Police Discretion with Young Offenders


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 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.

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.