance than environmental
variables within urban departments (Crank, 1990; Swanson, 1978). Research conducted
in British Columbia compared RCMP and municipal police officers and found
differences in the constraints which their respective organizations place on the individual
officer - with the RCMP being more bureaucratic and hierarchical (Seagrave, 1997). In
short, these authors suggest that structural variation and its influence on police behaviour
are likely to emanate from the organizational dynamics inherent within the management
styles adopted.
According to Seagrave (1997: 144), there is practically no Canadian research on the
relationship between organizational aspects of police services and the exercise of police
discretion. In this chapter, we discuss the aspects of the police organization which
emerged in the course of the interviews as possible influences on the exercise of
discretion with young persons. Structural attributes include: the size of the police
service, indexed by the number of officers; the degree of centralization, or horizontal
differentiation into semi-autonomous divisions; the degree of hierarchy, or vertical
differentiation into ranks and positions; the extent of functional specialization related to
youth crime, and the locus of authority and responsibility to lay a charge against a young
person – or to recommend charging, if the decision is made outside the police service.
Aspects of the police agency’s orientation which we examine are: the degree of proactive
versus reactive policing; the level of support for community policing; the adoption of
problem-oriented policing; and the level and types of involvement in crime prevention
initiatives.
1.0
Size
The size of an organization – usually measured by the number of employees or members
– is seen by some organizational theorists as its most fundamental characteristic, since so
much else about the organization is determined by its size. The larger the organization,
the more complex and bureaucratic it becomes, as those at the top struggle to coordinate
and control the activities of more and more people (Blau & Schoenherr, 1971; Caplow,
1965; Grusky, 1961; Meyer, 1968). On the other hand, some organizational researchers
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
136
have found that organization size is not necessarily a crucial determinant of other
organizational characteristics and behaviour (Hall et al., 1967).
The police services and detachments in the sample vary enormously in size. The smallest
has 2 sworn officers, and the largest has 5,028. The average size is 274 officers, but the
median size – i.e. the size of the police service which is midway between the smallest and
largest in the sample – is 40 officers. The distribution of the size of the police
organizations in our sample – measured by the number of officers – is shown in Figure
IV.1.
Figure IV.1 Distribution of the sizes of police services in the sample
Percent of police services
30
26
28
25
20
18
14
15
13
10
5
0
1 - 24
25 - 49
50 - 99
100 - 499
500+
Number of sworn officers
We did explore the relationship between the size of the police organizations in the sample
and aspects of their exercise of discretion. However, we were unable to draw any
conclusions from the interview data about the impact of organization size on police
discretion, because of the confounding effect of community size. The size of a police
service – unlike that of most other organizations – is very strongly determined by the size
of the community which it serves (Figure IV.2). The ratio of community population to
officers (“Pop to Cop” in police jargon) varies within only a narrow range in Canadian
police services; rarely less than 500 or more than 1,000 (see, e.g., Dunphy &
Shankarraman, 2000). Thus, all the aspects of police decision-making which are
associated with the size of the community are related in just the same way with the size
of the police service, and the impact of agency size cannot be distinguished from that of
community size.1 Since the size of the community is antecedent to the size of the police
agency which serves it, we have treated the aspects of police decision-making from the
1
This is true although, in our study, communities were not classified strictly by population (see Chapter III,
Section 4.1).
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IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
137
interview data which are associated with both of them as effects of community size, and
discussed them in Chapter III, Section 4.1, above; and will not repeat the discussion here.
Figure IV.2 Size of police services, by type of community
Percent of police services
80
77
70
60
48
50
39
40
28
30
20
10
0
13
3
7
Metropolitan
Less than 25 officers
28
33
14
11
0
Suburban/ exurban
25-49 officers
Rural/small town
50-99 officers
100+ officers
In Chapter III, Section 4.1, we found that rates of apprehended youth who were charged
by police during 1998-2000, according to the UCR Survey, varied with the type of
community: metropolitan police services charged, on average, 66% of apprehended
youth, suburban/exurban services charged 57%, and rural and small town agencies
charged 61%. There is no simple relationship between the size of the police service and
its propensity to charge: the smallest agencies (1-24 officers) had the highest average
rate of charging of apprehended youth (69%), followed by agencies with 100-499 officers
(67%), 500 or more officers (66%), 25-49 officers (63%), and agencies with 50-99
officers (56%).
2.0
Centralization
In organizational theory, the terms centralization and decentralization refer both to
function and to decision-making authority. Functional decentralization refers to the
allocation of tasks among subunits in such a way that each subunit carries out all, or
almost all, of the functions of the organization, but within a restricted domain. For
example, a manufacturing business which has geographically dispersed units may be
decentralized, so that each unit operates like an independent manufacturer, subject only to
the control and coordination of the headquarters. Or it may be functionally centralized,
with each geographical unit doing only one part of the business, and therefore unable to
carry on business without the integrated cooperation of the other subunits. Decentralized
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IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
138
decision-making refers to the delegation of decision-making authority to subunits, under
the overall coordination of headquarters; whereas centralized authority denotes the
retention of decision-making authority in the hands of headquarters. Local discretion is
increased, by definition, by decentralization of decision-making; and may also be
increased by functional decentralization, since the necessity for headquarters to
coordinate the operations of subunits is drastically reduced in a functionally decentralized
organization (Hall, 2002: 73-74; Mackenzie, 1978: 195-242; Weber, 1947: 404). No
organization of any appreciable size is perfectly centralized or decentralized: the key
question is the “choice of which functions or activities are to be performed or controlled
by a ‘headquarters’ unit” and which are to be delegated to subunits (Mackenzie, 1978:
201).
The concepts of centralization and decentralization can be applied at different levels to
policing in Canada. At the national level, policing in Canada can be seen as relatively
decentralized, since responsibility for policing is dispersed among ten provincial and a
large number of municipal governments, with some participation by the federal
government. Thus, there are a large number of entirely independent units, or police
agencies, each providing a complete policing service to its geographical jurisdiction. This
can be contrasted with the much more centralized form in Europe, where the national
government exerts close control over policing (Grosman, 1975: 56). On the other hand,
there is considerable centralization, in the form of the provision of policing services to
many jurisdictions in Canada by three large police agencies: the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police, Ontario Provincial Police, and the Sûreté du Québec. These three
agencies offer the interesting paradox that although their involvement in municipal and
rural policing represents a centralizing tendency, nevertheless they themselves have
adopted, probably by necessity, a relatively decentralized approach to municipal and
rural policing (see below).
However, under the pressures of modernization and professionalization, and the trend
toward amalgamation of municipal services and municipalities in general, the broad
structure of Canadian policing is becoming more centralized, as small, local police
services are replaced by regional or provincial police agencies (Grosman, 1975; Murphy,
1991). 2
At the municipal or regional level, the majority of Canadian metropolitan areas have one
police force, which is responsible for the entire geographical area of that city or region
(e.g. Toronto Police Service, Niagara Regional Police Service). Within its jurisdiction,
the police force is organized into geographical divisions that have jurisdiction over a
particular area of the city. However, other metropolitan areas have several autonomous
police departments within the larger geographical city or region (e.g. Vancouver). It is
difficult to determine the effect of this kind of geographical or jurisdictional
centralization/decentralization on the use of discretion, although Conly suggests the
2
This is particularly true in the Province of Québec; see Ministère de la Sécurité publique du Québec,
2002a, 2002b.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
139
possibility of a shift from one model to another having a “significant implication for
youth policing” (1978: 56).
Our own research suggests that Conly’s use of geographical jurisdiction as the criterion
of centralization is less useful than a consideration of the internal structure of individual
police services. Internally centralized and decentralized police agencies are responsible
for entire geographic areas of a city or region, and for parts of a metropolitan area. We
define a centralized police service as one which is characterized by close control exerted
by headquarters over all policing activities within that agency’s jurisdiction. A
centralized service may have several geographic divisions within its region; however,
they are not autonomous, and all operations, policy, procedure, and programming are
closely controlled by the central administration. In a decentralized police service, the
geographic divisions, and even the neighbourhood sub-units, have considerably more
autonomy (Seagrave, 1997: 208). Our hypothesis, derived from the organizational
literature, is that decentralization increases the exercise of discretion by police officers.
For example, Brown (1981b: 259) argues that decentralization has the effect of placing
“…decision-making processes at the lowest possible or optimum levels,” while freeing
top management to concentrate on setting objectives, defining strategies, and allocating
resources.
Although police agencies in Canada, like most other organizations, fall along a
continuum with respect to their degree of centralization, we classified our sample into
two categories – centralized and decentralized - in order to analyze the impact, if any, of
the degree of centralization on the exercise of discretion with youth. For example, we
consider the RCMP contract provincial and municipal policing services to be a
decentralized police agency. General direction is issued from Ottawa and the regional
and provincial Divisional headquarters; however, much of the day-to-day procedure and
crime prevention programming is determined at the detachment level. Similarly, the
Toronto Police Service, which was classified as a centralized department by Conly
(1978), is now decentralized under our definition, since our information suggests that
each geographic division currently has considerable autonomy. In contrast, the
Vancouver Police Department (classified as decentralized by Conly) is centralized in our
classification, as the various divisions are all under fairly close control by head office.
Using this classification scheme, 48% of the police agencies in our sample are
centralized and 52% are decentralized. However, 100% of RCMP and OPP detachments
are classified as decentralized; whereas, only 20% of independent municipal forces are so
classified. The relationship between the size of the police service and decentralization is
curvilinear (Figure IV.3). The reason for this is that the smaller police services tend to be
detachments of the RCMP and OPP, which are all classified as decentralized; and
presumably the largest police services (with 500 or more officers) tend to decentralize
because it is not feasible for headquarters to manage the volume of information and
decision-making generated in such large organizations (Mackenzie, 1978: 213). Leaving
aside the RCMP and OPP, no independent municipal services with less than 100 officers,
and only 7% of those with 100 to 499 officers, are decentralized. Decentralized police
agencies are found in all types of communities, as is shown in Figure IV.4.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
140
Figure IV.3 Proportion of decentralized police agencies, by size of police service
80
71
Percent of police services
which are decentralized
70
67
58
60
50
40
30
25
24
20
10
0
1 - 24
25 - 49
50 - 99
100 - 499
500+
Number of sworn officers
Figure IV.4 Proportion of decentralized police agencies, by type of community
57
Percent of police services
which are decentralized
60
50
47
47
40
30
20
10
0
Metropolitan
Suburban/ exurban
Rural/small town
Type of community
These two groups do differ somewhat in their decision-making processes with young
offenders.
Decentralized police agencies are more likely to say that they use informal action (89%)
than centralized ones (64%). In choosing modes of informal action, decentralized
agencies are also more likely to take a young person home (85%) than centralized
agencies (64%). No differences were evident for other forms of informal action.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
141
No difference was found between the proportion of apprehended young persons who
were charged (according to UCR data for 1998-2000) by centralized and decentralized
agencies, when other related factors, such as the type of policing and type of community
were controlled. Due to small numbers, the only comparison which could be made using
UCR2 data was between centralized and decentralized municipal police services in
Ontario – and even this must be interpreted with caution, since only four of each type of
agency reported to the UCR2 in 2001. The four centralized agencies charged, on
average, 80% of apprehended youth and used informal action with 18%. The four
decentralized agencies charged 72%, and used informal action with 26%, of apprehended
youth.
According to the interviews, the use of pre-charge alternative measures involving
community based restorative justice is more prevalent among decentralized agencies
(35%) than centralized ones (16%).
Differences in methods of compelling appearance are also evident. Decentralized police
services are twice as likely to say that they “rarely” use an appearance notice (42% versus
20%) but are more likely to say that they use a summons with minor offences (50%
versus 30%).
When officers arrest and bring a youth back to the police station, those in decentralized
agencies are more likely to release the young person on a promise to appear (56%) than
centralized services (36%). Similarly, 75% of the decentralized agencies gave “release
without detention” as a reason to use a PTA, compared to 45% of the centralized police
services. Decentralized agencies are also more likely to mention using a PTA “with a
minor offence” (21% versus 9%) and/or with an OIC undertaking (71% versus 50%).
Decentralized agencies are twice as likely as centralized ones to attach the conditions of
no go, no association, keep the peace and be of good behaviour, no alcohol or drugs, and
a curfew.
These findings are not due to a systematic difference in the type of community in which
these two types of agencies work, as decentralized agencies exist in all types of
communities (see Figure IV.4). What these findings, and our discussions with officers,
suggest is that decentralization may permit decision-making which is informed by the
nature and “needs” of the community (cf. Normandeau & Leighton, 1990). In a
decentralized agency, officers on the street have more influence on the formulation and
interpretation of policies and protocol. This can result in decision-making processes that
reflect the types of youth-related incidents these officers encounter and not a prescribed
formula for the use of formal action.
Therefore, it is at first puzzling that 42% of the decentralized agencies in our sample
“almost always” arrest and detain “due to departmental policy” compared to one-quarter
(27%) of the centralized agencies. The reason for this anomaly is that a substantial
number of the police services which we have classified as decentralized are detachments
of the OPP (see above). The OPP presents an interesting combination of centralization
and decentralization, which to some extent defies our simple dichotomous classification.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
142
Policy and protocol are developed by, and implemented from, OPP Headquarters in
Orillia. However, OPP detachments police rural areas and small towns across the
province, and each detachment tends to develop programming in response to the nature of
the local community. Our interviews with OPP officers (who came mainly from
detachments in Northern Ontario) suggest that, on the whole, OPP detachments have
enough operating autonomy and responsiveness to the community in their decisionmaking with young offenders to be classified as “decentralized” agencies. Nevertheless,
in the particular matter of which youth-related offences “almost always” result in arrest
and detention, their decisions are determined by policy issued by Headquarters.
There are some small differences between centralized and decentralized agencies in the
reasons given for detention for a JIR hearing. Decentralized police agencies are more
likely to say that they “follow the law” when detaining young offenders (92% versus
73%). Similarly, they are also more likely to say that they will detain a youth who has
multiple breaches of probation, OIC undertakings, and bail conditions (46% versus 27%).
They are twice as likely as centralized agencies to say that they will detain a repeat
offender (63% versus 32%).
These findings suggest that this aspect of organizational structure does have an influence
on police decision-making with young offenders. However, the degree of influence
cannot be measured precisely with these data. What we concluded from discussions of
this issue with police is that centralization may limit the opportunities for adaptation to
local conditions, and the exercise of police discretion with youth. This is consistent with
the organizational literature: according to Mackenzie (1978: 203), writing about
decentralization in business organizations, “…Each division knows its own markets and
conditions better than headquarters”; and Hall (1972: 228) writes, “…delegation and
decentralization…allow increased flexibility and discretion”.
3.0
Hierarchy
The degree of hierarchy in an organization can be measured in various ways (Hall, 2002).
One simple approach is to count the number of vertically differentiated positions. In a
police service, vertical differentiation has two manifestations: the functional position of
authority, such “Officer in Charge of the GIS Division”, and the rank. These two
hierarchies are so closely correlated that they can be considered together. The typical
authority/rank structure has three levels: (i) Executives/Upper Management (the ranks of
Chief, Deputy Chief, Superintendent), (ii) Middle Management (Inspector, Staff
Sergeant, Sergeant), and (iii) Front-line (Constable). Variations depend mainly on the
size of the force. For example, some Ontario police services have nine ranks, with the
addition of Staff Superintendent and Staff Inspector. Smaller police forces may exclude
the rank of Superintendent, Inspector and Staff Sergeant. In comparison, a very large
police force such as the RCMP, has ten ranks. On May 1, 2001, the RCMP had 20,866
members, classified as follows: Commissioner (1), Deputy Commissioner (6), Assistant
Commissioner (25), Chief Superintendent (46), Superintendent (106), Inspector (284),
Staff Sergeant (677), Sergeant (1,499), Corporal (2,770), and Constable (9,698) (Royal
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
143
Canadian Mounted Police, 2002).3 Some police forces have eliminated the position of
Inspector in order to flatten the hierarchy (e.g., Edmonton Police Service), and the RCMP
has been reported to be considering reducing the numbers of officers in middle
management (Seagrave, 1997: 39).
The literature on policing has drawn attention to the links between the degree of
hierarchy in the department, and the exercise of police discretion. According to Brown
(1981b: 259), Canadian police forces in the 1970’s had too many levels of hierarchy:
“…The resulting many-layered command structure precludes effective decentralization of
services, and is dysfunctional from the point of view of attaining organizational goals.”
However, much research on this issue has been unable, or uninterested, to distinguish
between the degree of hierarchy, the size of the police service, and the type (or size) of
community which is being policed, all of which are highly correlated. Our own results,
reported below, suffer from the same difficulty in distinguishing among these related
phenomena.
Some research suggests that the probability of arrest increases as police departments
become larger and more hierarchical, with increasing rank differentiation in middle and
upper management (Smith & Klein, 1994).4 Officers in larger departments with more
ranks tend to have fewer constraints on their use of discretion by supervisors, and tend to
make greater use of arrest. This illustrates the interesting anomaly that “the police
department has the special property…that within it discretion increases as one moves
down the hierarchy” (Wilson, 1968, cited in Reiner, 1997: 1009). On the other hand, in
smaller departments with fewer ranks, officers spend more time on routine patrol in the
community and are likely to be more lenient in their enforcement practices of charging
(Brown, 1981a; Mastrofski, 1981). None of these studies examined the effects of rank
structure specifically on the processing of youth.
In classifying our sample of police services by the number of ranks, we classified
detachments of the RCMP and OPP according to the number of ranks present in that
detachment, not in the overall organization. The number of ranks in police agencies in the
sample varies between 1 and 12, with an average of 4.8 ranks, and a median number of 4
ranks. However, the most common number of ranks in the agencies in the sample is 3.
The sample is distributed fairly evenly: 36% of agencies and detachments have one to
three ranks, 37% have four to six ranks, and 27% have seven or more ranks. The amount
of hierarchy is strongly related to community size and to the type of policing, as Figures
IV.5 and IV.6 show.
According to the interview data, there is very little variation in the use of informal action
by the number of ranks. However, agencies with one to three ranks are slightly more
likely to use informal action (91%) than agencies with more vertical differentiation
(81%).
3
The total 20,866 also includes 1 Corps Sergeant Major, 3 Sergeant Major, 89 Special Constables, 2,140
Civilian Members, and 3,521 Public Servants (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2002).
4
Smith & Klein (1994) used an index of bureaucratization which combined organization size, the number
of ranks, and the number of occupational titles.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
144
Figure IV.5 Degree of hierarchy in police services, by type of community
80
72
Percent of police services
70
60
53
50
47
40
33
30
33
33
22
20
10
6
0
0
Metropolitan
Suburban/ exurban
1 - 3 ranks
4 - 6 ranks
Rural/small town
7+ ranks
Figure IV.6 Degree of hierarchy in police services, by size of police service
Percent of police services
90
80
83
79
83
70
60
50
50
40
30
20
25
21
25
17
17
10
0
0
0
1 - 24
25 - 49
0
50 - 99
100+
Number of sworn officers
1 - 3 ranks
4 - 6 ranks
7+ ranks
Analysis of UCR data on the proportion of apprehended youth who were charged
revealed no significant differences in charging related to the degree of hierarchy, but the
analysis was hampered by missing data and the confounding effect of related variables,
such as the type of policing and community, and the size of the police service.
Police agencies are more likely to use pre-charge diversion as the differentiation in ranks
increases. 69% of agencies with seven or more ranks indicated they use pre-charge
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
145
alternative measures compared to 50% of those agencies with four to six ranks and 43%
of those with one to three ranks. We suspect that this may be as a result of a higher
degree of specialization (e.g. Youth officers, School Resource officers) or the greater
access of larger police agencies to external resources. There were no differences in the
use of post-charge alternative measures. Police agencies with four or more ranks are
more likely to find alternative measures “usually” effective (69%) than agencies with one
to three ranks (35%). In addition, 50% of agencies with one to three ranks find
alternative measures “occasionally” effective. This is consistent with the finding that
agencies with one to three ranks are less likely to use alternative measures with minor
offences. Again, several confounding factors may play a role. First, our data suggest a
lack of available pre-charge diversion programs in rural and small town areas, which tend
to have smaller police services or detachments, with one to three ranks. Second, police
services in rural and small town areas are likely to be less formal in their enforcement
practices (Brown, 1981a; Mastrofski, 1981).
There are no apparent differences in the use of summonses, appearance notices, or OIC
undertakings, by degree of hierarchy. However, some interesting patterns emerge
concerning the use of a Promise to Appear and the reasons given for detention for a
judicial interim release hearing. Agencies with seven or more ranks are more likely to
use a PTA as a “higher consequence” (38% versus 12%). This does not appear to be due
to the type of community. Since police services in rural and small town areas are less
likely to say that they detain youth because of repeat offending, it is not surprising the
same relationship occurs for agencies with one to three ranks (38%), compared to
agencies with four or more (70%). Only 14% of the agencies with one to three ranks
suggested that they “almost always” arrest and detain repeat offenders, compared to 58%
of the agencies with four or more ranks. Agencies with seven or more ranks are twice as
likely to detain a young offender “if s/he is [already] before the courts” as agencies with
fewer ranks (50% versus 24%).
Overall, what these findings suggest is some distinctiveness in decision-making with
youth in agencies with three or fewer ranks, versus those with four or more; and also
some differences within the latter group. The degree of hierarchy does appear to have an
effect on the use of informal action and the use of detention with young offenders.
However, as other researchers have found, it is difficult to disentangle the effects of
vertical differentiation itself from the effects of agency and community size.
4.0
Specialization
In organizational theory, the term specialization is used in two different ways. It can refer
to a division of labour among units of the organization- i.e. the division of the
organization into specialized units, each of which has a particular task to perform – or it
can refer to a division of labour among the individual workers in the organization, each of
whom is a specialist in a particular type of work (Hall, 2002: 52-54). We use the term
primarily in the former sense, and are particularly interested in specialization in the
handling of youth crime and young offenders: that is, to the existence of a unit in the
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
146
police organization which specializes in youth crime – often called a youth squad, youth
section, or youth bureau. However, in smaller police agencies, this “unit” may consist of
one or two officers who are assigned to handle youth-related incidents, and who may
work in a larger unit – such as the GIS or patrol - which is not itself a specialist youth
unit.
The decision to have a specialized youth unit or youth officers is an internal policy
decision made within each police force (Conly, 1978).5 According to Leeson and Snyder,
“during the late Fifties and early Sixties many police forces [in Canada] established
specific sections within their organizations to deal with the juvenile offender” (1981:
197-198). According to Conly, in 1976, some police forces had adopted a specialized
approach by maintaining a separate Youth Section/Bureau (e.g. Toronto, OttawaCarleton, and Calgary police services). In this model, incidents with youths were referred
to the Youth Bureau for further investigation. The underlying philosophy in specialized
forces is that police work with youths is a separate function that requires special
investigatory skills (e.g. interviewing parents, social workers, teachers, etc.). Other
police forces (e.g. Vancouver6) adopted a generalist approach, in which all front-line
officers handled youth crime. Some respondents in 1976 suggested that in order to
reflect the degree of youth crime, the personnel requirements for a specialized unit would
be too high, and that specialization can lead in the end to “bureaucratic inefficiencies,
communication problems, delays”, and unnecessary referrals (Conly, 1978: 45).
Conly identified three procedural models for investigating cases with a suspected young
person. Within a non-specialization model, procedures are essentially identical to those
involving adult suspects. This model is generally found in police forces that do not
maintain a specialized Youth Section to respond to incidents involving youth. A partial
specialization model is used predominantly by forces which have a Youth Section. This
model involves using regular front-line officers to conduct the initial investigation (firstcontact) and Youth Officers are asked to assist or take over the investigation in
subsequent stages. For example, a front-line officer would make the initial decision
whether the incident is founded or unfounded, and, if founded, would then call in a Youth
Officer to continue with the case. Finally, a complete specialization model entails Youth
Officers handling all aspects of police-juvenile encounters.
In contrast to specialized youth bureau work, patrol work is territorially defined (Klinger,
1997). Patrol officers, like members of other occupations who work with people, may
develop theories about the neighbourhoods and people which they police, that are used as
“recipes for interpreting and labelling their daily activities” (Cicourel, 1968: 105;
Meehan, 1993). Police administrators can try to establish guidelines for discretion but an
officer’s predispositions are affected by a range of formal and informal rules, guidelines,
and procedures that are shaped by the nature of patrol work (Brown, 1981a; Klinger,
1997). The work of general patrol officers and specialized youth and school liaison
5
This and the following paragraph rely mainly on Conly (1978), whose characterizations of many specific
police forces is out of date.
6
Vancouver moved from a specialized to a generalized approach when the Youth Section was disbanded in
1973 (Conly, 1978) (but has more recently returned to a specialist approach).
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
147
officers have differences and similarities, which depend on how their duties have been
defined within each organization.
Conly (1978) suggested that Youth Bureaus have two characteristics which lead to a
higher recorded rate of contact with juveniles. First, specialized Youth Officers take a
more proactive approach to policing youth through the primary and secondary crime
prevention programs that are developed internally (e.g. D.A.R.E. in Peterborough,
S.H.O.P. in Calgary; Hornick et al., 1996). These programs lead to a higher familiarity
with local area “hang-outs” and periodic checks on youths previously contacted
(informally or formally). Second, there appears to be a stronger emphasis on recording
police-youth encounters within specialized forces. Conly (1978) reported that the use of
diversion (no charges laid) was 63% in police forces with a Youth Section compared to
45% in those departments adopting the generalist approach. For example, in 1976,
Toronto had the largest number of total contacts coupled with one of the lowest charge
rates (Conly, 1978).
Although police agencies with youth sections tend to have higher rates of recorded
contacts, they also tend to make more use of informal action and referrals to social
agencies, and less use of charges, than generalist agencies. This observation is consistent
with general organization theory, which proposes that personnel in specialized units tend
to have more scope for individual discretion, or “decentralized decision making” (Hall,
1972: 170). According to Grosman, “…The Chief also engages in important enforcement
policy-making when, for example, he decides to create a juvenile program by setting up a
juvenile unit…[which]…may ultimately involve a higher diversion of juvenile offenders
out of the criminal process” (1975: 79). Leeson and Snyder characterize the Ottawa
Police juvenile section in the 1970’s as an “information and referral centre” (1981: 203):
its impact on the handling of youth-related incidents can be inferred from the fact that of
1,831 chargeable offences involving youth in 1977, 1,432 were diverted (1981: 206).
Similarly, Gandy’s (1970) study of the handling of youth-related incidents by the Toronto
Police Service in the 1960’s found that members of the youth bureau were more likely to
use discretion with juveniles, and much more likely than non-youth bureau officers to
make referrals to social agencies. Doob came to a similar conclusion from a study of the
youth bureau of a “southern Ontario regional police force”. He found that officers in the
youth bureau were charging only about 13% of apprehended juveniles, and concluded: “a
Youth Bureau can do an effective job of screening many juveniles out of the formal
system…” (1983: 161).
4.1
Youth squads and dedicated youth officers
81% of the police services in our sample do not have a youth section or a dedicated youth
officer,7 and therefore operate under the generalist, or non-specialization, model.
7
By “dedicated”, we refer to the assignment of the officer exclusively to youth-related duties, not to the
quality of his or her commitment.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
148
According to officers in many agencies, this reflects the widespread disbandment of
youth sections and other specialized units during the 1990’s, under the pressure of
financial retrenchment. Youth-related incidents are handled by generalists, or by
specialists for certain types of crime (e.g. break and enter, whether involving youth or
adult suspects, would be assigned to GIS). Of the 17 police services in our sample which
have youth sections or dedicated youth officers, 8 15 have a youth squad that performs
follow-up on youth-related incidents (partial specialization model), and 2 have youth
squads which actively patrol and also do follow-up on patrol initiated investigations
(complete specialization model).
Another dimension of variation concerns police agencies which are accredited by the
Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). To the best of
our knowledge, Edmonton Police Service, Winnipeg Police Service, Niagara Regional
Police Service, and Peel Regional Police are the only services in our sample which are
accredited by CALEA9. This has implications for the effect of the presence of youth
squads on police decision-making with youth. CALEA stipulates the following in
regards to juvenile operations:
Standard 44.1.1 A written directive establishes the agency’s
juvenile operations function, and includes, at a minimum,
the following:
a.
a statement that the agency is committed to
the development and perpetuation of programs designed to
prevent and control juvenile delinquency; and
b.
a statement that the responsibility for
participating in or supporting the agency’s juvenile
operations function is shared by all agency components and
personnel (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999: 78).
All CALEA-accredited police services in Canada have youth policy and protocol that
clearly affirms these two stipulations and defines the operating parameters of their youth
officers and SLOs.
Because there were only two agencies in the sample using the complete specialization
model, we analyzed the impact of specialization on the exercise of discretion using a
simple dichotomy which combined the complete and partial specialization categories:
specialization model (youth squad or dedicated youth officers: 19% of the sample), and
the non-specialization, or generalist, model (no youth squad: 81%).
8
In some cases (e.g. some smaller RCMP detachments, having only a few officers), a Community
Service/Relations Officer or Crime Prevention officer may also act as the dedicated youth officer, in
practice if not in name. We classified these as non-specialized, due to the many non-youth-related duties
assumed by such officers.
9
According to CALEA Online, Camrose and Lethbridge Police Services have also received CALEA
accreditation (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, 2000). Neither of these
services was in our sample.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
149
All 17 agencies in the sample which have a youth squad are independent municipal
police services. This is probably primarily due to the difficulty of maintaining
specialization in the smaller provincial police (and RCMP) detachments: only three of the
agencies with youth squads have fewer than 100 sworn officers, seven have between 100
and 499 officers, and seven have more than 500 officers. Thus, 58% of the largest police
services in the sample (those with more than 500 officers) have a youth squad, compared
with 41% of the mid-sized agencies (100 to 499 officers), and only 5% of police agencies
with fewer than 100 officers. Not surprisingly, 43% of police services which we
classified as metropolitan have a youth squad, compared with 11% of suburban/exurban
agencies, and only 5% of rural and small town agencies. The regional distribution of
police services in the sample with a youth squad or dedicated youth officers is shown in
Figure IV.7.
Figure IV.7 Regional distribution of police agencies with youth specialization
40
36
Percent of police services
35
30
25
25
20
18
15
9
10
5
0
0
Territories
0
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
The maintenance of a youth squad or dedicated youth officers is not an easy option for
many police agencies and detachments, due to financial and human resources constraints.
Our data suggest that police services with youth sections and/or dedicated youth officers
respond differently to youth-related incidents. In particular, it appears that the use of
referrals to external agencies, pre-charge diversion, views on feedback from alternative
measures, the use of formal charges, and the methods to compel appearance are different
for agencies that have a youth squad.
Statistical data from the UCR Survey suggest that agencies with youth specialization are
less likely to charge apprehended youth. Among metropolitan police agencies in the
sample, those with a youth squad charge 65% of apprehended youth, versus 75% for
those with no specialization. The few rural and small town agencies in our sample which
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
150
have youth specialization charge, on average, 53% of apprehended youth; those without
specialization charge 57%. There is no difference in charging among suburban/exurban
agencies, which charge 64% of apprehended youth, regardless of the existence of a youth
squad.10 Thus, it is in the metropolitan policing environment that a youth squad appears
to make the most difference in charging practices.
Some additional insight can be gained from UCR2 data on the clearance status of youthrelated incidents. Of the 50 independent municipal police agencies in our sample, 31
reported to the UCR2 in 2001. There were too few suburban/exurban or rural/small town
forces to analyze this variable. However, among metropolitan forces with youth
specialization, the mean percentage of youth-related incidents cleared by charge was
69%, versus 77% for those without youth specialization. The mean percentage of
incidents cleared by informal action was 27% for metropolitan forces with youth squads,
versus 17% for generalist metropolitan police services. However, metropolitan services
with youth squads cleared only 2% of incidents by pre-charge alternative measures,
versus 5% for those without a youth squad. This is puzzling in view of the many claims
that youth squads facilitate referrals to external agencies. There are two possible
explanations. Most of the metropolitan police services with youth squads which were in
our sample and reported to the UCR2 were in Ontario, where pre-charge AM is virtually
non-existent. The other possible explanation is that many of the referrals to outside
agencies made by specialist youth officers may be to programs which are not formally
designated as alternative measures, and may be coded in the UCR2 return as informal
action rather than pre-charge diversion.
The interview data suggest that police services with a youth section or a dedicated youth
officer are more likely to refer youth to external agencies (76%) than police services
without youth specialization (61%)11. However, this percentage difference does not
capture the qualitative difference between specialized and non-specialized agencies.
Innovative referral systems have been developed within agencies that have youth sections
(e.g. Windsor Police Service, Ottawa Police Service). Further, many of our interviewees
(whether youth officers or not) suggested that a dedicated youth officer facilitates
interactions between the police and youth in order to provide counselling and referrals to
stem future behavioural problems. Interviews with youth officers suggest that the
specialization of youth officers is crucial to adequate follow-up with youth who are in
crisis. One officer stated, “without a youth section, how are we supposed to get at the
root cause of their behaviour in order to use community-based resources as alternatives to
youth court?”. One example of cooperation with external agencies was found at the
Victoria Police Service. The primary officer involved describes the program as follows:
CRAT stands for the Capital Region Action Team, which is
co-chaired by a couple of city councillors, basically to do
10
However, there were only two suburban/exurban forces with a youth squad – an inadequate number from
which to generalize.
11
Further, during the interviews, officers working in agencies with a youth squad or dedicated youth officer
emphasized their commitment to using informal warnings, consistent with findings by Hornick et al.
(1996).
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
151
with sexually exploited youth. I’m part of that. There’s a
health [component that includes] a CRT doctor […]. As a
part of that, this capital action team for support of youth,
which is myself […] partnered with a youth worker. The
money to fund her position […] a one-on-one worker came
from the federal government crime prevention association.
They gave almost $495,000 for the project. So basically
what it is, [is] someone from the social services side, a
youth worker, [who] worked for the Boys and Girls Club,
and myself, as a partnership, and our mandate is
identification, interventions, preventions, for sexually
exploited youth and referrals to housing, resources, drug
and alcohol, trying to get them out of the trade, and
charges, if we get charges on the pimps, stuff like that.
This partnership operated as a proactive enforcement team that interacted with young
female prostitutes. Unfortunately, at the time of our interview this successful program’s
future was in question due to a funding uncertainty. Many of the innovative programs we
encountered that involve community partnerships and external resources tend to exist
within police agencies that have specific resources allocated to youth-related issues and
enforcement. For example, the Vancouver Police Department runs three special cars out
of the Youth Section. Each car has a youth officer who is partnered with a psychiatric
nurse, a social worker, or a probation officer. The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary
has created action committees that are drawn together for high risk youth. These
committees contain representation from social services, the school, and police. We also
found that acting as a resource to patrol and GIS officers increased the likelihood of
referrals to external agencies and resources even if the investigating officer decided to
proceed by way of charge.
The use of post-charge alternative measures did not differ for agencies that have a youth
section or dedicated youth officer. However, there are systematic differences in the use
of pre-charge diversion programs. Police services with youth squads are three times as
likely to have established pre-charge programs with the John Howard Society, Boys and
Girls Club or similar organizations (35% versus 11%). They are also more likely to use
pre-charge diversion with youth-related incidents (65%) than agencies that do not have
youth specialization (46%). There is also a higher likelihood that an internal pre-charge
diversion program exists. Thus, it is not surprising that police services with a youth
squad are slightly more likely to find feedback on alternative measures useful (83%),
compared to other agencies (74%). Knowledge of “what works” is important to youth
officers, as they actively promote these alternatives to all officers within the police
agency.
It appears that a constellation of factors interact within the police agencies with youth
squads or dedicated youth officers. For example, agencies with youth specialization are
more likely to have officers available to spend more time with the youth and their
parents. As a result, there are higher levels of parental involvement in youth-related
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
152
incidents in these agencies, and informal action is more feasible. We are not suggesting
that general patrol officers do not also consider involving parents. We do suggest that
youth officers are able to involve the parent(s) more effectively than patrol officers due to
their ability to spend more time dealing with the incident.
In many cases, the availability of pre-charge programming is an important part of a police
officer’s “toolkit”. The fact that pre-charge programs are more prevalent in jurisdictions
where the police service has youth specialization tends to confirm statements by youth
officers suggesting that they play a large role in the development and continued
utilization of such programs. Several agencies have developed laminated cards for patrol
officers (similar to the caution cards used by officers to warn youth of their rights) that
outline the types of offences or characteristics of the offender that make pre-charge
diversion a viable option. As previously mentioned, many youth officers work only in a
follow-up and resource capacity for the police service. Thus, they felt that it was
important that patrol officers had a clear understanding of all available options to deal
with youth-related incidents. Our interview data suggest that patrol officers are much
less certain than youth officers of the availability of community-based resources as precharge alternatives to the formal court process.
The use of summonses and appearance notices as a means to compel appearance varies
by degree of specialization. Agencies with youth officers are more likely to say that they
use a summons with minor offences (47%) than police services with no youth division
(39%). They are also less likely to say that they “rarely” use an appearance notice (24%
versus 33%) and more likely to say that they use them “when no other options apply”
(53% versus 40%) and “for very minor offences” (41% versus 31%).
Consistent with their greater use of summonses and appearance notices, police agencies
with youth specialization are slightly less likely to use a promise to appear “for a minor
offence” (6% vs. 18%). In terms of conditions attached in an OIC undertaking, agencies
with youth specialization are slightly more likely to attach a clause of no association
(47% vs. 35%), curfew (41% vs. 29%), no alcohol or drugs (24% vs. 19%), and attend
school (12% vs. 6%). Police agencies with youth squads are less likely to use the
condition of keep the peace and be of good behaviour (12% vs. 28%). Youth officers
told us that they felt this condition was not specific enough to have meaningful
consequences. Overall, these findings suggest that agencies with youth specialization are
more likely to use the less intrusive methods of compelling appearance, except that they
tend to use more restrictive conditions with OIC undertakings.
Differences between specialized and non-specialized agencies also appear in relation to
the reasons given for detaining for a JIR hearing. Figure IV.8 shows the variations in
responses for police agencies by degree of specialization (responses do not total 100% as
multiple answers were allowed).
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
153
Figure IV.8: Reasons to detain for a JIR hearing, by specialization12
12
Gang related
6
41
Before the courts
24
59
Repeat offender
46
18
Program
1
41
Multiple breaches
36
Youth squad
No youth squad
35
Under the influence
19
47
Bail conditions
26
18
Best interests
22
82
83
Follow the law
24
4 Ps/RICE
8
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
Percent of police agences
Police agencies with a youth section are more likely to say that they detain according to
the 4 Ps and R.I.C.E., to obtain judicial bail conditions, if the youth is under the influence
of alcohol or drugs, to get the youth admitted to a program, or if the young person is a
repeat offender or before the courts. They are slightly more likely to detain for multiple
breaches or gang-related offences, and slightly less likely to detain “in the best interests
of the youth”, due to the lack of a responsible adult to take care and control of the young
person. Apart from the last difference cited, it appears that agencies with youth squads
are more likely to use detention, like the conditions of release by the OIC (see above), as
a means of addressing what they see as the criminogenic conditions of the youth’s life.
Clearly, with over three-quarters (81%) of our sample opting not to have a youth squad or
designated youth officer(s), the non-specialization model is the dominant one in Canada
today. However, this figure somewhat overestimates the degree of non-specialization. In
the case of smaller provincial police detachments (including the RCMP and OPP), as well
as some smaller independent municipal police services, it is quite common for a
Community Service Officer (CSO) to work also in a capacity similar to that of a
12
Percentages for attitude, lack of social services and to remove from prostitution, as reasons for detention,
were not included as they were too low for reliable comparisons.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
154
dedicated youth officer. The great majority of RCMP officers who are involved in precharge community-based or police-run restorative justice forums are also CSO’s. They
are actively involved with conferencing and police sponsored youth activities in the
community. The difficulty arises as these officers are not able to dedicate all of their onduty hours to deal with youth-related incidents. The majority of these CSO’s take on
youth-related issues and incidents as part of their other duties or volunteer their time
while off-duty. What this underlines is the importance of at least one dedicated person
(regardless of organization size) to be involved with youth-related incidents. This
facilitates the innovation and creativity required to establish and maintain viable
alternatives to charging reflecting the unique youth crime issues in each community.
Further, dedicated officers (and many CSO’s) actively promote the effective use of police
discretion within the organization as a whole.
There is also considerable variation within the partial and complete specialization models
in the degree of involvement that youth officers have with young offenders. Within our
sample, several large metropolitan police agencies have undergone restructuring that has
affected the scope of duties for the youth section. In all cases, the changes involved
either the disbanding of the youth section (e.g. New Westminster Police) or decreasing
the amount of overall involvement of the youth squad with all youth-related incidents
(e.g. Ottawa Police Service). For example, one agency in Ontario shifted from a
complete specialization model to a partial specialization model in the last three years.
Since these changes have taken place, everyone involved whom we interviewed agrees
that they are less effective within the new arrangements and find more youth are being
charged than before. Another large metropolitan agency in British Columbia moved
from a non-specialization model to a partial specialization model. These officers
suggested that this move has greatly improved the agency’s ability to handle youthrelated incidents.
In summary, we find that agencies with dedicated youth officers and/or youth squads use
more discretion overall. Many innovative and effective programs are developed by
dedicated youth officers and their proactive involvement with youth in the community
within a primary, secondary or tertiary capacity appears to have positive overall effects in
relation to young offenders. Higher levels of parental involvement and referrals to
external agencies have the potential to address the underlying causes of a young person’s
criminal behaviour, without the necessity of bring him or her before the court. We
witnessed an increased familiarity on the part of youth officers with their “clientele”,
even in metropolitan areas. During ride-alongs with youth officers, we observed that
they knew the names of over half of the youth whom they encountered on patrol. Youth
officers acting as follow-up and as a resource to patrol officers facilitate the gathering of
intelligence and an increased knowledge of alternatives to formal youth court. In a sense,
the existence of a youth squad – just like the existence of a homicide or armed robbery
unit - is an indication that the police service recognizes the unique nature of this
particular kind of crime, and places priority on dealing with it in the most appropriate
way.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
155
4.2 School liaison officers (SLO) and school resource officers
(SRO)
Perceptions within the police culture of certain types of work can affect police discretion
and their use of informal means to handle youth crime. The police subculture has been
recognized as becoming a barrier to new developments in policing, such as the
philosophy behind community policing (McConnville & Shepherd, 1992). Acting as a
school liaison officer may not be seen as real police work (Hornick et al., 1996). This
perception is part of the crime control model, in which “real” police work is done on the
streets. If the pejorative connotation of “kiddie cops” “permeates to the management
level, careers suffer as a result” (Hornick et al., 1996: 93).
Our data suggest that SLOs are mixed on whether their police culture respects their
positions. Some indicated that their position is a “dead end”. Others suggested that it is
seen as any other posting within the organization. In general, we found that SLOs still
suffer negatively in police culture more than youth officers.
Figure IV.9 shows the percentage of police services in our sample having each of four
types of approach to the use of SLO/SROs. 13 17% of the police agencies interviewed did
not have a school liaison/school resource officer. However, this figure may be an
overestimate, since some of these may have Community Service officers (CSO’s), who
also frequently give presentation at schools. Just under one half (44%) of the agencies
have one or more SLO officers whose duties are confined to giving crime prevention
presentations in schools (primary, elementary, and secondary). Most of the SLOs who
act as crime prevention officers within schools can be responsible for as many as 25
schools. One-quarter (25%) of the police agencies have investigative SLOs who
investigate any youth-related incidents that occur on school property, as well as giving
crime prevention presentations. A fair number of these officers have permanent offices
within their schools and tend to take care of one to two secondary schools as well as any
feeder elementary schools. In Edmonton, the SRO program is so well accepted that the
school boards pay for half of the officer’s salary. Finally, 15% of the agencies have SLO
officers who are classified as hybrids or special cars. This entails the assignment of
various patrol officers to make presentations at the local schools and, if on duty, to
respond to school-related incidents.
13
The terms School Liaison Officer (SLO) and School Resource Officer (SRO) appear to be
interchangeable. We did not see any systematic differences between their respective duties, and the choice
of title appears to be arbitrary.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
156
Figure IV.9 Functions of SLOs/SROs
50
Percentage of police services
44
40
30
25
20
17
15
10
0
None
Presentations only
Presentations and
investigation
Hybrid (special cars)
SLOs are more common, and have more responsibilities, in larger centres. Figure IV.10
shows the distribution of types of SLOs by the type of community. One-third of rural
and small town police services in the sample have no SLO, and they have fewer SLOs
who do investigation and/or work in special cars. There is little difference between
metropolitan and suburban/exurban services in their use of investigative SLOs, but
special cars are much more common in metropolitan services.
Figure IV.10 Functions of SLOs/SROs, by type of community
50
Percentage of police services
50
43
40
41
32 33
33
30
25
20
17
11
10
0
10
6
0
None
Presentations only
Metropolitan
Presentations and
investigation
Suburban/exurban
Hybrid (special cars)
Rural/small town
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
157
SLOs are also more common in independent municipal agencies, of which 90% have
SLOs of any type, and 50% have investigative SLOs. Among provincial police
detachments in the sample (including RCMP and OPP), 73% have SLOs, and only 25%
have investigative SLOs. The regional distribution of police services with SLOs is
shown in Figure IV.11.
Figure IV.11 Regional distribution of police agencies with SLOs/SROs
Percent of police services
100
90
90
94
86
80
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
38
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Police services which have a youth squad are also very likely to have school liaison
officers. Of the 17 police agencies with youth squads, 16 also have SLOs. On the other
hand, an additional 58 agencies in our sample have SLOs, but no youth squad or
dedicated youth officer. Thus, it appears that the assignment of officers as SLOs is a
distinct phenomenon – one which indicates a commitment of resources to dealing with
youth crime, but much less of a commitment than the maintenance of dedicated youth
officers.
How does the presence of SLOs in a police service affect their decision-making with
youth? It appears to have less effect than the presence of a youth squad or youth officers,
but differences still emerge regarding certain types of informal action, pre-charge
diversion, and compelling appearance.
UCR data on the proportion of apprehended youth who were charged in 1998 to 2000
suggest that the presence of SLOs, especially investigative or hybrid SLOs, slightly
reduces the use of charging with young offenders. Although investigative and hybrid
SLOs tend to be found in metropolitan agencies, which tend to have higher rates of
charging, the average proportion of youth charged by agencies in the sample with
investigative or hybrid SLOs was 62%, compared with 66% in agencies with no SLO or
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
158
crime prevention SLOs. Looking only at independent municipal forces, the proportions
of apprehended youth who were charged by agencies with no SLOs, crime prevention
SLOs, investigative SLOs, and hybrid SLOs, are 73%, 64%, 62%, and 62% respectively.
The same conclusion can be drawn from evidence from the 44 agencies in our sample
which report to the UCR2 survey. Figure IV.12 shows the distribution of the clearance
statuses of youth-related incidents reported by these agencies in 2001. Police agencies
which have SLOs, and which give more responsibilities to them, tend to have lower rates
of charging and higher rates of informal action and pre-charge diversion.
Figure IV.12 Clearance status of youth-related incidents, by type of SLO, 2001
Percentage of youth-related
incidents
90
84
79
80
73
70
65
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
16
13
8
3
0
None
Presentations only
Informal action
20
15
Presentations and
investigation
Pre-charge diversion
11
Hybrid (special cars)
Cleared by charge
Source: Incident-Based UCR Survey, 2001.
According to the interview data, there were no differences among police agencies with
the four modes of deployment of SLO14 in the use of informal action in general, informal
warnings, formal warnings, parental involvement, or taking the youth home. However,
there were some differences in responses concerning questioning the young person at
home or at the police station and referrals to external agencies. Police officers are more
likely to question the youth at home or at the police station if the organization does not
have an SLO (27%) or has SLOs limited to crime prevention presentations (38%) than if
there are investigative SLOs or special cars (14%). An interesting relationship is evident
between the type of SLOs and the use of referrals to external agencies as a form of
informal action. Police services with no SLOs are less likely to make referrals (45%)
than services that have SLOs who only make presentations (52%), SLOs who do
investigation (68%), or hybrid SLOs (80%). It is striking that agencies with special cars
reported the highest percentage of making referrals, and this confirms the conclusion
14
Including no SLO.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
159
from UCR2 data (Figure IV.12). As in the analysis of the concomitants of youth squads,
we did not find any differences related to types of SLOs in the tracking of informal
warnings.
However, as with youth squads, we also find that the presence of investigative SLOs has
an effect on the use of pre-charge diversion. Overall, organizations without SLOs are
less likely to indicate the use of pre-charge diversion (40%) than police services with
investigative SLOs (60%). Of the various types of pre-charge diversion, police agencies
with SLOs who make presentations only (18%) and investigative SLOs (27%) are more
likely to make referrals to pre-charge diversion programs run by John Howard Society
and the Boys and Girls Club than agencies without a SLO (0%). Not surprisingly,
organizations with investigative SLOs are more likely to indicate they find or would find
feedback on alternative measures useful (87%) than those with SLOs that only make
presentations (71%) and those without SLOs (55%).
There were no differences in the use of summonses; however, the use of appearance
notices appears to be related to the type of SLOs. Police services with investigative
SLOs are more likely to say that they use an appearance notice when none of the other
options apply (53%) than organizations which have no SLOs, or SLOs who only give
presentations (32%). Further, agencies with SLOs of any kind are more likely to use an
appearance notice for very minor offences (31%) than police services with no SLOs
(13%).
No differences were found in the use of PTAs, OIC undertakings or reasons to detain
until a judicial interim release hearing. The only exception is the likelihood of detaining
a young offender because s/he is before the courts. Organizations with any type of SLO
are more likely to detain a young person for this reason (31%) than police agencies with
no designated school liaison officer (7%).
In summary, police agencies which have school liaison officers, especially investigative
SLOs or special cars, appear to use less intrusive means of dealing with youth crime: they
are more likely to use informal action, less likely to lay charges, bring the youth home or
to the police station for questioning, more likely to make referrals to external agencies,
more likely to use pre-charge diversion, and more likely to use appearance notices to
compel attendance at court.
4.3
Policy and protocol for handling youth-related incidents
There are three types of policy and protocol within police agencies. “Policy” itself is the
most general and abstract. For example, a common police policy involves the articulation
of the values and mission statement. Procedures and protocols are more specific and
describe how the policies will be carried out (e.g. arrest procedures). Finally, rules and
regulations are the most concrete and specific and allow for little or no discretion (e.g.
wearing a uniform). Rules, regulations, and policy in general are discussed in Chapter V,
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
160
below. Here, we are concerned specifically with policy and protocol for handling youthrelated incidents. We could find no literature or previous research on this subject.
We asked each police service and detachment15 to provide us with copies of any policy
and procedure that dealt with young offenders. Also, during the interviews, we explored
the impact of policy and procedure on decision-making with youth-related incidents.
Just under one-half (48%) of the police services and detachments (or their headquarters)
supplied us with policies and/or protocols for handling youth-related incidents. Only
13% of the police officers whom we asked said that they found the policies and protocols
“helpful”, and only 2% said that they were “realistic”. With this in mind, we analysed
the use of discretion by those agencies that have protocol for handling youth crime. We
found differences in the use of informal action, alternative measures and the methods of
compelling appearance. One overall finding stands out in relation to all decision-making
processes: the mere presence of policy and protocol for youth crime does not appear to
have much of an effect on police decision-making; however, substantial differences are
evident between police agencies in which officers find these policies and procedures
helpful and/or realistic, and those in which they do not.
In terms of the overall use of informal action, there were no differences related to the
existence of youth-related policy or protocol, but variations related to whether officers
found it helpful and/or realistic. Police officers who find the policies helpful are more
likely than others to “usually” or “always” consider informal action with young offenders
(68% vs. 45%). 100% of officers who found the policies “realistic” said that they
considered informal action “usually” or “always”. Table IV.1 shows the differences
between police officers who find their agencies’ youth-related policies and procedures
helpful and realistic and those who do not, in the use of different types of informal action.
Table IV.1 Officers’ use of specific types of informal action, by their views on
youth-related policy and protocol
Informal warning
Formal warning
Parental involvement
Youth home/police station
Questioning home/station
1
Policies are “helpful”
No1
Yes
69%
80%
18%
36%
65%
80%
46%
68%
15%
24%
Policies are “realistic”
No1
Yes
70%
100%
20%
50%
66%
100%
48%
75%
15%
50%
Percentages are based on officers, not police agencies. “No” indicates that the officer explicitly identified
this as either not helpful or not realistic, or offered no comment. E.g. 69% of officers who do not find
youth-related policies or protocol helpful use informal action “usually” or “always”; vs. 80% of officers
who do find policies helpful.
15
In the case of OPP detachments, we also made the request to the provincial Headquarters; and for the
RCMP, to the provincial Divisional Headquarters.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
161
Police officers use every category of informal action more often if they also find the
policies and protocols for handling youth helpful and/or realistic; however, the mere
presence of policy or protocol does not have an effect on informal action (percentages not
shown). Although they are not addressing youth-related policy in particular, Skolnick
and Bayley suggest that “administrators should genuinely consider the ideas and
suggestions that street cops have about their work” when formulating and implementing
policies regarding community policing (cited in Crank, 1997: 57). By extension, it
appears that the same philosophy holds for youth-related policies. Administrators should
balance the need for rules and regulations with the ability of officers to use their
discretion (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999).
The relationship between finding policy or protocol helpful and/or realistic and the use of
informal action is also evident with respect to referrals to external agencies, the use of
alternative measures, and compelling attendance of the accused.
There was little difference in the use of referrals to external agencies if a police service
did or did not have youth protocol. Yet, if policy or protocols existed and the officers
find them helpful, they are twice as likely as those who do not to make referrals in
connection with minor and serious youth crimes (68% vs. 34%). The same is true of
officers who find youth policy realistic.
Police officers are more likely to use pre-charge diversion with youth if the police service
has policies and protocols for handling youth (63% vs. 35%). This may be related to an
increased need for procedural guidance, in order to ensure that youths who are eligible
are diverted. Police officers who found their agencies’ youth-related policies and
protocols helpful and/or realistic were also more likely to suggest that feedback on
alternative measures is (or would be) useful. There was no difference related to the mere
presence of policy and protocol. There were no significant differences between the two
groups in their use of post-charge alternative measures, presumably because the police
are not usually the referral agents for post-charge AM.
Analysis of UCR data on the percentage of apprehended youth who were charged during
1998-2000 suggests that the existence of policy and protocol for youth-related crime
makes a small difference to the overall outcome of charging.16 Agencies with policy and
protocol charged, on average, 64% of apprehended youth, compared to agencies with no
youth-related policy or protocol, which charged 66% of apprehended youth. However,
these numbers underestimate the difference, since they do not control for related
variables. When we control for the overall provincial/territorial level of charging, we
find that agencies with policy and protocol for youth have an average level of charging
which is 3% below their provincial/territorial average level, and those without this policy
16
We were unable to analyze UCR data in relation to whether officers found the policy and protocol
helpful or realistic, because these are attributes of the individual officer; whereas, the UCR data refer to an
entire policy service or detachment.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
162
and protocol have a level of charging which is, on average, 2% above their
provincial/territorial levels – resulting in a difference in level of charging of 5%.
With respect to the means of compelling appearance, there were no significant
differences related to the existence or helpfulness of youth-related policy in officers’ use
of summonses. However, police agencies with policies or written procedures for
handling youth are more likely to use an appearance notice “when none of the other
options apply” (50%) than agencies with no such documents (35%). They are also more
than twice as likely to use an appearance notice “for very minor offences” (43%) as
agencies without written policy or procedures (18%); whereas agencies without written
policy and protocols are twice as likely to “rarely” use an appearance notice (43%) as
agencies which do have written policies and procedures for handling youth (20%). The
same pattern appears in respect to officers who find the policies helpful and realistic.
Apparently, written policies and procedures which stipulate the circumstances where
appearance notices should or may be used increase the likelihood of their use.
If a young person is arrested, police officers who find their agencies’ youth-related
policies or procedures helpful and/or realistic are more likely than others to say that they
use a promise to appear in order to release a youth without detention (60% vs. 36%), if
the youth is at the police station (40% vs. 28%), or in conjunction with an OIC
undertaking (64% vs. 40%). They are also less likely to use a PTA for a minor offence.
Once again, there was no relationship based on the mere presence of policy and protocol.
Police officers in agencies with policy and protocol (and, even more so, with policies that
officers found helpful and/or realistic) are more likely to say “we follow the law” as a
reason for detaining until a JIR hearing. They are also less likely to detain for social
welfare reasons.
In summary, police services which have youth-related policies and protocols make more
use of pre-charge diversion, and of appearance notices. Many differences appear between
officers who do and do not find these policies and procedures helpful and/or realistic.
Officers who find these policies and procedures helpful and/or realistic are more likely to
use various forms of informal action, referrals to external agencies, pre-charge diversion,
and appearance notices; and to “follow the law” and not to invoke social welfare
considerations, in making detention and release decisions.
5.0
Authority and responsibility for the decision to charge
It seems self-evident that variations in the locus of the responsibility and authority to lay
charges against a young person will have an effect on the outcome of such decisions.
Since Dennis Conly’s (1978) report, describing the situation in 1976, was the last
national study of this topic, we begin by reviewing his findings.
One of the more striking aspects of juvenile justice in Canada under the Juvenile
Delinquents Act is the remarkable variety of arrangements for deciding whether a
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
163
juvenile should be charged.17 These variations arise from two distinctions: (1) whether
the police, Crown Prosecutor, or neither, made the final decision; and (2) whether the
front-line officer, Youth officer, supervisor, or a committee, made the final decision (to
charge, or recommend for charging) within the police force itself. In the provinces of
Quebec, Manitoba, and British Columbia, the final decision to charge a youth was “not
procedurally a police function” (Conly, 1978: 47). In these provinces, the police
investigated the incident, referred the case to the Crown prosecutor with their
recommendations, and then laid the charge(s) if the Crown so decided.18 Apart from this
provincial variation, in the ultimate authority to make the decision about laying charges,
each police force in the country determined who would have the authority and
responsibility within the force to decide whether to charge (or make a recommendation to
an external authority to charge) or to deal informally with the young offender. Conly
included both the internal and the external (to police) allocation of responsibility and
authority within one classification scheme.
According to Conly, the allocation of discretion varied from front-line and supervisory
responsibility to a mixed model, to external responsibility by non-police personnel. An
example of front-line responsibility in its purest form was the Toronto Police Force,
where Youth Officers completed the entire investigation from beginning to end. Some
other departments employed a partial specialization model, in which Youth Officers
might be called in to conduct a follow-up investigation and decision if the front-line
officer felt more information was needed than could be collected using regular
investigatory techniques. In some jurisdictions, the final police decision lay with the
supervisor, “based on the reports of field officers” (Conly, 1978: 47).19 In a slightly
different model, the supervisor based his or her decision on reports from the investigating
officer and either confirmed the recommendation or amended it, in consultation with the
field officer.20 However, as with the majority of factors that influence police charging,
supervisory responsibility can be viewed on a continuum. For example, in London,
Ontario, the decisions of regular investigating officers were rarely changed by
supervisors.
Alternatively, a mixed responsibility model (e.g. Quebec) involved the distribution of
authority being case-specific. In other words, in cases in which police did not wish to lay
charges, the decision rested with the front-line officer or supervisor. In those cases that
involved a strong probability of a charge, the case was referred outside the police
department.
A final model involved final authority and responsibility which were external to the
police. In these circumstances, the police responsibilities included the investigation of
the case and a recommendation to non-police personnel. For example, in St. John’s,
members of the provincial Justice Department made the final dispositional decision, and
17
This and the following paragraphs rely on Conly (1978).
Regardless of whether the police or the Crown made the decision, it was the police who laid the
information (charge(s)) with the court.
19
Conly found this to be the case in Halifax, Gloucester, Nepean and Calgary.
20
He found this the pattern in Dartmouth, Ottawa, Hamilton, Windsor, Regina, and Edmonton.
18
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
164
in British Columbia the reports were “generally sent first to the Crown for a
substantiation of the sufficiency of the evidence and then forwarded to the Probation
Office of the Family Court where a final decision in respect to charging the juvenile is
made” (Conly, 1978: 47).
In addressing this issue, we felt that clarity could better be achieved if we examined the
two dimensions – the internal police decision, and whether or not police have the “last
word” – separately. At least in 2002, under the more legalistic regime of the Young
Offenders Act, they seem to be two entirely distinct questions. The question of whether
the police or the Crown make the decision concerning laying a charge against a young
person, and its impact on the exercise of police discretion, are discussed in Chapter III. In
this section, we look the various approaches used by the police services in our sample to
the internal allocation of the authority and responsibility to lay a charge, or to recommend
a charge, if the final decision is made by the Crown.
Our findings suggest a re-conceptualization of Conly’s (1978) models of the authority to
charge, with four categories: (1) front-line autonomy, in which front-line (patrol) officers
have the authority to make the decision without review by other officers; (2) front-line
with review, in which front-line officers make the decision, or a recommendation, which
is then reviewed by another officer, such as a patrol supervisor, a member of GIS, or a
member of the youth squad, if there is one; (3) youth squad, in which the youth section,
or a dedicated youth officer, is responsible for handling youth-related cases and making
the decision to charge youth suspects, without input from patrol officers; and (4) GIS, in
which a member of the GIS (General Investigation Section, i.e. a detective) makes the
decision without input from patrol officers.
No doubt these bald categories oversimplify a complex reality. In any organization, few
decisions are made by one person acting entirely alone and without consultation; nor is
“review by a supervisor” necessarily any more than a rubber stamp procedure.
Nevertheless, our informants – whether patrol, investigator, or management – seemed
unequivocal in their views on whether the front-line officer had the authority to lay a
charge, or whether the decision lay ultimately with another officer. Figure IV.13 shows
the distribution of our sample into these categories.21
Because so few police services fit into the last two of the categories described above, the
analysis which follows includes the 97% of our sample which fell into the first two
categories.
21
Percentages are based on the 85 police agencies for which we could obtain this information.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
165
Figure IV.13 Procedural models for the authority to charge young persons
Front-line with review
61%
Youth squad
1%
GIS
2%
Front-line autonomy
36%
Front-line autonomy is much more common in smaller police services and communities:
54% of the rural and small town agencies in the sample said that the authority to charge
rests with the front-line officer, compared with 25% of suburban/exurban forces, and only
19% of metropolitan forces. Front-line officers have the authority to charge in 65% of
police services with less than 25 officers, 39% of services with 25 to 99 officers, and 8%
of those with 100 or more officers. They have authority to charge in 76% of agencies
with 1 to 3 ranks, 18% of agencies with 4 to 6 ranks, and 7% of those with 7 or more
ranks. 92% of the OPP detachments in our sample said that front-line officers have the
authority to charge, compared with 46% of the RCMP detachments, and 18% of the
independent municipal forces. The regional distribution of procedural models is shown
in Figure IV.14.
Agencies in which front-line officers have the authority to charge without review are
slightly more likely to say that they use informal action in general, and informal
warnings, parental involvement, and questioning the youth at home or the station in
particular. Front-line police officers are twice as likely to view minor offences as
incidents that should “almost always” be dealt with informally if they have sole decisionmaking power (24% vs. 12%). These findings suggest that front-line officers are more
likely to use discretion with youth if their decisions are not subject to review.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
166
Figure IV.14 Regional distribution of procedural models for the authority to charge
young persons
Percent of police services with
front-line autonomy
80
78
70
60
52
50
38
40
29
30
20
9
10
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Agencies in which front-line police officers do not have sole discretion with youthrelated incidents are more likely to make referrals to external agencies (69% vs. 39%),
and to use pre-charge diversion (61% vs. 35%), than agencies with no review of frontline decisions. This is consistent with the comments made by patrol officers during
interviews. In agencies where there is no youth section or dedicated youth officer, many
front-line personnel indicated that: (1) a pre-charge program does not exist, or (2) they do
not have the authority to refer to pre-charge diversion, or (3) they are not entirely sure
when it is appropriate to refer a youth to pre-charge diversion. Although patrol officers
seem confident of their ability to choose between informal action or laying a charge, they
tend to know less about available external resources and about alternative measures
programs than a supervisor or youth specialist. Similarly, officers in police agencies
where front-line decisions to charge are reviewed are more likely to say that they find
alternative measures effective (73% vs. 50%). This supports previous findings which
suggested that most patrol officers do not receive feedback about the outcome of
alternative measures referrals, and are not entirely sure if alternative measures are
effective with the youth whom they have encountered.
Statistical data from the UCR2 Survey on the clearance status of youth-related incidents
could, in principle, clarify the extent to which agencies with front-line autonomy and
with review use informal action and referral to pre-charge diversion. Unfortunately,
UCR2 data are available for too few police agencies in our sample to draw any
conclusions with confidence. We can analyse data from the UCR Survey to determine
the proportion of apprehended youths who are charged by police agencies with these two
types of charging procedure, but the UCR data do not distinguish between informal
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
167
action and pre-charge diversion – and the interviews lead us to expect that agencies with
front-line autonomy will use more informal action but less diversion.
In fact, the UCR data suggest that agencies with front-line autonomy tend to have higher
charge rates than those with review. Among independent municipal services, those with
front-line autonomy charged 74% of apprehended youth during 1998 to 2000; whereas
those with review of front-line decisions charged 68% of apprehended youth. Among
RCMP detachments, those with front-line autonomy charged 61% of apprehended youth,
versus a charge rate of 51% for detachments with review.22
However, these statistics are misleading, because they do not distinguish between
agencies with and without youth squads. Table IV.2 shows the charge rates for police
services, broken down by procedural model for charging, and whether or not there is
youth specialization. The analysis is done for three groups of police agencies: all
agencies for which data were available (78); agencies in metropolitan areas only (27), and
independent municipal agencies only (45). There were too few cases in other categories
to analyse with confidence.
Table IV.2 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, by the
procedural model for charging and youth specialization
All
agencies
Autonomy, with youth specialization
Review, generalist model
Review, with youth specialization
Autonomy, generalist model
% charged
60%
62%
69%
76%
Metropolitan Independent
agencies
municipal
agencies
% charged
% charged
59%
60%
70%
68%
70%
69%
80%
79%
In each case, the model which is associated with the lowest charge rates is front-line
autonomy in a police service which has youth specialists. The model associated with the
highest charge rate is front-line autonomy with no youth specialization. The other two
models produce intermediate results. The implication is that front-line autonomy results
in greater use of discretion not to charge young persons if the front-line officer has
training to deal with youth, or if the police service is committed to using discretion with
youth, as indicated by its establishment of a youth squad. If there is no youth
specialization, or commitment to special treatment for youth, then autonomy appears to
result in front-line officers using their discretion to lay charges against youth. Thus, in a
police agency without youth specialization, it is the review by another officer, whether
supervisor or GIS, which appears to moderate the tendency of front-line officers to lay
charges.
22
The comparison could not be made for OPP detachments, since all but one have front-line autonomy.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
168
There were no systematic differences between agencies with front-line autonomy, and
those with review, in the use of the various methods of compelling appearance or in most
of the reasons given to detain a young person until a judicial interim release hearing.
However, officers in agencies with review of front-line decision-making are more likely
to say that they detain in order to get judicial bail conditions (43% vs. 6%), if the young
person is before the courts (33% vs. 19%), or if the offence is gang-related (13% vs. 0%).
Also, officers in agencies with review of front-line decision-making are more likely to
say that they “almost always” charge and detain youth who are repeat offenders (43% vs.
26%) and to get release conditions (26% vs. 13%). Our data suggest that front-line
officers do refer to departmental policies regarding compelling appearance, since officers
in agencies where the front-line officer has sole discretion are twice as likely (56% vs.
26%) to cite “departmental policy” as the criterion for deciding when to charge and
detain.
Our findings concerning the impact of front-line autonomy suggest three themes. First,
the likelihood of police officers using informal action with young offenders is higher in
police services where front-line officers are autonomous, and where there is a
commitment to the use of discretion with youth. Second, agencies in which there are no
dedicated youth officers, and front-line officers decide alone on the disposition of youthrelated cases, tend to use referrals to external agencies and pre-charge diversion less, and
lay charges more, than agencies in which a supervisor or youth specialist is involved in
the decision. Finally, autonomous patrol officers appear to use less intrusive measures to
compel the attendance of a young person in court. In cases where they do detain a young
person they tend to do so as a result of stipulations within departmental policy.
These findings support arguments raised by writers on the principles of problem solving
by police, and community policing. Crank (1997) suggests that administrators should
allow the rank and file more discretion by relaxing the traditional requirement of
requesting permission and the rigid guidelines for accountability. Patrol officers, who
handle the vast majority of youth-related crime, appear to feel more free to resolve
incidents informally if they are not concerned about their decisions being overruled, or
about suffering adverse consequences because another officer felt that another action
would have been more appropriate. However, this autonomy must be accompanied by a
commitment on the part of the police service to the use of discretion with young
offenders, or patrol officers may make more use of charging than if they were subject to
review.
6.0
Policing styles: Reactive versus proactive policing
The three main patrol functions within traditional reactive policing are routine patrol,
immediate response to calls, and follow-up investigations (Cordner & Sheehan, 1999:
385-394). Reactive policing can be defined as the police responding to specific requests
from individuals or groups in the community which encompasses “immediate response to
calls” and “follow-up investigations”. However, the rationale for routine patrol is not as
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
169
straightforward. Traditional thinking suggests that the mere presence of a police vehicle
will act as a deterrent to crime (Trojanowicz et al., 2002). According to Crank (1998),
routine or random preventative patrol is by definition reactive policing. There is no
initiative on the part of the officer or the organization to target a specific area or problem
within the geographical patrol district. However, it can also be argued that routine patrol
is required in order to facilitate response in a timely manner to dispatch calls.
In contrast, proactive policing involves the “police, acting on their own initiative, [to]
develop information about crime and strategies for its suppression” (Crank, 1998: 244245). This can also be interpreted in a myriad of ways. For example, an officer
responding reactively to a dispatched call could, nonetheless, resolve the issue
proactively by mediating between the parties or using informal action. Similarly, in
contrast to routine patrol, directed patrol involves police officers being instructed to
monitor specific areas that are identified through problem or crime analysis when they
are not responding to dispatch calls (McKenna, 1998). Directed patrol is more proactive
than random preventative patrol; however, it still lacks the component of problem
oriented policing which engages the community in resolving crime issues. One
American study found that proactive policing resulted in more arrests, detention and
filing of reports than reactive policing (Seagrave, 1997). Possible reasons suggested were
the need for more forceful action to gain “legitimacy and control” as well as officers
having made a decision beforehand which prompted a proactive mobilization (Seagrave,
1997: 148). This finding appears to be counterintuitive to what one would expect when
officers employ problem-oriented policing. Thus, these findings suggest a need to
distinguish clearly between proactive mobilization and problem-oriented policing
practices (Section 7.3 below).
Figure IV.15 Style of policing by location of service
Percent of respondents
70
68
64
60
50
50
55
45
43 43
40
21
20
0
40
39
30
10
51
14
20
14
6
5
Patrol
Youth squad SLO/SRO
Mostly reactive
GIS
A bit of both
12
Management
9
Overall
Mostly proactive
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
170
We attempted to ascertain where on the continuum of “reactive” and “proactive” police
officers perceive their work in relation to youth crime. Officers’ responses fell into three
broadly defined categories: mostly reactive, mostly proactive, and a bit of both - which
includes officers who felt their work was both reactive and proactive on a fairly regular
basis. The distributions of answers given by officers serving in different assignments is
shown in Figure IV.15.
Figure IV.16 Regional distribution of styles of policing
Percent of respondents
70
63
60
4343
40
20
40
38
33
27
18
23
13
4
10
0
55
55
50
30
62
55
Territories
British
Columbia
Mostly reactive
Prairies
15
7
Ontario
A bit of both
5
Quebec
Atlantic
Mostly proactive
Just over one-half (51%) of the police officers in our sample indicated their job duties are
“a bit of both” (reactive and proactive). Many patrol officers in this category mentioned
that they may respond reactively to a call from dispatch, but wherever possible, they try
to resolve the incident in a proactive manner. They felt that, in spite of the notion that
their jobs in patrol are purely reactive, they actually do both types of policing. 39% of
GIS officers also fell into this category. They indicated that they usually lay charges;
however, they may make referrals to external agencies and they see this as a proactive
activity. 40% of the police officers indicated they are mostly reactive in their duties.
These were most likely to be in patrol or GIS. It is not the case that these officers do not
engage in proactive activities; it merely reflects the fact that they feel the majority of their
actions is reactive. Finally, 9% of the officers in our sample suggested they are mostly
proactive in the scope of their duties. As expected, these tended to be school liaison,
community service, or youth squad officers. As with those officers who characterized
their work as mostly reactive, the “mostly proactive” officers also respond reactively to
calls for service but the majority of their time is spent in proactive work.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
171
Proactive policing is more common among officers working in the Territories, Quebec,
and British Columbia (Figure IV.16).23 It is also more common in metropolitan and in
rural and small town agencies (Figure IV.17). The relatively high proportion of officers
in rural and small town police agencies who said that their work is mostly proactive is
surprising, in view of the limited resources of these agencies, and may reflect the lesser
pressure on these officers to deal with a high volume of calls for service in relation to
serious crime, or a more community-oriented style of policing. Proactive policing is also
much more common among police officers working in agencies whose jurisdiction
includes a First Nations reserve (Figure IV.18).
Figure IV.17 Styles of policing by type of community
Percent of respondents
70
61
60
50
54
44
44
40
38
36
30
20
4
10
0
9
11
Metropolitan
Mostly reactive
Suburban/exurban
A bit of both
Rural/small town
Mostly proactive
Officers who identify themselves as mostly proactive are three times as likely to almost
always consider informal action with minor offences (54% vs. 13%) and almost twice as
likely to do so with provincial offences (38% vs. 17%). This may be due to the higher
proportion of CSO and SLO officers identifying their work as mostly proactive; whereas
patrol work was characterized generally as mostly reactive or a bit of both. However,
there were quite a few patrol officers who would “almost always” consider using
informal action with minor and provincial offences. In these circumstances, they
suggested that it is an integral component of exercising their discretion with youth-related
incidents.
With respect to almost all types of informal action, there are no apparent differences
among officers whose work falls into the three types of policing style. One exception is
in the use of formal warnings. Almost half of the officers who identified their work as
23
The percentages of police services with ‘mostly proactive’ policing in Figures IV.16 to IV.18 should be
interpreted with caution, since they are based on relatively small numbers.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
172
mostly proactive use formal warnings (46%) compared to about one-quarter (27%) of
those who said a bit of both or 19% who said mostly reactive. Thus, the data suggest an
incremental increase in the use of formal warnings as officers identify their work as
progressively more proactive – or as police services encourage proactive policing.
Figure IV.18 Styles of policing by whether a First Nations reserve is in the police
agency’s jurisdiction
Percent of respondents
60
50
40
54
46
39
38
30
17
20
7
10
0
Jurisdiction over a reserve
Mostly reactive
No reserve
A bit of both
Mostly proactive
Surprisingly, we did not find any significant differences among officers identifying the
three policing styles in the overall use of alternative measures or pre-charge diversion.
However, officers who perceive their work as mostly proactive are less likely to use postcharge alternative measures (54%), compared to those whose work is mostly reactive
(86%) or a bit of both (80%). This suggests to us that officers may conceptually separate
pre-charge and post-charge alternative measures and classify the latter as a reactive
response. This may be due to the fact that officers generally do not have much of a say in
whether a young person is diverted post-charge to an alternative measures program. An
officer lays the charge, and the outcome is not under his/her control; whereas, they are
more likely to view as proactive those actions which they can control (e.g. pre-charge
diversion).
There are significant difference among officers in the three categories of work style in
their identification of any offences for which they would almost always lay a charge.
31% of police officers who identify their work as mostly proactive suggest that there are
no offences which will almost always result in a charge, compared to 9% of those that are
mostly reactive or 4% that are a bit of both. This suggests that officers doing mostly
proactive work are less likely to base their decision-making simply on the nature of the
offence.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
173
We were unable to use data from the UCR on the proportion of apprehended youth who
were charged to assess the impact of policing style on the propensity to charge, because
the UCR data are measured at the level of the overall police service, and our indicator of
policing style is measured for individual officers. There was no reasonable way to
combine individual officers’ answers concerning whether their work was mostly
proactive or reactive or a bit of both, in order to characterize the overall degree to which
an entire police service uses a proactive or reactive style.
There are very few significant differences among officers in the three categories of work
style in the methods used to compel attendance in court. Police officers are just as likely
to use a summons, an appearance notice or a promise to appear regardless of how they
define their duties. However, there are differences in the conditions which they are likely
to attach to an OIC undertaking, and the reasons which they give to detain for a JIR
hearing. Police officers who suggest their work is mostly proactive are more likely to
attach the conditions of no association or no alcohol or drugs. They were also more
likely to specify clearly the conditions which they commonly attach to undertakings.
Further, officers doing mostly proactive work are twice as likely not to detain a young
person for multiple breaches (15% vs. 30%) and not as likely to detain if the young
person is a repeat offender (15%) compared to officers whose work is a bit of both (36%)
or mostly reactive (47%). Similarly, proactive officers are less likely to “almost always”
detain a repeat young offender (8%) than those whose work is both reactive and proactive
(23%) or mostly reactive (33%). No officers whose work is mostly proactive cited “if the
youth is before the courts” as a reason to detain, compared to 17% of the officers whose
work is a bit of both and 22% whose work is mostly reactive.
Our interview data indicate that officers involved in proactive enforcement practices
within programs such as SHOP generally classify their work as mostly proactive. Thus,
the findings described above imply that these proactive programs do not necessarily
result in more charges; and tend to result in less use of detention, but more use of
conditions on release undertakings.
7.0
Support for community policing
One major shift in the orientation of policing in Canada has been the shift from
traditional to community policing. By the 1990’s, virtually every police force in Canada
had incorporated the term ‘community policing’ in their written mandates (Horne, 1992).
This is not to say that every police department in Canada has necessarily adopted the
entire philosophy behind community policing. This philosophy of policing entails an
expanded role of the police within the community, and significant internal organizational
change. There is considerable variation in practices across Canada (Hornick et al., 1996).
The variations are not only a question of whether a few new programs were adopted but
also one of confusion concerning the application and implementation of the concept of
community policing (Horne, 1992; Leighton, 1991). In short, most departments
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
174
understand what community policing is but there is little agreement as to how it should be
executed (Hornick et al., 1996).
A shift from traditional to community policing involves a change in a department’s
orientation, emphasis, community relations, geographical organization, power base, and
recruitment and training (Wood, 1996). Traditional policing adopts the crime control
model as its primary orientation. Community policing incorporates a mixture of order
maintenance and community service (Wood, 1996). The responsibility for community
relations is on every officer, instead of the traditional approach of specialized units. The
emphasis shifts from one of bureaucratic process to concrete results, and the power base
shifts from complete police control to a shared power with the community. The
jurisdictional organization (discussed in Section 2.0 above), moves from centralized to
decentralized. Most importantly, recruitment and training must be geared towards human
relations and problem solving instead of an exclusive focus on crime control (Wood,
1996). A problem-oriented policing style adopts methods such as SARA (Scanning
Analysis Response Assessment) and CAPRA24 (Clients Analysis Partnerships Response
Assessment) (Himelfarb, 1997; Hornick et al., 1996). In both cases, officers incorporate
the actions of relevant actors (victims, offenders), consider the characteristics of the
incident (social context, physical setting, and actions taken before, during, and after the
events) as well as the responses and perceptions of citizens and private/public institutions
as they apply to the problem (Bala et al., 1994). Thus, community policing has two
major components: (i) community partnerships, and (ii) problem solving (Hornick et al,
1996). Canadian police leaders have strongly endorsed community policing as the most
progressive approach (Leighton, 1991); however, the available literature does not identify
which Canadian police agencies have made a complete transition to community policing.
In order to adopt a community policing approach, a police department must create its
own community policing style, which reflects the needs of the citizens in the
communities that it serves. Normandeau & Leighton (1990) have identified the
following characteristics as essential for the success of any community policing effort:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
24
The mission of police officers as peace officers
Community consultation
A proactive approach to policing
A problem-oriented strategy
Crime prevention activities
Interagency cooperation
Interactive policing
A reduction of the fear of victimization
Development of police officers as generalists
Decentralized police management
Development of flatter organizational structures and accountability to the
community.
CAPRA, as a problem solving method, is part of every RCMP officer’s initial training program (Hornick
et al., 1996).
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
175
In short, adoption of the philosophy of community policing involves a radical change in
all elements of organizational structure and process. Finding viable alternatives to formal
processing involves focusing on the causes of the behaviour and using proactive problem
solving which finds meaningful responses that are best tailored and balanced to the youth
and his or her situation (Hornick et al, 1996). The employment of a multi-agency
approach stresses the use of community-level resources, a sharing of knowledge and a
pooling of resources and expertise in a cost-effective manner (ibid.). These elements are
all facilitated by a complete adoption of community policing philosophy. Thus, the
degree to which a police agency adopts community policing is likely to have a profound
influence on its use of informal means to handle youth crime.
Since community policing focuses on the needs of a specific community, there is no
blanket schematic approach. An approach that works in one jurisdiction may not be
applicable in another. Police officers have indicated that they lack general knowledge of
what works in given situations. In some jurisdictions, the police are very innovative in
their approaches to handling youth crime; whereas, in others they appear overwhelmed
with their workload, stating that the YOA inhibits their abilities to develop proactive
crime prevention strategies.
A recent study found that police strongly favour community policing objectives and 97%
felt that community-based alternatives to formal processing were a viable method to
impart meaningful consequences (Caputo & Kelly, 1997). However, drawbacks included
a lack of direction and meaning regarding the concept of community policing, variation
in the informal nature between jurisdictions, availability, reluctance by administrators to
reallocate resources away from traditional reactive policing functions,25 and a lack of
recognition by peers and superiors26 for crime prevention initiatives such as school-based
programming (ibid.). In short, police officers are asking for guidance on how and when
to use police discretion within a community policing policy.
7.1 The philosophical dimension: mission statements and
documented mandates and objectives
There are four dimensions of community policing: philosophical, strategic, tactical, and
organizational (Cordner & Scarborough, 1997). The philosophical aspect involves
incorporating community policing ideals (as discussed above) within the organization.
The philosophical dimension is commonly found within a mission statement and/or a
department’s mandates and objectives. Just under one-half (46%) of the police agencies
in our sample provided us with a copy of their mission statement, and one-third provided
copies of their mandates and objectives. Agencies in metropolitan areas are much more
likely to have a mission statement (70%) than those in suburban/exurban (42%) or
rural/small town jurisdictions (34%). Documentation of mandates and objectives is less
25
26
This may be facilitated in agencies which have redefined police roles and job descriptions.
Common indicators of productivity for police officers are arrest and clearance rates (Ericson, 1982).
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
176
common: 47% of metropolitan police agencies were able to provide this type of
documentation, as were 26% of suburban/exurban agencies and 26% of rural and small
town agencies.
There are striking regional differences in the availability of documentation (Figure
IV.19). Almost all of the police agencies in Ontario and over one-half in the Atlantic
currently have mission statements, compared to much lower proportions elsewhere. The
great majority of agencies in Ontario (70%) also have clearly stipulated mandates and
objectives, compared to lower proportions in the other regions (0% - 27%)27. Virtually
all of these documents contain the terminology “community policing”. However, it is
only in the other dimensions that the degree to which an agency has adopted community
policing can be identified.
Figure IV.19 Regional distribution of adoption of the philosophical dimension of
community policing
90
Percent of police services with
mission statements
90
80
70
60
56
50
40
35
30
25
20
13
10
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
7.2 The strategic dimension: policies, protocols, and allocation of
resources
The strategic dimension denotes incorporation of the ideals of community policing into
policies and protocols, as well as - crucially - the allocation of adequate resources. There
are several aspects that can be examined to assess the degree to which a police agency
has adopted the strategic component of community policing. Figure IV.20 shows the
percentage of police agencies that provided us with documentation concerning these
various aspects.
27
These stark differences are probably the result of Ontario’s Policing Standards Act.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
177
Figure IV.20: Police services which provided documentation on the strategic
dimension of community policing
Annual Report
27
Business Plan
29
14
Environmental Scan
YOA Policy
23
Handling of YOs
36
AM Policy
33
Charging Policy
24
Detention Policy
32
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40
Percent of police services
These percentages provide insight into the extent to which policies and protocols have
been adopted. Yet, even within those agencies that have established relevant policies,
protocols, and reports to the public (e.g. an Annual Report) the question remains whether
they have supported the rhetoric with adequate resources. We asked our interviewees
whether they felt that their police agency was supportive of community policing.
Answers were coded into three categories. Not supportive indicates that the police
agency does not have any community policing policy, does not provide resources for
officers to implement community policing initiatives, and management does not reward
any of these types of initiatives. Supportive - policy means that the agency has drafted
policies, protocols, and reports to the public that indicate a commitment to community
policing (for details, see Figure IV.20 above). Finally, the category supportive with
resources indicates the allocation of significant resources to community policing.
Agencies in this category have not only written down their initiatives but have also
provided adequate resources and support for the implementation and continuation of
community policing within all ranks. In a substantial number of police services, officers
whom we interviewed disagreed with one another as to the level of support for
community policing. These police services were coded multiple answers. Figure IV.21
shows the distribution of police services.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
178
Figure IV.21: Level of commitment by police agencies to community policing
Percent of police services
40
36
32
30
22
20
11
10
0
Not supportive
Supportive policy
Supportive with
resources
Multiple
answers
The data suggest that less than one-quarter of the police agencies in our sample have
implemented the strategic component of community policing. The fact that more than
one-third of the agencies fell under the category of multiple answers suggests two things
to us. First, the philosophical dimension has not been clearly articulated within all ranks
to ensure that officers have a clear idea of the mandates and goals with respect to the
implementation of community policing. Second, the assignment of dedicated community
service officers (CSO’s) in some police services increases the likelihood of conflicting
views among members of the police agency, since other officers (e.g. patrol) do not see
themselves as engaged in community policing per se.
The regional distribution of police agencies’ support for community policing is shown in
Figure IV.22.28 The strongest form of commitment to community policing – allocation of
significant resources to it – is spread fairly evenly across the regions of Canada, except
for the low levels in the Atlantic region and the Territories. Allocation of resources to
community policing is more common among metropolitan (42%) and suburban/exurban
agencies (40%), but lower, as expected, in rural and small town police agencies (26%).
28
The substantial number of police services in which officers disagreed about the level of support – coded
“multiple answers” in Figure IV.21 – are omitted from the percentages in Figure IV.22.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
179
Percent of police services which
have allocated significant resources
Figure IV.22 Regional distribution of the level of commitment by police agencies to
community policing
50
50
45
40
40
42
42
35
30
25
20
15
17
13
10
5
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Looking at the views of individual officers, rather than treating the police service as a
unit, we find that 40% of the respondents said their organization had allocated significant
resources to community policing, another 40% said it was supportive in policy only, and
20% said it was not supportive. Many of the officers who said that their organization was
supportive in policy only made it very clear that they considered this form of
commitment to be “lip service” only, which was not backed up with tangible action.
Thus, only 40% of the officers whom we interviewed felt that their organization had
made a serious commitment to community policing, in the form of the allocation of
resources. This rather undermines the claim at the beginning of this section that Canada
has witnessed a major shift from traditional to community policing.
Views of officers concerning their organization’s commitment to community policing
differ by the functional assignment of the respondent. Figure IV.23 shows that School
Liaison Officers and youth squad officers are the most likely to say that their organization
is not supportive of community policing, but SLO’s are also the most likely to say that
their agency is supportive with resources. Evidently, they have more clearly defined
views than other officers, presumably because it is the SLO’s who are most directly
involved in community policing. Youth squad officers are also less likely than others to
view their organization as supportive with resources; however, it is the patrol officers
who take the most jaundiced view of their organization’s commitment to community
policing: only 13% said there was support including resources.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
180
Figure IV.23 Views on agency’s support for community policing, by location of
service
Percent of respondents
70
60
63
60
53
50
50
40
30
20
36 36
25
Patrol
Youth squad SLO/SRO
Not supportive
40
32
30
10
10
0
29
16
13
40
38
GIS
Supportive - policy
20
13
Management
Overall
Supportive - resources
Our findings do suggest the implementation of the strategic component of community
policing affects police decision-making with young offenders. If an agency has relevant
policy and resources dedicated to community policing its members are more likely
“usually” or “always” to use informal action. No differences are apparent in the use of
informal warnings; however, agencies which are supportive with resources are more
likely to use formal warnings (44%) than those that are supportive only with policy
(30%) or agencies that are not supportive of community policing (0%). Police agencies
which have allocated resources to community policing are also less likely to question a
youth at home or the police station as a form of informal action (23% vs. 50% of other
agencies). Further, officers in these agencies are almost twice as likely to make referrals
to external agencies if the police force is supportive with the allocation of resources (80%
versus 44% of other agencies).
The level of commitment to community policing is positively related to the use of
alternative measures as a method to deal with youth-related incidents. One-quarter (25%)
of agencies that are not supportive of community policing use pre-charge diversion,
compared to almost one-half (43%) that have incorporated community policing policy,
and three-quarters (75%) of those agencies with dedicated resources. There is a similar
relationship with the likelihood that a police agency uses community based pre-charge
restorative justice programs. None of the agencies that were not supportive of
community policing used community based restorative justice diversion programs,
compared to 22% of those with supportive policy and over one-half (56%) with dedicated
resources. No differences were evident in the use of post-charge alternative measures.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
181
Table IV.3 shows the proportions of apprehended youth who were charged during 19982000, according to the UCR Survey, broken down by the degree of support of the police
service for community policing. The table is further broken down by region, in order to
control for overall regional variations in charging practices. In five of the six regions (the
Prairie provinces being the exception), the propensity to charge decreases as the level of
support for community policing increases.
Table IV.3 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, by the
level of support for community policing and region
Territories
British Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Not
supportive
Supportive policy
% charged
n/a
56%
n/a
73%
n/a
78%
% charged
61%
49%
71%
75%
47%
60%
Supportive
with
resources
% charged
43%
35%
75%
66%
45%
60%
There is no relationship between the level of commitment to community policing and the
use of appearance notices or summonses. However, there is a relationship with the
reasons which respondents gave us for the use of the promise to appear. Agencies with
dedicated community policing resources are more likely to use a promise to appear “to
release a young person without detention” (75%) than those agencies that have only
policy or are not supportive (53%). They are also more likely to use a PTA “as a higher
consequence than releasing with an appearance notice” (18% vs. 0%), or “in conjunction
with an OIC undertaking” (64% vs. 25%). There is no relationship between the degree to
which an agency has implemented the strategic dimension of community policing, and
the types of conditions which its members commonly attach to an OIC undertaking.
With one exception, we found no differences in reasons given to detain a youth for a
judicial interim release hearing. Agencies with dedicated community policing resources
are only half as likely to indicate that they detain young offenders “for multiple breaches”
(19% vs. 41%).
7.3 The tactical dimension: crime prevention programs and
problem-oriented policing (POP)
The tactical dimension in the implementation of community policing is the establishment
“on the ground” of crime prevention programs and problem-oriented policing. We asked
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
182
respondents about the degree of involvement of their agency in crime prevention, and
coded the answers into three categories. Every police service and detachment in our
sample has one or more crime prevention programs that are delivered on a relatively
consistent basis. Officers in 28% of the agencies said that their agency delivers a lot of
crime prevention programs; 34% of agencies deliver some programs, and 38% of
agencies have a little involvement in delivering crime prevention programs.
Figure IV.24 shows the regional distribution of involvement. This mirrors the regional
distribution of levels of youth crime (Figure III.9), with high levels in the Prairies and
Territories and lower levels elsewhere.
Percent of police
services
Figure IV.24 Regional distribution of the level of involvement of police services in
crime prevention programs
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
82
73
59
56
41
44
20
18
Territories
82
80
British
Columbia
Prairies
"A little" or "some" involvement
Ontario
27
18
Quebec
Atlantic
"A lot" of programs
Metropolitan (33%) and suburban/exurban (29%) police agencies are more likely than
agencies in rural areas and small towns (20%) to be involved in “a lot” of crime
prevention programs; and agencies in rural areas and small towns are more likely (48%)
to have only “a little” involvement in crime prevention than metropolitan (30%) and
suburban/exurban agencies (29%). These patterns suggest a relationship between the
perceived level of youth crime in the community and the level of involvement of the
police service in crime prevention programs. At the high end of the spectrum, however,
the relationship is actually very weak: 32% of police services in communities with “a
lot” of youth crime are involved in “a lot” of crime prevention programs, versus 26% of
services in communities with “a normal amount” of youth crime and 25% of services in
communities with “not very much” youth crime. A much stronger relationship is evident
at the other end of the continuum of involvement: 67% of police agencies in communities
with “not very much” youth crime have only “a little” involvement in crime prevention
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
183
programs, versus 38% of agencies in communities with “a normal amount” of youth
crime, and 18% of agencies in communities with “a lot” of youth crime.
Only 11% of the agencies in the sample provided us with documentation concerning their
crime prevention programs – apparently because only the larger agencies have the
financial and personnel resources to produce this kind of documentation. A small
percentage of agencies provided documentation concerning their specialized programs
such as SHOCAP/SHOP (9%), G.R.I.T. (Gang Resistance Intervention Team) (2%), and
TAPP-C (5%). 16% of our sample provided documentation outlining community
mobilization projects and ongoing problem-oriented initiatives involving community
partners. It was evident from the interviews that these figures are not indicative of the
extent that the police agencies in our sample are engaged in innovative youth programs,
and do not capture the depth of involvement in their communities of many of the
agencies in our sample.
There is considerable variation in the type of crime prevention programs in which police
services participate. The type of programs delivered may change periodically over the
years to better reflect the perceived needs of the community. For example, our
interviewees suggested that the prevalence of programs geared towards the prevention of
bullying has increased over the past three to four years. Similarly, in many organizations
officers are becoming much more involved in volunteer activities that bring them in
contact with youth (e.g. baseball games, community events). Figure IV.25 shows the
main categories of crime prevention programs which are currently being delivered by
agencies in our sample, either in schools or at other venues.
Figure IV.25: Types of crime prevention programs
Percent of police services
80
80
70
57
60
61
48
50
40
30
20
20
10
0
Drugs
Gangs
Violence
Bullying
Volunteer
activities
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
184
Figure IV.26 shows the regional distribution of police services involved in crime
prevention programs related to youth gangs. Involvement is higher in the Prairies and
Ontario, and very low in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces. Except for Quebec, this
distribution mirrors the regional distribution of identified youth gang problems: higher
levels in the Prairies, Ontario, and Quebec (Figure III.14). Indeed, police agencies in
communities with identified youth gang problems are much more likely (52%) to be
involved in gang-related programs than other police agencies (10%). Involvement in
youth gang-related crime prevention programming is also strongly related to the
perceived level of youth crime in the community: 50% of police services in communities
with “a lot” of youth crime are involved in anti-gang programs, compared with 14% in
communities with “a normal amount” of youth crime, and only 8% in communities with
“not very much” youth crime. These relationships probably explain why police services
in metropolitan areas are much more likely (40%) to be involved in gang-related
programs than agencies in suburban/exurban communities (21%) or police services in
rural areas and small towns (7%). Police services in communities with a significant
population of aboriginals living off-reserve are also much more likely (31%) to be
involved in gang-related programs than other police services (14%). However, there is
no relationship between policing a First Nations reserve and being involved in gangrelated programs: 19% of police agencies which include a reserve in their jurisdiction are
involved in such programs, compared with 20% of other police agencies.
Figure IV.26 Regional distribution of involvement by police agencies in youth gang
related crime prevention programs
35
Percent of police services
35
30
25
27
22
20
17
15
10
6
5
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
A somewhat similar pattern can be seen for police involvement in anti-violence
programs. The regional distribution of police services involved in such programs is
shown in Figure IV.27. It mirrors, approximately, the regional distribution of police
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
185
services reporting a significant problem of youth violence in their communities, with
higher levels in the Prairies and Ontario, and low levels in the Atlantic provinces (Figure
III.13). However, police services in the Territories reported relatively low levels of
serious youth violent crime (Figure III.13), but are heavily involved in violence-related
crime prevention programs. Police involvement in programs related to youth violence is
much more prevalent in communities where police have identified a problem of serious
violent youth crime: 79% of police services in such communities are involved in antiviolence programs, compared with 38% of police services in other communities.
Similarly, 73% of police services in communities with “a lot” of youth crime are
involved in anti-violence programs, compared with 52% in communities with “a normal
amount” of youth crime, and 23% in communities with “not very much” youth crime.
These relationships probably explain why metropolitan police services are much more
likely (70%) to be involved in anti-violence programs than suburban/exurban (42%) or
rural and small town police services (36%). There is no relationship between policing
aboriginal populations, either on- or off-reserve, and involvement in anti-violence
programs, which is a little surprising in view of the problem of violent crime which has
been identified in aboriginal communities (Griffiths & Verdun-Jones, 1994: 638-639; cf.
Chapter III, Section 4.2.4 above).
Figure IV.27 Regional distribution of involvement by police agencies in youth
violence related crime prevention programs
Percent of police services
70
65
60
50
57
44
40
44
33
30
27
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Does the level of involvement in crime prevention programs have an effect on police
decision-making with young offenders? The data suggest that this involvement is related
to the use of informal action, but that there are no systematic relationships between the
level of involvement in crime prevention and the use of pre- and post-charge alternative
measures or the methods used to compel attendance at court.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
186
As the level of involvement by a police agency in crime prevention programs increases,
the likelihood that officers “usually” or “always” consider using informal action also
rises. 93% of the agencies with “a lot” of crime prevention programs “usually” or
“always” consider informal action with youth-related incidents compared to 80% of those
with “some” involvement and 66% of those with “a little” involvement. The same
pattern occurs for the use of informal warnings: 100% of the agencies with “a lot” of
involvement in crime prevention programs use informal warnings compared to 94% of
those with “some” involvement and 89% of those agencies with “a little” involvement.
Officers are almost twice as likely (50%) to use formal warnings in agencies with “a lot”
of involvement in crime prevention as officers in those with “some” or “a little”
involvement (26%). Similarly, if there is “a lot” of (100%) or “some” (97%)
involvement, officers are more likely to use parental involvement as a form of informal
action than officers in agencies with only “a little” involvement in crime prevention
programs (80%). Further, the likelihood that officers will make referrals to external
agencies is also higher in agencies with “a lot” of involvement in crime prevention (75%)
than in those with “some” (61%) or “a little” involvement (52%). Not surprisingly,
officers are more likely to say that they “almost always” use informal action with minor
(22% vs. 10%) and provincial offences (24% vs. 12%) in agencies with “a lot” of
involvement in crime prevention programs than in agencies with less involvement.
The more involved a police agency is in delivering crime prevention programs, the less
likely its members are to “almost always” charge for minor or for serious offences.
Agencies which are involved in “a lot” of or “some” programs are less likely to charge
for minor offences (2%) than those with only “a little” involvement in crime prevention
programs (14%). Similarly, agencies with “a lot” of or “some” crime prevention
programs are less likely to “almost always” charge in serious offences (39%, compared
with 61% of agencies with only “a little” involvement).
Table IV.4 shows percentages of apprehended youth who were charged in 1998-2000,
according to the UCR Survey, broken down by the level of involvement of police
services in crime prevention initiatives. The percentages are also broken down by the
level of crime in the community, to control for the confounding effect of that variable.
Since levels of charging vary substantially by province, it is also desirable to control for
the individual province, but that was impossible, due to the small numbers of police
services in the resulting cross-classification. The solution which we adopted was to
calculate, for each police service, the percentage of apprehended youth who were
charged, relative to the provincial average. For example, in British Columbia, the overall
percentage of apprehended youth who were charged during 1998-2000 (in our sample) is
56% (Table II.1). Thus, if a police service in British Columbia charged 70% of
apprehended youth, it would receive a score of +14%; if it charged 60% of apprehended
youth, it would be scored as -10%.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
187
Table IV.4 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, relative
to the overall provincial level of charging, by the level of involvement of police in
crime prevention initiatives, and by the perceived level of youth crime in the
community
Perceived level of youth crime in the
community
“Not very much”
“A normal amount”
“A lot”
Level of involvement in crime prevention
“A little”
“Some”
“A lot”
% charged
% charged
% charged
-1%
±0%
+4%
n/a
-4%
+2%
+5%
-5%
-6%
Thus, in Table IV.4, in communities with “not very much” perceived youth crime, police
services with only a little involvement in crime prevention initiatives have a rate of
charging apprehended youth which is slightly (1%) below the provincial average, and
those which are involved in “a lot” of initiatives have an average level of charging which
is 5% above the provincial average.29 This suggests that, in this type of community,
involvement in crime prevention initiatives is associated with an increase in the
propensity to charge, contrary to expectations. In communities with “a normal amount”
of youth crime, police services with “a lot” of involvement have an average level of
charging which is 5% below that of services with “a little” involvement; and in
communities with “a lot” of youth crime, agencies with “a lot” of involvement have, on
average, a level of charging which is 10% lower than those with “a little” involvement.
Thus, the relationship between the level of involvement in crime prevention initiatives
and the level of charging of apprehended youth becomes greater as the perceived amount
of youth crime in the community increases.
We also asked respondents about the use of problem-oriented policing (POP) in their
police service or detachment. When discussing problem-oriented policing, we were told
by some officers that it is an outdated concept. Some of the alternatives they suggested
are “solution-oriented policing” or “intelligence-led policing”. One officer suggested that
“policing has changed from enforcement, to POP, now to community-based policing”.
We were able to obtain information about the use of POP from 85 of the 92 police
services and detachments in the sample. The answers were coded into four categories.
Front-line only refers to those agencies where front-line officers are the only individuals
who actively employ the POP model in the everyday execution of their duties.
Community policing officer only refers to those agencies in which, when respondents
were asked about POP projects, they either referred us to the CSO or indicated that only
the CSO is actively involved in using the POP model on a day-to-day basis. Front-line
and Community policing officer only refers to agencies where all front-line and the
29
There were too few agencies in the “some involvement” category to calculate a reliable percentage.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
188
community policing officer(s) are utilizing the POP model regularly. Finally, all ranks
refers to agencies where front-line personnel, community policing officers, GIS, and
management are all involved in POP to some degree. The sample is fairly evenly divided
among the four categories (Figure IV.28).
Figure IV.28: Type of involvement in problem-oriented policing
29
Percent of police services
30
26
24
25
21
20
15
10
5
0
Front-line only
CSO only
Front-line and
CSO
All Ranks
Figure IV.29 Regional distribution of the extent of adoption of the POP model
88
Percent of police services using
POP for front-line and community
policing officers, or for all ranks
90
80
70
60
55
50
46
44
40
30
18
20
10
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
189
Figure IV.29 shows the regional distribution of the extent of use of the POP model by
police services. In order to simplify the presentation, we have combined the categories
“Front-line and Community policing officer” and “all ranks” to identify police services in
which the use of the POP model is fairly widespread throughout the organization.
Evidently, adoption of the POP model is well advanced in the Prairies, and not in the
Territories or Atlantic provinces. Using the same combined grouping of police services,
in which the POP model is used by all ranks or at least by front-line and CSO officers, we
find that suburban/exurban police services are the most likely (65%) to have reached this
level of adoption of POP, compared with metropolitan (54%) and rural and small town
agencies (32%).
Police officers are more likely to “usually” or “always” consider informal action in
agencies where the front-line officers actively incorporate POP into their everyday
enforcement activities. In 92% of agencies where the use of POP is restricted to frontline officers, the use of informal action is “usually” or “always” considered, compared
with 78% of those where both CSO’s and front-line officers use POP, 77% of those in
which all ranks use POP, and 74% of agencies where its use is restricted to the CSO’s.
Similarly, if front-line officers are the only agents active in applying the POP model, they
are also more likely to “almost always” consider informal action with minor (32% vs.
11% of agencies with the other 3 models) and provincial offences (29% vs. 13% of other
agencies). They are also more likely to “almost always” consider informal action for all
offence types (45%) than those agencies where only a CSO uses POP (40%), front-line
and CSO’s (31%), or all ranks (26%). This suggests that POP has more impact when it is
used by front-line officers at the street level than in connection with specifically targeted
community projects.
The relationship between the extent of an agency’s use of POP and its use of informal
action (above) is reversed when we examine differences in the use of pre-charge
alternative measures. Agencies whose front-line officers are the only officers applying
the POP model are less likely to use pre-charge diversion (36%) than agencies in which
only CSO’s use POP (55%), front-line and CSO’s use POP (50%), or agencies where all
ranks are involved in using POP (59%). Once again, this suggests the relevance to
diversion and referral decisions of the relationship between the police service and the
community, as indicated by the involvement of CSO’s and other ranks, in contrast to the
predominant role of front-line offices in decisions concerning informal action.
Table IV.5 shows the relationship between the police service’s adoption of POP and the
proportion of apprehended youth which were charged during 1998-2000, according to the
UCR Survey. As in Table IV.4, percentages are relative to the average provincial
percentage charged. Police services in which POP is used by all ranks have a level of
charging of apprehended youth which is, on average, 4% below their provincial averages;
however, those in which POP is used by front-line officers only, or by front-line officers
and CSO’s have levels of charging which are higher than their provincial averages.
Applying controls for the level of youth crime in the community, etc., did not change the
relationship. We speculate that this unexpected result is due to the inability to
differentiate informal action from pre-charge diversion using UCR data. We noted above
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
190
that agencies whose front-line officers are the only officers applying the POP model are
less likely to use pre-charge diversion; presumably this more than offsets the
hypothesized increase in the use of informal action by these agencies.
Table IV.5 Proportion of apprehended young persons charged, 1998-2000, relative
to the overall provincial level of charging, by the extent of adoption of the POP
model
Extent of adoption of POP
Front-line only
CSO’s only
Front-line and CSO’s
All ranks
7.4
% charged
+4%
-9%
+3%
-4%
The organizational dimension : organizational redesign
Finally, the organizational dimension involves a restructuring of the organization to
implement community policing. This in turn requires a philosophical reorientation which
is easier to state than to describe. Many organizations have flattened their rank hierarchy,
implemented new promotion evaluation criteria, and dedicated officers to focus solely on
community policing issues. In our discussions with police officers we came to realize
that the organizational dimension of community policing is much more complex than the
others, and perhaps the most problematic to implement. Organizational redesign requires
that management consult with all ranks in order to implement community policing in a
manner which best suits the particular community. In several cases, police agencies had
implemented most of the components of the philosophical, tactical, and strategic
dimensions but had not (yet) revamped the organization or its underlying philosophy to
deliver community policing effectively. Organizational redesign presupposes a genuine
commitment to community policing on the part of the senior management team, which is
then translated into a wide range of organizational innovations. We judged that to
measure the extent to which this had happened in our sample of police services was
beyond the capabilities of our chosen methodology.
8.0
Summary
In this chapter, we have examined several aspects of the organizational structure and
orientation of police services, and attempted to ascertain to what extent they affect the
exercise of discretion by officers. Therefore, the findings from this chapter may shed
some light on what kinds of organizational change might produce results that are
consistent with the intent of the YCJA.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
191
Table IV.6 Summary of relationships between organizational variables and the
proportion of apprehended young persons who were charged
Factor
% charged
Size (number of officers)
1-24
25-49
50-99
100-499
500+
Specialization
Youth squad
No youth squad
SLO’s – special cars
SLO’s - investigative
SLO’s – crime prevention presentations only
No SLO’s
Policy and protocols for youth-related incidents
Yes
No
Authority and responsibility to decide re laying a charge
Autonomy, with youth specialization
Review, generalist model
Review, with youth specialization
Autonomy, generalist model
Support for community policing
Not supportive
Supportive – policy only
Supportive with resources
Involvement in crime prevention programs (in high crime communities)
A little
Some
A lot
Adoption of POP
Front-line officers only
CSO’s only
Front-line officers and CSO’s
All ranks
69%
63%
56%
67%
66%
65%
75%
62%
62%
64%
73%
-3%
+2%
60%
62%
69%
76%
56-78%
47-75%
35-75%
+4%
±0%
-6%
+4%
-9%
+3%
-4%
We have correlated information about the organization from the interviews with officers,
and from documentation which was supplied to us, with information about the use of
informal action, diversion, charging, and methods of compelling appearance. We have
also, where possible, correlated organizational variables with statistical data on the
charging of apprehended youth, taken from the UCR and UCR2 Surveys. Table IV.6
summarizes the findings from the analyses of UCR data. It is difficult to determine from
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
192
the available data the precise strength of the effect of each of these organizational
variables on police decision-making – partly because of the limitations of the data, and
partly because the variables are all interrelated. Nevertheless, we have found
relationships, of varying degrees of strength, between each of these variables (except the
size of the organization) and aspects of officers’ decision-making with youth-related
incidents.
The size of police services in the sample varied from 2 to 5,028 officers. It is difficult to
isolate its effect on aspects of organizational functioning, because it is so strongly
correlated with the size of the community which the police agency serves. Thus, any
aspects of the police service which are related to its size are equally related to the size of
its community, and are more plausibly attributed to the nature of the policing
environment than to the size of the organization itself. Furthermore, there is no
straightforward relationship between the size of the police service and the proportion of
apprehended youth which it charges, according to the UCR Survey. Fortunately, size is
the one aspect of the police organization over which management has little or no control,
so its salience in a plan of organization redesign to accommodate the requirements of the
YCJA is low.
The degree of centralization of a police organization refers to the extent to which central
management retains control of day-to-day decision-making by its divisions. In principle,
decentralization should increase the opportunities for the exercise of discretion by
individual officers. Our interview data suggest that decentralized police agencies use
more informal action, more pre-charge diversion, more Promise to Appears (PTA’s),
more conditions on release Undertakings, and more detention for JIR hearings. Analysis
of UCR data found no differences between centralized and decentralized agencies in the
level of charging of apprehended youth, when other related variables, such as the type of
policing and community, were controlled.
We measured the degree of hierarchy of a police agency by counting the number of
ranks in the police service or individual detachment. This varied between 1 and 12 ranks.
As with the size of the organization, it is very difficult in the case of police organizations
to isolate the impact of the degree of hierarchy on organizational functioning, because it
is so strongly related to the size of the organization, and, ultimately, to the size of the
community being served. Analysis of UCR data revealed no significant differences in
charging related to the degree of hierarchy, but the analysis was hampered by missing
data and the confounding effects of correlated variables. The only finding from the
interview data is that agencies with more ranks tend to use more pre-charge diversion and
more PTA’s “as a higher consequence” for the youth, but both of these findings could be
due to the type of community rather than the degree of hierarchy per se.
We examined three aspects of youth-related specialization in police forces: whether
there is a youth squad, whether there are School Liaison Officers (SLO’s), and if so, what
duties they have, and whether the organization has written policies and protocols for
handling youth-related incidents.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
193
Only 17 of the 92 police agencies in the sample have youth squads or dedicated youth
officers. These are all independent municipal police services, and 14 of them have more
than 100 officers. They are mainly located in metropolitan areas, especially in Ontario,
Quebec, and British Columbia. It is difficult for smaller police services and detachments
to dedicate one or more officers exclusively to handling youth crime. Some of these
smaller agencies have officers who specialize in youth-related incidents, but who also do
other kinds of police work. It appears that the use of youth squads and dedicated youth
officers by Canadian police services has diminished considerably since their heyday in
the 1970’s, and that this is probably largely due to financial stringencies during the
1990’s.
Our data suggest that police services with youth sections and/or dedicated youth officers
respond differently to youth-related incidents. It appears from the interview data that
police services with youth sections or dedicated youth officers make more use of parental
involvement, referrals to external agencies and pre-charge diversion, and less use of
formal charges. Analysis of UCR data confirms that the overall use of formal charges is
lower (Table IV.6), and the limited information from the UCR2 Survey suggests that the
use of informal action is greater. They are more likely to use the less intrusive methods of
compelling appearance, except that they tend to use more restrictive conditions with OIC
undertakings and are more likely to use detention, like the conditions of release, as a
means of addressing what they see as the criminogenic conditions of the youth’s life.
Many innovative programs are developed by youth officers, and they are able to involve
themselves proactively with youth in the community within a primary, secondary or
tertiary capacity. Youth officers acting as follow-up and as a resource to patrol officers
facilitate the gathering of intelligence and an increased knowledge of alternatives to
formal youth court. In a sense, the existence of a youth squad – just like the existence of
a homicide or armed robbery unit - is an indication that the police service recognizes the
unique nature of this particular kind of crime, and places priority on developing specialist
expertise in responding to it.
83% of police agencies in the sample have School Liaison Officers (SLO’s), but only
40% assign enforcement duties (response, investigation and disposition) to their SLO’s –
in the other police services, the role of the SLO is restricted to making crime prevention
presentations in schools. SLO’s, especially with enforcement duties, are more common
in larger police services, presumably because of resource considerations. UCR data on
the proportion of apprehended youth who were charged in 1998 to 2000 suggest that the
presence of SLOs, especially investigative or hybrid SLOs, slightly reduces the use of
charging with young offenders. The interview data suggest that police agencies which
have school liaison officers, especially investigative SLOs or special cars, appear to use
less intrusive means of dealing with youth crime: they are more likely to use informal
action, less likely to lay charges, bring the youth home or to the police station for
questioning, more likely to make referrals to external agencies, more likely to use precharge diversion, and more likely to use appearance notices to compel attendance at
court.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
194
About half of the sample was able to provide documentation on policies and protocols
for handling youth-related incidents and young offenders. However, only 13% of
officers found their organizations’ policies and protocols “helpful”, and only 2% found
them to be “realistic”. Analysis of UCR data shows that police services which have
youth-related policies and protocols charge, on average, 5% fewer apprehended youth.
The interview and documentary data indicate that police services which have youthrelated policies and protocols tend to make more use of pre-charge diversion, and of
appearance notices. Many differences appear between officers who do and do not find
these policies and procedures helpful and/or realistic. Those who find them helpful or
realistic are more likely to use various forms of informal action, referrals to external
agencies, pre-charge diversion, and appearance notices; and to “follow the law” and not
to invoke social welfare considerations, in making detention and release decisions.
In examining what officers had the authority and responsibility to lay a charge (or
recommend a charge, in Crown screening provinces) against a young person, we found
four models, of which only two occur with any frequency. These are: front-line
autonomy, and front-line initial decision with review by another officer(s). Analysis of
UCR data suggests that the impact of the procedural model for charging varies,
depending on whether the police service has a youth squad or not. The model which is
associated with the lowest charge rates is front-line autonomy in a police service which
has youth specialists. The model associated with the highest charge rate is front-line
autonomy with no youth specialization. The implication is that front-line autonomy
results in greater use of discretion not to charge young persons if the front-line officer has
training to deal with youth, or if the police service is committed to using discretion with
youth, as indicated by its establishment of a youth squad. If there is no youth
specialization, or commitment to special treatment for youth, then autonomy appears to
result in front-line officers using their discretion to lay charges against youth. Thus, in a
police agency without youth specialization, it is the review by another officer, whether
supervisor or GIS, which appears to moderate the tendency of front-line officers to lay
charges. The interview data suggest three themes. First, the likelihood of police officers
using informal action with young offenders is higher in police services where front-line
officers are autonomous, and where there is a commitment to the use of discretion with
youth. Second, agencies in which there are no dedicated youth officers, and front-line
officers decide alone on the disposition of youth-related cases, tend to use referrals to
external agencies and pre-charge diversion less, and lay charges more, than agencies in
which a supervisor or youth specialist is involved in the decision. Finally, autonomous
patrol officers appear to use less intrusive measures to compel the attendance of a young
person in court. In cases where they do detain a young person they tend to do so as a
result of stipulations within departmental policy.
We assessed the impact of proactive versus reactive policing in relation to individual
officers, rather than trying to characterize an entire police service. 40% of officers said
their work was mostly reactive, 9% said it was mostly proactive, and 51% said that their
work involved “a bit of both”. Officers whose work is mostly proactive are more likely
to use informal action, less likely to use formal charges, less likely to detain youth for a
JIR hearing, but more likely to use more intrusive conditions on release Undertakings.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
195
We did not analyze UCR data in connection with this variable, since the UCR data are
measured only at the level of the entire police service, not the individual officer.
Community policing can be seen as having four dimensions: philosophical, strategic,
tactical, and organizational. We attempted to assess the impact on decision-making of
the extent of adoption of the strategic and tactical dimensions.
The strategic dimension of community policing comprises the adoption and public
promulgation of written policies and protocols for all aspects of policing, and the
allocation of significant resources to community policing. According to the officers
whom we interviewed, 22% of the police services in the sample have implemented the
strategic dimension by allocating significant resources to community policing. This is
considerably less than “virtually every” police force in Canada, which, according to
Horne (1992) had adopted the rhetoric of community policing. Analysis of UCR data
suggests that police services which have allocated resources to community policing have
lower charge rates than those which have not. Analysis of the interview data suggests
that police services which have allocated resources to community policing use more
informal action, make more referrals to external agencies, use more pre-charge
alternative measures, and more PTA’s to avoid detaining the youth, or “as a higher
consequence” for the youth.
The tactical dimension of community policing includes involvement in crime prevention
programs and the adoption of the problem-oriented policing (POP) model. Every
police agency in the sample is involved in crime prevention programs, but the degree of
involvement varies considerably. Analysis of UCR data suggests that agencies with a
higher level of involvement in crime prevention programs tend to have a lower rate of
charging, especially in communities with high levels of youth crime. The interview data
suggest that more involvement in crime prevention programs is associated with more use
of informal action. Adoption of the problem-oriented policing (POP) model does not
appear to have a large impact on decision-making with youth. Analysis of the interview
data suggests that if the POP model is used by front-line officers (i.e. is not “ghettoized”
by assigning it only to Community Service Officers), then there is more use of informal
action; however, if POP is used only by CSO’s, then there is more use of pre-charge
diversion. Results of analysis of UCR data suggest that charge rates are lower in police
agencies in which the POP model is used by CSO’s only, or by all ranks; however, the
UCR data are not illuminating for variables which have an effect in one direction for
informal action and in the other direction for pre-charge diversion, since the UCR
combines the two phenomena, and in doing so, conflates their opposite effects.
The data which we have analyzed in this chapter suggest that police services which want
to increase their use of informal action and of pre-charge diversion, and to reduce the use
of intrusive methods of compelling appearance, might consider any of the following
measures: wholehearted adoption of the community policing model, in all its
dimensions, including a fundamental organizational redesign and philosophical
reorientation, the allocation of significant resources to community policing, increased
involvement in crime prevention programs, especially in high-crime communities, and
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
196
the adoption of the POP model by all ranks; creation of a youth squad, or at least one or
more officers who specialize in youth crime; adoption of explicit policies and protocols
for handling youth crime and young offenders; provision of training in handling youth
crime to all front-line officers, and then allowing them to have autonomy in deciding how
to dispose of youth-related incidents; assigning investigative and enforcement functions
to SLO’s who currently are limited to making presentations in schools; increasing the use
of proactive policing; and decentralizing decision-making in the organization.
Police discretion with young offenders
IV. Organizational factors affecting police discretion
197
V.
Situational Factors Affecting Police Discretion
In this chapter, we assess the impact on police decision-making with young persons of
factors specific to the individual incident and the apprehended youth. Circumstances of
the incident which we examine include: the seriousness of the crime, as indicated by the
type of offence, the presence or use of a weapon, and the harm done to a victim; victimrelated circumstances, including the expressed preference of the victim for a particular
course of action by police, the type of victim (person or business), and the relationship, if
any, between the victim and the offender; accomplice-related aspects, including whether
there were accomplices, whether any was an adult, and whether this was apparently a
gang-related crime; whether the apprehended young person was intoxicated at the time of
the incident; and the location and time of day of the incident. We examine the following
characteristics of the apprehended youth: his or her prior record of criminal activity, age,
gender, race, demeanour, any delinquent peer group or gang affiliation, home and school
situations, and the involvement of the parents.
For each of these possible influences on police decision-making, we have tried to assess
its impact in two ways. First, in our interviews with police officers, we asked all officers
who were currently, or had recently been, involved in decision-making with apprehended
youth, to what extent each factor had an impact on their decision whether to use informal
action, refer to alternative measures, or lay a charge (or recommend the latter actions, if
the decision was not theirs). At least one officer from each police service in the sample
was asked these questions. In smaller police services and detachments, where we
interviewed only one or two officers, the current assignments of the persons who
answered these questions ranged from patrol to commanding officer, but all were
currently, or had recently been, directly involved in decision-making with youth. In
larger police services, where we interviewed between two and seven officers, these
questions were not posed to senior management, since they had generally not been
involved in this kind of decision-making for several years or more.
The answers for each factor were coded on a Likert scale, ranging from “major factor” to
“not a factor”. A major factor indicates that the officer takes this factor into
consideration practically every time s/he decides whether to charge, use alternative
measures, or deal with a young person informally. A factor indicates that this factor does
play a role in decision-making, but does not carry as much weight as a major factor, and
is not necessarily considered in every case. A minor (secondary) factor denotes an
answer to the effect that the factor sometimes plays a role; however, its impact is casespecific. We also coded a factor as minor (secondary) when an officer said that it plays a
role, but in a secondary manner, in conjunction with other factors; thus, it does not have a
primary or independent impact on decision-making. Finally, the answer was coded as not
a factor if the respondent clearly stated s/he never considered this factor in his or her
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
198
decision-making. In some cases we have reported these categories combined into “not a
factor/ minor factor” and “factor/major factor”.
For each of these factors, we provide an overall assessment of its weight in the police
decision concerning the disposition of the incident and offender, and any variations in the
weight given to it by our respondents. We looked for variations across the regions of
Canada, types of community, whether or not the police service’s jurisdiction includes a
First Nations reserve or a significant number of aboriginals living off-reserve, the level
and types of youth crime in the community, the type of policing, whether the police or the
Crown make the decision concerning charging, and officer characteristics such as the
level of authority in the police organization, the location of service (patrol, GIS, youth
squad, etc.), gender, years of service, specific training for youth crime, and previous
youth squad experience.
Occasionally, respondents volunteered that a factor also affects their decision-making
concerning the method of compelling appearance, and this is noted where appropriate.
However, a detailed analysis of the decision-making around compelling appearance is in
Chapter II, Section 7.
In contrast with Chapters III and IV, where the police service or detachment was the unit
of analysis, our unit of analysis here is the individual police officer, and his or her views
concerning the factors which affect the exercise of his or her discretion.1
The second method which we used to assess the impact of situational factors on police
discretion was multivariate analysis of statistical data from the UCR2 Survey. The data
which we analysed include 38,727 young persons apprehended in 2001 by 186 municipal
police services and provincial police detachments which respond to the UCR2.2 For each
apprehended young person, the decision which we analysed (i.e. the dependent variable)
was the police disposition: whether the young person was charged (or recommended to
be charged in Crown screening jurisdictions) or processed otherwise (i.e. by informal
action or referral to alternative measures, although these two actions are unfortunately not
distinguished in the available data). The factors whose impact were analysed include:
the type of offence (using grouped Criminal Code classifications), the number of prior
apprehensions of the youth, the youth’s age, sex, and race (aboriginal or not), whether the
incident involved a lone offender or accomplices, any weapon present, any injury
suffered by a victim, and any relationship between a victim and an apprehended person.
Using multivariate analysis, the impact of each factor was assessed, while holding other
related factors constant; also, the relative weight of the various factors was estimated.3
1
Actually, the unit of analysis is the interview; where more than one officer participated in an interview,
we coded the responses as though they represented the views of one individual.
2
Details of the subset of police services are in the Methodological Appendix. For more information on the
methodology and data quality issues of the UCR2 Survey, see, e.g., Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics,
2002a.
3
Details of the statistical analysis are given in the Methodological Appendix.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
199
This statistical analysis is similar to that used in a previous study of police discretion with
young offenders in Canada in 1992-1993 (Carrington, 1998a), but there are two
innovations. One is the use of UCR2 data for 2001. Not only are these data more recent,
but they include substantially more police services than were included in the UCR2
Survey during the period of the earlier study. However, the more important innovation is
the inclusion of the young person’s record of prior contacts with the police
(apprehensions) as an independent variable. Although this information is not captured in
UCR2 records, it was constructed by a record linkage project carried out by the Canadian
Centre for Justice Statistics especially for this project. The method of construction of the
prior record variables is described in the Methodological Appendix.
Each of these two sources of data – opinions of police officers provided in interviews,
and statistical data from the UCR2 Survey – has its own strengths and weaknesses, which
are discussed in the Methodological Appendix. One major drawback of the UCR2 data is
that several factors which have been identified in the literature as having an impact on
police discretion with young offenders are not captured in the UCR2 Survey. These are:
the victim’s expressed preference concerning the disposition of the incident, whether the
incident was gang-related, the young person’s demeanour, home and school situations,
gang or delinquent peer group affiliations, and the level of involvement of the parents.
Therefore, we must rely on officers’ opinions concerning the impact of these factors.
Furthermore, many of the variables which we used to look for variations in the impact of
factors – such as the characteristics of the officer making the decision, and of the police
service in which s/he works – are also not available in the UCR2 Survey; so, our
assessments of impact based on the UCR2 data are not differentiated by these variables,
as the results from the interview data are.
1.0
Background
Analysis of the impact of situational factors on the exercise of police discretion with
young offenders is a time-honoured tradition in criminology. The classic study of the
“police encounter” with the juvenile suspect is that of Black & Reiss (1970), which was
replicated by Lundman et al. (1978). Both studies found that the probability that the
encounter will result in the arrest of the juvenile is strongly related to the legal
seriousness of the crime, the preference of the complainant, the presence of “situational”
(i.e. readily available) evidence, and the suspect’s demeanour. Both studies underlined
the pivotal role of the complainant, who is simultaneously: (a) the instigator of the
“incident”, since it is normally s/he who first defines an event as a criminal matter by
calling the police; (b) the member of the public who, as the victim, has the principal
interest in the disposition; and (c) the primary – often the only – source of evidence
concerning the incident. Thus, if there is a complainant, and s/he does express a
preference, it is given a great deal of weight by the patrol officer, who often “abdicates
his discretionary power to the complainant” (Black & Reiss, 1970: 72).
These studies are noteworthy as much for a couple of factors which were not found to
play a role in police discretion as for the factors which did. First, although black youth
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
200
were more likely than white youth to be arrested, both studies concluded that this was not
an effect of racial bias by police, but was explained by the preferences expressed by the
(black) complainants for arrest of (black) suspects, versus preferences expressed by white
complainants for leniency with white suspects (there were few mixed-race incidents).
Second, the juvenile’s prior record, which is a major factor in sentencing, was not
considered by the researchers, and presumably did not present itself as a factor, because,
according to the authors, the studies concerned “encounters” between patrol officers and
suspects “in the field”: patrol officers in that era generally did not have access to the
juvenile’s record, and, furthermore, were only deciding whether to arrest, not whether to
charge (refer to juvenile court)(Black & Reiss, 1970: 68-69).4 This is a crucial point with
respect to the applicability to the Canadian context of foreign – especially American –
research on police discretion with juveniles. Much of the American research, following
Black & Reiss, concerns the decision made by a patrol officer in the field whether to
arrest; whereas, Canadian researchers are generally more interested in the determinants
of the decision to lay, or recommend, a charge. As Black and Reiss themselves point out,
the decision whether to refer to court (i.e. lay a charge, in the Canadian context) is a
“prosecutorial” (sic) decision which, in the police departments that they studied, was not
made by patrol officers, but by youth bureau officers, working in their offices, and
probably more oriented toward the expectations of the juvenile court than the immediate
situation on the street (1970: 68-69).
Subsequent (and previous) American and British researchers5 have found broadly similar
results: the police decision concerning the disposition of a youth-related incident is
affected by (in approximate order of importance):6
4
•
Offence seriousness: police exercise much more discretion in minor cases (Black
& Reiss, 1970; Fisher & Mawby, 1982; Gaines et al., 1994; Krisberg & Austin,
1978; Landau, 1981; Lundman et al., 1978; Piliavin & Briar, 1964; Terry, 1967;
Werthman & Piliavin, 1967);
•
Prior record (of police contacts and/or convictions): is very influential in the
decision to refer the youth to court (i.e. lay a charge), but also in the decision to
arrest, if it is made by a youth officer who has access to the prior record; whether
or not it led to charges or a conviction, contact with police labels a youth as a
probable delinquent, increasing the probability of formal treatment on subsequent
contact (Cicourel, 1968; Cohen & Kluegel, 1978; Fisher & Mawby, 1982;
Landau, 1981; Lattimore et al., 1995; Morash, 1984; Piliavin & Briar, 1964;
Terry, 1967);
Similarly, “the age status of a suspect [i.e. whether s/he is legally a juvenile] may even be irrelevant in the
field” (Black & Reiss, 1970: 69).
5
The limited Canadian literature on police discretion with juveniles is reviewed below, under the separate
topic headings.
6
The following review draws on Bynum & Thompson (2002: 366-375), Whitehead & Lab (1999: 190-194)
and other sources cited in the text.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
201
•
Demeanour: an officer is more likely to arrest a juvenile suspect who is hostile,
uncooperative or disrespectful, partly because of the necessity of establishing and
maintaining control of the situation in the street; partly because officers and
young people, especially males, place great weight on maintaining “respect”; and
partly because in many cases the officer depends on the co-operation of the
suspect to learn “what happened”, and what the suspect’s role was; on the other
hand, some researchers have found that “unusually respectful” juvenile suspects
are also more likely to be arrested, as their demeanour invites suspicion (Black &
Reiss, 1970; Brown, 1981a; Cicourel, 1968; Hohenstein, 1969; Lundman, 1994,
1996a, 1996b; Lundman et al., 1978; Morash, 1984; Smith & Visher, 1981;
Winslow, 1973; Worden & Shepard, 1996); Piliavin & Briar (1964) found that
demeanour was the most important factor in police discretion with juveniles, and
Fisher & Mawby’s (1982) research in Britain found that an attitude of remorse, or
lack thereof, was the most important factor in police decisions regarding
cautioning of 10-13 year olds;
•
Complainant preference: as Black & Reiss (1970) found, if there is a complainant,
s/he plays a crucial role, as both audience and main supporting actor, in the
officer’s disposition of the incident; and if the complainant expresses a
preference, the officer will take it very seriously (Hohenstein, 1969; Lundman et
al., 1978; Smith & Visher, 1981);
•
Race: some researchers, such as Black & Reiss (1970), Lundman et al. (1978),
and Wilbanks (1987) argue that the race of the suspect plays no role in the
decision to arrest, once the complainant’s role and/or the offence seriousness are
taken into account; however, the majority of writers have found evidence that
police respond to the race of the suspect (Black, 1980; Dannefer & Schutt, 1982;
Fagan et al., 1987; Goldman, 1963; Huizinga & Elliott, 1987; Krisberg & Austin,
1993; Landau, 1981; Landau & Nathan, 1983; Lundman, 1996a; Miller, 1996;
Piliavin & Briar, 1964; Pope & Feyerherm, 1993; Reiner, 1997; Smith & Visher,
1981);
•
Age: apart from the obvious effect of the suspect’s age in determining whether
s/he is legally a child, youth, or adult, research has found that police tend to treat
younger juveniles more leniently than older juveniles; younger youth are seen as
immature and out to test limits; older youth may be virtually indistinguishable
from adult offenders (Fisher & Mawby, 1982; Goldman, 1963; Landua, 1981;
Landau & Nathan, 1983; McEachern & Bauzer, 1967; Morash, 1984; Terry,
1967);
•
Gender: some writers have argued that the belief that girls commit fewer and less
serious crimes than boys has led to a higher probability that officers will handle
female youth crime informally (Morash, 1984), and more leniently (Armstrong,
1977; Chesney-Lind, 1977). Treating girls more leniently has also been attributed
to the “chivalry” effect: that predominantly male police officers and other system
agents adopt an attitude of benevolent paternalism toward girls, but not to boys.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
202
Other research demonstrates that police are more likely to respond harshly to girls
involved in minor offences (e.g. shoplifting), but less harshly than to boys, when
more serious offences are involved (Teilmann & Landry, 1981); and that police
respond more harshly to girls involved in crimes, such as prostitution, which
offend paternalistic stereotypes (Armstrong, 1977; Chesney-Lind, 1977, 1988;
Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1992; Terry, 1967);
•
Attitude of the parents, or legal guardians: “…when parents can be easily
contacted by the police and show an active interest in their children and an
apparent willingness to cooperate with the police, the likelihood [of informal
treatment] is much greater” (Bynum & Thompson, 2002: 374; see also Goldman,
1963); on the other hand, if the youth appears to lack responsible adult
supervision, s/he is seen as a poor candidate for informal action (Landau &
Nathan, 1983).
The limited Canadian literature on police discretion with juveniles is reviewed below,
under the separate topic headings. Canadian research has identified some additional
factors affecting police discretion: the relationship of the victim and the apprehended
youth; the presence and type of accomplices; whether the apprehended youth was under
the influence of alcohol or drugs; the location and time of day of the incident; and the
“gang” affiliation, if any, of the apprehended youth. These additional factors are
addressed in our research. The situational factors which we consider in this chapter are
presented in two groups: first, circumstances of the incident, then, characteristics of the
apprehended youth.
2.0
Seriousness of the crime
There is a consensus in the literature on police discretion that the seriousness of the
(alleged) offence is the most important situational factor affecting the exercise of police
discretion with youth (Caputo & Kelly, 1997; Carrington, 1998a; Doob, 1983; Doob &
Chan, 1982; Statistics Canada, 1999). As the seriousness of the offence increases, the
likelihood of the exercise of discretion tends to decrease. Police officers appear to agree
that many youth involved in minor crimes should be dealt with informally or a referral to
a pre-charge diversion program (Caputo & Kelly, 1997). However, police perceptions of
“minor” and “major” crime may vary across police services and across individual
officers. Furthermore, the relationship between “seriousness” and the likelihood of
charges being laid against an apprehended youth is not entirely straightforward; for
example, offences against the administration of justice and possession of stolen property
have higher charge rates than major assaults and drug trafficking (Chapter II, Table II.2
above; cf. Carrington, 1998a).
Apart from the Criminal Code classification of the offence, police perceptions of the
seriousness of an offence have been found to be related to the use or presence of a
weapon, and the degree of harm done, whether to the person or property of a victim. The
presence of a weapon in a violent incident usually results in the incident being classified
as involving an indictable, rather than a (less serious) hybrid offence. In his multivariate
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
203
statistical analysis of UCR2 data for 1992 and 1993, Carrington (1998a) found that the
presence of a weapon ranked third in importance among the thirteen situational and
offender-related factors which he considered, and this was largely independent of
whether or not a victim suffered injury. The value of the property involved and the level
of injury (if any) to a victim had only moderate to low effects on the likelihood of
charging: they ranked ninth and tenth among thirteen factors (Carrington, 1998a).
We asked officers whether the “seriousness of the offence”, the presence or use of a
weapon, and the extent of harm done to person or property play a role in their use of
discretion with young persons. Table V.1 summarizes their answers.
Table V.1 Effects of offence seriousness, use or presence of a weapon, and harm
done, on police decision-making
Seriousness
Presence of weapon
Harm done
Not a Factor
0
<1%
0
Minor Factor
0
<1%
0
Factor
2%
9%
12%
Major Factor
98%
90%
88%
N
128
116
116
Our respondents answered almost unanimously (98%) that they take the seriousness of
the offence into account every time they deal with a youth-related incident. The large
majority of officers indicated that the seriousness of the offence is the first factor they
take into consideration in their decision-making. Further, in some cases, all other factors
are considered to be secondary to the seriousness of the offence. These results confirm,
once again, the consensus in the literature. However, since we did not go into detail with
respondents about how they defined “seriousness”, our findings on this issue share the
lack of precision, and, to some extent, circularity, characteristic of many surveys of
police views: respondents cite seriousness almost by definition as the principal factor in
the decision to charge, and are not required to confront the contradictions implied by
statistical evidence that some relatively “non-serious” offences such as bail violations and
possession of stolen property have very high charge rates.
Table V.2 shows the percentage of apprehended young persons who were charged, by
offence category, in the subset of police services included in our UCR2 analysis. The
first column shows the actual percentage charged. Clearly, the type of offence has a
large influence on the probability of a charge being laid: a youth apprehended for
mischief or arson has a one in three chance of being charged; those apprehended for
major offences against the person and offences against the administration of justice are
almost sure to be charged. As we mentioned in Chapter II, these percentages suggest that
the probability of charging is not related in a simple way to the “seriousness” of the
offence, unless one believes that failure to appear in court, provincial traffic violations,
etc. are exceeded in seriousness only by murder.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
204
Table V.2 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by offence, Canada (parts),
2001
Offence category
All offences
Murder, attempt
Fail to appear
Provincial traffic
Bail violation
Young Offenders Act
Breach probation
Provincial liquor
Drinking-driving
Escape/UAL
Robbery
Dangerous operation of MV
Assault & sexual assault level 3
Possess stolen property
Indictable drug (trafficking, etc.)
Miscellaneous indictable person
Assault & sexual assault, level 2
Theft over
Weapons & explosives
Misc. provincial offences
Misc. Criminal Code traffic
Fraud
Sexual assault, level 1
Break & enter
Assault, level 1
Misc. summary & hybrid person
Miscellaneous
Summary & hybrid drug
(possession)
Theft under
Mischief
Arson
% charged
N
Adjusted % charged
N
%
56
38,727
%
52
30,812
100
99
98
97
97
93
91
90
88
86
86
85
81
74
74
72
71
62
61
58
57
57
55
53
49
44
40
27
422
822
1,459
650
347
1,827
172
311
732
95
52
1,305
1,061
151
1,239
581
403
894
62
611
412
2,183
3,758
1,619
1,151
3,052
74
720
72
67
72
63
57
46
50
55
47
61
48
47
56
38
38
1,285
1,014
146
1,201
563
399
839
51
583
367
2,034
3,601
1,505
1,071
2,751
39
33
31
9,961
3,052
316
39
33
37
9,569
2,836
277
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
The second column of percentages (“adjusted percentages”) shows the result of a
multiple regression analysis, in which the percentages are adjusted to remove the
confounding effects of related factors, such as the youth’s age and prior apprehensions.
These are the percentages of youth apprehended for each category of offence who “would
have been charged if everything about the offence and the offender were the same, except
for the type of offence”. For example, 86% of youth apprehended for robbery were
charged, but the adjusted percentage is only 74%. This is because robbery tends to be
committed by older youth with more prior apprehensions, etc., and these factors make
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
205
robbers more likely to be charged; but 74% would have been charged if robberies were
committed by youth who were of average age and with an average number of prior
apprehensions, etc.7
Table V.3 Proportion of each age group apprehended, by offence category, Canada
(parts), 2001
Type of offence
Robbery
Possess stolen property
Indictable drug
(trafficking, etc.)
Misc. indictable person
Assault & sexual assault,
level 2
Theft over
Weapons & explosives
Misc. provincial
offences
Misc. Criminal Code
traffic
Fraud
Sexual assault, level 1
Break & enter
Assault, level 1
Misc. summary &
hybrid person
Miscellaneous
Summary & hybrid drug
(possession)
Theft under
Mischief
Arson
Total
12
%
1.1
2.1
0.6
Age of the apprehended youth
13
14
15
16
%
%
%
%
1.5
2.0
2.2
2.6
3.4
3.5
4.7
4.9
1.8
2.3
3.0
4.0
17
%
3.3
4.5
5.2
0.2
3.5
0.4
3.2
0.4
3.3
0.4
3.8
0.4
4.3
0.7
4.6
0.5
0.9
0.8
0.8
1.0
1.5
1.6
0.9
2.1
1.9
1.3
2.7
2.4
1.4
3.2
2.2
1.7
3.9
0.0
0.0
0.1
0.1
0.2
0.4
0.5
2.6
5.6
15.6
4.6
0.6
1.9
4.8
12.5
5.4
1.2
1.6
6.2
12.0
4.7
1.3
0.9
7.3
12.1
5.3
2.1
0.9
7.0
11.1
4.6
3.8
0.7
7.1
10.1
4.7
2.9
2.5
2.5
5.8
3.3
7.7
3.1
9.6
3.8
11.0
4.3
10.7
39.2
14.6
1.9
100.0
38.0
13.2
1.4
100.0
36.8
9.3
1.1
100.0
31.1
8.3
1.1
100.0
27.9
7.7
0.5
100.0
23.9
7.8
0.5
100.0
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
Evidently, a considerable amount of the variation in charging rates for different types of
offences is due to related factors, since the range of variation is narrowed considerably
when the influence of other related factors is statistically controlled. The main related
factors are the youth’s age and prior record, which are both discussed below. Older
youth commit more serious offences and have accumulated a longer record of police
7
Some offence categories were omitted from the multiple regression analysis because there were too few
youths in the “not charged” group for reliable statistical analysis; also, a few youth in each category were
excluded because, according to the UCR2 Survey, the reason why they were not charged was not police
discretion but some other factor beyond the control of police.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
206
apprehensions. Thus, part of the reason why some offences are charged in relatively high
proportions is that they are committed by older youth with longer prior records. Robbery
and the more serious property offences (e.g. break and enter, possess stolen property,
theft over) are examples (Tables V.3, V.4). When we control statistically for these
related factors, the charge rate for these offences is reduced. On the other hand, arson
and level 1 sexual assault tend to be committed in higher proportions by younger youth,
with fewer prior apprehensions, so the charge rate increases when these related factors
are statistically controlled.
Table V.4.
Proportion of apprehended youth, by type of offence and number of
prior apprehensions, Canada (parts), 2001
Type of offence
Robbery
Possess stolen property
Indictable drug (trafficking, etc.)
Misc. indictable person
Assault & sexual assault, level 2
Theft over
Weapons & explosives
Misc. provincial offences
Misc. Criminal Code traffic
Fraud
Sexual assault, level 1
Break & enter
Assault, level 1
Misc. summary & hybrid person
Miscellaneous
Summary & hybrid drug (possession)
Theft under
Mischief
Arson
Total
0
%
1.5
3.5
3.2
0.4
3.6
1.2
1.1
2.1
0.2
1.6
1.3
4.9
11.2
4.4
3.3
9.8
36.4
9.3
1.1
100.0
Number of prior apprehensions
1
2
3-4
%
%
%
2.2
4.1
3.8
0.5
3.7
2.1
1.6
3.6
0.2
2.2
1.0
7.4
13.0
5.3
3.4
8.7
26.1
10.3
0.9
100.0
3.6
4.9
2.6
0.5
4.3
2.3
1.6
3.1
0.1
1.8
1.3
8.5
13.3
6.6
3.5
8.3
24.3
8.6
0.9
100.0
4.0
4.8
4.1
0.6
4.2
2.9
1.8
4.2
0.3
2.4
0.8
9.7
13.2
6.4
3.5
7.4
20.3
8.9
0.4
100.0
5+
%
5.6
7.9
3.1
0.8
5.6
4.6
1.2
3.6
0.1
2.9
1.0
12.3
10.0
4.7
4.6
5.4
19.0
7.5
0.3
100.0
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
2.1
Presence of a weapon
Our respondents were also virtually unanimous that the presence of a weapon in the
commission of the crime had a major effect their decision-making with young persons.
Many officers indicated that they take the use of weapons very seriously, due to the
potential of increasing the harm done to victims. The only variations in weight given to
weapons were in relation to the type of community and the level and type of youth crime
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
207
in the community. Officers in rural areas and small town jurisdictions are most likely
(96%) to rate the presence of a weapon as a major factor in their decision-making; those
in suburban/exurban areas (90%) and metropolitan areas (83%) are less likely. We
speculate that the reason for this gradient is that the higher number of incidents involving
weapons in suburban/exurban and metropolitan areas has had a slightly desensitizing
effect.
Officers in communities with a “normal amount” of youth crime were most likely (93%)
to say that the presence of a weapon is a major factor in their decision-making; those in
communities with “a lot” of youth crime were slightly less likely (86%), and those in
communities with “not very much” youth crime were least likely (73%). Officers were
slightly less likely to see a weapon as a major factor in their decision-making if they
worked in a community with an identified problem with serious property crime (86%
versus 94% of officers in other communities), a youth gang-related crime (84% versus
91%), or drug-related youth crime (86% versus 95%). They were much less likely to see
a weapon as a major factor if they worked in a community with a youth prostitution
problem (44% versus 93%).
Table V.5 shows the proportion of apprehended youth in the UCR2 data who were
charged, by the presence and type of weapon. The UCR2 records information about
weapons only in incidents involving an offence against the person; thus there are only
small numbers of youth in this analysis. The use of a weapon, especially a firearm
(which is rare) during the commission of a youth crime greatly increases the probability
of charging, even when other relevant factors are controlled. The percentage charged for
incidents involving a firearm is substantially reduced when other related factors are
controlled, because the presence of a firearm usually results in the classification of the
offence as a serious indictable offence; therefore much of the impact of this variable is
already accounted for by the variable, “(legal) seriousness of the crime” (Section 2.0,
above).
Table V.5 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the presence and type of
weapon, Canada (parts), 2001
% charged
No weapon
Other weapon
Firearm
47
64
84
Adjusted %
charged
43
63
62
N
1,018
6,091
154
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
2.2
Harm done to a victim
The extent of harm done to person or property also has a substantial effect on police
decision-making with youth-related incidents. All of our respondents indicated that they
feel the extent of harm done is a factor (12%) or a major factor (88%) in their decision to
charge, use AM, or proceed with informal action. The more harm that is done, either
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
208
physically or psychologically, the less likely officers are to refer to alternative measures
or deal with the incident informally. The great majority of officers at all levels of the
organization consider the extent of harm done to be a major factor. However, this is
slightly less important for practitioners, of whom 87% considered the extent of harm
done to be a major factor, compared with 94% of supervisors, and 100% of officers in
management positions.
There were small differences between officers in different types of communities in their
assessment of the influence on their decision-making of the degree of harm suffered by a
victim. Officers in rural and small town jurisdictions were more likely to consider the
extent of harm done as a major factor (96%) than in suburban/exurban (90%) or
metropolitan areas (83%). These differences highlight the effect that the type of
community type seems to have on police decision-making. Perhaps this is the result of
the greater social homogeneity and level of acquaintanceship, as a result of which the
likelihood that the officer knows, or at least can identify with, the victim is higher in
smaller communities. It could also be related to the perceived degree of seriousness of
youth crime in the community: officers in communities with a significant amount of
serious youth property crime were slightly less likely to consider harm as a major factor
(83% versus 94% of officers in other communities), as were officers in communities with
an identified problem of youth gang-related crime (80% versus 90%); those in
communities with a youth prostitution problem were much less likely to consider harm
done as a major factor (44% versus 92%).
Officers in jurisdictions which include a First Nations reserve were more likely to
consider harm done to be a major factor (100% compared to 86% of officers in other
jurisdictions) – possibly reflecting the more tightly-knit community of the reserve.
Table V.6 shows the relationship in the UCR2 data between injury to a victim and the
likelihood of charging. Major injury greatly increases the probability that charges will be
laid. The increase is much less when other related factors are controlled, because major
injury usually results in the classification of the offence as a serious indictable offence; so
much of the impact of this variable is already accounted for by the variable, “(legal)
seriousness of the crime” (Section 2.0).
Table V.6 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the type of injury to a
victim, Canada (parts), 2001
Type of injury
% charged
None/minor/unknown
Major injury
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
61
89
Adjusted %
charged
48
60
N
7,153
179
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
3.0
209
The role of the victim
The victim’s preferences, the type of victim, and the relationship between the victim and
the offender are areas that have not been explored in depth in Canadian research. Doob
(1983) is ambivalent concerning the impact of the victim’s preference: on the one hand,
“…victims seemed to have an important part in the process of bringing the juvenile to the
attention of the Youth Bureau and perhaps in the disposition finally decided on by the
bureau”, and the victim’s request was found by multiple regression analysis to be a
significant correlate of the disposition (1983: 159-161); on the other hand, “…officers
were polite in dealing with [victims], but explained that the decision on the appropriate
decision was one that they alone would make….the victim does not play an important
part because of the nature of the decision process” (1983: 160-161; emphasis in the
original). Ericson (1982) found that the police complied with the complainant’s wishes
totally or partly in two-thirds of the cases which he studied.8 Carrington (1998a) found
that incidents involving an identified victim were more likely to result in a charge, thus
reinforcing Black and Reiss’s argument that a victim/complainant can make a valuable
contribution to the quality of the evidence.9 Carrington (1998a) also found that incidents
in which the victim was a stranger to the apprehended youth were more likely to result in
a charge than those involving family members or friends.
We asked officers if the wishes of the complainant, the type of victim (person or
business) or the relationship between the apprehended youth and the victim (friend,
family, stranger) had any effect on their decision-making. Table V.7 summarizes the
answers.
Table V.7 The role of the victim in police decision-making
Victim Preference
Type of Victim
Relation to Offender
3.1
Not a Factor
4%
81%
60%
Minor Factor
40%
16%
30%
Factor
40%
3%
10%
Major Factor
16%
0
0
N
120
95
93
The victim’s dispositional preference
Respondents were fairly evenly divided on whether they consider the preferences of the
victim on a consistent basis. 44% of respondents suggested that victim preference plays
little or no role in their decision-making. However, others suggested that their employer
is the public, and that listening to and following the wishes of the victim is central to
doing their job properly. According to many officers, difficulties arise when a victim
would like a young person charged for a relatively minor offence, but the officer feels
that using informal action or alternative measures would be much more appropriate,
8
If an encounter was visible (in a public setting) and the type of mobilization was proactive, there was a
higher probability of arrest (Ericson, 1982). However, it is difficult to discern whether these findings
reflect incidents with adults or with youths.
9
The UCR2 data analysed by Carrington (1998a) did not include the victim’s dispositional preference.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
210
given the nature of the offence and the characteristics of the young person. It was this
hypothetical example that particularly elicited conflicting opinions concerning the role of
the victim’s preference. The majority of officers who rated victim preference as a
secondary factor cited their belief that they must balance the rights of the victim with the
best course of action for the administration of justice. In many cases, officers will go to
great lengths to explain to the victims why alternative measures or conferencing would be
a much more suitable course of action for crimes such as mischief and minor theft.
Several officers volunteered the hypothetical example of a store manager who wants a
charge laid against a youth caught shoplifting; the officer might well decide that a referral
to alternative measures was more appropriate, and would politely but firmly make it clear
that this decision was up to him/her, not the victim (cf. Doob, 1983: 160).
Officers in rural or small town jurisdictions are more likely to consider the preferences of
the victim as a factor (47%) or major factor (20%) than those in suburban/exurban
(36%/18%) or metropolitan areas (35%/10%). These differences offer further support to
the notion that police in rural areas or small towns are more influenced by public opinion,
or officers’ perceptions of the expectations of the public. Similarly, officers in police
agencies whose jurisdiction includes a First Nations reserve are more likely to consider
the victim’s preference to be a factor or major factor (65% versus 54% of officers in other
police services).
Officers are less likely to consider the victim’s preference to be a factor or major factor in
communities which have “a lot” of youth crime (45%), versus “a normal amount” (63%),
or “not very much” youth crime (83%); and/or in communities which have an identified
problem of youth-related serious property crime (45% versus 70% of officers in other
communities), youth-related serious violent crime (48% versus 58%), or a youth gang
problem (48% versus 58%). Apparently, police are less able, or perhaps less willing, to
respond to victims’ preferences when they are burdened by the volume or seriousness of
youth crime. Officers are also less likely to consider the victim’s preference to be a
factor or major factor in communities with a substantial amount of administration of
justice offences involving youth (49% versus 60%).
In all provinces and territories, police officers take victim preference into consideration,
but to varying degrees. Figure V.1 shows the regional variations. There are also slight
variations on this issue between officers who work in agencies which police aboriginal
populations versus those which do not. In both cases, the majority of officers consider
the preferences of the victim as a factor or major factor; however, officers who work in
an agency which has jurisdiction over a First Nations reserve are more likely (65%) to
consider the victim’s preference to be a factor or major factor than those who do not
(54%). There are no significant differences for police who work in agencies which police
off-reserve aboriginals.
Our data suggest that the gender of the police officer affects his or her view of the
importance of victim preference: female officers are more likely (67%) to take the
victim’s preferences into consideration than males (57%).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
211
Figure V.1 Regional distribution of views on the impact of the victim’s preference
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor or major factor
80
75
70
63
60
56
50
50
40
40
31
30
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
The officer’s level of authority and location of service are also related to the degree to
which victim preference influences decision-making. Officers in management positions
place less emphasis than the practitioner on victim preference: 43% of the former versus
60% of the latter said that victim preference is a factor or major factor in their decisionmaking with young offenders. The location of service also differentiates the views on
this question (Figure V.2).
Figure V.2 Views on the impact of victim preference, by location of service
Percent of respondents who consider
it a factor or major factor
70
69
63
67
60
50
38
40
30
21
20
10
0
Patrol
Youth squad
SLO/SRO
GIS
Management
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
212
The majority (71%) of officers who work in a youth squad are less influenced by victim
preference, seeing it as only a minor or secondary factor; whereas those working in
patrol, as school liaison officers or in General Investigative Services are more likely to
view victim preferences as a factor or major factor. Youth squad officers told us that
their primary focus is on the young person and not only the characteristics of the offence.
They see their role as finding the best course of action for that particular youth; thus, they
tend to view the preferences of the victim as something which they take into
consideration after other factors (e.g. the seriousness of the offence and the prior record
of the offender).
Experienced and less experienced officers also differed in their views on the weight that
is placed on the preferences of the victim also differ. The great majority (83%) of
officers with five or fewer years of service felt that victim preference is a factor or a
major factor in their decision-making; whereas, fewer officers (56%) with six or more
years of service took this position.
3.2
Type of victim
The great majority of police officers (81%) do not take the type of victim (person or
business) into consideration at all when deciding what course of action to take with a
youth-related incident; 16% characterized it as a minor or secondary factor, and 3% said
that this is a factor (none identified it as a major factor). Officers working in
communities with a problem with serious violent youth crime are more likely to consider
the type of victim as a factor (10% versus 1% of officers in other communities); those
working in a community with a youth prostitution problem are less likely to consider it:
100% of them said that they do not take the type of victim into account at all in their
decision-making with youth.
3.3
Victim-offender relationship
Almost all of our respondents (90%) did not see the relationship between the offender
and the victim as significant (a factor or major factor) in their decision-making.
However, there were variations related to the type of community. The relationship
between the offender and victim is more likely to be cited as a factor or major factor by
police working in rural and small town agencies (54%) than in suburban (47%) or
metropolitan jurisdictions (23%). Once again, we speculate that the relative
impersonality of metropolitan policing explains this phenomenon. Officers working in a
community with an identified youth gang problem were slightly more likely (47% versus
38% of officers in other communities) to consider any relationship between the victim
and the offender as a factor or major factor in their decision-making with youth.
Analysis of UCR2 data suggests that the relationship between a victim and an
apprehended youth plays a significant role in the decision to charge, even when other
relevant factors are controlled (Table V.8). (This variable is coded in the UCR2 only for
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
213
incidents involving an offence against the person.) The probability of a charge is higher
if the victim is a parent or close friend, and lower if s/he is another family member
(presumably a sibling) or an acquaintance. As with other circumstances of the incident,
the percentages differences are much reduced when other factors are controlled, because
young persons tend to commit different types of offences against different types of
people: robbery and major assault and sexual assault against strangers, and level 1 sexual
assaults against siblings and close friends (Table V.9).
Table V.8 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the relationship between a
victim and the apprehended youth, Canada (parts), 2001
Victim-youth relationship
% charged
Parent
Stranger
Close friend
Other family
Acquaintance
Adjusted %
charged
67
50
54
47
38
78
74
64
57
57
N
179
1,501
338
786
4,390
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
Table V.9 Proportion of apprehended youth, by type of offence and relationship
with victim, Canada (parts), 2001
Parent
Type of offence
Assault & sexual assault,
level 2
Robbery
Misc. indictable person
Sexual assault, level 1
Assault, level 1
Misc. summary & hybrid
person
Close
friend
%
15.4
Acquaintance
Stranger
%
11.2
Other
family
%
16.8
%
14.9
%
19.0
0.6
1.7
2.2
62.0
22.3
0.0
0.5
14.4
51.5
16.8
2.4
5.6
9.5
47.3
19.8
4.9
1.5
4.2
53.5
21.1
29.8
2.3
1.2
29.4
18.2
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
4.0
Co-offenders and apparent gang-related crime
Youth gangs and crimes committed by groups of youth are currently a major concern for
the public and police. According to a recent Canadian textbook for law enforcement
students:
The primary factors [in allegedly increasing youth crime]
seem to be drugs and gangs, which in themselves create
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
214
tremendous frustration for police officers…Gangs are
increasingly becoming a major problem for police
officers…(Dantzker & Mitchell, 1998: 56)
Officers in approximately one-quarter of the police agencies in the sample told us that
they face a significant problem with gang-related youth crime (Chapter III, Figure III.12,
above). Although crimes committed by groups of youths and gang-related crime are
distinct phenomena, they are often confused. Carrington (2002) found that 7% of youthrelated incidents in Canada during the 1990’s involved three or more apprehended youth,
and another 17% involved two apprehended youth. Young offenders involved in
incidents that involved at least three young persons were less likely to be charged than
youth apprehended in pairs or alone (Carrington, 1998a).10
We asked officers whether they take co-offenders and gang-related crime into
consideration when deciding how to deal with youth-related incidents. Table V.10
summarizes their answers.
Table V.10 Effect of gang-related crime and co-offenders on police decision-making
Gang-related
Group vs. lone offender
Adult/youth co-offender
4.1
Not a Factor
52%
44%
61%
Minor Factor
9%
42%
30%
Factor
24%
13%
8%
Major Factor
15%
1%
1%
N
75
123
95
Gang-related crime
Approximately half of the police officers whom we interviewed said that they do not
consider whether a youth crime is gang-related when deciding how to deal with it.
Another 9% said that this is only a minor factor in their decision-making. However, there
are large variations among police services on this issue. 56% of respondents in
metropolitan police services said it was a factor or a major factor; versus 33% of those in
suburban/exurban police agencies, and 17% of rural and small town officers. This
mirrors the variation among metropolitan, suburban/exurban, and rural/small town
communities in the extent of the identified problem with youth gang-related crime
(43%/32%/9%; see Chapter III, Section 4.3). Indeed, officers in communities with an
identified youth gang problem are much more likely (78%) than officers in other
communities (21%) to say that they consider whether a crime is gang-related to be a
factor or major factor in their decision-making with youth. Officers in communities with
10
Carrington (1998a) suggests this finding is partly a function of the types of crimes youth engage in as a
group (i.e. property crimes). Youth apprehended alone were more likely to be implicated in ‘other’
Criminal Code offences, such as administration of justice offences.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
215
“a lot” of youth crime are also more likely (61%) than those in communities with “a
normal amount” (37%) or “not very much” (25%) to say that they consider whether a
crime is gang-related to be a factor or major factor. Furthermore, officers in communities
with almost any kind of identified problem of youth crime are more likely to consider the
gang-related nature of a crime to be a factor or major factor: 47% of those in
communities with serious youth property crime, versus 27% of officers in other
communities; 73% in communities with serious violent youth crime, versus 25% of those
in other communities; 46% in communities with a youth drug-crime problem, versus 28%
in other communities; and 56% in communities with a youth prostitution problem, versus
36% in other communities.
There are also substantial regional variations in the extent to which officers take gang
involvement into account in their decision-making with youth (Figure V.3). To some
extent, these mirror regional variations in the identified incidence of youth gang problems
(see Chapter III, Figure III.14).11
Figure V.3 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of
gang-related crime
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor or major factor
80
75
70
60
50
45
40
48
33
30
20
15
10
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Female officers are considerably more likely than males to take gang involvement into
account in their decision-making (63% versus 44%). Police officers working in a youth
squad (72%) or as a school liaison/resource officer (75%) consider gang involvement in
crime much more often in their decision-making than officers in patrol (33%), in
management (60%), or in GIS (46%). This is not surprising, since most of the
specialized programs that target youth gang members are located in the two former
11
Apart from the high proportion of respondents in Quebec who identified gang-related crime as a factor or
major factor; however, very few Quebec officers answered this question, so the percentage is not reliable.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
216
sections. Officers who had previously been assigned to a youth squad were more likely
(86%) to consider apparent gang involvement than officers who had never served in a
youth squad section (44%).
4.2
Group crime
Most respondents (86%) felt that whether the offender committed the crime alone or in a
group did not play a significant role in their decision-making. However, officers who did
indicate that they considered this to be a minor factor suggested that a youth who
commits a crime in a group may have been influenced by peer pressure. They told us that
it is important to determine, to the best of their ability, the role which each youth played
in the commission of the crime. Thus, they may charge the ringleader, but refer the
others to alternative measures. Officers who indicated that group versus lone offending is
not a factor explained that each person in a group must be treated the same way (except
for those that have different prior records). Thus, if they charge one youth in a group,
they would charge all participants, since they do not believe they can assign degrees of
responsibility. These officers told us the degree of responsibility can be determined by
the Crown Attorney or in youth court, depending on the seriousness of the offence. This
does not necessarily mean that these officers would not consider informal action for
crimes committed in groups. Rather, they will treat each youth in the group in the same
way, and in the same way as if s/he had committed the offence alone.
Views on this subject vary on most of the same dimensions as views on the salience of
gang-related crime (above): officers in communities with a problem of serious youth
property crime are more likely to consider group offending as a factor or major factor in
their decision-making with youth (21% versus 5% of officers in other communities), as
are officers in communities with a gang problem (20% versus 12%), a drug-related youth
crime problem (17% versus 9%), and a problem of youth prostitution (33% versus 12%).
In addition, officers in communities with a significant off-reserve aboriginal population
are less likely to consider youth crime committed by a group rather than an individual to
be a factor or major factor (6% versus 17% of officers in other communities).
Views on this issue also differ by the gender and rank of the police officer. 16% of male
police officers, but no females, consider co-offending to be a factor or major factor.
Practitioners are slightly more likely than supervisors and officers in management
positions to say that co-offending is a factor or a major factor (14% versus 8%).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
217
Table V.11 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by whether accomplices
were involved, Canada (parts), 2001
Number of persons apprehended
1 (only the apprehended youth)
2+ (group crime)
% charged
57
42
Adjusted %
charged
57
48
N
19,536
11,276
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
Analysis of UCR2 data suggests that a youth who commits an offence with one or more
accomplices is less likely to be charged, even when other factors are controlled (Table
V.11). However, controlling for related factors increases the probability of co-accused
youth being charged; this is because group crimes committed by youth tend to be the
least serious, such as theft under, and to be committed by younger youth.
4.3
Adult co-offender
We also asked how police officers deal with youth-related incidents which involve an
adult co-offender. The majority of respondents (90%) felt that this was not a factor or it
was only a minor one. Views on this issue differ by type of police agency and
community, and the officer’s location of service, and level of authority. Almost every
OPP officer (91%) indicated that s/he did not take adult co-offenders into consideration
when deciding how to handle a youth-related incident. They informed us that the youth
must be considered as an individual in the crime and that quite often the youths are
sophisticated enough to have even orchestrated the crime. OPP officers told us they
consider an adult co-offender as another element in the crime, but not as a reason to
adjust their decision-making with the youth.
Officers working in communities with an identified youth gang problem are more likely
to consider the involvement of an adult co-offender as a factor or major factor (17%) than
officers in other communities (8%). Officers working in communities with a significant
off-reserve aboriginal population are less likely to consider the involvement of an adult
co-offender as a factor or major factor (4% versus 12%).
Officers who work in GIS are much more likely (56%) to take adult co-offenders into
consideration in at least a minor way in their decision-making12 with youth than officers
in patrol (37%), youth squads (23%), school liaison officers (9%), or management (17%).
This finding is explicable in terms of the types of youth-related cases which detectives
tend to deal with in GIS. They are predominantly the more serious crimes and crimes
that involve follow-up investigations. Further, although the majority of practitioners and
supervisors do not consider the presence of an adult co-offender to be a factor,
supervisors are more likely (43%) to consider it to be a minor factor than are practitioners
(26%).
12
That is, to consider it as a minor factor, a factor, or a major factor.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
5.0
218
Under the influence of alcohol or drugs
Evidence that the apprehended youth was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the
time of the incident has been found to increase substantially the likelihood of charges
being laid (Carrington, 1998a; Conly, 1978).
The majority of police officers in our sample (63%) said that they do not take the use of
alcohol or drugs into consideration when dealing with youth-related incidents. Another
26% said that this is a minor factor. However, several officers did indicate that it can
have an effect on the method used to compel appearance, increasing the likelihood that
they would release the youth on an OIC undertaking specifying no consumption of
alcohol.
Officers in communities with a youth prostitution problem are more likely to consider
alcohol or drug consumption to be a major factor in their decision-making with
apprehended youth (11% versus 2% of officers in other communities). However, officers
in communities with other kinds of youth crime problems are less likely to consider
alcohol or drug consumption to be a factor or major factor: 8% of those in communities
with serious youth property crime, versus 15% of those in other communities; 4% of
officers in communities with serious violent youth crime, versus 13% of other
communities; no officers in communities with an identified youth gang problem, versus
14% in other communities; and 4% in communities with a problem of youth-related
administration of justice offences, versus 15% in other communities. It appears that
alcohol and drug involvement in youth crime is more of an issue in communities which
do not suffer from high levels of serious types of youth crime (except prostitution).
Officers in communities with a significant off-reserve aboriginal population are more
likely to consider alcohol or drug consumption to be a factor or major factor (20% versus
7% of officers in other communities). (However, officers in police agencies which
include a First Nations reserve in their jurisdiction are no more or less likely than other
officers to consider alcohol/drug consumption as a factor.)
Officers with six or more years of service view the use of alcohol and drugs differently
from officers with five years or less: 17% of the former consider the use of alcohol a
factor or a major factor, compared to none of the latter.
When we asked officers to elaborate on the impact which the use of alcohol or drugs has
on their decision-making, two trends emerged. First, many officers felt that the root
cause of the youth’s criminal behaviour was an addiction to alcohol or drugs. They
raised concerns that there were not enough social services or places to which they could
refer these youths in crisis. One officer in British Columbia expressed this frustration as
follows,
Our whole thing is, why are we bringing these kids into the
criminal justice system because they have a drug addiction
when nobody is willing to take it one step further. [Many
officers use drug and alcohol addiction as] a tool you can
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
219
hold over their head because you know you’ll look okay at
the end in our little report, youth arrested by police, placed
in detention centre, wipe your hands until it comes down to
sentencing, 6 or 7 months down the road and you write to
the probation officer, well, I haven’t seen the kid, perhaps
treatment is not a bad idea.
Several officers echoed these sentiments. They feel that they could make more of a
difference if they had the resources available to refer youths to programs that will help
them heal from their addictions.
Secondly, many officers indicated that the use of alcohol or drugs makes dealing with
youth difficult. Alcohol is “liquid courage” and officers told us they do not take a
youth’s demeanour as seriously when they are under the influence. However, they are
also quick to add that “the kid’s safety is the main concern as the crime can happen any
day”. Thus, they will take whatever steps are necessary to ensure the young person’s
safety until they ‘sober up’ (even if this means they must detain the youth as no other
facilities are available).
6.0
Location and time of day
Almost two-thirds of our interviewees (65%) said that they do not consider location or
time of day to be a factor in their decision-making with young offenders. Another 22%
said that these are only minor factors.
Provincial police officers (including RCMP officers) are less likely (24%) to consider
location or time of day a factor, compared to independent municipal police officers
(41%). Officers located in metropolitan and suburban/exurban jurisdictions are more
likely (43%) to take the location of the offence or the time of day into account than
officers in rural areas or small towns (23%). Officers in communities with serious
violent youth crime are less likely to consider the location or time of day to be a factor or
major factor in their decision-making with youth (7% versus 15% of officers in other
communities). However, officers in communities with a youth prostitution problem are
much more likely to take location and time of day into account (56% versus 9% in other
communities), as are, to a lesser extent, officers in communities with drug-related youth
crime (18% versus 5%). Officers in communities with a significant off-reserve
aboriginal population are less likely to consider the location or time of day to be a factor
or major factor (8% versus 15% of officers in other communities).
Officers working in a youth squad were much more likely (43%) to consider the location
of the crime and the time of day to be a factor or a major factor in their decision-making.
This is probably due to youth squad officers’ particular interest in attaching specific,
appropriate conditions to release Undertakings (e.g. “no go”, curfew; see Chapter II,
Section 7.3, and Chapter IV, Section 4.1). The great majority (80-90%) of officers in
other units (patrol, GIS, etc.) do not consider this a factor, or at the most, a minor one.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
220
However, youth squad officers indicated that they tend to take all factors into account in
order to find the best course of action for that young person.
7.0 Prior record: contacts, alternative measures, charges,
convictions
A record of prior convictions or prior contacts with the police has been found to be
strongly positively associated with the likelihood of being charged (Conly, 1978; Doob,
1983; Doob & Chan, 1982; Ericson, 1982). Whether or not it led to charges or a
conviction, contact with police labels a youth as a probable delinquent, increasing the
probability of formal treatment on subsequent contact. Doob & Chan’s (1982) statistical
analysis of police dispositions found that prior contacts was one of the strongest, if not
the strongest correlate of the decision to charge. On the other hand, Conly found that
juveniles who had previously been charged were charged in the current instance at a
much higher rate (52%) than those who had been previously contacted and not charged:
the likelihood of the latter being charged (28%) was practically the same as that of youth
who had no record of prior contacts (27%) (1978: 30).
We asked respondents to consider the effects on their decision-making with apprehended
youth of prior contacts with police, prior referrals to alternative measures (especially in
jurisdictions that use pre-charge diversion), prior charges, and prior convictions.
However, none was inclined to differentiate among these. Almost all (96%) of our
respondents said that prior record (in any and all forms) is a major factor (87%) or a
factor (9%) in their decision-making process with youth-related incidents. Officers
repeatedly emphasized that they consider a youth’s prior record as important as the
seriousness of the offence. They consider both of these factors together, and invariably
they are the first and principal factors which officers say that they take into consideration.
Figure V.4 shows the regional distribution of answers to this question. Quebec is the
exception, perhaps because of the more welfare-oriented approach to juvenile justice in
that province, and perhaps also because police do not make the final decision to charge in
that province (although prior record is clearly a major factor in British Columbia, the
other Crown-screening province). This consideration is reminiscent of Black & Reiss’s
(1970) observation that, in their study, prior record was less important to patrol officers,
who only made the decision to arrest, than to youth bureau officers, who decided whether
to refer the youth to juvenile court (i.e. lay a charge).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
221
Figure V.4 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s prior record
Percent of respondents who
consider it a major factor
100
90
98
90
87
85
85
80
70
60
65
50
40
30
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Officers who work in communities with serious violent youth crime are less likely to say
that the youth’s prior record is a factor or major factor in their decision-making (80%
versus 90% of other officers). Officers in agencies which police a First Nations reserve
are also less likely (81% versus 89% of other officers). Those who work in communities
with a youth prostitution problem are more likely to take prior record into account (100%
versus 86% of other officers).
School Liaison/Resource Officers are less likely to view prior record as a major factor
than officers in other assignments (Figure V.5). SLO’s suggested that there is much more
to a youth-related incident than the nature of the offence and the offender’s prior record.
They did not imply that prior record is of no importance, but said that it is not the first
factor which they take into account. Working in the school environment, they also
consider the student’s grades and relations with peers and teachers, as well as the nature
of the offence. Prior record becomes much more important to SLO’s if it is lengthy and
involves incidents of the same type.
Analysis of UCR2 data confirms that prior apprehensions by the police play an extremely
significant role in the decision to charge and apprehended youth (Table V.12). Even
when related factors such as the youth’s age (Table V.13, below) and the seriousness of
the offence (Table V.4, above) are controlled, the probability of a charge being laid rises
with increasing numbers of prior apprehensions, from 32% of first offenders to 66% of
youth with five or more priors.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
222
Figure V.5 Views on the impact of the youth’s prior record, by the officer’s location
of service
Percent of respondents who consider
it a major factor
100
93
93
88
90
80
75
71
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
Patrol
Youth squad
SLO/SRO
GIS
Management
Table V.12 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the number of prior
apprehensions, Canada (parts), 2001
Number of prior
apprehensions
0 (first offender)
1
2
3-4
5+
% charged
40
59
69
76
85
Adjusted %
charged
32
47
55
60
66
N
18,341
5,205
2,377
2,100
2,789
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
8.0
Demeanour
Doob found that police dispositions of cases coming to a Youth Bureau were
significantly affected by the youth’s “attitude” and “action he took when he came in
contact with the police”; e.g. whether s/he admitted the offence (1983: 161; Doob &
Chan, 1982).
Figure V.6 summarizes the results when we asked officers how much the young person’s
demeanour affects their resolution of youth-related incidents.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
223
Figure V.6: The effect of the youth’s demeanour on police decision-making
50
47
Percent of police officers
45
40
35
30
25
22
24
20
15
10
7
5
0
Not a factor
Minor factor
Factor
Major factor
Almost three-quarters of our respondents consider the demeanour of the young person to
be a factor or a major factor in their decision-making. The majority of respondents
indicated they have no choice but to take the demeanour of the young person into account
in order to make a referral to alternative measures. A young person must take
responsibility for his or her actions in order to qualify for AM, and many officers
indicated that those with a “bad attitude” tend to deny their involvement in the crime.
However, the notion that young people should accept responsibility for their actions, and,
preferably, feel some remorse, was linked by officers not just to eligibility for AM, but to
the intent of the YOA, which is that young persons should be held responsible for their
actions: thus, if the apprehended youth showed that s/he held him/herself responsible, this
made intervention by the police or courts less necessary, in the eyes of some of our
respondents.
The weight assigned by officers to demeanour in their decision-making varies on several
dimensions: by region of Canada, the type of community in which they work, the level
and types of youth crime in the community, whether there is a First Nations reserve in the
jurisdiction of the police service, and the gender, level in the hierarchy, location of
service, and the number of years of service of the officer.
Officers’ views of the impact of youths’ demeanour is related to the perceived level of
youth crime in the community: 90% of officers in communities where there was “a lot”
of youth crime said that the youth’s demeanour was a factor or major factor in their
decision-making, versus 63% of those in communities with “a normal amount” of youth
crime, and 50% of those in communities with “not very much” youth crime. No such
relationship was found with reported levels of serious violent youth crime (73% of
officers in communities with a problem of serious violent youth crime said that
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
224
demeanour was a factor or major factor, compared with 70% of officers in other
communities), or significant youth gang problems (72% of officers in communities with a
youth gang problem said that demeanour was a factor or major factor, compared with
71% of officers in other communities). However, officers in communities with a
significant amount of serious property crime committed by youth are more likely to take
demeanour into account (53% versus 39% of other officers said that demeanour is a
major factor in their decision-making), as are those in communities with significant
amounts of drug-related youth crime (75% versus 64% said demeanour is a factor or
major factor), youth prostitution (100% versus 69%), and administration of justice
offences involving youth (64% versus 37% of other officers said demeanour is a major
factor).
Officers located in metropolitan areas are much more likely (63%) to consider demeanour
a major factor than those in suburban/exurban (39%) or rural/small town jurisdictions
(36%). This is inconsistent with findings discussed in previous sections, which suggested
a more particularistic style of policing in smaller places; we speculate that demeanour
may be more of an issue in cities, where youth may show more “attitude” than in smaller
places. Another possibility is that demeanour is more of an issue in metropolitan areas
because there is more youth crime there, and the level of youth crime affects the impact
on police of youths’ demeanour (above). This hypothesis is explored in Figure V.7,
which presents a very interesting picture. In communities with “a normal amount” of
youth crime, the impact of the youth’s demeanour is related positively to the size of the
community. But in communities with “a lot” of youth crime, demeanour is more of an
issue for rural and small town (100%) and suburban/exurban officers (92%) than for
officers in metropolitan police agencies (71%). A youth’s demeanour is an issue for
officers in metropolitan police services, regardless of the level of youth crime; whereas,
the likelihood of its becoming an issue for officers in other types of communities,
especially rural areas and small towns, is related to the level of youth crime.
The regional distribution of views on this issue is shown in Figure V.8. We can only
speculate as to why police in the two Crown-screening provinces report the lowest impact
of the youth’s demeanour on their decision-making. This is puzzling, since, following
Black & Reiss (1970), we would have expected that police who do not make the final
decision to charge would be more affected by situational and “extralegal” factors, and
less by the strictly legal aspects of the case. In particular, we would have expected this to
be the case in Quebec, where officers reported a greater impact for other situational
factors, such as the victim’s preference and whether the crime was gang-related (Section
4.1, above), and less impact of the “legal” variable, prior record (above).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
225
Percent of officers who
consider it a factor or major
factor
Figure V.7 The impact on decision-making of the youth’s demeanour, by the type
of community and the perceived level of youth crime
100
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
92
78
71
71
48
Rural/small town
Suburban/exurban
"Normal amount" of youth crime
Metropolitan
"A lot" of youth crime
Figure V.8 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s demeanour
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor or major factor
100
90
92
90
80
70
60
67
57
56
61
50
40
30
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
The other interesting finding is that police in the Prairies and Territories report a higher
impact of the youth’s demeanour on their decision-making. One possible explanation is
that police in the Prairie provinces were much more likely to report “a lot” of youth crime
and violence, and significant youth gang problems (Chapter III), so perhaps they face
more problems with “bad attitudes” on the part of apprehended youth. However, police
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
226
in the Territories did not report high levels of youth violence or gangs. The Territories
have relatively high levels of substance abuse, which may contribute to problems of
“demeanour”. They also have very high proportions of aboriginal peoples, so they may
experience “attitude problems” on the part of aboriginal youth, who tend to resent and
distrust the police (Griffiths & Verdun-Jones, 1994: 641-642).
We can test these hypotheses by looking at officers’ opinions of the impact of
demeanour, broken down by the other variables. In Figure V.9, the regional impact of
demeanour is broken down by the level of youth crime reported by officers working in
that jurisdiction. The Prairies and Territories no longer stand out: in all regions except
Ontario,13 100% of officers who work in “high-youth-crime” jurisdictions report that
demeanour is a factor or major factor in their decision-making, and in jurisdictions
reporting a “normal level” of youth crime (except in Quebec), about two-thirds of officers
find demeanour to be a factor or major factor.14 Thus, the higher impact of demeanour in
the Prairies and Territories is almost entirely explained by the higher (perceived) levels of
youth crime in those regions.
Percent of respondents
who consider it a factor
or major factor
Figure V.9 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s demeanour, by the perceived level of youth crime in the jurisdiction
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
100
100
100
100
80
67
67
64
70
50
38
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
"Normal amount" of youth crime
Quebec
Atlantic
"A lot" of youth crime
Officers working in police agencies with jurisdiction over a First Nations reserve were
slightly more likely (76%) to say that the youth’s demeanour was a factor or major factor
in their decision-making than officers in other police agencies (70%). Figure V.10 shows
the regional variation in the impact of the youth’s demeanour, controlling for jurisdiction
13
And the Atlantic region, where no police services reported a high level of youth crime.
Percentages for communities with “not very much” youth crime are not reported, as the numbers were
too small to be reliable.
14
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
227
over a reserve. The impact of demeanour varies. In Ontario and the Territories, officers
policing reserves are more likely to find demeanour to be a factor or major factor in their
decision-making, but in British Columbia and the Prairies, they are less likely. Among
officers who do not police a reserve, those in the Territories and the Prairies are still more
likely than those in other regions to say that they find demeanour to be a factor or major
factor. Thus, although the presence of a reserve is in the jurisdiction does increase the
probability (by 6%) that the youth’s demeanour will affect police decision-making, this
does not explain why demeanour is more of an issue in the Territories and Prairies.
Percent of respondents
who consider it a factor
or major factor
Figure V.10 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s demeanour, by jurisdiction over a First Nations reserve
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
100
100
95
86
83
67
63
60
58
40
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
No reserve
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Reserve
In terms of hierarchy, supervisors are more likely to consider demeanour a factor or
major factor (88%) than practitioners (71%), middle management (50%), or upper
management (40%). School Liaison Officers (64%) and youth squad officers (47%) are
more likely to consider demeanour a major factor than those in patrol (39%) or GIS
(39%). SLO’s may be responding to the disruption in the school environment which can
be caused by a young person displaying “attitude” in connection with a crime committed
on school property. Most of the SLOs we interviewed were female; thus, it is not
surprising that female officers are slightly more likely to consider demeanour a major
factor (60%) than male officers (44%). It is surprising that patrol officers are the least
likely to find demeanour to be a major factor, since one would expect that it is they who
are most likely to suffer the brunt of a youth’s “attitude”. However, when we look at the
proportions of officers who said that demeanour is either a factor or major factor, it is
patrol officers who are most likely to say so (76%), followed by youth squad officers
(73%), SLOs (71%), GIS (65%), and management (63%). This confirms the importance
of the youth’s demeanour for patrol officers involved in “the encounter”. Finally,
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
228
officers with six or more years of service were more likely to take demeanour into
account (74%) than officers with five or fewer years of service (62%).
9.0
Age
The probability of formal treatment by police increases with the young offender’s age
(Carrington, 1996, 1998a; Conly, 1978; Ericson, 1982; Hornick et al., 1996).15 Youths
who are 17 years old are twice as likely to be charged as 12 year olds; for each additional
year of age from 12 to 17 years, the probability of being charged versus dealt with
informally rises by 4.6% (Carrington, 1998a); however, that study was unable to control
for factors such as prior record and demeanour, which may explain the increased
charging of older youth.
Analysis of UCR2 data confirms the major role of the age of the youth in the decision to
charge. An apprehended seventeen year old is more than twice as likely to be charged as
a twelve year old (Table V.13, first column). Some of the effect of the youth’s age is
mediated by other factors, especially his or her accumulated record of prior
apprehensions (Table V.14), and increasingly serious offences committed (Table V.3,
above); but even when other factors are held constant, the probability of a charge
increases by approximately 4% for each additional year of age, so that a seventeen year
old whose offence, prior record, etc. are the same as those of a twelve year old, still has a
50% higher probability of being charged (Table V.13, column 2). Some of this
differential might be due to factors not included in the statistical analysis, such as
demeanour, but it seems highly unlikely that these could account entirely for the clear
relationship shown in the second column of Table V.13.
Table V.13 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the age of the youth,
Canada (parts), 2001
Age
% charged
12 years
13
14
15
16
17
28
36
45
52
58
65
Adjusted %
charged
39
45
51
55
59
62
N
2,010
3,549
5,212
6,331
6,680
7,030
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
15
Doob (1983; Doob & Chan, 1982) concluded that the correlation between the youth’s age and the
likelihood of being charged was explained by other correlated factors; i.e. its impact is indirect, or
mediated.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
229
Table V.14 Number of prior apprehensions, by the age of the apprehended youth,
Canada (parts), 2001
Age of the apprehended youth
13
14
15
%
%
%
12
%
Number of prior
apprehensions
0 (first offender)
1
2
3-4
5+
76.7
13.3
4.4
3.5
2.1
74.3
13.6
5.1
3.7
3.4
67.0
15.5
6.7
5.4
5.4
59.2
18.2
8.5
6.8
7.3
16
%
17
%
53.5
18.5
8.8
7.8
11.4
47.7
17.9
9.0
9.4
16.0
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
In asking officers about the impact of the offender’s age on their decision-making, we
provided the following illustration: “Would you consider being more lenient with a 12
year old than a 17 year old?” Or: “Would you be more likely to use informal action or
alternative measures with a 12 year old than with a 17 year old?” There was considerable
variation in the answers (Figure V.11).
Figure V.11: The effect of the offender’s age on police decision-making
40
37
36
Percent of officers
35
30
25
25
20
15
10
5
2
0
Not a Factor
Minor Factor
Factor
Major Factor
Slightly more than one-quarter of the respondents said that they consider the young
person’s age to be a factor or major factor in their decision-making. However, a large
number consider it to be a minor, or secondary, factor.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
230
Environmental factors appear to play a role in officers’ responses. In rural areas and
small towns, officers are more likely to consider age a factor16 (31%) than in
suburban/exurban (22%) or metropolitan jurisdictions (21%). Also, officers in agencies
which have a First Nations reserve in their jurisdiction are more likely to take the youth’s
age into account (33% said it is a factor, versus 23% of other officers). These differences
are consistent with other findings reported above which suggest a more particularistic
(individualized) approach to police work with young offenders in smaller places and on
reserves.
Alternatively, officers may take the youth’s age into account because they are less
burdened with a high volume of youth crime, or serious youth crime: officers in
communities with “not very much” youth crime are more likely to take the youth’s age
into account (40%, versus 23% of officers in other communities), and officers in
communities with a problem of serious violent youth crime are less likely to take the
youth’s age into account (14%, versus 29% of other officers).
Officers in jurisdictions with Crown screening are very unlikely to consider the youth’s
age in their decision-making (Figure V.12). We can offer no explanation for this.
Figure V.12 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s age
50
50
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor
45
40
35
30
38
35
25
20
15
10
22
7
5
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Officers working in the Atlantic region or the Territories are also more likely to consider
age to be a factor than police in other areas of Canada. Examination of percentages by
16
So few officers consider it a major factor that we have omitted them from the following breakdowns.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
231
individual province shows that this is true in only two of the four Atlantic provinces:
New Brunswick (60% consider it to be a factor) and Nova Scotia (50%). For New
Brunswick, we have no explanation; but in Nova Scotia, it is probably related to the
“two-tiered” youth justice system, in which 12 to 15 year olds are treated differently from
16 and 17 year olds. For example, in Halifax Police Service, investigating officers fill
out a form in all cases involving youth aged 12 to 15, which stipulates explicitly whether
they have considered pre-charge diversion and asks for an explanation if they are not
recommending diversion; and this police service also has a dedicated officer who reviews
all cases involving youth aged 12 to 15, in order to ensure that as many as possible are
diverted pre-charge. The weight placed on the youth’s age by officers in the Territories
may be related to the relatively offender-oriented approach, in some case approaching the
social worker role, adopted by some officers stationed there.17
30% of the male officers, versus none of the female officers, whom we interviewed said
that they consider age to be a factor in their decision-making. Finally, almost one-half
(46%) of the officers with five years or less of service take age into consideration,
compared to 31% of officers with six or more years of service.
10.0 Gender
Canadian research has found that, overall, apprehended male youth have a slightly higher
probability of being charged than females (Carrington, 1998a; Conly, 1978). In Canada,
in the 1970’s, there were substantial gender differences in charging among police
departments18 that could only be partially accounted for by the differences in types of
offences that males and females committed (Conly, 1978). Doob & Chan’s study of the
youth bureau of one southern Ontario police force found no effect of the juvenile’s sex
when other factors were controlled (1982: 30). By the 1990’s, gender differences in
charging in Canada were very small (Carrington, 1998a).
Virtually all of our respondents (94%) said they do not consider the gender of the young
person at all when deciding on a course of action with youth-related incidents. Officers
in communities with an identified youth gang problem are slightly more likely to take the
youth’s gender into account (12% consider gender to be a factor or minor factor versus
5% in other communities). Of the eight officers who said that they consider gender a
minor or secondary factor, seven are practitioners (front-line officers).
The views of respondents are borne out by analysis of UCR2 data. Although
apprehended male youth are more likely than females to be charged (Table V.15, column
17
Cf. the discussion above of the relationship between policing a First Nations reserve and consideration of
the youth’s age; also Chapter III, Section 4.2.4.
18
For example, Conly (1978) found the following variations: Quebec City (54% of apprehended males
charged vs. 27% of apprehended females), London (34% vs. 21%), Windsor (25% vs. 7%), and Winnipeg
(84% vs. 57%) (30).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
232
1), practically all of this difference disappears when other related factors are statistically
controlled. The remaining difference (2%) could well be due to other factors which
could not be included in the analysis, such as the youth’s demeanour.
Table V.15 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the gender of the youth,
Canada (parts), 2001
Gender
% charged
Male
Female
54
45
Adjusted %
charged
53
51
N
22,641
8,171
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
11.0 Race
Literature on the general tenor of relations between police and aboriginal Canadians is
reviewed in Chapter III, Section 4.2.4. There is very little Canadian research specifically
on police charging practices in relation to aboriginal youth. Harding (1991) argued that
Canadian police are more likely to apprehend and charge aboriginal youth. According to
Schissel (1993), aboriginals in Canadian cities tend to be located in areas where there are
high levels of policing, thereby increasing their chances of arrest. The incomplete data
available from the UCR2 Survey suggest that apprehended aboriginal youth have a much
higher than average probability of being charged, even when other correlated variables,
such as offence seriousness and use of alcohol or drugs, are controlled; however, this
study was unable to control for two possibly crucial confounding variables: demeanour
and prior record (Carrington, 1998a).
Concerning other racial groups, Canadian research in Toronto interviewed youth and
found that young people, regardless of colour, believe that black youth are a focus of
police harassment (Neugebauer-Visano, 1996). The Report of the Commission on
Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System (1995) alleges racism directed
against both black and aboriginal youth by police in Ontario, but relies on the opinions of
community members, and indirect evidence such as the over-representation of minority
groups among those charged and detained by police.
Almost everyone in our sample (96%) whom we asked about the effect of the young
person’s race said that they do not take race into consideration when determining how to
deal with a youth-related incident. The five respondents who did suggest that race was a
minor or secondary factor referred to what might be called forms of “positive
discrimination”. For example, in some places, there may be an alternative measures
program that is dedicated to aboriginal youth. In that circumstance, they would take it
into account and recommend the aboriginal youth be referred to this particular program.
Another officer said that the living conditions of many aboriginal youth in her city were
so terrible that she was not surprised that they got into trouble with the law, and she was
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
233
therefore more inclined to “give a break” to an aboriginal youth than to a non-aboriginal.
All five respondents who identified the youth’s race as a minor or secondary factor work
in communities with a significant problem with serious property crime by youth.
Analysis of UCR2 data19 shows a large difference (19%) between the charge rates for
apprehended aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth (Table V.16). Some of this difference
is due to related factors, but when these are controlled, apprehended aboriginal youth are
still 12% more likely to be charged. It is possible that this substantial difference is due to
other related factors which were not included in the statistical analysis, or it could be due
to the race of the youth itself. Further analysis of this issue is warranted.
Table V.16 Proportion of apprehended youth charged, by the race of the youth,
Canada (parts), 2001
Race
Aboriginal
Non-aboriginal
% charged
70
51
Adjusted %
charged
58
46
N
1,272
29,540
Source: UCR2 Survey, Trend Database.
12.0 Peer group and gang affiliations
The concept of the “youth gang” is an excellent example of W. I. Thomas’s dictum
(1923) that “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences”.
Although it is extraordinarily difficult to define a “gang” using objective indicators (Ball
& Curry, 1995; Carrington, 2002; Doob & Cesaroni, 2002; Hobbs, 1997; Le Blanc &
Fréchette, 1989), youth who perceive themselves, or are perceived by police, to be gang
members may behave differently and be treated differently by police when they are
apprehended. Involvement in a delinquent peer group, or “youth gang”, may result in
elevated risk of both victimization and commission of crime (Hornick et al., 1996).
Those youths who are male and belong to a predominantly male delinquent peer group
have a much higher chance of arrest (Morash, 1984). Further, youth who commit crimes
within peer groups have a higher visibility to police. Those peer groups that are
perceived as “gangs” are seen as threatening and tend to invoke formal social control
responses (Morash, 1984). However, Carrington (1998a) found that a youth apprehended
in a group of three or more was less likely to be charged than youths apprehended alone
or in a pair. This indicates the need for a clarification of police perceptions of the peer
groups they encounter. The discrepancy in findings may be the result of whether a police
officer defines the co-offending group as a gang.
Our data suggest considerable variations in police officers’ opinions concerning peer
groups and apparent gang affiliation when dealing with youth-related incidents. Figure
19
According to Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, results based on the ‘aboriginal status’ variable in the
UCR2 Survey must be interpreted with caution, for two reasons: (i) some police services which report to
the UCR2 Survey do not report data for this variable; and (ii) the variable is coded as “unknown” for many
individuals.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
234
V.13 summarizes our overall findings for this variable. Just over half of our respondents
(58%) take a young person’s peer group and apparent gang affiliations into consideration
in their decision-making, although it is only a minor factor for many of these officers.
Figure V.13: The effect of a youth’s gang affiliation on police decision-making
45
42
Percent of officers
40
36
35
30
25
21
20
15
10
5
1
0
Not a factor
Minor factor
Factor
Major factor
Figure V.14 shows regional variations in officers’ views on the importance of a youth’s
gang affiliation in their decision-making. The distribution mirrors almost perfectly the
regional distribution of problems with gang-related youth crime, according to our
informants (Figure III.14, above). Indeed, officers working in communities with an
identified youth gang problem are much more likely to say that a youth’s gang affiliation
is a factor or major factor in their decision-making (52% versus 13% of other officers).20
Similarly, offices in communities with “a lot” of youth crime are more likely to take gang
affiliation into account (45% said it is a factor, compared with 22% of officers in other
communities), as are officers in communities with a problem of serious violent youth
crime (46% versus 14%), drug-related youth crime (30% versus 11%), and youth
prostitution (44% versus 20%). Officers who work in metropolitan areas are more likely
(34%) to consider peer groups and gang affiliations to be a factor than those in
suburban/exurban (16%) and rural/small town jurisdictions (10%). This finding is
consistent with the prevalence of identified gang activity and more serious youth crime in
metropolitan areas within our sample. Since most metropolitan police services are
independent municipal police forces, they are more likely (26%) to consider peer groups
and gang affiliation than officers in provincial police detachments (13%; including
RCMP). Our data also suggest that police officers in communities with significant
populations of aboriginals living off-reserve are twice as likely (36%) to consider gang
20
The following analyses omit the responses of “major factor”, since there were too few of these to support
reliable analyses.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
235
affiliation a factor in their decision-making with youth than officers in other communities
(18%). However, officers who police a First Nations reserve are no more likely than
other officers to take gang affiliation into account.
Figure V.14 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s gang affiliation
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor or major factor
40
38
35
30
25
23
20
25
17
15
10
8
5
0
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Finally, police officers who have had previous experience working in a youth section
differ from others on this issue. Officers with prior youth squad experience were more
than twice as likely (58%) as other officers (25%) to consider a gang affiliation. None of
the officers with previous experience chose “not a factor”, compared to 21% of those
who do not have experience in a youth section. Officers suggested that working in a
youth section helps the agency as a whole due to an increase in intelligence on youth
activities within the jurisdiction. This is especially important within those police
agencies that have adopted intelligence-led policing.
13.0 Home and school situations
Conly (1978) found that apprehended youth who were not living with their parents or
relatives were more likely to be charged, but noted that these results were far from
definitive, as such a high proportion (87%) of those youths charged were living with their
parents or relatives. Doob found that youth bureau officers referred youth to court in
preference to taking formal action when they believed that the youth’s family situation
had “failed” (1983: 159). In focus group interviews, Canadian police officers identified
two factors that youth who are in trouble with the law share: (i) a lack of employment,
and (ii) a lack of physical space where they can ‘hang out’ with their friends (Caputo &
Kelly, 1997).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
236
Three-quarters of the respondents in our sample indicated they consider a young person’s
home and school environments to varying degrees in their decision-making. Figure V.15
shows the substantial variety of opinions held by police officers concerning how much
consideration a young person’s home and school environment should be given.
Figure V.15: The effect of home and school situations on police decision-making
40
Percent of officers
33
33
30
25
20
9
10
0
Not a factor
Minor factor
Factor
Major Factor
Regional variations in officers’ opinions of the importance of the youth’s home and
school situations are shown in Figure V.16. The weight given to this factor by police in
Quebec may be another example of the more welfare-oriented approach to youth justice
in that province.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
237
Figure V.16 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s home and school situations
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor or major factor
70
62
60
50
45
44
40
36
38
30
23
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
As we found for other personal characteristics, the home and school situations of the
youth are less likely to be taken into account by officers working in communities with a
problem of serious property crime by youth (36% of officers said it is a factor or major
factor, versus 48% of other officers), or serious violent youth crime (36% versus 43%).
However, they are more likely to be taken into account by officers working in
communities with a problem of youth prostitution (67% said it is a factor or major factor,
versus 40% of other officers) and in agencies which include a First Nations reserve in
their jurisdiction (47% versus 40%).
There were also variations in responses based on the officer’s level of authority, location
of service, and previous experience in a youth squad. Supervisors were much more likely
(60%) than practitioners (39%) to say that they consider a young person’s home
background in their decision-making. Youth squad officers were more likely (53%) to
take a young person’s home situation into account than officers located in patrol (38%),
schools (35%), GIS (43%) or in management (43%). This may be the result of the more
welfare-oriented approach of youth squad officers, and also of their exclusive focus on
youth that allows them more time to investigate thoroughly the young person’s situation.
These experiences on youth squad appear to carry over upon reassignment to other units.
Officers who had previous experience working in a youth squad were twice as likely
(50%) as those who had never worked in a youth section (24%) to take the home and
school situation into consideration.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
238
14.0 Parental involvement
The only Canadian research we could find which assesses the role of parental
involvement in police decision-making is that of Doob, who found that when a parent
was the victim or complainant, the youth was more likely to be charged, because the
complaint to police was seen as an indicator that “…one traditional socialization agent,
the family, had failed” (1983: 158-160).
In the interviews, officers generally understood our question concerning parental
involvement to refer to “positive” involvement – that is, to the level of interest exhibited
in the proceedings, and the level of support provided to the youth; although some officers
volunteered that “the parents can be worse to deal with than the young person”. Figure
V.17 shows the distribution of officers’ views concerning the importance in their
decision-making of the youth’s parents’ involvement.
Figure V.17: The effect of parental involvement on police decision-making
45
42
Percent of officers
40
35
30
30
25
18
20
15
10
10
5
0
Not a factor
Minor factor
Factor
Major factor
Almost all of our respondents give some consideration to the degree of parental
involvement when deciding how to proceed with youth-related incidents, and almost onehalf consider it a factor or major factor. Many of the latter officers indicated that they are
more willing to use alternative measures if “the parents are on board”. Further, these
officers also were much more likely to release a young person on an appearance notice or
summons when they felt there were high levels of parental involvement. If the offence
was more serious, then instead of holding the young person until a judicial interim release
hearing, they would release the young person on a PTA (with or without an undertaking).
However, there were a few examples given in which the converse had a negative effect
on police decision-making. If a youth was arrested and the parents (1) wanted nothing to
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
239
do with the young person, or (2) minimized the seriousness of the situation, or (3) denied
that their son or daughter could have committed the crime, officers were more likely to
lay a charge, and, if the circumstances warranted, release on stringent conditions or hold
until a JIR hearing.
Figure V.18 shows regional variations in the weight given by police to parental
involvement. The high weight given to parental involvement in Quebec may reflect the
more welfare-oriented approach of that province.
Figure V.18 Regional distribution of views on the impact on decision-making of the
youth’s parents’ involvement
Percent of respondents who
consider it a factor or major factor
70
65
60
60
50
49
44
40
29
30
21
20
10
0
Territories
British
Columbia
Prairies
Ontario
Quebec
Atlantic
Officers working in communities with “a lot” of youth crime are more likely to take
parental involvement into account: 69% said it is a factor or major factor in their
decision-making, compared with 38% of those in communities with “a normal amount”
and 33% of those in communities with “not very much” youth crime. Similarly, officers
working in communities with a problem of serious violent youth crime are more likely to
consider parental involvement to be a factor or major factor (60% versus 44% of other
officers), as are those in communities with a youth gang problem (58% versus 45%),
drug-related youth crime (53% versus 40%), and, especially, youth prostitution (78%
versus 46%).
The only other systematic difference in answers to this question was by the officer’s
gender: female police officers were more likely to consider parental involvement in their
decision-making (60%) than male officers (45%).
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
240
15.0 Summary
Table V.17 and Figure V.19 show the relative importance, averaged over all respondents,
of the factors discussed in this chapter. The factors have been ranked by the percentage
of respondents who said that this was a factor or major factor in their decision-making.
Table V.17 Overall ranking of situational factors affecting police decision-making
with youth
Rank Factor
a
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
Seriousness
Harm done
Presence of weapon
Prior record
Demeanour
Victim preference
Parental involvement
Home/school situations
Gang related crime
Age
Gang affiliation
Group vs. lone offender
Location/time of day
Use of alcohol/drugs
Victim-offender relationship
Adult co-offender
Type of victim (person/business)
Gender
Race
% factor
or major
a
factor
Mean
b
score
100
100
98
97
71
56
48
42
39
28
22
14
13
11
10
9
3
1
0
2.98
2.88
2.87
2.83
2.10
1.68
1.56
1.26
1.01
0.93
0.82
0.71
0.50
0.50
0.49
0.49
0.22
0.07
0.04
c
Partial
eta
squaredd
128
116
116
127
124
120
125
120
75
120
94
123
115
119
93
95
95
124
122
0.046
0.000
0.003
0.061
N
0.019
0.008
0.001
0.000
0.002
Percent of respondents who said this is a factor or major factor.
Average score for respondents’ views of the impact of this factor, where: not a factor=0; minor factor=1;
factor=2; major factor=3.
c
Number of respondents who expressed a view on the impact of this factor.
d
This statistic summarizes the contribution of a variable to explaining variations in the charging of youth,
when the other variables are controlled.
b
Exactly the same ranking results from calculating the average “score” for each factor,
where the answers were scored: “not a factor” = 0; “minor/secondary factor” = 1;
“factor” = 2; “major factor” = 3.21 Values of the partial eta squared statistic are shown
21
Although it is natural to score “not a factor” as 0, there is no particular reason to assign scores of 1, 2,
and 3 to the other answers. Therefore, we experimented with other scoring systems, assigning more weight
to “major factor” and/or “factor”. All of the scoring schemes produced the same ranking that is shown,
except that some scoring schemes ranked “adult co-offender” before “victim-offender relationship”.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
241
for factors which were included in the multiple regression analysis of UCR2 data. This
statistic summarizes the contribution of each independent variable, while holding all
other variables constant, to explaining variations in the dependent variable - whether or
not the youth was charged.
Figure V.19 Overall ranking of situational factors affecting police decision-making
with youth
100
Seriousness
100
Harm done
98
Presence of weapon
97
Prior record
71
Demeanour
56
Victim preference
48
Parental involvement
42
Home/School situations
39
Gang related crime
28
Age
22
Gang affiliation
14
Group vs. lone offender
13
Location/time of day
11
Use of alcohol/drugs
10
Victim-offender relationship
9
Adult co-offender
3
Type of victim
1
Gender
0
Race
0
25
50
75
Percent factor or major factor
100
It is evident from Table V.17 and Figure V.19 that the factors fall into six clusters:
•
The “legal” factors of offence seriousness - with its subsidiary indicators of
presence of a weapon and harm done – and prior record, which practically
everyone said are major factors (as indicated by their average scores close to 3).
The value of the eta squared statistic for prior apprehensions (0.061) is the highest
for any variable, indicating that the number of prior apprehensions plays a larger
role than any other variable in explaining the charging of apprehended youth in
the police services reporting to the UCR2. The next highest value of eta squared
is for the type of offence. Values of eta squared for the presence and type of
weapon and for injury to a victim are smaller, because much of their impact is
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
242
mediated by the classification of the offence.
•
The youth’s demeanour, chosen as a factor or major factor by almost threequarters of respondents, and with an average score of 2.1 (i.e. slightly above the
score for “factor”).
•
Four factors identified as factors or major factors by approximately half of the
respondents: victim preference, parental involvement, home and school
situations, and whether the crime is gang-related;
•
The youth’s age and any gang affiliation, identified as factor or major factors by
approximately one-quarter of respondents, and with average scores near 1.0 (i.e.
the score for “minor or secondary factor”). According to the value of the eta
squared statistic, the youth’s age has an impact on whether or not a youth is
charged, when other factors are controlled, which is exceeded only by the type of
offence and his or her record of prior apprehensions.
•
Five factors which few (9-14%) respondents identified as factors or major factors,
and which have average scores between 0.5 and 0.7, i.e. between the scores for
“not a factor” and “minor/secondary factor”: group vs. lone offender,
location/time of day, use of alcohol or drugs by the apprehended youth, the
relationship, if any, between the victim and the youth, and an adult co-offender.
According to the multiple regression analysis, whether the youth was
apprehended alone or with accomplices has a substantial impact on whether the
youth is charged: those apprehended alone are more likely to be charged, even
when other factors, such as the type of offence, are controlled.
•
Factors which practically no-one identified as a factor in decision-making:
whether the victim is a person or business, and the gender and race of the
apprehended youth. While the unimportance of the youth’s gender is confirmed
by the multiple regression analysis, the youth’s race appears to play a role in
explaining variations in the charging of apprehended youth.
With the exception of prior record, the three factors which our respondents rank highest –
legal seriousness (including weapon and harm), the youth’s demeanour, and the victim’s
preference – are the factors identified by the classic study of Black & Reiss (1970) as
most important in the patrol officer’s arrest decision.22 This is somewhat remarkable,
since Black & Reiss’s study was done more than 30 years ago, in a supposedly less
legalistic policing and juvenile justice environment, in cities in the USA, and involved
observation of patrol officers’ decision-making concerning the arrest decision; whereas,
22
Black & Reiss (1970) identified a fourth factor as important – the presence of situational evidence, which
was important to his patrol officers because they could not, or did not want to, arrest youths unless they had
readily available evidence of guilt. The availability of evidence was not an issue in our study, and we did
not ask about it, because the question of charging versus AM versus informal action presupposes that there
is sufficient evidence to charge.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
243
our study asked the opinions of a sample of police officers of all ranks and duty
assignments, working in every type of community and geographical area of modern
Canada. It is equally striking that our four top-ranked factors - the three factors identified
above, plus the victim’s preference – are the same four factors identified by Doob (1983:
161) as most important in his study of decision-making by Youth Bureau officers in a
southern Ontario police service in the late 1970’s, when the Juvenile Delinquents Act was
in force.23 Plus ça change…!
Apart from the circumstances which practically all, or practically no, respondents
identified as a factor in their decision-making (i.e. the first and last groups above), the
weight given by respondents to each of the other factors varied fairly systematically
along several dimensions. The variations pertaining to each factor have been noted in the
individual sections of this chapter. In order to summarize these variations, we
constructed tables of rankings of factors, like Table V.17, but for specific categories of
police agencies and officers which had appeared repeatedly as dimensions along which
opinions varied. The results of this analysis are shown in Table V.18.
The most striking thing about Table V.18 is the consistency of views among different
categories of police officers. Very few of the factors are ranked more than one or two
places above or below the overall rankings by any group. Many of the variations noted in
the individual sections of this chapter in the weight given to particular factors by certain
categories of officers are differences in emphasis, rather than differences in the overall
rankings of factors. However, there are some significant variations in rankings, which
are consistent with the more detailed differences in percentages which are discussed
above.
Officers in metropolitan agencies, and in communities with perceived high levels of
youth crime and identified problems with serious property or violent youth crime, or
gang-, or drug-related youth crime, are more likely to take into account factors such as
whether the crime was gang-related and any gang affiliation of the apprehended youth,
and whether there was an adult co-offender. They are less influenced by the victim’s
dispositional preference, whether the youth was under the influence of alcohol or drugs,
or the youth’s age or home and school situations. These results suggest an offenceorientation, and possibly, an orientation toward crime control, rather than toward the
offender or victim. This in turn is reminiscent of the claim by Weisheit et al. (1999: 110)
that “the larger the community the more likely citizens were to believe that police should
limit their role to enforcing criminal laws”. However, we emphasize that these are only
relative tendencies, in comparison with officers in other types of communities, not
absolute characterizations.
23
Doob treated the youth’s “attitude” and “action when apprehended” as two separate factors; our
respondents included them both in their answers to our question about “demeanour”.
Table V.18 Rankings of situational factors affecting police decision-making with youth, for sub-groups of officers
Factor
Region
Rank
Level of youth crime Type of community
Not Metr Subur Rural/
Territ
Prair
Atlan
Normal very opolit b/exur small
All ories B.C. ies Ont. Que. tic A lot amount much an
ban town
8
12
22
29
13
7
30
49
12
36
16
39
128
Seriousness
Harm done
Presence of weapon
Prior record
Demeanour
Victim preference
Parental involvement
Home/school situation
Gang related crime
Age
Gang affiliation
Group crime
Location/time of day
Use of alcohol/drugs
Victim-youth rel'n
Adult co-offender
Type of victim
Gender
Race
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
1
3
2
4
5
7
10
9
6
1
2
4
3
5
6
13
8
9
14
12
10
7
8
11
11
1
2
3
4
5
7
6
9
8
11
10
13
16
14
12
15
17
1
3
2
4
7
5
8
9
6
11
10
13
12
16
14
17
15
1
3
2
4
9
5
7
8
6
1
3
2
4
5
6
10
9
7
11
12
8
10
1
3
2
4
5
10
6
8
7
11
9
14
13
15
16
12
17
1
2
3
4
6
5
7
9
8
10
11
13
12
15
14
16
17
18
19
1
2
4
3
6
5
9
7
10
8
11
12
15
13
14
1
2
4
3
5
7
8
10
6
11
9
17
12
14
15
13
16
18
19
1
2
4
3
5
7
6
8
11
12
13
9
14
17
16
10
15
1
3
2
4
6
5
8
7
10
9
13
11
15
14
12
16
Policing
Type of youth crime
Location of
aboriginals
problem
officer
Off- On Ser. Ser.
Pros
reser reser prop viol
tituti Youth
ve
ve erty ent Gang Drug on squad SLO
35
22 69 30
26 81
9
15 14
1
3
2
4
5
6
7
9
8
11
10
15
13
12
14
16
1
3
2
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
14
13
15
16
1
2
3
4
5
8
6
9
7
11
10
12
13
15
16
14
17
1
3
2
4
5
8
7
10
6
12
9
11
15
17
16
14
13
1
3
2
4
6
9
7
10
5
11
8
12
13
16
14
15
17
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
9
8
11
10
13
12
14
16
15
17
18
19
1
2
5
3
4
8
6
7
9
13
11
12
10
15
14
1
3
2
4
5
11
8
7
6
12
10
14
9
13
16
15
Notes:
The first row shows the number of officers in this group who commented on the importance of at least one, but not necessarily, all, of the factors.
Cells which are blank indicate factors which could not be ranked, because none of the respondents in this group considered them to be a factor or major factor,
i.e. their score is 0%, and they are tied for last place in the ranking.
1
3
2
4
5
6
9
10
7
12
8
11
14
13
15
Generally, officers in rural and small town communities, and communities with low
perceived levels of youth crime and few or no problems with particular types of serious
youth crime, are more likely to take into account factors such as: the victim’s
dispositional preference, the youth’s home or school situation and age, whether the youth
was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and any relationship between a victim and
the apprehended youth. The greater attention to these factors suggests an orientation
toward offenders and victims – i.e. people – rather than toward the characteristics of the
offence; and this in turn suggests a more community-oriented and particularistic style of
policing, and, possibly, an ability and willingness to take secondary factors into account
because these officers are not overloaded with a high volume of youth crime, or
significant amounts of serious youth crime.
Officers in suburban and exurban jurisdictions differ somewhat from both metropolitan
and rural police. They are more concerned with crime committed by a group (not gang
crime), whether there was an adult co-offender, and the type of victim (person or
business); and less concerned than officers in other types of communities with whether
crime is gang-related, and with the youth’s age or use of alcohol or drugs.
Officers in police agencies in communities with a youth prostitution problem have a
profile of factor rankings which is somewhat different from that of officers in
communities with other kinds of youth crime problems. They tend to be more influenced
by the location and time of day of an incident, and by an adult co-offender – both of
which have an obvious relevance to street prostitution; and they are less concerned than
other officers with the use weapons, victim preference, and – surprisingly – the youth’s
age.
Each of the regions of Canada appears to have its own pattern of variations from the
overall rankings of factors, but there is considerable similarity between the profiles for
officers in the Atlantic provinces and the Territories. Officers in both regions tend to be
influenced more than other officers by the youth’s age, use of alcohol or drugs, and any
relationship between the victim and the youth – suggesting the people-oriented approach
noted above as characteristic of rural/small town and low-crime jurisdictions, although
the Territories are certainly not a low-crime region.
Officers in agencies whose jurisdiction includes a First Nations reserve24 are more likely
to consider the harm done to a victim and the victim’s dispositional preference –
suggesting a style of policing more oriented to community policing and/or Restorative
Justice. They are also more likely to take into account the youth’s demeanour, age, and
home or school situation, and less likely to consider the youth’s prior record as a major
factor – suggesting an approach to youth crime which is (relatively) more offender- than
offence-oriented.
24
The following comments are based on percentage differences noted in the body of this chapter, since the
factor rankings shown in Table V.18 for officers who police a reserve do not differ substantially from the
overall rankings.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
246
Officers in communities with a significant number of off-reserve aboriginals are more
likely to consider gang-related crime and any gang affiliation of the youth, and the
involvement of alcohol or drugs in the crime, possibly reflecting the characteristic social
problems of aboriginal youth living off-reserve.
Officers in youth squads are more likely to consider factors such as the youth’s
demeanour and home or school situation, whether the crime was gang-related and the
youth’s gang affiliation, and the location and time of day of the incident; and are less
likely to consider the victim’s dispositional preference, or whether it was a group crime
or an adult co-offender involved. This suggests the strong offender-orientation of
officers in this assignment.
School Liaison Officers also tend to be influenced by whether the crime was gang-related
and the youth’s gang affiliation, but also by an adult co-offender; and they are less
concerned than other officers with the level of parental involvement, and the youth’s age
and home or (surprisingly) school situation. Thus, the profile of factors which influence
their decision-making is considerably different from that of youth squad officers.
Female officers are more likely than males to consider the victim’s dispositional
preference, whether the incident was gang-related, the youth’s demeanour and the level
of involvement of the parents; and less likely than males to consider the youth’s age or
whether the crime was committed by a group.
Officers with more experience are more likely to consider alcohol or drug involvement,
and the youth’s demeanour and age, and less likely to consider the victim’s dispositional
preference.
Police discretion with young offenders
V. Situational factors affecting police discretion
247
VI.
Conclusions
This report was commissioned by the Department of Justice in support of the
implementation and evaluation of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The research had two
main objectives: to provide a comprehensive description of the ways in which police in
Canada currently exercise their discretion with youth, and to identify and assess factors
which affect that exercise of discretion. Our intention was to provide information which
could be used in two ways:
•
as baseline data which can be compared in the future with similar data on the
exercise of police discretion under the YCJA, in order to conduct an evaluation of
the impact of the YCJA on police decision-making with youth, using a “pre-post”
quasi-experimental design; and
•
to identify aspects of the policing environment and of police organizations, which
policymakers and police management could attempt to modify, in order to support
police officers in exercising their discretion in conformity with the intent and
specific provisions of the YCJA.
Although there have been several in-depth studies of individual police services in
Canada, no attempt has been made to analyze police decision-making on a national scale
since the study carried out by Statistics Canada in 1976 (Conly, 1978) – and even that
study was limited in the depth of information which it collected and the scope of the
sample which it studied. Accordingly, we set ourselves the goal of gathering in-depth
information, both qualitative and quantitative, on a nationally representative sample of
police services. Since a substantial proportion of smaller cities and towns, and most rural
areas, in Canada are provided with policing services by detachments of the provincial
police, including the RCMP working under contract to provincial governments, we felt
that the sample must include a substantial number of these detachments.
Possible sources of information on police decision-making include interviews with
officers at all levels and in all units of the police organization, observation of their work
during “ride-alongs”, police agency documents, statistical data from the Uniform Crime
Reporting (UCR) Survey and Incident-Based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR2) Survey,
operated by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, and the individual case files
maintained by police agencies, either in hardcopy or on their Records Management
Systems (RMS). We used all of these sources except police case files. Early in the
design phase of this project, we were advised by representatives of several police services
that it would be problematic to access these data; we recognized also that to collect file
data on a substantial number of youth-related cases from a representative sample of
Canadian police agencies would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
248
We conducted over 200 in-depth interviews police officers in 95 police services and
detachments which are approximately representative of all police services in Canada –
from all provinces and territories, all types of communities, and all types of police
service, including independent municipal services, detachments of provincial police
services including the RCMP, First Nations police services, and police training facilities.
The sample included the police services in all of the largest cities in Canada, and a
substantial number of police services and detachments in the smallest towns and the most
remote rural areas of the country. We also analyzed aggregate UCR data for 1977-2000,
and did detailed statistical analysis of UCR2 data on a large sample of individual young
offender cases for 2001.
1.0
The exercise of police discretion with youth
We concentrated our attention on two aspects of police decision-making with youth. The
first is the decision concerning the police disposition, or clearance, of the incident:
whether to lay a charge (or recommend one, in provinces where the Crown makes the
final decision) or divert to a pre-charge diversion program or Alternative Measures, or to
resolve the incident by informal action. The second aspect comes into play only if a
charge is laid, or will be laid: the method(s) chosen to compel the appearance of the
youth in court.
We found that many – perhaps most – police officers do not see these as two discrete
decisions concerned strictly with the enforcement of the law, but rather view them as
inseparably interrelated parts of a repertoire of responses which they use to resolve
situations involving youth whom they believe to have committed offences.
Police officers appear to have two main objectives in deciding upon a disposition for an
incident. One is to satisfy the requirements of traditional law enforcement: to investigate
the incident, identify and apprehend the perpetrator(s), and assemble the necessary
evidence if there is to be a prosecution. Their other, less explicit, objective appears to be
to deliver an appropriate sanction, or “consequence”, semi-independently of the Youth
Court and correctional system. Officers repeatedly stressed the importance of youths’
experiencing appropriate consequences for their illegal actions, and many, but by no
means all, expressed scepticism about the ability of the courts and correctional system to
do so; and therefore, the necessity of their dispensing street-level justice. This is not to
suggest any impropriety or illegality in the actions of police, but rather to suggest that
their own view of the police function in preventing, responding to, and suppressing youth
crime is somewhat more expansive than the traditional view of police merely as law
enforcement agents.
Particularly in metropolitan jurisdictions, police officers tended to contrast unfavourably
the perceived remoteness of the Crown and Youth Court, and the cumbersome and slow
nature of their proceedings, with their own proximity to the reality of street crime, their
own ability to deliver swift sanctions, and their familiarity with the circumstances and
needs of individual young offenders. In rural areas and small towns, officers were more
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
249
likely to have closer working relationships with the Crown and court officials, and
therefore more confidence in the ability of these agencies to resolve youth crime
satisfactorily; and officers in rural/small town RCMP detachments in particular were
more likely to have confidence in the ability of the local community and/or local
diversion agencies to deal with young offenders, thus reducing their own felt need to
resolve the situation entirely themselves.
On the basis of our discussions with police, it is possible to construct a list of the
consequences, or sanctions, usually applied by police in dealing with a young person who
they believe on reasonable grounds has committed an offence. From least to most severe,
these are:
1.
2.
3.
4a
4b.
5a.
5b.
6.
7.
8.
Take no further action.
Give an informal warning.
Involve the parents.
Give a formal warning; and/or
Arrest, take to the police station, and release without charge.
Arrest, take to the police station, and refer to pre-charge alternative measures; or
Lay a charge without arrest by way of an appearance notice or summons, then
recommend for post-charge alternative measures.
Arrest, charge, and release on an appearance notice, a summons, or (more
commonly) a PTA without conditions.
Arrest, charge, and release on a PTA with conditions on an OIC Undertaking.
Arrest, charge, and detain for a JIR hearing.
(The severity of options 6, 7, and 8 could be mitigated by recommending post-charge
alternative measures.)
Apart from these two main objectives – law enforcement and informal sanctioning – a
third objective of police action arises from what police see as their crime prevention and
social welfare responsibilities – responsibilities which in some cases they would prefer
not to assume, but feel that they are forced to do so by the inadequacy of existing social
services. On some occasions, police will refer a youth to a diversion program, not as a
sanction, but in order to address the youth’s perceived needs – whether these needs are
directly related to the crime, or are seen as problems with which the youth needs
assistance. Furthermore, when a youth has been arrested, an officer may feel, in some
circumstances, that it would be irresponsible to release the youth back “out on the street”,
but is unable to contact the parents, or the parents are unable, unwilling or unsuitable to
take custody, and no agency can be found that will take the youth in. Circumstances
which are seen as involving a risk to the youth’s well-being include intoxication,
involvement in prostitution, or a dangerous home environment. In these circumstances,
the officer feels constrained to detain the youth; and research on bail hearings suggests
that the judge may then approve continued detention, also for welfare reasons. In many
jurisdictions, police said that this expedient is forced on them by the lack of suitable
facilities and agencies for youth.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
250
Data from the UCR Survey show that the proportion of apprehended youth who were
charged increased under the Young Offenders Act (YOA) – from an average of 55%
during 1977-1983 under the Juvenile Delinquents Act (JDA) – to an average of 64%
during 1986-2000; however, the proportion charged has been slowly declining from a
peak in 1991 to 59% in 2000. The main reason for this increase under the YOA in the
national level of charging of apprehended youth has been the enormous increase in
charging in certain provinces, notably Ontario and Saskatchewan. Under the JDA, these
two provinces had high levels of police discretion with youth; that is, low proportions of
apprehended youth charged – less than 40% in Ontario and less than 30% in
Saskatchewan – but they now rank second and third highest in the country in the
proportions of youth who are charged. Because Ontario comprises such a large part of the
population of Canada, the trend in that province has had a substantial effect on the
national trend. Analysis of UCR data and interviews with officers suggest that the main
reason for this increase in charging under the YOA is the reliance of these two provinces
on post-charge Alternative Measures. The scant data available from the UCR2 Survey
suggest that police in Ontario and Saskatchewan use informal action with youth-related
incidents approximately as frequently as police in other provinces, but generally they are
unable to pre-charge Alternative Measures.
On the other hand, the use of police discretion with youth in two other provinces –
Quebec and British Columbia – has increased substantially in the past decade, with the
result that they now have the lowest recorded proportion of apprehended youth charged.
The decline in charging of youth in Quebec in the past decade has been particularly
pronounced. We are unsure of all the reasons for this trend, but the most plausible
explanation is the unique screening systems for charging youth which are in operation in
those two provinces. In Quebec, the police recommendation to charge a youth is
reviewed by the Crown, in the context of an integrated youth justice and social welfare
system which emphasizes both law enforcement and the welfare of apprehended young
persons. In British Columbia, a police recommendation to charge a youth is reviewed by
the Crown, who makes the final decision. As a result of not “owning” the decision to
charge, many officers in British Columbia indicated that they try to use informal action
and pre-charge diversion wherever possible, in order to ensure that the young person will
receive at least some “consequence” for his or her wrongdoing.
Many forms of informal action are open to an officer who has apprehended a youth –
taking no action, informal and formal warnings, involving the parents, arresting and
taking the youth to the police station and then releasing him or her, and informal referral
to a program (i.e. without invoking Alternative Measures). The great majority of the
officers and police agencies in our sample use informal action frequently with youth. At
least in the larger police services, informal action is usually recorded in the police RMS
when the incident has been reported to police by a member of the public (because a
record is generated when the call is received by dispatch), but recording is much more
variable if the incident is discovered by an officer in the field.
Almost all of the agencies in our sample use informal warnings, and one-third use various
types of formal warnings. It is also common practice to take apprehended youth home
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
251
and/or involve the parents if possible. One-quarter of the sample said that one type of
informal action which they use with a youth whom they have reasonable grounds to
believe has committed an offence is to arrest and take him or her to the police station,
then release without laying a charge.
Approximately half of the sample refer youth to pre-charge diversion programs, whether
under the auspices of Alternative Measures or not. These programs are more available in
cities: many smaller towns and rural areas have no such programs whatsoever. Although
some officers remain sceptical about the value of pre-charge diversion and Alternative
Measures, it appears that the great majority feel that they can play a useful role with some
young offenders in some circumstances. In their view, diversion to a program or agency
can be a much more effective way of dealing with a youth’s perceived criminogenic
problem than referring him or her to Youth Court; also, some see referral to Alternative
Measures as a useful intermediate sanction, representing a consequence for the youth
which is more severe than informal action, but less harsh than laying a charge.
By far the greatest source of dissatisfaction with AM programs which was expressed by
interviewees is their unavailability. In many communities, the range of programs is
inadequate; in many others, there are no programs at all.
A second deficiency of alternative measures which many officers identified is the lack of
mechanisms to provide them with feedback on the outcomes of their recommendations –
whether they were accepted, and whether the resulting placement was effective. In the
absence of information, they can only speculate about the appropriateness and
effectiveness of their past and future recommendations.
Although many officers were interested in discussing pre-charge diversion with us, and
many had definite opinions on this subject, very few showed any such interest in
discussing post-charge AM. Apparently, this is largely foreign territory for police
officers: many said that this is entirely a matter for the Crown, and they did not offer
input to the Crown on a decision which is entirely out of their hands.
In summary, pre-charge diversion and alternative measures seem to have been accepted
by the great majority of police officers and police services as a very useful method of
dealing with certain kinds of offending youth in certain circumstances. However,
according to police whom we interviewed, the available facilities and programs are
woefully inadequate.
Although the recorded rate of youth crime in Canada has not changed substantially in the
past 20 years, there is one category of youth crime which has increased exponentially:
offences against the administration of justice. Almost all of these are violations of bail or
probation conditions and failures to appear for court. The recorded rate of bail condition
violations and failures to appear by youth in 2000 was approximately 20 times as high as
in 1983. In the year 2000, offences against the administration of justice accounted for
16% of all youth charged in Canada. In fiscal 1999/2000, administrative offences
accounted for 27% of all Youth Court cases, and 40% of all custodial dispositions.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
252
According to UCR statistics, police exercise less discretion with these offences than with
any other offence except murder. When we asked officers why so little discretion is used
with these offences, which are victimless and cause no harm except for expense and
inconvenience to the justice system, they explained that many such cases are referred to
them by other system agents – mainly the Youth Court or probation officers – and they
feel they have no alternative but to comply with what they interpret as an implicit or
explicit request to lay a charge. When police themselves discover a breach, they may
well overlook it, unless there are aggravating circumstances. Often, for example, the
breach is just the tip of the iceberg – the youth has a substantial record of prior offences,
including prior breaches, and is on bail in multiple current cases before the court, and/or
on probation for past offences. None of the officers whom we interviewed seemed to
think that they could overlook a failure to appear: apparently (although this was by no
means entirely clear to us), notification by the court of the failure to appear and of the
subsequent issuance of a bench warrant is understood as a request for the laying of a
charge. The epidemic of administration of justice offences in the youth justice system
appears to be more a result of the way in which the Youth Court and probation systems
define and enforce their orders, than of police decision-making. The one way in which
police do seem to be contributing to this epidemic is in their decisions concerning
conditions of release from custody (discussed below). In some circumstances, police will
impose, or seek to have imposed, intrusive conditions which may inadvertently “set the
youth up for failure”. This is particularly a concern with intensive supervision programs
for high-risk youth, such as SHOP and SHOCAP, which rely on bail (and probation)
conditions such as a curfew to give police the opportunity to monitor the lifestyle of the
youth.
Possible methods of compelling the appearance of a youth (or adult) in court include: the
summons and appearance notice, which can be used either instead of arrest, or as a
method of release after arrest; and release on a Promise to Appear (PTA), with or without
an Undertaking involving conditions. Theoretically, police can also release a young
person on a Recognizance, but this is apparently never done.
The use of the summons or appearance notice without arrest would seem to be
particularly desirable with young offenders, because of the non-intrusiveness of these
measures. However, they are in fact rarely used. Several reasons were offered by police.
The main reason appears to be that when an officer contemplates laying a charge or
referring to pre-charge Alternative Measures, s/he needs to provide enough evidence to
the Crown that a prosecution would be feasible (whether or not a prosecution actually
takes place). This would typically involve establishing identity, taking a statement,
possibly fingerprinting, possibly notifying the parents, and completion of one or more
forms, all of which can be done much more satisfactorily in a police station than in the
street or police car. Another reason is that arresting the youth and taking him or her to
the police station prior to laying a charge are seen by some officers as ways of impressing
the seriousness of the situation upon the youth, who might not take a summons or
appearance notice as seriously. Related to this is the perceived necessity, in some
circumstances, of establishing control of the situation, and of separating the youth from
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
253
his or her peers, in order to elicit cooperation. A final reason is the difficulty, in some
circumstances and jurisdictions, of serving a summons.
Following arrest and temporary custody, most officers prefer the Promise to Appear to
the summons or appearance notice as a method of release. The main reason is that the
PTA can be accompanied by an Undertaking which specifies conditions of release. Many
officers seem to attach considerable significance to the conditions contained in an
undertaking. They see these conditions as relatively precise, immediate, enforceable
constraints on the young person’s future behaviour, and immediate, concrete
consequences (sanctions) for the youth’s criminal act. These are contrasted with what
they see as the remote, delayed, unpredictable, and perhaps inappropriate constraints and
sanctions which may (or may not) be imposed eventually by the Youth Court and
correctional system.
The final, and by far the most intrusive, option for compelling appearance is detention for
a Judicial Interim Release (JIR) hearing. The reasons given by police officers for
detaining youth fall into three broad categories. The first includes reasons related to law
enforcement, narrowly defined, such as establishing identity, protecting evidence,
ensuring attendance at court of a youth whom police have reason to believe would not
otherwise attend, and preventing a repetition of the offence. The second group of reasons
could be summarized as “detention for the good of the youth”. These include detaining
youth who are intoxicated, who do not have a safe or secure home to be released to, and
whom social services will not or cannot accommodate, or who are prostitutes. In these
cases, police find themselves acting, not as law enforcement officials, but as staff of the
“only 24-hour emergency service in town”. The third type of rationale treats detention as
another kind of police disposition – that is, as another in the repertoire of measures which
police can take in order to administer a sanction or “meaningful consequence” for a
youth’s illegal behaviour. This view seems to underlie some officers’ statements that they
will detain a repeat offender or a youth with multiple breaches, or a youth with a “bad
attitude”, or a youth in a gang-related incident. A variant of this is the use of detention
and the JIR hearing to get judicial bail conditions, in order to impose immediate control
on the young person, and, in some cases, to facilitate the work of monitoring programs
for high-risk youth, such as SHOP and SHOCAP.
2.0 Environmental factors influencing police discretion with
youth
Two major sources of influence on the way in which officers exercise their discretion are
the environment in which the police agency is situated, and the way in which the agency
is organized. Police agencies operate within a complex environment, consisting of,
among other things, the nature of the local community, federal and provincial legislation,
policies, procedures, and programs, local public and private resources, and public
opinion. The police have little or no control over their environment. Nor can any federal
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
254
or provincial government agency expect to have much immediate impact on some salient
aspects of the policing environment, such as the degree of urbanization, sociodemographic characteristics, or the level and type of crime of the communities which
police serve. However, it is certainly within the power of provincial governments to
affect other aspects of the policing environment which affect the exercise of police
discretion, namely the relationship of Crown prosecutors with the police, and, above all,
the availability of programs to which youth can be referred as an alternative to being
charged (and, on occasion, held in police detention).
The availability of external resources to which apprehended youth can be diverted is seen
by many police officers as crucial to their ability to avoid laying a charge. This
availability varies widely. They are much more common in metropolitan jurisdictions
than in suburban/exurban communities or, especially, rural communities and small towns.
However, they are seen by officers as inadequate in all types of communities and all parts
of Canada. In all provinces and territories, officers felt that they did not have the
appropriate external resources for the effective handling of youths with alcohol or drug
addiction, anger management issues, or mental illness (including Fetal Alcohol
Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effect). Officers in many police agencies said that there were
absolutely no programs available for young people with these problems. Lack of suitable
diversion programs is associated with increased use of charging, and with increased use
of detention. When there is no available agency to which police can release a youth in
need of immediate supervision or intervention, then they sometimes feel constrained to
hold the youth for a bail hearing.
We looked at several characteristics of the community in which the police work. Some
research, especially in the U.S.A., has found that urbanization is associated with higher
crime rates and higher levels of formal action by police; whereas, there is less crime and
a more neighbourly atmosphere in rural areas and small towns, and a corresponding less
formal policing style. In Canada, there is no relationship between urbanization and the
crime rate. Crime rates in small places are as high as those in the largest cities.
However, youths commit more serious violent crime and property crime, and more gangrelated crime, in metropolitan areas. Another major difference between the Canadian and
American situations is that most rural areas and small towns in Canada are policed by
detachments of three very large, professional, and bureaucratic police services – the
RCMP, OPP, and Sûreté du Québec; whereas, in the U.S.A., small towns and rural areas
are often policed by elected sheriffs or small-town police forces recruited locally. The
findings from the interview data suggest a different style of policing in rural and small
town areas, and also some differences between policing in urban centres and their
suburban and exurban fringes. Rural and small town communities have a distinctive
social climate that appears also to influence police decision-making. With a higher
density of acquaintanceship, rural and small town officers feel more accountable to the
community. On the other hand, detachment commanders in the RCMP and OPP are
accountable to their superiors, and, ultimately, to headquarters in Ottawa or Orillia.
Rural and small town officers whom we interviewed – whether in independent municipal
agencies, or RCMP or OPP detachments - suggested that the communities they police
want the police to be tough on youth crime but not to incarcerate their youth. Officers in
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
255
rural areas and small towns appear to make more use of informal action, but less use of
pre-charge diversion, than officers in metropolitan and suburban jurisdictions.
Rural/small town and suburban/exurban jurisdictions are particularly likely to have no
external agencies to which police can divert youth: almost half of the officers whom we
interviewed in non-metropolitan communities said that they are never able to make
referrals to external agencies. Officers in rural/small town communities and in
suburban/exurban communities are more likely to use a summons to compel appearance,
because they do not face the same problems of serving it as do officers in larger centres;
and officers in rural areas and small towns are less likely to detain a youth for a JIR
hearing, because the distance to the nearest youth detention facility makes access
problematic, both for the police and for the youth’s family.
Concerning the level of youth crime in the community, 29% of police services said they
had “a lot”, 17% said “not very much”, and the others indicated “a normal amount”.
Perceived high levels of youth crime are more common in the Prairies and the Territories,
and in metropolitan areas. UCR data indicate that police agencies in communities which
police said had “not very much” youth crime have higher rates of charging apprehended
youth than others. These are confirmed by data from the interviews, which suggest that
police officers tend to use more discretion if they identified their jurisdiction as having a
lot of youth crime. They are more likely to use various forms of informal action and precharge diversion, and they are more likely to detain for a JIR hearing and to cite
“legalistic” rather than social welfare reasons for detention.
When we asked about the types of youth crime which are characteristic of their
jurisdictions, officers in most police services reported, not unexpectedly, that they deal
with high levels of minor property crime and minor assaults. Three-quarters of the police
agencies also perceive high levels of serious property crime by youth, especially break
and enter. One-quarter identified a problem of serious violent youth crime. These were
more prevalent in metropolitan areas and in the Prairie provinces. One-quarter identified
a problem of youth gangs; these were also more common in metropolitan areas and the
Prairies. Surprisingly, 80% of the police services in the sample perceive a serious
problem of drug-related crime among youth in their jurisdictions. These are spread
across all the provinces and territories, and in all types of communities, although they are
slightly more prevalent in the Territories, and in metropolitan jurisdictions. 14% of the
police services, all but one in metropolitan jurisdictions, identified a problem of teenage
prostitution. We found no significant relationship between the types of youth crime
identified in a jurisdiction, and the exercise of discretion with young persons in that
jurisdiction.
The literature on the history of police-aboriginal relations in Canada suggests that they
have been characterized by conflict and mutual distrust. 42% of the agencies in the
sample said that they have jurisdiction over significant populations of aboriginal peoples,
living either on- or off-reserve. They are more prevalent in the Territories, British
Columbia, and the Prairies. The UCR data indicate that police services which police offreserve aboriginals have rates of charging apprehended youth which are a little higher
than other police agencies. The interview data indicate that police agencies with
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
256
jurisdiction over aboriginal populations are slightly more likely than other police services
to use informal action, twice as likely to refer youth to a Restorative Justice program, less
likely to use summonses or appearance notices, more likely to use a Promise to Appear
and an OIC Undertaking, and more likely to detain for a JIR hearing because the youth is
a repeat offender, is intoxicated, or for the youth’s safety.
The characterizations by respondents of police-community relations in their jurisdictions
are consistent with the results of previous research. About two-thirds of respondents
found the community to be generally or very supportive of the police; one-quarter offered
fairly neutral or mixed assessments, and 14% found the community to be only
“somewhat” or “not” supportive. Police in suburban/exurban jurisdictions were most
likely to find the community generally or very supportive; those in rural/small town
agencies were slightly more likely to find the community generally or very supportive
than those in metropolitan agencies. Police in British Columbia and the Prairies, and
those which have jurisdiction over a significant aboriginal population, are less likely than
other officers to find the community generally or very supportive. We found no
relationship between the exercise of police discretion with youth and the perceived level
of community support.
3.0 Organizational factors influencing police discretion with
youth
Analysis of the organizational characteristics of police agencies, and their influence on
the exercise of discretion with youth is particularly germane to the objectives of this
research, because almost all aspects of police organization are mutable. Police forces
which want to modify the ways in which their members exercise their discretion with
young offenders, in order to conform to the specific provisions and general intent of the
YCJA, can effect change to most of the aspects of police organization and culture which
are identified here as affecting the exercise of discretion – although organizational change
can be difficult and fraught with risks and unanticipated consequences. Presumably,
federal and provincial policy-makers in the areas of policing and youth justice can play a
role in encouraging such changes.
Probably the most salient aspect of the police organization is whether or not it has a youth
squad (or dedicated youth officers, i.e. officers assigned exclusively to youth-related
duties). Only 17 of the 92 police services in our sample have a youth squad or dedicated
youth officers. These are all independent municipal police services, and 14 of them have
more than 100 officers. They are mainly located in metropolitan areas, especially in
Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia. It is difficult for smaller police services and
detachments to dedicate one or more officers exclusively to handling youth crime. Some
smaller police services and detachments have officers who specialize in youth-related
incidents, but who also do other kinds of police work. It appears that the use of youth
squads and dedicated youth officers by Canadian police services has diminished
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
257
considerably since their heyday in the 1970’s, and that this is probably largely due to
financial stringencies during the 1990’s.
Our data suggest that police services with youth sections and/or dedicated youth officers
respond differently to youth-related incidents. It appears from the interview data that
police services with youth sections or dedicated youth officers make more use of parental
involvement, referrals to external agencies and pre-charge diversion, and less use of
formal charges. Analysis of UCR data confirms that the overall use of formal charges is
lower (Table IV.6), and the limited information from the UCR2 Survey suggests that the
use of informal action is greater. They are more likely to use the less intrusive methods of
compelling appearance, except that they tend to use more restrictive conditions with OIC
undertakings and are more likely to use detention, like the conditions of release, as a
means of addressing what they see as the criminogenic conditions of the youth’s life.
Many innovative programs are developed by youth officers, and they are able to involve
themselves proactively with youth in the community within a primary, secondary or
tertiary capacity. Youth officers acting as follow-up and as a resource to patrol officers
facilitate the gathering of intelligence and an increased knowledge of alternatives to
formal youth court. In a sense, the existence of a youth squad – just like the existence of
a homicide or armed robbery unit - is an indication that the police service recognizes the
unique nature of this particular kind of crime, and places priority on developing specialist
expertise in responding to it.
83% of police agencies in the sample have School Liaison Officers (SLO’s), but only
40% assign enforcement duties (response, investigation and disposition) to their SLO’s –
in the other police services, the role of the SLO is restricted to making crime prevention
presentations in schools. SLO’s, especially with enforcement duties, are more common
in larger police services, presumably because of resource considerations. UCR data
suggest that the presence of SLO’s, especially SLO’s with enforcement duties, slightly
reduces the use of charging with young offenders. The interview data suggest that police
agencies which have school liaison officers, especially SLO’s with enforcement duties,
appear to use less intrusive means of dealing with youth crime: they are more likely to
use informal action, less likely to lay charges, bring the youth home or to the police
station for questioning, more likely to make referrals to external agencies, more likely to
use pre-charge diversion, and more likely to use appearance notices to compel attendance
at court.
Community policing can be seen as having four dimensions: philosophical, strategic,
tactical, and organizational. The strategic dimension of community policing comprises
the adoption and public promulgation of written policies and protocols for all aspects of
policing, and the allocation of significant resources to community policing. According to
the officers whom we interviewed, 22% of the police services in the sample have
implemented the strategic dimension by allocating significant resources to community
policing. This is considerably less than “virtually every” police force in Canada, which,
according to Horne (1992) had adopted the rhetoric of community policing. Analysis of
UCR data suggests that police services which have allocated significant resources to
community policing have lower charge rates than those which have not. Analysis of the
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
258
interview data suggests that police services which have allocated significant resources to
community policing use more informal action, make more referrals to external agencies,
use more pre-charge alternative measures, and more PTA’s to avoid detaining the youth,
or “as a higher consequence” for the youth.
The tactical dimension of community policing includes involvement in crime prevention
programs and the adoption of the problem-oriented policing (POP) model. Every police
agency in the sample is involved in crime prevention programs, but the degree of
involvement varies considerably. Analysis of UCR data suggests that agencies with a
higher level of involvement in crime prevention programs tend to have a lower rate of
charging, especially in communities with high levels of youth crime. The interview data
suggest that more involvement in crime prevention programs is associated with more use
of informal action. Adoption of the problem-oriented policing (POP) model does not
appear to have a large impact on decision-making with youth.
About half of the sample was able to provide documentation on policies and protocols for
handling youth-related incidents and young offenders. However, only 13% of officers
whom we interviewed found their organizations’ policies and protocols helpful, and only
2% found them to be realistic. Analysis of UCR data shows that police services which
have youth-related policies and protocols charge, on average, 5% fewer apprehended
youth. The interview and documentary data indicate that police services which have
youth-related policies and protocols tend to make more use of pre-charge diversion, and
of appearance notices. Many differences appear between officers who do and do not find
these policies and procedures helpful and/or realistic. Those who find them helpful or
realistic are more likely to use various forms of informal action, referrals to external
agencies, pre-charge diversion, and appearance notices; and to “follow the law” and not
to invoke social welfare considerations, in making detention and release decisions.
In examining what officers had the authority and responsibility to lay a charge (or
recommend a charge, in Crown screening provinces) against a young person, we found
two common models: front-line autonomy, and front-line initial decision with review by
another officer(s). Analysis of UCR data suggests that the impact of the procedural
model for charging varies, depending on whether the police service has a youth squad or
not. The model which is associated with the lowest charge rates is front-line autonomy in
a police service which has youth specialists. The model associated with the highest
charge rate is front-line autonomy with no youth specialization. The implication is that
front-line autonomy results in greater use of discretion not to charge young persons if the
front-line officer has training to deal with youth, or if the police service is committed to
using discretion with youth, as indicated by its establishment of a youth squad. If there is
no youth specialization, or commitment to special treatment for youth, then autonomy
appears to result in front-line officers using their discretion to lay charges against youth.
Thus, in a police agency without youth specialization, it is the review by another officer,
whether supervisor or GIS, which appears to moderate the tendency of front-line officers
to lay charges. The interview data suggest three themes. First, the likelihood of police
officers using informal action with young offenders is higher in police services where
front-line officers are autonomous, and where there is a commitment to the use of
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
259
discretion with youth. Second, agencies in which there are no dedicated youth officers,
and front-line officers decide alone on the disposition of youth-related cases, tend to use
referrals to external agencies and pre-charge diversion less, and lay charges more, than
agencies in which a supervisor or youth specialist is involved in the decision. Finally,
autonomous patrol officers appear to use less intrusive measures to compel the attendance
of a young person in court. In cases where they do detain a young person they tend to do
so as a result of stipulations within departmental policy.
We assessed the impact of proactive versus reactive policing in relation to individual
officers, rather than trying to characterize an entire police service as proactive or reactive.
40% of officers said their work was mostly reactive, 9% said it was mostly proactive, and
51% said that their work involved “a bit of both”. Officers whose work is mostly
proactive are more likely to use informal action, less likely to use formal charges, less
likely to detain youth for a JIR hearing, but more likely to use more intrusive conditions
on release Undertakings.
The degree of centralization of a police organization refers to the extent to which central
management retains control of day-to-day decision-making by its divisions. In principle,
decentralization should increase the opportunities for the exercise of discretion by
individual officers. Our interview data suggest that decentralized police agencies use
more informal action, more pre-charge diversion, more Promise to Appears (PTA’s),
more conditions on release Undertakings, and more detention for JIR hearings. Analysis
of UCR data found no differences between centralized and decentralized agencies in the
level of charging of apprehended youth, when other related variables, such as the type of
policing and community, were controlled.
The size (number of officers) and degree of hierarchy (number of ranks) of the police
services and detachments in our sample varied substantially: from 2 to more than 5,000
officers, and between 1 and 12 ranks. In principle, size and vertical differentiation should
have considerable impact on the way in which members do their work. However, we
were unable to assess their impact on police decision-making, because we could not
distinguish their effects from the effects of the size of the community, with which both
variables are very strongly correlated.
4.0
Situational factors influencing police discretion with youth
Most research on police decision-making with youth has been restricted to analysis of the
impact of factors specific to the individual incident and apprehended youth on the
decision whether to charge (or to arrest, in most American research). Our main source of
information about these factors was the views expressed by officers in interviews, but
these were complemented wherever possible by statistical analysis of data from the
UCR2 Survey.
Both sources of data confirmed that the “legal” factors of the seriousness of the offence
(including its Criminal Code classification, the presence and type of weapon, and harm
done to the person or property of a victim) and the youth’s criminal history are by far the
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
260
most important determinants of the officer’s decision whether to lay a charge or resolve
the incident otherwise. Almost every respondent identified seriousness and prior record
as major factors in their decision-making. However, these apparently simple
relationships become more complex when examined more closely.
The relationship between the type of offence and the likelihood of charging is by no
means a simple question of “seriousness”. Less discretion is exercised with offences
against the administration of justice than with any other offence except homicide and
attempt murder – although administrative offences have no victim and cause no harm,
except expense and inconvenience to the justice system. If discretion varies inversely
with seriousness of the offence, then possession of stolen property is more serious than
abduction, major assaults, drug trafficking, break and enter, and sexual assaults; impaired
driving is more serious than break and enter, sexual assaults, and sexual abuse; arson is
less serious than almost any other offence; and violent crimes, as a group, are slightly less
serious than victimless crimes. Clearly, there is some relationship between the
seriousness of the offence and the amount of discretion exercised by police, but the
relationship is not straightforward.
The issue is more straightforward with respect to weapons and harm to a victim. Both
the interview data and the UCR2 data confirm that a charge is much more likely if the
youth was carrying a weapon, especially a firearm (which is very rare), or if a victim
suffered significant harm to person or property.
The interview data and the UCR2 data also make clear that the youth’s history of
previous criminal activity – whether indicated by prior apprehensions by police, prior
referrals to Alternative Measures, prior charges, or prior convictions – has a very strong
influence on police discretion. Our analysis of UCR2 data found that the number of prior
apprehensions of the youth – regardless of their outcome – is the strongest single
predictor of the decision to charge.
After the seriousness of the offence and the youth’s criminal history, the interview data
indicate that the strongest influence on the decision to charge is the youth’s demeanour –
both his/her “attitude” and the extent of his/her cooperativeness when apprehended and
processed. Approximately three-quarters of the respondents identified demeanour as a
factor or major factor in their decision-making. Officers stressed the importance of the
youth’s accepting responsibility for his/her wrongdoing, and their willingness to “give
him a break” when remorse and respect for the law were expressed. They also repeatedly
referred to “accepting responsibility” as a criterion of eligibility for Alternative Measures.
According to the interview data, the next most important factors in the decision to charge
are the victim’s expressed dispositional preference, the extent and nature of parental
involvement (whether parents appeared to be willing and able to take custody and control
of the youth, and whether they expressed an appropriate attitude to their child’s
wrongdoing), and the stability of the youth’s home and school situations. Approximately
one-half of the respondents identified these as factors or major factors in their decisionmaking.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
261
40% of respondents mentioned whether the crime was gang-related, and 22% cited the
youth’s gang affiliation, as factors or major factors in their decision-making. These
officers were much more likely to be in metropolitan police services and/or communities
with an identified problem of youth gangs.
Both the interview data and the UCR2 data identified the youth’s age as a factor,
although the results of analysis of the UCR2 data were stronger than the views expressed
by interviewees. Only 28% of interviewees said that the youth’s age was a factor or
major factor in their decision-making. However, analysis of UCR2 data found that an
apprehended 17 year old youth is 50% more likely to be charged, even when other factors
such as the seriousness of the offence and his/her criminal history are controlled.
According to the interview data, some other factors play a minor or secondary role in the
police decision to charge: whether the incident involved one or more offenders, the
location and/or time of day, whether the youth was under the influence of alcohol or
drugs, any relationship between the youth and a victim, and whether an adult co-offender
as involved. The impact of two of these factors was also analyzed with UCR2 data, and
both were found to have a minor effect. A lone offender is somewhat more likely to be
charged than one apprehended with accomplices. Youths whose victims are a parent or
stranger are more likely to be charged than those whose victims are siblings, friends or
acquaintances, even when other related factors such as the type of offence are controlled.
The type of victim (person or business) and the youth’s gender and race play little or no
role in the decision whether to charge, according to officers interviewed. Analysis of
UCR2 data confirmed that the youth’s gender plays no role, but suggests that aboriginal
youth are substantially more likely to be charged, even when other related factors are
controlled.
We compared the views of officers from different parts of the country, different types of
communities, and in different functional assignments. The most striking result was the
consistency of views across all officers (and the consistency of the interview data with
the results of statistical analysis of UCR2 data, and, indeed, with most previous research,
in Canada and in other countries). However, there were differences in emphasis related
to the region of the country, the type of community, the level and types of youth crime
with which the police service was dealing, and whether the respondent was a member of
a youth squad or was a School Liaison Officer.
5.0
Implications for implementation of the YCJA
Our commission did not include making recommendations to the Department of Justice –
much less to police - concerning the implementation of the YCJA, and we have not done
the kind of thorough analysis of the provisions and intent of that legislation which would
qualify us to make recommendations. However, even with our limited knowledge of the
statute, some implications of our findings seem so obvious that they bear repeating.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
262
Our research suggests that the main impediment to police diversion of apprehended youth
is the lack of suitable programs. The YOA set out an elaborate system of diversion Alternative Measures – and invited its widespread use with youth, but to a considerable
extent it appears that the invitation has not been accepted by the authorities responsible
for implementing diversion programs. The great majority of police officers whom we
interviewed believe that informal diversion and Alternative Measures are potentially
valuable responses to youth crime, but many officers are unable to use them at all, and
practically all officers are unable to use them as much as they would like to, because of
their unavailability. Thus, they feel that they have no alternative but to lay a charge in
circumstances where mere informal action is, in their view, an inadequate response.
At least from the point of view of the police whom we interviewed, post-charge diversion
programs are not an attractive alternative. They have little input to the post-charge
diversion decision, and are ignorant of its outcome. It is paradoxical to them that they
have to lay a charge in order to divert the youth. Our analysis of statistical data lends
support to the commonsense view that post-charge alternative measures result in netwidening: increasing the use of formal sanctions.
Apart from diversion programs per se, social programs which can offer help to youth in
need or at risk are, according to many of our respondents, woefully inadequate. In the
absence of these programs and agencies, police officers sometimes find themselves in the
position of surrogate social workers, seeing no alternative to the use of their powers to
arrest, charge, and detain youth whose main needs appear to be for protection and
assistance, not criminal sanctioning.
Concerning informal action, our conclusion from this research is that it is, and always has
been, widely used by police with apprehended youth, and will continue to be under the
new statute. However, there is room for a huge expansion in its use. Under the Juvenile
Delinquents Act, many police services used informal action with three-quarters or more
of apprehended youth. According to UCR statistics, quite a few police services and
detachments in Canada, particularly in Quebec and British Columbia, currently charge
only 20-30% of apprehended youth. In this respect, the YOA was, in principle, a
revolutionary statute, because it explicitly authorized the use of police discretion with
youth: to take “no measures” or “measures other than judicial proceedings”. Statutory
recognition of police discretion was revolutionary because – in principle – it exploded the
“myth of full enforcement”: the myth, in which much of the public and many police
officers continue to believe, that it is the responsibility of the criminal and juvenile justice
systems to prosecute all violations of the law, and that failure to do so can only be
justified by lack of resources. Under the myth of full enforcement, the use by police of
their discretion not to charge is seen as an undesirable expedient which is best concealed
behind a discreet curtain of obfuscation. The persistence of this uneasiness can be seen in
the joke which we heard repeatedly when we introduced our research to police officers:
“Discretion? What discretion?” – or, “Discretion? We don’t have any.” To some extent
this joke is simply a wry reference to the various constraints which police experience in
doing their work, but we believe that it also refers to the preference of many officers to
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
263
minimize the extent of their power not to charge. This uneasiness with the term “police
discretion” can be attributed to two sources: first, the perceived desire on the part of the
public for full and vigorous enforcement of the law, and second, the ever-present danger
that discretion will be used, or be seen to be used, in a discriminatory way. It seems to us
that the implementation of the YOA was singularly unsuccessful in legitimating, for both
the police and the public, the use by police of informal action with youth. Most police
officers continue to see informal action (and pre-charge diversion) as “giving the kid a
break”, rather than as a legitimate law-enforcement response to a violation of the law.
Thus the importance of the record of prior apprehensions: a kid who has received one
break doesn’t deserve another. Therefore, it seems to the authors that the implementation
of the YOA largely failed to achieve in practice what it did in principle: to encourage the
expanded use of informal action by police.
The YCJA appears to take this “revolution in principle” a step further, by requiring police
to consider informal action with apprehended youth, and by making it presumptive with
non-violent first offenders. However, it seems to us that a major educational campaign
will be needed to persuade the police, other system agents, and the public that informal
action is a fully legitimate and appropriate response to juvenile lawbreaking – just as
legitimate and appropriate, in some circumstances, as referral to a program or to court.
We paid a great deal of attention in Chapter II to the epidemic of cases involving
administration of justice offences by young persons, since they are subject to such low
levels of police discretion. Another revolutionary aspect of the YCJA, in our opinion, is
its preference for the use of alternatives to laying a charge in cases of a breach of a
probation order – either through extrajudicial measures or an application for a review of
the order under Section 59. In cases of failure to appear, it appears that police will no
longer be able to find that their discretion is inapplicable, since they will be required to
“consider” extrajudicial measures – i.e. using their discretion - before laying a charge.
However, as with the use of informal action by police, it seems to us that the
implementation of this new way of thinking about administrative offences will require a
major effort. It will also be interesting to see how the programs for monitoring of highrisk offenders, such as SHOP and SHOCAP, deal with this challenge to what is one of
their major monitoring tools and sources of leverage with their clients.
Concerning the process of laying a charge, we have noted at several points in this report
that the two provinces in which police said that the Crown screens their recommendations
to charge – Quebec and British Columbia – also have the lowest recorded rates of
charging of apprehended youth in the country. Can this be merely a coincidence? It
seems not, from the comments of many officers in British Columbia. They told us that
they find the system of Crown screening of their recommendations to charge so
frustrating that they prefer, wherever possible, to use informal action or pre-charge
diversion (not Alternative Measures). The rather perverse implication of this is that one
way to reduce the use by police of formal charges is to make the procedure frustrating so
that they avoid using it.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
264
Concerning organizational influences on the use of police discretion with youth, our
findings suggest that police services which want to increase their use of informal action
and of pre-charge diversion, and to reduce the use of intrusive methods of compelling
appearance, might consider any of the following measures: wholehearted adoption of the
community policing model, in all its dimensions, including a fundamental organizational
redesign and philosophical reorientation, the allocation of significant resources to
community policing, increased involvement in crime prevention programs, especially in
high-crime communities, and the adoption of the POP model by all ranks; creation of a
youth squad, or at least one or more officers who specialize in youth crime; adoption of
explicit policies and protocols for handling youth crime and young offenders; provision
of training in handling youth crime to all front-line officers, and then allowing them to
have autonomy in deciding how to dispose of youth-related incidents; assigning
investigative and enforcement functions to SLO’s who currently are limited to making
presentations in schools; increasing the use of proactive policing; and decentralizing
decision-making in the organization.
However, once again, we must emphasize that organizational innovation does not take
place in a vacuum. Many police managers are perfectly aware of the value of a youth
squad, enforcement SLO’s, etc., and many police services used to have youth squads, but
they were abandoned under the pressure of financial stringency during the 1990’s. When
money is tight, all sorts of innovative programs are abandoned, and the organization must
concentrate on its core activities. The core activities of the police, in the view of most
police officers and most members of the public, are routine patrol, and responding to calls
for service, i.e. reports by the public of a crime. Police services operating on restricted
budgets will give up almost any other activity before these. In this, they can probably
count on the support of the public. Therefore, if the various organizational innovations
detailed above are to be adopted, a police service must not only receive funding for that
innovation, but it must also be assured of an adequate base budget – because if the base
budget for traditional policing functions which are expected by the public is inadequate,
then inevitably ways will be found to divert the funds for innovation to what are seen by
all as core activities.
Our analysis of situational factors in police decision-making has at least one implication
for the implementation of the YCJA. This concerns the paramount importance to police
of the record of the youth’s previous apprehensions, whether or not they resulted in a
charge or a conviction. Currently, the recording by police of informal action is quite
variable. If one aspect of the implementation of the YCJA is going to be a significant
improvement in the recording of informal action, in order to track its use and
effectiveness, this may well have the effect of increasing the information available to
police on a youth’s previous criminal activity – and this may result in an increase in
charging. To put it differently, the statutory recognition of what was previously
“informal” police action may, implicitly, raise its status to that of “semi-formal” or
“formal” action, with a corresponding increase in its influence on a subsequent police
decision to charge.
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
265
Thus, provisions of the YCJA which were intended to reduce charging may have the
unintended consequence of increasing it. This does not seem so far-fetched if one
considers some of the totally unanticipated consequences of the YOA: an increase in
police charging and an increase in the courts’ use of custodial dispositions. One of the
authors of this report did research some years ago on the factors affecting dispositions in
Youth Court, and found that the youth’s prior record was the principal predictor of a
custodial disposition; an implication of that research was that part of the reason for the
increase in custodial dispositions might simply be improved record-keeping by the Youth
Courts. In a similar vein, we note that the police services studied by Black & Reiss in the
1970’s did not have the advantages of today’s sophisticated Records Management
Systems, and patrol officers in the field did not have effective access to the records of
youth whom they encountered: therefore, the youth’s prior record could not play a role in
their decision. Today’s patrol officers have computers in their cars, and instant access to
whatever information is in the RMS.
6.0
Implications for future research
In this section, we suggest several research initiatives which we believe would be
valuable contributions to the evaluation of the impact of the YCJA.
6.1
A pre-post evaluation of the impact of the YCJA
One of the main objectives of the present study was to provide baseline data on the
exercise of police discretion with youth, so that the impact of the YCJA on police
discretion could be evaluated by collecting comparable data in a few years time, and
analyzing any changes that had taken place. Such a study should collect qualitative and
quantitative data on all aspects of police discretion with youth, and on organizational
characteristics of police services and their environments, as the present research has done.
The proposed research should also repeat our analysis of situational factors influencing
police discretion, in order to see if any changes have occurred.
Such a study could replicate the methodology of the present study, or it might be possible
to collect the data which we obtained through face-to-face interviews by telephone
interviews or perhaps even mailed questionnaires. These more streamlined methods
might be feasible because the present study has defined the issues, and has developed a
set of standardized answers to all of the questions which we asked. (All of our questions,
except those concerning the impact of various situational factors, were open-ended, i.e.
we simply asked the questions and recorded the answers, which were classified and
coded later; in many cases, it was not so much a matter of question and answer as of
introducing a topic and recording and later coding the ensuing discussion.) However, it is
our strong impression that a principal reason for the incredible cooperation which we
received was that we made a visit to each police service and conducted face-to-face
interviews. Telephone interviews or mailed questionnaires might result in a much lower
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
266
degree of participation, and much less complete data from each participating police
service. The follow-up study would also analyze data from the UCR and UCR2 Surveys,
and would benefit, hopefully, from improvements in the UCR2 Study (see below). Such
a follow-up study could be conducted in late 2004 or, preferably, in 2005 after the YCJA
has been in effect for two full years; one factor which might affect the timing would be
the availability of UCR2 data for an expanded sample of police agencies (see below).
6.2
A baseline file study of police discretion under the YOA
One of the major lacunae of the present research is the lack of quantitative data on
various aspects of police discretion, such as informal warnings, formal warnings, arrest,
etc. Although we have been able to report the percentage of police services which use
such forms of discretion “usually”, “always”, etc., we have been unable to report
precisely what proportion of their youth-related cases are handled by each of these
methods.
As is explained above, it was not possible, for various reasons, for us to obtain this kind
of information on individual (or aggregated) young offender cases from police hardcopy
files or Records Management Systems. Such baseline information for the sample of
police services which we studied, or a comparable sample, would be enormously useful
in a later evaluation of the impact of the YCJA, assuming that comparative data could
again be collected in the follow-up evaluation study. We therefore suggest that the
possibility of a file study be revisited.
6.3
A “best practices” study of police discretion under the YCJA
Because the present study was designed as a exploratory survey, that is, a study of a
relatively large representative sample of police services, with a somewhat open-ended set
of questions, we were not able to study any one police service in much depth. However,
it was quite evident that some police services have already implemented, or are in the
process of implementing, many of the structures and processes which we believe will
result in greater use of police discretion with youth. It would be valuable to do in-depth
study of a small number - perhaps six - of these police services, in order to evaluate more
carefully the impact of these various organizational factors. Such information could be
useful both to policymakers and to management of other police services.
6.4 A study of the processing of administrative offences under the
YCJA
We have referred repeatedly in this report to the epidemic of offences against the
administration of justice committed by young persons, and the apparent inability of the
current system to deal with them constructively. We have also alluded to the view taken
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
267
by most police officers that they have very little discretion when a request, whether
explicit or implicit, to lay an administrative charge comes to them from another system
agent. We also reported that we were unable to clarify the process by which a youth’s
failure to appear in court leads to the laying of a charge by police, who apparently feel
that in this situation they have no discretion because of the wishes of the judge.
Because of the enormity of the problem of administrative offences, it might be
worthwhile to devote a separate study to a close investigation of the respective roles of
police, judges, and other system agents such as probation officers, in the genesis of
administrative charges. Such a study would also monitor the implementation of the
provisions in the YCJA for nonjudicial responses to administrative charges, and the
impact of these provisions.
6.5
Improvement of the UCR2 Survey
In principle, the UCR2 Survey should be an enormously useful tool for monitoring the
implementation of the YCJA and evaluating its impact. The UCR2 has two data
elements which capture the use of police discretion. One is the clearance status of each
incident, coded as cleared by charge, or cleared in several other ways, some of which are
forms of police discretion, and one of which captures referral to diversion programs. The
other element is the clearance status of each apprehended person, which is currently
coded as charged or processed otherwise. It is our understanding that these codes may be
expanded somewhat to capture the new provisions of the YCJA.
However, the UCR2 is currently of extremely limited use in monitoring the use of police
discretion in Canada, and its correlates. As a research tool for studying police discretion
in Canada, it suffers from two crippling deficiencies. The main one is the nonparticipation of a large number of police services. Although the UCR2 for 2001 included
59% of incidents in Canada, its coverage is concentrated in Quebec, and, to a lesser
extent, Ontario. It included only 1 police agency in British Columbia, 4 in each of
Saskatchewan and Alberta, etc. Since the RCMP does not participate, there is practically
no information on policing in small towns and rural areas outside Ontario and Quebec.
Even in Ontario, only 13 municipal agencies and the OPP report to the UCR2, leaving
numerous towns unrepresented. Until at least the RCMP, and preferably many more
municipal agencies report to the UCR2, it will be all but useless for portraying the
national situation.
The second deficiency is specific to the two elements described above: the clearance
status of incidents and of apprehended persons. Some police services which report to the
UCR2, including some very large police services, provide information on few or no
incidents or persons which are cleared other than by charge. Thus, according to their
UCR2 returns, they lay a charge in approximately 100% of incidents, and against
approximately 100% of apprehended persons. This makes the information in the UCR2
for these police services useless in the study of police discretion. It is also possible that
other police services substantially under-report incidents and persons cleared otherwise,
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
268
thus inflating their charge rates. Until the non-reporting problem is cleared up, the
effective coverage of the UCR2, for purposes of the study of police discretion, is even
less than its limited overall coverage. Furthermore, until the problem of under-reporting
is resolved, statistics derived from the UCR2 on the extent of use of informal action and
of pre-charge diversion will always be viewed with scepticism. This is a great pity,
because in principle it is infinitely preferable to have quantitative data on police activity
collected every year on a routine basis by a professional data collection agency, which
can guarantee confidentiality under the Statistics Act, to having to collect it oneself on a
one-shot basis, at great expense, and entirely dependent on the willingness of police to
cooperate.
Any investment made now in immediate improvement of both the coverage and the data
integrity of the UCR2 should provide large dividends to research on all aspects of police
work under the YCJA, in the coming years
Police discretion with young offenders
VI. Conclusions
269
269
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POLICE DISCRETION WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
METHODOLOGICAL APPENDIX
Figure A.1 Locations of police services in the sample
I. Interviews
1.0
Sample
1.1
Target sample
A sample of 118 police agencies was selected to be interviewed. This consisted of 76
agencies which we designated as high priority, and 42 additional agencies which were
designated as “to be interviewed if time permits”.
The target sample was based on the principles of representativeness of the regions of
Canada, of communities of different sizes, and communities inside and outside Census
Metropolitan Areas, and the different modes of delivery of police services: independent
municipal, provincial, RCMP municipal and provincial contract, OPP municipal contract,
and First Nations self-policing.
The 76 first-priority agencies consisted of 47 independent municipal police services, 20
RCMP detachments, 5 provincial police (OPP and RNC) detachments or headquarters, 2
First Nations police services, one police training facility, and the headquarters of the
Sûreté du Québec.
The 42 second-priority agencies included 27 independent municipal services, 8 RCMP
detachments, and 7 OPP detachments, with a number of detachments of the Sûreté du
Québec, to be determined in consultation with the headquarters of the Sûreté.
1.2
Actual sample
The target sample had to be modified in various ways, which are discussed below. The
outcome was that members of 98 police agencies were interviewed. These are shown as
push-pins in the map in Figure A-1, and listed in Annex A-1, at the end of this Appendix.
These police agencies fall into 5 categories:
1.
Independent municipal police services (in all provinces except Newfoundland)
(n=50);
2.
RCMP detachments in 5 provinces and 3 territories (NWT, Nunavut, Yukon,
B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick (n = 29);
3.
Provincial police detachments (Ontario Provincial Police and Royal
Newfoundland Constabulary) (n=14);
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4.
First Nations police services (n=3);
5.
Training facilities (n=2).
288
Of the original sample of 76 first-priority police agencies, 15 could not be included in the
final sample. Six of these 15 agreed to participate, but could not be accommodated in the
interviewer’s travel schedule. Representatives of one police service (the Sûreté du
Québec) expressed initial interest in participating, but eventually declined to participate
after consultation with the provincial Ministère de la sécurité publique. The other 8 firstpriority police services which could not be included are all located in Province of
Québec. Municipal consolidation and the amalgamation of policing services during 2002
in Québec have resulted in the substitution of regional police, or policing by the Sûreté,
for smaller independent municipal services. These 8 police services were in the process
of being dissolved or merged into larger regional services, and were therefore unsuitable
for inclusion in the study.
Thirty-seven police agencies were added to the 61 original first-priority agencies
included in the sample. These 37 additional agencies were selected according to two
criteria: they had characteristics which improved the representativeness of the resulting
sample, and they were relatively convenient to interview, given the travel schedule
imposed on our interviewers by the locations of the 61 first-priority agencies.
Initiatives by the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police were extremely helpful in
overcoming the shortcomings of the target sample, particularly its under-representation of
rural and small-town policing. This bias in our target sample in favour of larger
communities was partly a result of our priority on representativeness by population, and
was partly forced on us by the necessity of concentrating our interviewers’ visits in cities
and surrounding areas in order to use their time and travel budget most efficiently.
On the initiative of Dorothy Franklin, Officer in Charge, National Youth Strategy,
Community, Contract and Aboriginal Police Services, contact was made on our behalf
with 12 RCMP members who had served recently in 7 detachments in the Yukon,
Northwest Territories, or Nunavut, but were now posted to Ottawa, southern Ontario, or
Edmonton. Project staff were able to interview these members without travelling to the
North. The interviews provided unique information on policing with young offenders,
and indeed, policing in general, in the North.
A similar opportunity was provided by the OPP, on the initiative of Supt. Susan Dunn,
Commander, Operational Planning and Research Bureau. Her staff arranged for officers
currently posted to 10 remote detachments in Northern Ontario to travel to OPP HQ in
Orillia to be interviewed by project staff.
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Apart from these 17 remote RCMP and OPP detachments, we were able to include from
the second-priority list, 6 RCMP detachments in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan, a
police training academy in B.C., and one municipal service in each of Ontario and Nova
Scotia. However, the main substitutions occurred in the Province of Québec, due to the
large number (9 out of 14) which could not be included from the first-priority sample.
Nine additional municipal and 2 First Nations police services in the Province of Québec
were incorporated in the resulting sample of police services interviewed.
We believe that the resulting sample provides adequate representation of public policing
in the regions of Canada, in communities of different sizes, and communities inside and
outside Census Metropolitan Areas, and the different modes of delivery of police
services: independent municipal, provincial, RCMP municipal and provincial contract,
OPP municipal contract, and First Nations self-policing. The only major aspect of
policing which is not represented in the sample is provincial policing in the province of
Quebec.
The number of members interviewed per police agency varied between one and seven,
depending on the size of the agency and the availability of interviewees. Altogether, 199
interviews were conducted with more than 300 members of the 98 police agencies. Their
names are listed with their permission in Annex A-2.
Qualitative data from all the interviews has been incorporated into the report. The
statistical analyses of the interview data are based on 194 interviews with 95 police
agencies since key information was not available from 5 interviews with 3 police
agencies.
2.0
Interview Procedure
2.1
Contact
Initial contact with the sampled police agencies was made in three ways:
•
Project staff attended and made presentations at the semi-annual meetings of the
POLIS (Police Information and Statistics) Committee of the Canadian
Association of Chiefs of Police, in October, 2001 and March, 2002. This
committee has members representing the largest police services in Canada,
including the RCMP, the 3 provincial police forces, and approximately 12 of the
largest municipal forces, representing almost every province of Canada. After
receiving expressions of support at both POLIS meetings, and invitations from
some POLIS members, project staff contacted most members of POLIS as the
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first “wave” of interviews, in March, 2002. Eventually, all members (as of
October, 2001) of POLIS were contacted to request interviews.
•
A letter of introduction requesting cooperation was sent in March, 2002, by the
Director General, Youth Justice Policy, Department of Justice, to the
Commanding Officer (Chief of Police, Chief Constable, etc.) of every sampled
municipal and provincial police service, and to the Commanding Officers of the
RCMP Divisions for the 5 provinces in which sampled RCMP detachments were
located. This letter enclosed a brief description written by project staff of the
objectives of the project, the information which we wanted to elicit in the
interviews, and the kinds of officers whom we wanted to interview (see Annex
A-3).
•
A representative of Youth Justice Policy arranged a meeting in March, 2002, at
RCMP National Headquarters between project staff and members of the
Community, Contract and Aboriginal Police Services, RCMP. This resulted in a
strong expression of support for the project, expressed in a letter of introduction
written by Dorothy Franklin, Officer in Charge, National Youth Strategy,
requesting cooperation from the Divisional Commanding Officers for the 5
provinces (and for “Depot” Division) where we wished to interview RCMP
members; with copies to the Officer in Charge, Criminal Operations, in each
provincial Division, and to the Officer in Charge of each sampled detachment.
We believe that each of these approaches probably contributed significantly to the
extremely high degree of cooperation which we subsequently received from police
services. In our approaches to the many police services which do not belong to POLIS,
we cited the support for the project expressed by POLIS, and the fact that almost all
members of POLIS had agreed to participate in the study. Presumably the support of
POLIS and its individual members, in combination with the letter requesting cooperation
sent by Justice Canada, encouraged the commanding officers of other police services to
allow us access.
In the case of the OPP, it was in response to our presentation at the March, 2002, meeting
of POLIS that the Commander, Operational Planning and Research Bureau, offered the
services of her office in coordinating the interviews with OPP officers which we had
planned, and also made the very generous offer to bring members of Northern
detachments to OPP Headquarters to be interviewed.
In the case of the RCMP, we believe that the letter of introduction from the OIC, National
Youth Strategy, was probably crucial to obtaining the cooperation of the provincial
Divisional Commanders, who then arranged access for us to the individual detachments.
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The second contact with each sampled municipal police service, and the two RNC
detachments, took the form of a short letter faxed to the Commanding Officer, written by
the Principal Investigator. It referred to the letter of introduction from Justice Canada,
briefly repeated the objectives of the project, listed the (growing number of) names of
police services which had already agreed to participate, suggested a day for the
interviews to take place, and invited the recipient to contact the Principal Investigator to
arrange the interviews. A copy of the project summary was included (Annex A-3). In the
case of the RCMP, this letter from the Principal Investigator was sent to the provincial
Divisional Commanders, and listed the detachments which we wished to interview and
the days, or week, during which our interviewer would be available to visit the
detachments. A slightly different procedure was followed with the police services in the
Province of Québec; this is discussed below.
In some cases, the faxed letter elicited a telephone call from the Chief’s office, or
someone in the police service assigned by the Chief to liaise with us. If no response was
forthcoming, project staff contacted the Chief’s office by telephone. In the phone calls,
we answered questions about the project, since many of the police services which we
contacted had concerns about our objectives, our methods, and the nature of our intended
report; and explained what kinds of officers we wished to interview, and arranged a
mutually convenient day or days to visit the police service.
In the case of the smaller police services, it was often possible to make the arrangements
for the visit in one or two telephone calls, with either the Chief himself, or his secretary
or Deputy Chief. In some of the larger police services, the Chief’s executive assistant, or
a Deputy Chief or other officer in a management position was assigned to assist us, and
arrangements were made fairly easily. In other police services, responsibility for assisting
us was passed from person to person down the chain of command; in these cases, several
phone calls, over a period of weeks, were needed to arrange a visit. In some cases, more
than a dozen phone calls were required to make the arrangements.
In the case of the RCMP, our first phone call was to the office of the provincial
Divisional CO. In one province, the CO assigned an officer to assist us, who requested
information from us concerning our preferred interview times, then personally contacted
all the detachments which we had identified, and arranged all the visits for us. In the
other provinces, the CO notified the detachments by letter of our wish to visit them,
requested their cooperation, and left it for us to arrange the visits. We then contacted the
Officer or NCO in Charge of each detachment, as though it were an independent police
service – with the important difference that the provincial CO had already requested that
the OIC of the detachment cooperate with us. In all but one province, staff of Divisional
Headquarters were made available to us to interview, although in two provinces, our
interviewer’s crowded travel schedule made this impossible.
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292
A few police services required detailed information about the questions which we
planned to ask during the interviews, and our provisions for maintaining the
confidentiality of oral answers and documentary material. In these cases, we provided the
police service with a written Confidentiality Protocol (Annex A-4) and a complete
Interview Schedule (Annex A-5).
We used a slightly different procedure to contact police services in the Province of
Québec, since the regular project staff are not fluent in French. A bilingual interviewer
who is resident in Montreal was engaged in late April, to do interviews with police in the
Province of Quebec. During May, she translated our main interview documents into
French, including the interview schedule (Annex A-6) and letters of introduction to
police (Annex A-7). After the Director General, Youth Justice Policy, had sent the initial
letter of introduction (in French) to sampled police services, our bilingual interviewer
faxed the follow-up letter on our company letterhead, under her own signature, with an
invitation to contact her at her Montreal office. If she did not receive a reply, she then
made contact with the police services and arranged the interviews.
2.2
Interview procedures
With very few exceptions, interviews were conducted on-site, either at the premises of
the police agency, or in the officer’s car. The exceptions are two telephone interviews and
one conducted at a conference which the interviewee was attending. All interviews were
tape-recorded, with the permission of the interviewees. There were some group
interviews with two or more members participating. Almost all interviewees were sworn
police officers; a very small number were civilian employees in administrative support
divisions, such as Records.
Interviews were conducted between March and August, 2002. For the sake of
consistency, we decided to have all the anglophone interviews conducted by the same
interviewer, the Assistant Project Manager. (Actually, a few interviews were also
conducted by the Principal Investigator when the Assistant Project Manager was
unavailable.) This imposed limits on how much time she could spend with each police
service, since she had to visit a large number of agencies, scattered all across Canada, in a
few months. Generally, we allocated half a day for visits with smaller police services
(and detachments), where we anticipated conducting only one or two interviews; and a
full day for visits to the larger municipal police services, involving three to seven
interviews. For a few very large municipal services, two days were allocated.
In the case of police services with specialized youth detectives, and where the
interviewer’s schedule permitted, we requested that the interviewer be taken on a ridealong with a youth detective. Eleven ride-alongs were conducted. No tape recorder was
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293
used during the ride-alongs, but the interviewer’s observations were recorded afterwards,
and incorporated into the analysis.
The interview schedule is reproduced in Annexes A-5 and A-6. Interviews were semistructured; that is, the interview schedule was used by the interviewers as a guide to
topics to be covered, rather than to be slavishly followed. If the interviewee wished to
pursue a line of thought which was not, strictly speaking, in the interview schedule, but
seemed relevant to the project’s objectives, then s/he was not discouraged from doing so.
The last part of the interview schedule, covering recording practices, was devised mainly
to shed some light on the genesis of UCR data, for the benefit of project staff doing
analysis of statistical data, rather than to provide substantive information for the final
report. This section turned out not to be very successful, since many or most of the
officers interviewed were not in a position to give informed answers, and there were few
opportunities to interview personnel in Records. Furthermore, this section came at the
end of the interviews, which tended to be lengthy and tiring for both interviewers and
subjects, and which were usually conducted during a fixed period of time; so that there
was often no time to cover this section, or it seemed inadvisable on account of the
subject’s or interviewer’s fatigue. In addition, this seemed to be the one topic on which
interviewees seemed reluctant to speak frankly. Therefore, interviewers adopted the
practice of omitting this section, unless there was some particular opportunity to pursue it
(e.g. someone from Records was made available for interviewing).
Although interviewers attempted to ask all the questions in the interview schedule (with
the exception noted above) in the course of interviewing each police agency, they did not
necessarily ask all the questions of each interviewee. Subsets of questions are designated
in the schedule as being particularly appropriate for upper management to answer;
subsets for middle management, and subsets for general duty officers (patrol and
investigators). However, in the smaller police services, where only one or perhaps two
officers could be interviewed, a larger portion or all of the questions were addressed in
the one or two interviews. In some large municipal police services, some interviewees
had highly specialized functions, and the interviews with them concentrated on these
functions.
Further limitations on coverage of the interview schedule for some police services were
imposed by the busy schedules of some interviewees, and occasionally by the travel
schedule of the interviewer.
Relevant documentary material was requested from all police agencies, and in many
cases was provided. Much information about the nature of the community, general police
service orientation, and organizational structure was also obtained from the web sites
maintained by some police services and municipalities.
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294
Following the visit, a letter was sent to the CO or Chief expressing appreciation for the
participation of the police service, and thanking by name the members who had been
most instrumental in the success of the visit.
2.3
Transcription and translation
The English interviews were transcribed by a local transcription service. The French
interviews were transcribed in French, and then translated into English.
II. Statistical data on young offender cases
Custom tabulations of statistical data from the Incident-Based Uniform Crime Reporting
(UCR2) Survey were provided by Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
For the analyses reported in Chapter II, we used a tabulation of all youth-related incidents
reported to the UCR2 for 2001, broken down by province and clearance status of the
incident; and a tabulation of all youth-related incidents reported for 1995-2001 by a
subset of police services which have been reporting continuously to the UCR2 between
1995 and 2001 (the “Trend Database”).
For the analyses reported in Chapter V, we used a tabulation of all young persons
apprehended in 2001 who were reported to the UCR2 by a subset of police services. This
tabulation was broken down simultaneously by the police disposition (charged vs.
processed otherwise) and several independent variables. Because this tabulation
incorporated information pertaining to the years 1995-2001 (see below), the sample of
police services was restricted to the Trend Database (see above). It was further restricted
by omitting one police service (Toronto) which does not report youth who are not
charged – since the dependent variable in the analyses was whether or not the youth was
charged. The resulting sample included 186 police services in 6 provinces: New
Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.
The youth’s record of prior criminal activity has been identified as an important
determinant of the police disposition, both by previous research and by interviews in the
present research. Special programming work was required in order to create this
variable, since it is not routinely captured by the UCR2. The work was done for this
project by staff of Statistics Canada and the Principal Investigator. The procedure
involved searching through all UCR2 records for 1995-2001 for the selected sample of
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police services, and matching records of apprehensions pertaining to youths apprehended
in 2001. Each record (except the latest apprehension in 2001, which was the
apprehension whose outcome was being analyzed) constituted one prior apprehension.
These were counted and classified.
Matching of records for the same person was not straightforward, since there is no unique
person identifier in the UCR2. The person’s surname is encoded in a 4-character
SOUNDEX code, which is not unique; i.e. many surnames are encoded with the same
SOUNDEX. Thus, simply matching on the SOUNDEX would result in many false
positive matches; i.e. many records for different people would be erroneously treated as
prior apprehensions of a single person. The result would be an underestimate of the
number of unique persons and an overestimate of the length of their prior records. This is
not necessarily as great a problem in the present research as it might be in other types of
research, because we are not concerned here with prior record in itself, but in its
correlation with the probability of being charged. In general, errors in measurement of
variables (such as overestimates of prior records) result in attenuation of correlations, so
the result of such error would be a small underestimate of the impact of prior record on
police dispositions, and a small overestimate of the impact of other related variables, such
as the youth’s age. False positives can be greatly reduced by matching simultaneously on
SOUNDEX, birth date, and sex (which are all in the UCR2), but are still a potential
problem.
Methodologists at Statistics Canada conducted an exhaustive analysis of the probability
of false positive matches by comparing the rate of occurrence of each SOUNDEX in the
UCR2 with the rates of occurrence of the corresponding surnames in the populations of
the provinces of Canada, using electronic telephone directories. This enabled them to
establish, for each SOUNDEX, the expected rate of false positives, when it was used for
matching in combination with birth date and sex. SOUNDEXES vary greatly in their
vulnerability to false positive matches, since some encode very common surnames and
others do not. Assessments of SOUNDEX “match quality” (i.e. non-vulnerability to false
positives) were made under the assumption that UCR2 records would be matched only
within the police services in a Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), or within the
jurisdiction of individual police services outside CMA’s (since there was no obvious
principle with which to group non-CMA police services). Consideration was also given
to the possibility of matching within larger areas, such as an entire province, in order to
capture a youth’s apprehensions in different jurisdictions. The basic principle here is that
the probability of false positives is directly related to the size of the population within
which one is matching.
On the basis of this quality analysis, four categories of SOUNDEXes were defined:
• 0 – SOUNDEX is rare enough that it can be used in analysis within a given CMA or
individual police service (99% or better match efficiency rate)
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•
•
•
296
1 – SOUNDEX is rare enough that it can be used in analysis within a given CMA or
individual police service (95% – 99% match efficiency rate)
2 – SOUNDEX is common enough that it should be used with caution in analysis
within a given CMA or individual police service (90% - 95% match efficiency rate)
3 – SOUNDEX is too common to be used for analysis – this will result in too
many false matches (less than 90% match efficiency rate).
“Match efficiency” refers to the absence of false positives; e.g. 99% match efficiency
means that 1% of matches are expected to be false positives, and “99% or better” means
that 1% or fewer false positives are expected.
Using 95% match efficiency as a criterion of acceptability, we decided to omit all records
with SOUNDEXes with a quality code of 2 or 3, except in Montreal. This omission is
quite acceptable elsewhere, since most jurisdictions have small enough populations that
there are very few or no SOUNDEXes with quality codes of 2 or 3: the only jurisdictions
with more than 0.0% of these SOUNDEXes are Montreal (28.4%), Quebec City (2.2%),
Calgary (1.3%), Edmonton (3.5%), and Toronto (15.1%), but Toronto was already
omitted from our sample because of its non-reporting of youth who are not charged. Due
to the large number of records which would be omitted for Montreal if we adopted this
criterion, we included records with a SOUNDEX quality code of 2 in that jurisdiction.
The population of areas of New Brunswick reporting to the UCR2 is small enough that
matching could be done with all police services treated as one unit, for all SOUNDEXes.
For Saskatchewan and Alberta, matching was done with all police services treated as one
unit for SOUNDEXes with a quality code of 0, but within individual police services for
SOUNDEXes with a quality code of 1. For Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia,
matching was done within CMA or individual non-CMA police service for SOUNDEXes
with quality codes of 0 and 1. This resulted in a sample of 38,727 unique young persons
apprehended in 2001, with an average of 2.9 apprehensions, including the current one; or
1.9 prior apprehensions. We also examined the results of three other plausible but less
conservative sets of matching criteria, which produced very similar results, ranging from
38,369 to 38,411 unique youths, and an average number of apprehensions (in all three
cases) of 3.0. Thus, for this study, the results of matching were robust even when less
stringent matching criteria were used.
Although the number of prior apprehensions of youths in our sample ranged from 0 to
261, the great majority (96%) had 10 or fewer, and most (90%) had 5 or fewer. In
assessing the relationship between the number of prior apprehensions and the police
disposition, no information was lost by recoding the number of prior apprehensions as 0,
1, 2, 3-4, and 5 or more.
The police disposition (charged vs. processed otherwise) was cross-tabulated separately
with each of the independent variables:
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
297
the type of offence, indicated by the Criminal Code classification;
the level of injury suffered by a victim;
the presence of a weapon;
the number of prior apprehensions of the youth;
the age of the youth;
the gender of the youth;
whether the youth was an aboriginal;
whether the youth was apprehended alone or with other persons
the type of relationship, if any, between the youth and a victim;
whether the youth and a victim were living together;
whether there was evidence that the youth had recently consumed alcohol or
drugs.
The two latter variables were omitted from further analysis, since they were unrelated to
the police disposition. The proportions of youth who were charged, broken down by each
of the other variables, are presented in individual tables in Chapter V.
In order to assess the relationship of the independent variables while controlling for
related factors, all independent variables were entered simultaneously into a multiple
regression analysis with the police disposition (charged vs. processed otherwise) as the
dependent variable. Two statistics were calculated:
•
the adjusted percentage of youth who were charged, for each category of the
independent variable: this is the percentage of youth who “would have been
charged if everything about the offence and the offender were the same, except
for variations in this variable”; and
•
partial eta squared: this is an estimate of the amount of variation in the police
disposition which is accounted for when all other variables are controlled, i.e. the
strength of its unique impact on the police disposition.
Annex A-1. Interview Sample
Subsample 1. Independent municipal police services (n=50)
British Columbia
1)
2)
3)
4)
Vancouver (POLIS member)
Victoria (POLIS member)
Abbotsford
New Westminster
Alberta
5) Edmonton (POLIS member)
6) Calgary (POLIS member)
Saskatchewan
7) Regina (POLIS member)
8) Saskatoon
9) Moose Jaw
Manitoba
10) Winnipeg (POLIS member)
Ontario
11)
12)
13)
14)
15)
16)
17)
18)
19)
20)
Toronto (POLIS member)
Ottawa (POLIS member)
Sudbury (POLIS member)
Waterloo Regional (POLIS member)
Peel
Windsor
Guelph
Barrie
Cornwall
Prescott
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
21)
22)
23)
24)
25)
26)
27)
28)
Durham
Hamilton-Wentworth
Niagara Regional
Essex
Orangeville
New Liskeard
Lasalle
South Bruce Grey
Québec
29)
30)
31)
32)
33)
34)
35)
36)
37)
38)
39)
40)
41)
42)
Montréal (POLIS member)
Québec City
Sherbrooke
St. Jérôme
Mirabel
Laval
Roussillon
Sainte-Julie
Vallée-du-Richelieu (Beloeil)
Mont-Tremblant
Rivière-du-Loup
Les Collines-de-l’Outaouais (La Pêche)
Memphrémagog
Sorel-Tracy
New Brunswick
43) Saint John
44) Rothesay Regional
45) Bathurst
Nova Scotia
46) Halifax (POLIS member)
47) Truro
48) Stellarton
Prince Edward Island
49) Charlottetown
50) Summerside
300
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Subsample 2. RCMP Headquarters, Divisional Headquarters,
and detachments (n=29)
1) RCMP Headquarters (“A” Div., Ottawa)
British Columbia (“E” Div.)
2)
3)
4)
5)
6)
7)
Kelowna
Penticton
Prince Rupert
Terrace
Hope
Surrey
Alberta (“K” Div.)
8) “K” Divisional Headquarters
9) St. Albert
10) Fort Saskatchewan
11) Sherwood Park
12) Stony Plain
13) Barrhead
14) Wetaskiwin
15) Hobbema
Saskatchewan (“F” Div.)
16) “F” Divisional Headquarters
17) Battlefords
18) Warman
Manitoba (“D” Div.)
19) Portage La Prairie
20) Neepawa
New Brunswick (“J” Div.)
21) Hampton
301
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
302
Yukon Territory (“M” Div.)
22) Whitehorse
23) Dawson City (interviewed at “K” Div. HQ, Edmonton)
24) Old Crow (interviewed at Newmarket, Ontario detachment)
Nunavut Territory (“V” Div.)
25) “V” Div. HQ, Iqaluit (interviewed at “K” Div. HQ, Edmonton, and “A” Div. HQ,
Ottawa)
26) Arctic Bay (interviewed at “A” Div. HQ, Ottawa)
27) Resolute Bay (interviewed at “A” Div. HQ, Ottawa)
Northwest Territories (G” Div.)
28)
Yellowknife (interviewed at “A” Div. HQ, Ottawa)
29) Inuvik (interviewed at “A” Div. HQ, Ottawa)
Subsample 3. Provincial police headquarters and detachments
(n=14)
Ontario
1) Caledon detachment
2) Orillia detachment
3) West Parry Sound detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
4) North Bay detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
5) Noelville detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
6) Almaguin Highlands detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
7) Kenora detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
8) Nipigon detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
9) Greenstone detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
10) Red Lake detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
11) Fort Frances detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
12) Dryden detachment (interviewed at OPP HQ, Orillia)
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Newfoundland
13) RNC St. John’s
14) RNC Corner Brook
303
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Subsample 4. First Nations police services (n=3)
1) Stl’atl’imx (B.C.)
2) Kanesatake (Quebec)
3) Kahanawake (Quebec)
Subsample 5. Training facilities (n=2)
1) Justice Institute of B.C.
2) RCMP Training Facility, Regina (“Depot” Division)
304
Annex A-2 List of Interviewees
This list includes all interviewees who gave permission for their names to be used, and
other people who provided background information. We are grateful to them for making
this research study possible.
Sergent Danielle Abel-Normandin (Police Communauté Urbaine de Montréal)
Corporal Lorne H. Adamitz (R.C.M.P. “K” Division)
Deputy Chief Bernie Allain (Bathurst City Police)
Sergeant C.C. (Chuck) Allingham (R.C.M.P. – Portage la Prairie)
Constable J.P.P. (Peter) Anctil (R.C.M.P. – Stony Plain)
Inspector Dan Anderson (Waterloo Regional Police)
Val Atkinson (Abbotsford Police Department)
Constable Bill Bakkan (Victoria Police Department)
Susan Ballangear (Victoria Police Department)
Staff Sergeant Bob Bangs (R.C.M.P. – Portage la Prairie)
Sergeant Charlie Bates (Victoria Police Department)
Chief Paul Battershill (Victoria Police Department)
Chief Jack Beaton (Calgary Police Service)
Constable H. Beauclair (O.P.P. – Kenora)
Superintendent Gary W. Beaulieu (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Det. Constable Karen Beauparlant (Toronto Police Service)
Investigator Bill Beiersdorfer (R.C.M.P.)
Sergent-superviseur Michel Bélisle (Ville de Mirabel Service de police)
Directeur Pierre Bernaquez (Ville de Mont-Tremblant Sécurité publique)
Chief Vince Bevan (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Détective Dany Blouin (Régie de police de Memphrémagog)
Constable Manon Boisvert (Régie intermunicipale de police Vallée-du-Richelieu)
Constable Serge Boivin (Régie intermunicipale de police Saint-Jérôme métropolitain)
Corporal Stephane Bonin (R.C.M.P. “A” Division)
Constable J.W. (James) Bos (R.C.M.P. – Terrace)
Directeur Pierre Bourgeois (Régie intermunicipale de police Saint-Jérôme métropolitain)
Directeur Bernard Bousseau (Service de police de Mirabel)
Chief Rick Bowie (Prescott Police Service)
Staff Sergeant Jerome Brannagan (Windsor Police Service)
Corporal Robert W. Brossart (R.C.M.P. – Spruce Plains)
Staff Sergeant Scott Brown (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Corporal Gordon Brown (Saint John Police Force)
Special Constable Wayne Brown (City of North Battleford)
Constable Robert Brunette (Greater Grand Sudbury Police Service)
Constable D.R. (Darrel) Bruno R.C.M.P. – Hobbema)
Grant Bunker (British Columbia Ministry for Children and Families)
Corporal Reg Burgess (R.C.M.P. – Kelowna)
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Deputy Chief Dale Burn (Calgary Police Service)
Constable Jennifer Caddell (Barrie Police Service)
Staff Sergeant Boyd D. Campbell (Winnipeg Police Service)
Sergent-détective Donald Campeau (Police Communauté Urbaine de Montréal)
Constable Joe Cantelo (Rothesay Regional Police Force)
Det. Constable Stephen Canton (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Constable Howard G. Carey (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Constable Maizy Carlson (O.P.P. – Almaguin Highlands)
Directeur Sylvain Caron (Ville de Sorel-Tracy Service de police)
Directeur Michel Carpentier (Service de police de Sherbrooke)
Capitaine André Castonguay (Service de police de la region Sherbrookoise)
Det. Constable Cates (Toronto Police Service)
Chief Noel P. Catney (Peel Regional Police)
Constable André Champagne (Ville de Mirabel Service de police)
Détective Daniel Charest (Service de police de la region Sherbrookoise)
Dan Clattenburg (Ministry of Community and Social Services)
Constable Gary J. Clow (City of Charlottetown Police Department)
Chief C.E. Cogswell (Saint John Police Force)
Garth Coleman (O.P.P. – General Headquarters)
Chief Terry Coleman (Moose Jaw Police Service)
Constable T.J. Cooney (O.P.P. – Nipigon)
Directeur Yves Corbin (Sécurité publique de Rivière-du-Loup)
Inspecteur Michel Cousineau (Service de protection des citoyens de Laval)
Constable Phil Crouch (R.C.M.P. “A” Division)
Deputy Chief Brian Cunningham (Waterloo Regional Police)
Deputy Chief Tracy J. David (South Bruce-Grey Police Service)
Acting Inspector John A. Davidson (Abbotsford Police Department)
Inspector John De Haas (Vancouver Police Department)
Staff Sergeant Casey De Haas (New Westminster Police Service)
Uultsje De Jong (Abbotsford Restorative Justice and Advocacy Association)
Sergeant Doug Deacon (New Westminster Police Service)
Constable Bryan Dean (Guelph Police Service)
Chief Rick Deering (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Inspector M.A. (Marlin) Degrand (R.C.M.P. – Terrrace)
Staff Sergeant C.J. (Jim) Delnea (R.C.M.P. – Hope)
Superintendent John Dennis (Toronto Police Service)
Constable F.M. (Ferlin) Desjarlais R.C.M.P. – Hobbema)
Harj Dhami (Victoria Youth Empowerment Society)
Chief Peacekeeper John K. Diabo (Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers)
Det. Constable Allan Dionne (Toronto Police Service)
Constable Yannick Dionne (Sécurité publique ville de Rivière-du-Loup)
Constable Luc Doherty (Régie de police de Memphrémagog)
Detective Barry Dolan (Peel Regional Police)
306
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
307
Det. Sergeant Mike Dougall (Peel Regional Police)
Constable Nathalie Drouin (Ville de Sainte-Julie Sécurité publique – Police)
Chief Ian Drummond (Summerside Police Department)
Lieutenant-détective Marc Dubé (MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais Sécurité publique)
Superintendent Keith Duggan (Edmonton Police Service)
Superintendent Susan C. Dunn (O.P.P. – General Headquarters)
Detective Brian Eckensviller (Waterloo Regional Police)
Corporal Brian Edmonds (R.C.M.P. – Carcross)
Sergeant Pat Egan (R.C.M.P. – Whitehorse)
Inspector T.G. (Tonia) Enger (R.C.M.P. – Prince Rupert)
Det. Constable C. Ennis (Vancouver Police Department)
Superintendent Bill Evans (Winnipeg Police Service)
Sergeant E.J. (Ed) Eviston (Vancouver Police Department)
Staff Sergeant Jim Fair (Calgary Police Service)
Sergeant Dan Fantetti (LaSalle Police Service)
Chief Julian Fantino (Toronto Police Service)
Instructor Marianne G. Farmer (Justice Institute of British Columbia)
Staff Sergeant Ray Fast (R.C.M.P. – Whitehorse)
Inspector Len Favreau (Peel Regional Police)
Detective Marvin Fefchak (Abbotsford Police Department)
Sergeant Debbie Ferguson (Regina Police Service)
Capitaine André Fillion (Ville de Québec Service de police)
Constable Jovette Fillion (Service de protection des citoyens de Laval)
Staff Sergeant L.A. (Lee) Findlay (R.C.M.P. – Sherwood Park)
Constable René Fleury (Régie intermunicipale de police Roussillon)
Constable John Forster (Abbotsford Police Department)
Peter Frampton (Learning Enrichment Foundation)
Chief Wayne Frechette (Barrie Police Service)
Chief Rod Freeman (Orangeville Police Service)
Det. Constable R.W. (Bob) Fremlin (O.P.P. – West Parry Sound)
Chef de division Paul Fugère (Sûreté du Québec)
Sergeant R.A. (Bob) Furchner (O.P.P. – Noelville)
Sergeant Bob Gallop (R.C.M.P. – Hampton)
Constable Gary Gamberta (Essex Police Service)
Capitaine Alain Gariépy (Ville de Mirabel Service de police)
Agent de liaison Diane Gilbert (Ville de Mirabel Service de police)
Sergeant S.P. (Steve) Gleboff (R.C.M.P. “K” Division)
Constable M. Golding (O.P.P. – Fort Frances)
Sergeant Nancy Goodes (Hamilton Police Service)
Deputy Chief Cameron Graber (LaSalle Police Service)
Constable Lisa Graham (O.P.P. – Orillia)
Chief Superintendent J.H. (Jamie) Graham (R.C.M.P. – Surrey)
Chief Larry Gravill (Waterloo Regional Police)
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Corporal David Gray (R.C.M.P. “A” Division)
Deputy Chief Dave Griffin (Summerside Police Department)
Inspector Gordon Gummer (Victoria Police Department)
Constable J.W.Q. (Jared) Hall (R.C.M.P. – Portage la Prairie)
Constable Grant Hamilton (Victoria Police Department)
Det. Constable Hammond (Toronto Police Service)
Instructor Robert Harding (Winnipeg Police Service)
Constable Shannon Hartenberger (Saskatoon Police Service)
Corporal Nick Hartle (R.C.M.P. – Warman)
Constable Alex Hasham (Edmonton Police Service)
Constable G.D. (Gord) Hay (R.C.M.P. – Neepawa)
Chief Ambrose J. Heighton (Stellarton Police)
Sergeant S. Lee Henderson (Truro Police Service)
Constable Mary Henderson (Rothesay Regional Police Force)
Sergeant Mike Herman (Winnipeg Police Service)
Constable Richard Hickox (Truro Police Service)
Constable Linda Hilborn (Toronto Police Service)
Constable Rob Hlebec (O.P.P. – Caledon)
Detective Lisa J. Hodgins (Toronto Police Service)
Constable Carl Horn (Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers)
Constable Mark Houle (Edmonton Police Service)
Christine Hudy (R.C.M.P. “Depot” Division)
Corporal Jeff Hurry (R.C.M.P. “A” Division)
Sergeant I.S. (Irv) Inglemart (R.C.M.P. – Stony Plain)
Inspector Jeremy Irons (Vancouver Police Department)
Constable Greg Irvine (R.C.M.P. – Sherwood Park)
Det. Sergeant Steve Izzett (Toronto Police Service)
Constable Don James (O.P.P. – Orillia)
Constable Joe James (Orangeville Police Service)
Chief Doug Jelly (New Liskeard Police)
Chief Cal Johnston (Regina Police Service)
Sergent Jean Joly (Service de protection des citoyens de Laval)
Staff Sergeant C.L. (Chris) Kaiser (R.C.M.P. – Battlefords)
Constable Ed Kaminski (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Constable Ellen Kartio-Archibald (R.C.M.P. – Battlefords)
Rick Kayes (Community Justice Forum of New Liskeard)
Constable Linda Kennedy (O.P.P. – Caledon)
Constable Steve Kern (Abbotsford Police Department)
Senior Constable Terry King (O.P.P. – West Parry Sound)
Constable Julian Knight (New Westminster Police Service)
Terry Kopan (R.C.M.P. – Surrey)
Corporal Anthony Kubanowski (Regina Police Service)
Det. Sergeant Dave Kuzina (Victoria Police Department)
308
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Deputy Chief Armand Labarge (York Regional Police)
Superintendent Richard Lafortune (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Constable Lisa Lafreniere (Saskatoon Police Service)
Mark LaLonde (Justice Institute of British Columbia)
Directeur Daniel Langlais (Service de police de Québec)
Sue Larkin (Windsor Police Service)
Inspector Dale M. Larsen (Moose Jaw Police Service)
Constable Terry Lashar (Vancouver Police Department)
Sergent-détective Enrick Laufer (Service de protection des citoyens de Laval)
Deputy Chief Ron Laverty (Cornwall Police Service)
Program Coordinator Shane Leathem (Justice Institute of British Columbia)
Directeur Benjamin Leclair (Régie intermunicipale de police de Vallée-du-Richelieu)
Enquêter Germain Leclerc (Régie intermunicipale de police Roussillon)
Constable Shawn Lemay (R.C.M.P. – Whitehorse)
Chief John Leontowicz (LaSalle Police Service)
Enquêter Benoît Lévesque (Sécurité publique ville de Rivière-du-Loup)
Inspector G.W. (Gerry) Locke (R.C.M.P. District Commander – Hampton)
C. Louise Logue (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Constable Darrel Long (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Sergeant Dan Longpré (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Constable Norbert Losier (Bathurst City Police)
Det. Constable Shannen Lough (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Constable Heather Macdonald (R.C.M.P. – Kelowna)
Chief Mackenzie (Abbotsford Police Department)
Chief Ken C. MacLean (Truro Police Service)
Charles MacPherson (Youth Intervention Outreach Program – Charlottetown)
Constable L. Maksymchuk (O.P.P. – Red Lake)
Kevin Malloy (Cornwall Police Service)
Det. Constable Phil Mann (South Bruce-Grey Police Service)
Det. Constable Roger Marchack (Toronto Police Service)
Julie Marcoux (R.C.M.P. – Surrey)
Sergeant Mitch Martin (Durham Regional Police Service)
Chief Peacekeeper Georges Martin (Kanasatake Mohawk Peacekeepers)
Sergeant Tom Matthews (Waterloo Regional Police)
Sergeant Joseph J. Matthews (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Chief Kevin McAlpine (Durham Regional Police Service)
Chief Alex McCauley (Greater Grand Sudbury Police Service) (Retired)
Instructor Keiron R. McConnell (Justice Institute of British Columbia)
Constable Dave McConnell (Hamilton Police Service)
Constable Richard McDonald (Halifax Regional Police)
Constable Jack McFarland (Hamilton Police Service)
Sergeant David R. McGrath (Stellarton Police)
Staff Sergeant Noel McIntee (R.C.M.P. – Barrhead)
309
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
310
Chief Stephen N. McIntyre (Rothesay Regional Police Force)
Chief David McKinnon (Halifax Regional Police)
Chief Terry McLaren Peterborough Lakefields Community Police Service)
Staff Sergeant Scott J. McLean (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Inspector Brian McLeod (R.C.M.P. – Sherwood Park)
Susan McMullen (Windsor Police Service)
Superintendent Chris McNeil (Halifax Regional Police)
Constable Derek McNeilly (Guelph Police Service)
Constable Helen Meinzinger (R.C.M.P. – Fort Saskatchewan)
Deputy Chief Chuck Mercier (Durham Regional Police Service)
Directeur Adrien Mercier (Régie de police de Memphrémagog)
Inspector Debbie Middleton-Hope (Calgary Police Service)
Heather Miller (Saskatchewan Social Services)
Sergeant Bob Miller (R.C.M.P. “Depot” Division)
Constable John Allen Minke (South Bruce-Grey Police Service)
Sergent Francois Monetta (Ville de Sorel-Tracy Service de police)
Capitaine James Montgomery (Régie intermunicipale de police Vallée-du-Richelieu)
Deputy Chief Donna L. Moody (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Constable Jarrett Morgan (Halifax Regional Police)
Sergent Danny Morillon (Ville de Québec Service de police)
Directeur Pierre Morin (Régie intermunicipale de police Roussillon)
Capitaine Denis Morneau (Ville de Sorel-Tracy Service de police)
Constable Rick Morris (Winnipeg Police Service)
Staff Sergeant Paul Murdock (Greater Grand Sudbury Police Service)
Detective Sherri Murphy (Cornwall Police Service)
Constable Guy Nadeau (Ville de Sorel-Tracy Service de police)
Chief Gary E. Nicholls (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Deputy Chief Sue O’Sullivan (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Sergeant James Oakes (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Corporal Wayne Oakes (R.C.M.P. – Barrhead)
Staff Sergeant R.E. (Ron) Obodzinski (R.C.M.P. – Spruce Plains)
Inspector J.L.C. (Chuck) Orem (R.C.M.P. “F” Division)
Det. Constable Jocelyn Ouellette (Bathurst City Police)
Deputy Chief E. Stephen Palmer (Rothesay Regional Police Force)
Arden Parent (Windsor Police Service)
Constable Samantha Parker (Edmonton Police Service)
Staff Supt. Daniel C. Parkinson (Peel Regional Police)
Constable Lester Parsons (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Sergeant Bob Patterson (O.P.P. – Caledon)
Détective Martin Pelletier (Régie intermunicipale de police Saint-Jérôme métropolitain)
Chief G.H. (Greg) Pigeon (Essex Police Service)
Inspector Barry Pike (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Capitaine Pierre Pilon (Régie intermunicipale de police Saint-Jérôme métropolitain)
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
311
Staff Sergeant Steve Pilote (Winnipeg Police Service)
Chief Dennis W. Player (South Bruce-Grey Police Service)
Sergent Réjean Pleau (Ville de Québec Service de police)
Directeur Jacques Poire (Régie intermunicipale de police de Roussillon)
Constable J.O.R. (Bob) Poitras (R.C.M.P. – Hampton)
Inspector Gerry Pope (Greater Grand Sudbury Police Service)
Acting Staff Sergeant Larry Proctor (O.P.P. – General Headquarters)
Constable Dean Puali (O.P.P. – Warren)
Corporal Frank Pualicelli (R.C.M.P. – Surrey)
Constable Randy M. Quinn (R.C.M.P. – Hampton)
Inspector Brian Refvik (Calgary Police Service)
Constable Christine E. Reid (O.P.P. – Orillia)
Acting Inspector Bill Reid (Saint John Police)
Instructor Colin Renkema (Justice Institute of British Columbia)
Detective Norm Renwick (Moose Jaw Police Service)
Chief A. Repa (Cornwall Police Service)
Constable Murray Rice (Moose Jaw Police Service)
Chef de service Guy Richard (Police Communauté Urbaine de Montréal)
Chief Kenneth Robertson (Hamilton Police Service)
Constable Gary Rogers (Halifax Regional Police)
Constable Lindsay Rogers (Summerside Police Department)
Constable J.J.M. (Michel) Ross (R.C.M.P. – St. Albert)
Sergeant Cathy Ross (New Westminster Police Service)
Patrol Sergeant Doug Roxburgh (Winnipeg Police Service)
Inspector Paul Roy (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Constable Dean Roy (Durham Regional Police Service)
Capitaine Guy Roy (Régie de police de Memphrémagog)
Sergeant Bill Russell (Toronto Police Service)
Chief Russell L. Sabo (Saskatoon Police Service)
Constable J.M. Sabourin (O.P.P. – Greenstone)
Sergeant Atallah Sadaka (Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service)
Constable Charity Sampson (R.C.M.P. – North Battleford)
Directeur Pierre Sangollo (Ville de Sainte-Julie Sécurité publique – Police)
Directeur Michel Sarrazin (Police Communauté Urbaine de Montréal)
Det. Sergeant/Acting Staff Sergeant Gregory P. Sartor (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Det. Sergeant Dave Saunders (Toronto Police Service)
Inspector Steve Schnitzer (Vancouver Police Department)
Sergeant Darrell A. Scribner (Saint John Police Force)
Sergent Normand Séguin (Police Communauté Urbaine de Montréal)
Inspector George Shillaker (R.C.M.P. – St. Albert)
Inspector Ted Shinbein (Vancouver Police Department)
Constable Caroline Simmonds (R.C.M.P. – Sherwood Park)
Inspector Brian Simpson (R.C.M.P. – Wetaskiwin, Hobbema)
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Inspector Ab Singleton (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Constable J. Singleton (O.P.P. – Dryden Ignace)
Al Sismey (R.C.M.P. – Penticton)
Detective Pamela Smith (Windsor Police Service)
Chief A. Paul Smith (City of Charlottetown Police Department)
Detective Tom Snelling (Peel Regional Police)
Inspector Darryl Snyder (Windsor Police Service)
Detective Bill Soules (Toronto Police Service)
Chief Glenn Stannard (Windsor Police Service)
Detective Troy Stasiuk (Vancouver Police Department)
Sergeant Cam Stauffer (Waterloo Regional Police)
Constable Allison Stephanson (Winnipeg Police Service)
Det. Constable Linda Stewart (Vancouver Police Department)
Detective Rick Stewart (Edmonton Police Service)
Constable Dean Stienburg (Halifax Regional Police)
Directeur adjoint Denis St-Jean (MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais Sécurité publique)
Assistant Commissioner W.M. Sweeney (R.C.M.P. “K” Division)
Constable Kathy Szoboticsanec (Vancouver Police Department)
Michael Taylor (Operation Springboard)
Staff Sergeant Nick Taylor (R.C.M.P. – Fort Saskatchewan)
Sergeant Brian D. Thiessen (Abbotsford Police Department)
Executive Officer Brent Thomlison (Waterloo Regional Police)
Constable Scott Thompson (Regina Police Service)
Constable Jennifer Thorson (Toronto Police Service)
Sergeant Derek G. Tilley (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary)
Commandant Réjean Toutant (Police Communauté Urbaine de Montréal)
Staff Sergeant Bruce Townley (Durham Regional Police Service)
Sergeant Peter R. Tremblay (Bathurst City Police)
Sergent Pierre Tremblay (Ville de Sainte-Julie Sécurité publique – Police)
Détective Patrick Trépanier (Ville de Sainte-Julie Sécurité publique – Police)
Inspector Mike Trump (Justice Institute of British Columbia)
Det. Constable Cathy Uskin (Niagara Regional Police Service)
Capitaine Thierry Vallières (MRC des Collines-de-l’Outaouais Sécurité publique)
Deputy Chief Geoff Varley (Victoria Police Department)
Staff Sergeant Tim Vatamaniuk (R.C.M.P. – Stony Plain)
Inspector Chuck Walker (R.C.M.P.)
Melissa Wall (Saskatchewan Social Services)
Sergeant Cheryl Wallin (Edmonton Police Service)
Constable Angela Walsh (Calgary Police Service)
Chief Bob Wasylyshen (Edmonton Police Service)
Diane Wilkins (Greater Grand Sudbury Police Service)
Dawn Wilkonson (Central Okanagan Boys and Girls Club)
Corporal B.E. (Ben) Wilkowski (R.C.M.P. – Fort Saskatchewan)
312
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
Sergeant Jeff Wilks (Edmonton Police Service)
Constable D.A. (Derek) Williams (R.C.M.P. – Prince Rupert)
Susan Wilms (Abbotsford Police Department)
Sergeant Jim Wright (LaSalle Police Service)
Constable Bryan Young (Peel Regional Police)
Chief W.L. Zapotichny (New Westminster Police Service)
Constable Rick Zeibots (O.P.P. – Caledon)
Constable R.M. (Ray) Zillich (R.C.M.P. – Warman)
Constable Dennis Zivolak (Hamilton Police Service)
313
Annex A-3. Introductory Letter and Project Summary
POLICE DISCRETION WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
This project was commissioned by the Youth Justice Policy Branch of the Department of
Justice Canada as part of the preparation for the implementation of the Youth Criminal
Justice Act. It has two objectives:
•
To provide a comprehensive description of the ways in which police across
Canada deal with youth crime under the Young Offenders Act. This will be used
as baseline information, for comparison with the results of a replication of the
study, done after the YCJA has been in force for a few years, in order to assess
the impact of the YCJA on police work with young offenders.
•
To provide information which can inform decision-making by Justice Canada
concerning the allocation of resources to support the implementation of new
measures in the YCJA.
We believe this study will benefit police in Canada in at least two ways, in addition to the
objectives stated above:
•
Police services will be able to use the report from this project as a benchmark
against which to compare their own approach to youth crime;
•
By providing information to the study, police services will be able to influence
decision-making concerning aspects of the implementation of the YCJA that
relate to their work.
We are particularly interested in assessing the factors which influence two decisions: how
young offender cases are cleared (by charge, by referral to alternative measures, or
informally); and whether youth who are charged are held in detention. Of course, we are
aware that these decisions are not made by police alone, but our mandate is to examine
the role of police in these decisions.
Our review of previous research on this subject has led us to define the scope of possible
factors very broadly: from the environment in which a police service operates, including
federal and provincial legislation and programs, and the nature of the community being
policed, through the internal organizational structure, policies and procedures of the
police service, to decision-making by the front-line officer. These are the main topics
which we plan to cover:
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
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Environment
•
•
•
The type of community being policed
The impact of provisions of the YOA and any other relevant legislation
External resources, such as provincial, municipal, and private agencies and
programs
Organizational structure
•
•
•
•
Overall goals and mandate, approach to policing
Specialization re youth crime (Youth Bureau, specialist officers, etc.)
Who has authority/responsibility to lay charges?
Training
Organizational processes
•
•
•
•
•
•
Are there specific policies/protocols for dealing with young persons?
Investigation – how typical scenarios are handled (victim/witness reports
completed incident; victim/witness reports incident in progress, etc.)
Clearing – by charge/refer to alternative measures/informal means
Compelling attendance at court: use of detention/release/appearance
notice/summons/etc.
The impact of the circumstances of the incident and offender characteristics on
the decisions re clearing and compelling attendance
Recording practices and how they impact on the accuracy of UCR data
Our main source of information will be interviews with police services. We will also
analyze statistical data on communities and crime trends, and on young offender cases
provided by Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics from the UCR2 Survey, and, if
possible, from a sample of police services which do not contribute to the UCR2. We will
try to interview a sample of police forces which is representative of the variety of
policing environments and organizations in Canada: the regions, communities of different
sizes, and the various policing arrangements: independent municipal, contract municipal,
provincial, etc.
For each police service which we interview, we would like, if possible, to talk with
someone in senior management, who can answer questions about the environment in
which the service operates, and its overall structure, policies, and procedures; and also
with one or two front-line officers, preferably who specialize in young offender cases. In
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
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addition, in the case of police services with a Youth Bureau, we would like to interview
someone in a management position in the Youth Bureau. Each of these interviews should
take no more than an hour. We would also like, if possible, to arrange a ride-along with
an officer who deals with young offenders, in order to observe decision-making firsthand.
We would also appreciate being provided with copies of documents which concern the
handling of young offender cases, such as any procedural guidelines.
Of course, it is entirely up to each participating police service, and each officer being
interviewed, to decide what questions they choose to answer, and what documents they
provide.
For further information, please contact the undersigned at 519-743-0214 or by email at
[email protected]; or the Project Authority for Justice Canada, Jharna Chatterjee, at
613-954-3591 or by email at [email protected]
Sincerely,
Peter Carrington, PhD
Principal Investigator
Annex A-4. Confidentiality Protocol
POLICE DISCRETION WITH YOUNG OFFENDERS
INTERVIEWS AND DOCUMENTS: CONFIDENTIALITY
PROTOCOL
Our arrangements to protect the privacy of participants in this research are based on three
premises:
• The research is being done under contract to the Department of Justice Canada,
which, under the terms of the contract, will hold copyright on any reports written
in connection with the research.
•
It is the expressed intention of Justice Canada to release the final report publicly.
•
Participation in the research, whether by organizations or individuals, is entirely
voluntary.
We have adopted the following measures to protect the privacy of individuals and police
services:
• No information on identifiable young persons will be recorded or collected, and
no information which might identify a young person will be included in any of
our reports.
•
We recognize that most internal police documents which are provided to us,
although they are not necessarily identified as confidential, are not intended for
public release. Therefore, we will not reveal their contents to anyone outside our
research staff, or reproduce them or quote from them in our reports, without first
obtaining the written permission of the police service which provided them.
•
No individual will be referenced in our reports, except that: each individual who
provides information to us will be acknowledged in an appendix to the Final
Report, provided that s/he has given consent to being so acknowledged. In the
case of police services for which only one or two individuals provided
information, such acknowledgment could conceivably lead to a reader of the
report being able to deduce the identity of the person who provided the
information. In such cases, individuals who wish to protect their identities should
request that they not be acknowledged.
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Interviews will be tape recorded, with the consent of the person(s) being interviewed.
Tape recording is very important to the integrity of the research, for two reasons:
• A transcript of a tape recorded interview is infinitely more accurate than the
interviewer’s recollections.
•
The interviewer cannot successfully conduct an interview while simultaneously
trying to take notes.
In addition to the protections listed above, the identities of individuals and police services
participating in tape recorded interviews will be further protected by the following
measures:
• The person being interviewed may, at any time during the interview, require that
the tape recorder be turned off temporarily, in order to provide confidential
background information.
•
The contents of the interviews will not be revealed to anyone outside our research
staff, except as part of our reports, and under the conditions listed above to protect
the privacy of individuals and police services.
•
As far as possible, the person(s) being interviewed, and the police service to
which s/he belongs, will not be identified in the tape recording. Taped interviews
will be identified only by code numbers, and a key connecting the code numbers
to individuals and police services will be kept in secure locked storage separately
from the tapes and transcripts. Nevertheless, we recognize that there is some
possibility that the name of the police service may come up during the interview.
•
Tapes, transcripts, and the key connecting taped interviews and individuals’
names, will always be kept in secure, locked storage.
Any member of our research staff who has access to the documentary information, tapes,
transcripts, or the interview identity information, will be required to agree in writing to
the provisions of this Confidentiality Protocol.
For further information, please contact the undersigned at 519-743-0214 or by email at
[email protected]; or the Project Authority for Justice Canada, Jharna Chatterjee, at
613-954-3591 or by email at [email protected]
Peter Carrington, PhD
Principal Investigator
Annex A-5. Interview schedule (English)
Preamble
- any Q’s re project?
- Permission to include their name in the acknowledgments
- Tape recording of the interview
- The respondents may turn the recorder off at any time during the interview if they
would prefer to answer the question off the record.
- Confidentiality is ensured as no statements will be directly quoted (referenced to
their names)
- Exchange business cards or confirm rank and spelling of last name
A.
UPPER MANAGEMENT
Introduction – (if appropriate) – length of service, previous police services/postings,
current responsibilities
Environment – The Nature of the Community
1) How would you describe the socio-demographic characteristics of the community(s)
you police?
a. Poor/wealthy
b. Young/old
c. Ethnically diverse/homogenous
d. Stable/transient/immigrant
2) What is the typical level and type of crime (and youth crime) in these communities?
Structure – Management Style
3) What types of crime prevention initiatives get delivered that address youth?
a. Primary (general)
b. Secondary (targeted at high risk groups)
c. Tertiary (targeted at identified offenders)
4) Can you describe some examples of ‘problem oriented policing’ within your
department that target youth?
Structure – Training
5) What types of training help prepare officers for handling youth crime?
a. Academy?
b. Internal training opportunities?
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6) What types of training do you feel would help officers who are working with youth?
Process – Organization
7) Have there been any major changes in this police service’s approach to youth crime in
the past 15 years since the YOA came into effect?
a. If so, what were the reasons (YOA, budget cuts, other?)?
Structure – Documentation
-
B.
During upper management interview ask for relevant documentation (and/or
confirmations).
Confirm
o Overall strength of force (# of officers)
o Rank structure
o Approximately how many officers in each rank
GENERAL INTERVIEW SCHEDULE
Introduction – (if appropriate) – length of service, previous police services/postings,
current responsibilities
Structure – Training
8) What type of training have you had that has prepared you to handle youth crime?
a. Academy?
b. Internal training opportunities?
9) Do you feel the amount and type of training you received was adequate to prepare
you for working with youth?
10) What types of training do you feel would help officers who are working with youth?
11) How have your previous experiences shaped the way you handle incidents involving
youth?
a. Practical field experience
b. Mentors and advice
12) Is there any mechanism in place where officers can share these experiences?
a. Successful diversion programs
b. The programs best suited for certain types of crime
c. Decision making processes
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323
Structure – Management Style
13) Can you describe some examples of ‘problem oriented policing’ within your
department that targets youth?
14) Do you find support exists within your working environment for community
policing?
a. Seeking informal alternatives
b. Promotion indicators
Process – Organization
15) Are there any internal policies or protocols when dealing with young persons? Do
you find them helpful?
16) Would you characterize your work with youth as proactive or reactive?
a. What do you feel is ideal?
b. What is actually happening?
c. Community policing?
Process – Investigation
Youth Detectives/Youth Bureau officers:
17) At what point in the investigation does an incident become a youth detective/bureau
matter?
18) What criteria do patrol officers use in deciding whether to refer a case to your
attention?
All Officers:
19) In what ways do you generally become aware of youth related incidents?
a. Victim/witness reports incident (in progress/completed)
b. Police discover completed incident (e.g. evidence of break in during
patrol)
c. Police discover incident in progress
d. Other system agents report incident to police (e.g. probation breach)
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
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324
20) Could you take me through the process involved in a typical youth related incident,
from dispatch putting out the call, all the way to the case going to court, or being
disposed of in some other way?
21) How much information on youth suspects is available to you?
a. Prior convictions
b. Prior AMs, diversion
c. Prior contacts
22) How are administration of justice cases handled by the system?
a. Fail to appear
b. Bail violations
c. Violations of probation or community service order conditions
d. Unlawfully at large
23) How do they come to your attention?
24) How much discretion do you have in these cases regarding charging?
25) Are provincial offences handled any differently?
26) How much of your caseload involves provincial offences?
Process – Clearing the Incident
27) What options are available to you to clear an incident?
28) Who has the authority to lay a charge? Does this differ by type of offence?
WITH MIDDLE LEVEL OFFICERS – JUMP TO #38
(Frontline officers:)
29) If you decide to take informal action what options are available to you and how do
you choose among them? (Look out for pre-charge diversion)
a. Informal warning (no record / with record)
b. Formal warning (with record)
c. Parental involvement
d. Taking the youth home or to the police station
e. Questioning the youth at the scene or at the police station
f. Referrals to external agencies (e.g. Social Services, Child Welfare)
g. Referrals to internal (police-operated) programs
h. Other?
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325
30) What programs are available in the community for youth diversion? (Look out for
post-charge diversion.)
31) Do you find them effective?
32) Do you receive any feedback on the case if the youth went through Alternative
Measures (diversion)?
a. Is this information that would help your decision making processes?
Process – Incident and Offender Characteristics
33) In what ways do the characteristics of the offence influence your decision to lay
charges, use AM, or informal diversion? (This may need explaining – for the subject,
it may be an overall judgment, not reference to a list of criteria)
a. Seriousness (type of offence)
i. Presence and type of weapon
ii. Harm done (injury, amount of loss/damage to property)
b. Victim / Complainant preference
i. Type of relationship between offender and victim
c. Group vs. lone offender
i. Age of co-offenders
ii. Number of co-offenders
d. Use of alcohol / drugs
e. Location and time of day
34) Are there any offences which almost always result in (a) handling the case informally
(b) charge, or (c) diversion?
35) In what ways do the characteristics of the young person influence your decision to lay
charges, use AM (diversion), or informal action?
a. Prior record
i. Conviction
ii. AM
iii. Contact
b. Age
c. Gender
d. Race???? (play this variable by ear) ~ try ‘native, aboriginal’
e. Attitude
f. Home / School / Work situations
g. Peer group / gang affiliations
i. How would you define a gang related incident?
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I have a couple of questions about arrest and the methods of compelling attendance at
court, when charges are laid:
36) How do you decide whether to arrest a young offender?
37) If you don’t arrest, would you use an Appearance Notice or a Summons? (If either,
under what circumstances?)
(Resume middle level officer interview here)
38) If the youth is arrested and charged, what methods are used to use to compel
attendance at youth court – and how do you choose among these methods?
i. Detain for bail hearing?
ii. Release with:
1. Promise to Appear, no conditions?
2. OIC Undertaking - any conditions? (curfew?)
3. both PTA and OIC Undertaking?
4. Recognizance?
39) Are there any offences which almost always result in:
a. Arrest and detention
b. Use of an Appearance Notice
40) Which methods of handling youth crime do you perceive as having ‘meaningful
consequences’ for the young person?
41) Is there anything else (besides what we have already covered) that you take into
account in assessing the seriousness of a crime and what actions to take?
Environment – Legislation
I have a few questions specifically about the Young Offenders Act:
42) How does the Young Offenders Act impact on the day-to-day handling of youth
crime?
a. Declaration of Principle
b. Alternative Measures/Diversion provisions
c. Legal counsel provisions
d. Taking statements provisions
e. Notifying the parents
f. Other provisions?
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
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g. Other federal legislation (C.C., Bail Reform Act, etc.)
h. Provincial legislation/practice (e.g. Youth Protection Act, Crown
charging)
43) For any subsections not covered in the previous section: What are your perceptions
of…?
44) In your opinion, does the YOA help or hinder handling youth crime? If so, in what
way?
Process – Recording Practices
45) How do you decide whether to record an incident or not?
(skip #46 and #47 unless Records staff)
46) If you are reporting an incident which involves multiple offenders, how do you decide
whether to include each offender?
47) Do all of the incidents that you encounter get reported in the UCR? (all occurrence
reports?)
48) Is there a method of formal or informal internal tracking of persistent young
offenders? If so, what criteria?
49) Is there a procedure in place to record AM dispositions so that youth who have had
AM don’t appear to be first time offenders?
50) Is there a procedure in place to record informal dealings with apprehended youth?
51) How effective do you think these recording practices are?
52) Are there any types of information that you feel would be useful to record in helping
you handle youth crime?
53) Finally, are there any difficulties that you encounter in the day to day handling of
youth crime which we haven’t covered?
THANK YOU
Annex A-6. Interview schedule (French)
Préliminaires
•
•
•
•
A.
Permission d’inclure leurs noms dans les remerciements
Enregistrement sur cassette audio de l’entrevue
- les personnes peuvent fermer l’enregistreuse à tout moment durant l’entrevue s’ils
préfèrent répondre à une question en toute confidentialité
confirmer le grade et l’orthographe du nom de famille (échange de cartes
d’affaires)
confidentialité assurée car aucune mention directe d’une déclaration ne sera faite
(aucune référence à leurs noms)
HAUTE DIRECTION
Milieu – Le genre de communauté
1. Quels sont les caractéristiques socio-économiques de la communauté que vous
desservez?
a. Démunie/à l’aise
b. Jeune/âgée
c. Diversifiée d’un point de vue ethnique/homogène
d. Stable/de passage/immigrante
2. Quels sont les taux moyens et le genre de délits commis dans cette communauté?
Structure – Style de gestion
3. Quelles sortes d’initiatives de prévention de la criminalité mises en œuvre
s’adressent aux jeunes?
a. Primaire (tous les jeunes, pas nécessairement des contrevenants : ex.
prévention dans les salles de classe)
b. Secondaire (les jeunes agressifs à l’école : référés par l’école, jeunes à
haut risque)
c. Tertiaire (après déclaration de culpabilité, soit par admission ou après
procès)
4. Pouvez-vous donner des exemples à l’intérieur de votre service de méthodes
axées sur des problèmes qui ciblent les jeunes?
Structure – Formation
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330
5. Quels genres de formation préparent les policiers à traiter de la criminalité des
jeunes?
a. école nationale?
b. possibilités de formation à l’interne?
6. Quels genres de formation, à votre avis, aideraient les policiers qui travaillent
avec les jeunes?
Processus – Organisation
7. Y-a-t-il eu des changements majeurs dans l’approche de ce service face à la
criminalité des jeunes ces 15 dernières années depuis que la LJC est entrée en
vigueur?
a. Si oui, quels en sont les motifs (LJC, coupures budgétaires, autre?)?
Structure – Documentation
-
pendant la rencontre avec la haute direction, demander la documentation
pertinente (et/ou des confirmations).
Confirmer :
. Aptitude générale du service (nombre de policiers)
. Structure des grades
. Nombre approximatif de policiers de chaque grade
B. APERÇU GÉNÉRAL DU DÉROULEMENT DES ENTREVUES
Structure - Style de gestion
8. Pouvez-vous donner des exemples à l’intérieur du service de méthodes axées sur
des problèmes qui ciblent les jeunes?
9. D’après vous, y-a-t-il un soutien dans votre milieu de travail pour une approche
communautaire au maintien de l’ordre?
a. dans la recherche de mesures informelles
b. facteur considéré pour les promotions
Structure – Formation
10. Quel genre de formation vous a préparé pour faire face à la criminalité des
jeunes?
a. école nationale?
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
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331
b. possibilités de formation à l’interne?
11. D’après vous, est-ce que le genre et l’importance (fréquence) de formation que
vous avez reçue ont été suffisants pour vous préparer à travailler avec les jeunes?
12. D’après vous, quels genres de formation aideraient les policiers qui travaillent
avec les jeunes?
13. Comment vos expériences antérieures ont-elles influencé la façon dont vous
répondez aux évènements qui concernent les jeunes?
a. expérience pratique sur le terrain
b. mentors et conseils
14. Y-a-t-il un mécanisme en place par lequel les policiers peuvent partager ces
expériences?
a. programmes efficaces de diversion
b. les programmes les mieux adaptés pour certains genres de crimes
c. processus de prise de décision
Milieu - Législation
15. Comment la Loi sur les jeunes contrevenants influence-t-elle votre façon de faire
face à la criminalité des jeunes sur une base quotidienne?
a. déclaration de principe
b. mesures de rechange/dispositions de diversion
c. dispositions concernant la représentation par un avocat
d. dispositions concernant la prise de déclaration
e. avis aux parents
f. autres dispositions?
g. autres lois fédérales (code criminel,..)
h. lois provinciales/usages (ex. Loi sur la protection de la jeunesse, code de
procédure pénale, procureurs de la couronne portant accusation)
16. Pour toute sous-section non traitée par la section précédente : Que pensez-vous
de…?
17. D’après vous, est-ce que la LJC aide ou nuit au traitement de la criminalité des
jeunes? Si oui, de quelle façon?
Processus – Organisation
18. Avez-vous des directives ou protocoles à l’interne pour faire face à la criminalité
des jeunes? Les trouvez-vous utiles?
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19. Est-ce que vous qualifieriez votre travail avec les jeunes de proactif ou de réactif?
a. D’après vous, que serait l’idéal?
b. Que se passe-t-il réellement?
c. Police communautaire?
Processus – Enquête
20. À quel moment d’une enquête un évènement relève-t-il d’un agent de la jeunesse/
de la section de la jeunesse?
21. Quels critères sont utilisés pour décider de référer un dossier à votre attention?
Tous les policiers
22. De quelles façons êtes-vous généralement avisés d’évènements concernant les
jeunes?
a. rapports d’évènements de victime/témoin (en cours/terminé)
b. la police trouve un évènement terminé (ex. preuve d’effraction durant une
patrouille)
c. la police arrive lors d’un évènement en cours
d. d’autres intervenants du système rapportent un évènement à la police (ex.
bris de condition)
23. Est-ce que la façon dont vous devenez au courant d’un évènement influence la
façon dont vous réagissez?
24. Pouvez-vous me décrire le processus impliqué lors d’un évènement typique
concernant les jeunes (arrivée sur les lieux, et puis…)?
25. Quels renseignements sur le suspect vous sont disponibles sur les lieux?
a. condamnations antérieures
b. mesures de rechange antérieures, diversions
c. contacts antérieurs (informels)
26. Comment sont traités par le système les dossiers d’administration de la justice?
a. défaut de comparaître
b. bris de condition de cautionnement
c. bris de libération conditionnelle ou d’ordonnance de travaux
communautaires
d. en liberté illégalement
27. Comment sont-ils portés à votre attention?
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333
28. Dans ces dossiers, quelle discrétion avez-vous pour porter une accusation?
29. Est-ce que les infractions de juridiction provinciale sont traitées différemment?
30. Quelle proportion de vos dossiers concerne des infractions de juridiction
provinciale?
Processus – Traitement de l’évènement
31. Quelles possibilités vous sont disponibles pour traiter d’un évènement?
32. Qui a l’autorité pour porter ou recommander de porter une accusation? La nature
du délit influence-t-elle ceci?
33. Si vous décidez de prendre des mesures informelles, quelles possibilités vous sont
disponibles et comment choisissez-vous parmi elles?
a. avertissement informel(sans rapport/avec rapport)
b. avertissement formel (avec rapport)
c. participation des parents
d. ramener le jeune à la maison ou au poste
e. interrogatoire du jeune sur les lieux ou au poste
f. renvoi à des agences externes (ex. DPJ)
g. renvoi à des programmes internes (gérés par la police)
h. autre?
34. Quels programmes sont disponibles dans la communauté pour la diversion des
jeunes?
35. Les trouvez-vous efficaces?
36. Êtes-vous tenus au courant du dossier si le jeune est soumis à des mesures de
rechange?
a. ces renseignements influenceraient-ils la façon dont vous prenez une
décision?
Processus – Circonstances de l’évènement et caractéristiques du contrevenant
37. De quelle façon les circonstances du délit influencent votre décision de porter ou
de recommander de porter une accusation, de recommander le renvoi à des
mesures de rechange ou d’une diversion informelle?
a. gravité (nature du délit)
i. possession d’une arme et genre
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
b.
c.
d.
e.
334
ii. dommages causés (blessures, montant des pertes/dommages à la
propriété)
préférence de la victime/du plaignant
i. nature du lien entre le contrevenant et la victime
contrevenant solitaire ou en groupe
i. âge des co-contrevenants
ii. nombre de co-contrevenants
consommation d’alcool/de drogues
endroit et moment de la journée
38. Y-a-t-il des délits qui donnent lieu presque toujours à une accusation, un renvoi à
des mesures de rechange ou un traitement informel?
39. De quelle façon les caractéristiques du jeune influencent votre décision de porter
(recommander) une accusation, utiliser des mesures de rechange ou une action
informelle?
a. Dossier antérieur
i. condamnation
ii. mesures de rechange
iii. contact
b. âge
c. sexe
d. origine ethnique
e. attitude
f. situation à la maison/école/travail
g. groupe d’amis/appartenance à un gang
i. comment définissez-vous un événement relié à un gang
40. De quelles façons les circonstances du délit et les caractéristiques du contrevenant
influencent-elles votre décision sur le moyen d’assurer sa comparution en cour?
41. Si vous décidez de porter (ou recommander) une accusation, comment décidezvous de la méthode à utiliser pour assurer la comparution
a. Si arrestation
i. détention et enquête sur cautionnement
ii. remise en liberté avec :
1) promesse de comparaître, sans conditions
2) cautionnement
b. Si le jeune n’est pas arrêté, dans quelles circonstances utilisez-vous un
avis de comparaître ou une sommation?
42. Y-a-t-il des délits qui donnent lieu presque toujours à :
a. arrestation et détention
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
335
b. arrestation et remise en liberté
c. utilisation d’un avis de comparaître
43. Quelle méthode de traitement de la criminalité des jeunes percevez-vous comme
ayant des `conséquences significatives`sur le jeune?
44. Y-a-t-il autre chose (à part ce qui vient d’être couvert) dont vous tenez compte
lors de l’évaluation de la gravité d’un délit et de quelle action prendre?
Processus – Méthodes de rapport (d’enregistrement)
45. Comment décidez-vous de rapporter un évènement ou non?
46. Lorsque vous rapportez un évènement avec plusieurs contrevenants, comment
décidez-vous si vous devez inclure chaque contrevenant?
47. Est-ce que tous les évènements que vous rencontrez sont rapportés au DUC2?
(tous les rapports d’événement?)
48. À l’interne, y-a-t-il une pratique formelle ou informelle de repérage au-delà de ce
qui est rapporté au DUC ou DUC2? Si oui, quels critères?
49. Y-a-t-il une procédure en place pour enregistrer les dispositions de mesures de
rechange pour qu’un jeune qui en a bénéficié ne soit pas considéré comme un
contrevenant sans antécédent?
50. Y-a-t-il une procédure mise en place pour enregistrer les moyens informels
utilisés avec un jeune appréhendé?
51. D’après vous, quelle est l’efficacité de ces pratiques d’enregistrement?
52. D’après vous, y-a-t-il des genres de renseignements qu’il serait utile d’enregistrer
pour vous aider dans le traitement de la criminalité des jeunes?
53. Finalement, y-a-t-il des difficultés que vous rencontrer quotidiennement dans le
traitement de la criminalité des jeunes que nous n’avons pas abordé?
MERCI
Annex A-7. Introductory Letter and Project Summary
(French)
LA DISCRÉTION POLICIÈRE ET LES JEUNES
CONTREVENANTS
Ce projet a été demandé par le secteur de politique sur la justice applicable aux jeunes du
ministère de la justice, pour faire partie de la préparation de la mise en application de la
Loi sur le système de justice pénale pour les adolescents. Il a deux objectifs :
•
Fournir une description détaillée des façons dont la police à travers le Canada
s’occupe de la criminalité des jeunes en vertu de la Loi sur les jeunes
contrevenants. Celle-ci servira de données de base pour comparer les résultats
d’une reprise de l’étude, qui sera effectuée après quelques années de la mise en
vigueur de la LSJPA, afin d’évaluer l’impact de la LSJPA sur le travail des
policiers avec les jeunes contrevenants.
•
Fournir des renseignements qui peuvent guider la prise de décision de Justice
Canada lors de l’allocation de ressources pour apporter un soutien à la mise en
application de nouvelles mesures de la LSJPA.
Nous croyons que cette étude sera utile à la police au Canada de deux façons au moins,
en plus des objectifs plus haut décrits:
•
Les services de police pourront utiliser le rapport de ce projet comme référence
pour comparer leur propre démarche face à la criminalité des jeunes;
•
En fournissant de l’information à l’étude, les services de police pourront
influencer la prise de décision concernant certains aspects de la mise en
application de la LSJPA qui ont trait à leur travail.
Nous sommes particulièrement intéressés à étudier les facteurs qui influencent deux
décisions : comment les dossiers de jeunes contrevenants sont traités (par accusation, par
un renvoi à des mesures de rechange ou de façon informelle); et si les jeunes qui sont
accusés sont détenus. Évidemment, nous savons que ces décisions ne sont pas prises
uniquement par la police, mais notre mandat consiste à examiner le rôle de la police dans
ces décisions.
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
338
Notre examen de recherches antérieures sur ce sujet nous a amenés à déterminer de façon
très générale les facteurs possibles: du milieu dans lequel un service de police évolue,
incluant la législation et les programmes fédéraux et provinciaux, et le genre de
communauté desservie, à la structure de l’organisation interne, aux politiques et
procédures du service de police, à la prise de décision par le policier de première ligne.
Voici les principaux sujets que nous entendons couvrir :
Milieu
•
•
•
Le genre de communauté desservie
L’impact des dispositions de la LJC et autre législation pertinente
Les ressources externes, telles que les organisations et programmes provinciaux,
municipaux et privés
Structure organisationnelle
•
•
•
•
Mandat et objectifs généraux, façon de maintenir l’ordre
Spécialisation face à la criminalité des jeunes (section de la jeunesse, policiers
spécialisés, etc.)
Qui a l’autorité/la responsabilité de porter une accusation ( ou d’en faire la
recommandation, dans les juridictions où le service de police procède ainsi)?
Formation
Processus organisationnel
•
•
•
•
•
•
Y-a-t-il des politiques/protocoles précis pour s’occuper des jeunes?
Enquêtes – comment des scénarios typiques sont traités (victime/témoin rapporte
un événement terminé; victime/témoin rapporte un évènement en cours, etc.)
Traitement – par accusation (ou recommandation de porter une accusation)/
renvoi à des mesures de rechange/moyens informels
Assurer la présence à la cour : utilisation de la détention/libération/avis de
comparution/sommation/etc.
L’impact des circonstances de l’évènement et des caractéristiques du contrevenant
sur les décisions concernant le traitement et pour assurer la présence à la cour
Méthodes d’enregistrement et leur impact sur la précision des données DUC
Police Discretion with Young Offenders
Methodological Appendix
339
Notre source principale de renseignements sera les entrevues avec les services de police.
Nous analyserons aussi les données statistiques sur les communautés et les tendances de
la criminalité, et sur les dossiers de jeunes contrevenants de l’étude DUC2 fournis par le
centre canadien de la statistique juridique et, si possible, d’un nombre représentatif de
services de police qui ne contribuent pas au DUC2. Nous tenterons de rencontrer un
nombre de services de police qui sont représentatifs de divers milieux et de diverses
organisations de maintien de l’ordre au Canada : des régions, des communautés de
différentes grandeurs, et des diverses ententes pour assurer le maintien de l’ordre:
municipal indépendant, municipal contractuel, provincial, autochtone volontaire, etc.
Lors des rencontres avec chaque service de police, nous aimerions, si possible, parler
avec quelqu’un de la haute direction qui peut répondre aux questions concernant le milieu
dans lequel le service opère et les structures générales, les politiques et procédures; et
aussi avec un ou deux policiers de première ligne, de préférence spécialisés dans les
dossiers de jeunes contrevenants. De plus, dans le cas de services de police ayant une
section de la jeunesse, nous aimerions rencontrer quelqu’un de la direction de cette
section. Chacune de ces entrevues ne prendra pas plus d’une heure. Nous aimerions
également, si possible, accompagner un policier en devoir qui s’occupe de jeunes
contrevenants pour observer nous-mêmes la prise de décisions. Nous apprécierions
recevoir des copies de documents qui concernent le traitement des dossiers de jeunes
contrevenants, tels que des directives procédurales.
Bien sûr, il appartient à chaque service de police participant et à chaque policier
rencontré de décider des questions auxquelles il répondra et des documents qu’il fournira.
Pour plus d’informations, veuillez communiquer avec l’une des personnes suivantes :
Barbara Muszynski, intervieweuse senior (514) 333-7756
[email protected]
Peter Carrington, enquêteur principal
(519) 743-0214
[email protected]
Jharna Chatterjee, responsable de projet
(613) 954-3591
[email protected]
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