Situational Factors Affecting Police Discretion With Young Offenders: A Comprehensive Analysis

Peter J. Carrington, University of Waterloo
Jennifer L. Schulenberg, University of Waterloo

We report the results of a compehensive study of factors affecting the exercise of discretion by police officers dealing with youth-related incidents in Canada. The study considers 19 possible factors, including characteristics of the situation, the offense, the victim, and the offender. Two kinds of data are analyzed: views of police officers and statistical data from the Canadian Incident-Based UCR Survey. Police officers' views are taken from 128 in-depth interviews conducted in 2002 with officers in all functional assignments (patrol, investigation, youth squad, school liaison officers, and management). These officers work in 92 police agencies which are approximatley representative of all police agencies in Canada: representative with respect to geographical distribution, type of community (metropolitan, suburban/exurban, and rural/small town), and type of policing (independent municipal police agencies and provincial police detachments). The incident-based UCR data include detailed case information on a large number of young persons apprehended in 2001, in jurisdictions accounting for approximately 50% of youth-related incidents in Canada.

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Updated 05/20/2006