Police Quarterly

http://pqx.sagepub.com Police Culture and Young Offenders: The Effect of Legislative Change on Definitions of Crime and Delinquency
Jennifer L. Schulenberg Police Quarterly 2006; 9; 423 DOI: 10.1177/1098611105276543 The online version of this article can be found at: http://pqx.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/9/4/423

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Schulenberg / POLICE AND POLICE 10.1177/1098611105276543 YOUTH QUARTERL (Vol. 9, No. 4, December 2006) Y

POLICE CULTURE AND YOUNG OFFENDERS: THE EFFECT OF LEGISLATIVE CHANGE ON DEFINITIONS OF CRIME AND DELINQUENCY
JENNIFER L. SCHULENBERG
Sam Houston State University

As of April 2003, Canada has new youth justice legislation that has implications for how police do their work in the areas of informal action (extrajudicial measures or sanctions). Because of legislative change, there exists a strong potential for challenges within the police culture’s typifications and recipes for action in how police officers define a youth as a delinquent and an offense as serious. Using a mixed method–mixed model design and data from 202 semistructured interviews collected during 2002, this article explores the continuity and discontinuity in definitions between the police culture and the legislation. These are compared and contrasted to assess whether the nature of official responses to juvenile crime will differ in the new legislative environment. The results suggest that for legislative change to be effective in harmonizing police behavior, it must not only be represented in policies and procedures but also incorporated into the police culture. Keywords: police culture; police discretion; legislation; young offender; delinquent

As gatekeepers to the formal criminal justice system, the police play a fundamental role in deciding which youth get arrested, charged, and detained. As of April 2003, new Canadian youth justice legislation called the Youth
This article is based on research funded by the Youth Justice Policy Branch of the Department of Justice Canada, and preparation of this article was supported by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant and Fellowships. Direct correspondence to Jennifer L. Schulenberg, College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX, 77341-2296; fax (936) 294-1683; e-mail: jls011@shsu.edu. POLICE QUARTERLY Vol. 9 No. 4, December 2006 423–447 DOI: 10.1177/1098611105276543 © 2006 Sage Publications

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Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) came into force, which provides much more specific guidance to the police in their exercise of discretion when dealing with young offenders. In light of this new legislation, the possibility arises that within the ethos of police culture, the questions of when, how, and why the police use certain dispositions and not others could experience challenges. The issues that emerge from legislative change have the potential to change how police officers define a youth as a delinquent, as well as the concept of offense seriousness. The consequence of these working typifications has been previously demonstrated to affect police decision making and the use of police discretion (Christensen & Crank, 2001; Crank, 2004; Ericson, 1982). Police discretion is an aspect of everyday police work by knowledgeable and experienced officers who belong to the police culture of the rank and file (Goldsmith, 1990). In this sense, police officers learn from each other a set of beliefs, values, attitudes, rules, and occupational practices as they work together within a community. Thus, police develop theories about the neighborhoods and people they police that are “used as recipes for interpreting and labeling their daily activities” (Cicourel, 1968, p. 105). For example, a cue often used by police in the decision to investigate is incongruity meaning that officers ask themselves whether an individual looks out of place (Fisk, 1974). The belief that “unless you have a good story, don’t do it” (Ericson, 1982, p. 15) sets the stage where the actions of police officers can be defined and shaped by their occupational culture. The objective of this article is to investigate the organizational and cultural influences on how police officers define a youth as delinquent and a crime as serious through an examination of the effects of policies, procedures, legislation, and the police culture. Specifically, based on relevant theoretical propositions and past research, does the effect of policies, procedures, and legislation vary within and across police agencies because of the influence of the police culture? First, the methods used in this study will be briefly reviewed including the research design, data sources, definitions of common terminology, and the analytical techniques adopted. Second, the findings will discuss the legislative environment, how officers define delinquency and seriousness, officers’ descriptions of their decision-making processes, and whether they explain their behavior by referencing policy or law, typifications, or both. Finally, the results from the analysis are presented in the context of two questions:

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When looking at the change in legislation in the key areas highlighted, are the current definitions of delinquency and seriousness going to be challenged in the police culture as a result? Consequently, how can one expect the changing nature of official responses to juvenile crime to differ?

METHOD
Quantitative and qualitative research are based on different epistemological and ontological assumptions. Thus, each type of research operates with a different conception of reality—that is, a set of assumptions on the definition of reality (ontology), the acknowledgement of reality or “how we know what we know” (epistemology), and the ways in which reality is understood (methodology; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Specifically, quantitative (positivistic) research assumes that there is a reality composed of atomistic, discrete, observable events in which antecedent variables operate in a lawlike fashion to produce events. Thus, social reality is a complex of causal relations between objects and causes of human behavior that are external to the individual. In contrast, qualitative (constructivist) research is based on the fundamental assumption that there is more than one reality because of a process of interpretation whereby the social actors negotiate meaning and understanding. Stated differently, qualitative inquiries are investigations into the ways in which social actors make sense of their own worlds through everyday processes. The research questions and hypotheses used in this study were derived from prior quantitative and qualitative research and theoretical propositions reflecting both positivist and constructivist ontologies, which resulted in the decision to use a mixed methodology as the most appropriate to investigate police decision making. In doing so, this research examined overlapping and different facets of police discretion with young offenders. The quantitative and qualitative findings were compared with one another to add breadth and scope to the results. Additionally, the theoretical frameworks that were used encompass different approaches to the same phenomenon— that is, police decision making in youth-related incidents.

RESEARCH DESIGN
The research design adopted was a concurrent transformative mixed methods design. This type of design uses two different methods to confirm,

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cross-validate, or corroborate findings within a single study that employs multiple theoretical frameworks (Patton, 1990, 2002). Studies using this mixed methods design integrate quantitative and qualitative data during the analysis and interpretation phases as the researcher’s choice of method is guided by specific theoretical perspectives that are reflected in the research questions of the study. In other words, the theoretical perspective “is the driving force behind all methodological choices such as defining the problem, identifying the design and data source, and analyzing, interpreting, and reporting results throughout the research process” (Creswell, Plano Clark, Gutmann, & Hanson, 2003, p. 230). In a concurrent transformative mixed methods design, the analysis can involve the quantification of qualitative data and interpretation of the results by either “note[ing] the convergence of the findings as a way to strengthen the knowledge claims of the study or [by] explain[ing] any lack of convergence that may result” (Creswell et al., 2003, p. 229). Under this rubric, further differentiations are made based on whether the research is exploratory or confirmatory in nature. Because the research questions and hypotheses are both, this research employed a parallel mixed model (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Stated differently, both the qualitative and quantitative data are used to answer questions and hypotheses that are either exploratory or confirmatory and do so both at the analysis and interpretation stage of the research. Therefore, the research design used was concurrent and parallel (i.e., the qualitative data are collected and analyzed simultaneously), transformative (i.e., qualitative data are quantified), and employed a mixed model (i.e., both confirmatory and exploratory research questions and hypotheses are addressed).

DATA SOURCES
This research used both statistical and interview data from three data sources. First, qualitative and quantitative data were derived from a sample of 95 police services and based on more than 200 semistructured interviews with more than 300 police officers across Canada—from all provinces and territories, all types of communities, and all types of police services. These were conducted between March and August, 2002 (163 in English, 39 in French). All interviews were tape recorded and were on average 1 to 1.5 hrs long. In the majority of cases, I conducted interviews with practitioners, supervisors, and management. Ride-along data were collected from a total of 11 police agencies. The duration of the ride-along ranged from 4 to 12

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hours. A tape recorder was not used during the ride-alongs; however, my observations were recorded in detailed field notes written during and after the ride-along. All participating officers were allowed to look at the types of information recorded (e.g., incident description, type of police action taken). The interview data and the documentation provided by the interviewees (e.g., policies and protocols) were the main source of data for the study.1 Second, other documentary and statistical information about police forces and their environment were obtained from other sources (e.g., provincial and municipal government agencies). For example, qualitative data were recorded from Web sites maintained by the police, Web sites maintained by the municipality or province, and documents obtained by request from provincial governments. Finally, tabulations of statistical data on the proportion of apprehended youth charged came from the aggregate Uniform Crime Reporting Survey for 1998 to 2000. 2 Therefore, the multimethod analysis of variations in police discretion and decision making used both quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative data consisted of data sets from the aggregate Uniform Crime Reporting Survey in conjunction with the coded responses from 198 out of the 202 interviews conducted.3 These data were analyzed using frequency distributions, chi-square, and the analysis of variance. The qualitative data comprised the open, axial, and selective coding of 95 interview transcripts and four police ride-along field notes representing 89 of the 95 police agencies and detachments in the sample. These data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach as well as conceptually ordered matrices based on the manifest and latent coding of interview segments.4

CONCEPTUALIZING THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
Central to this examination are the concepts of police decision making, police discretion, police culture, typifications, and recipes for action. It is difficult to understand factors that affect police discretion without acknowledging that police action in itself is a process. To mobilize the police, 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, pp. 66-67) still appear valid today. Crime only exists once someone (a member of the public or dispatch) decides the encounter requires police attention and someone (a member of the public or police) seeks an official designation of a person’s behavior as criminal.

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Thus, the actual process of detecting youth crime is, for the most part, an organizational mobilization (Black & Reiss, 1970). Much of the research reviewed ignores the fundamental distinction between the concepts of decision making and police discretion. Scholarly discussions of decision making tend to focus on “decisions involving citizens and questionable behavior” (Roberg, Crank, & Kuykendall, 2000, p. 276). Basically, police decision making can be defined as decisions made “regarding when and how to intervene in situations” (Roberg et al., 2000, p. 276). In contrast, police discretion is a much narrower conceptualization of police behavior. The most common definition is the decision not to invoke formal social control even when the circumstances warrant (Roberg et al., 2000). Specifically, in this research discretion is “the way in which individuals and groups of officials use their own judgment within a given situation to take action or not” (Gelsthorpe & Padfield, 2003, p. 3). This use of judgment is not limited to one decision point (McLaughlin, 2001) as it extends to police decision making at all levels of the investigative process. All professions have unique characteristics that distinguish them from other occupations. The police culture is no different and it has an impact on policing policy, initiatives, and decision-making processes (Ericson, 1982; Lipsky, 1980; Skolnick, 1967). Broadly defined, police culture is a set of assumptions that is commonly held about police work known as a code that shapes police officers’ attitudes and influences their decision premises (Worden, 1989). Finally, central to the qualitative analysis are the two concepts of typification and recipes for action. A typification is an accounting of an event based on previous experience and what is defined by officers as a routine event (Lundman, 1996). On the other hand, recipes for action are those actions that are normally made when handling certain types of incidents (Ericson, 1982). It is through either of these methods that officers make decisions at each stage of the investigation (informal action, diversion, arrest, detain). Although many other factors (environmental, ecological, and situational) play a role in the decision-making process, officers justify their actions in terms of the organization they belong to, recipes for action, and the law.

FINDINGS
The findings will address the organizational and cultural influences on police discretion. First, the legislative environment will be discussed

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highlighting the differences between the Young Offenders Act (YOA), which was in force during data collection, and the YCJA that is now in effect. Second, findings are presented that elucidate police officers’ definitions of a youth as delinquent and an offense as serious based on the analysis of typifications. Third, using recipes for action, the decision-making process in dealing with youth-related incidents is presented. Finally, the effect of policies and procedures within the organization and the police culture is investigated.

LEGISLATIVE ENVIRONMENT
The decision-making activities that police engage in “highlight the fundamental process of how social order is possible” (Cicourel, 1968, p. vii). The importance of examining the process of criminal justice from the earliest point of contact with the police cannot be understated as this investigatory process strongly influences the final disposition within the criminal justice system (Ericson, 1982; Hagan & Morden, 1981). Thus, this section reviews the options police officers have under the YOA and the YCJA to handle youth crime. At the time when the data for this research were collected, the main components of the legal environment that pertained to the arrest, questioning, charging, and pretrial detention of a suspected young offender were stipulated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code (Greenspan & Rosenburg, see ss. 493-529), and the YOA. Under the YOA, incidents involving young persons followed a general model of process. Within each stage, there are several options open to officers. The first decision point involves a determination of whether a criminal offense occurred. The second decision point concerns the course of action an officer will take (charge, diversion, or no charges). Finally, the third decision point involves the various options that are open to police officers in carrying out their decision to charge or divert a young person. Specifically, police decision making under the YOA involved deciding the appropriate course of action after evidence had been gathered and the incident was determined to be founded. This might involve not laying a charge, in which case an officer could take no further action, issue a warning, involve the parents, take the youth to the police station, make a referral to an external agency, and file an occurrence report to create an official record of the incident. Alternatively, an officer might refer the case to alternative measures (diversion), which in some provinces might or might not

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result in laying a charge. Finally, the police might decide to lay a charge whereby the next stage involved deciding the method to compel appearance in court (summons, appearance notice, promise to appear, or pretrial detention). For a suspect to be held in custody in the public interest, the law requires the officer to assess whether detention is required to (a) confirm the youth’s identity, (b) secure or preserve evidence, (c) prevent further offending, or (d) ensure the youth appears in court at the appointed time (Bala, 1997). In general, the adoption of the YCJA did not affect the decision points for police officers in the investigative process. However, unlike the YOA, the new legislation clearly stipulates the purpose and objectives of the youth criminal justice system. Section 3.1 (a.1) of the YOA’s declaration of principle states, “While young persons should not in all instances be held accountable in the same manner or suffer the same consequences for their behavior as adults, young persons who commit offenses should nonetheless bear responsibility for their contraventions” (Bala, 2003, p. 67). In contrast, the declaration of principle of the YCJA in section 3.1 (c) states,
Within the limits of fair and proportionate accountability, the measures taken against young persons who commit offences should (i) reinforce respect for social values, (ii) encourage the repair of harm done to victims and the community, (iii) be meaningful for the individual young person given his or her needs and level of development and, where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the young person’s rehabilitation and reintegration. (Bala, 2003, p. 80)

Thus, it is no longer the case that it is sufficient to hold the youth accountable for his or her behavior; rather, the purpose of the system is to emphasize fairness and proportionality and protect “the public through crime prevention, rehabilitation, and meaningful consequences” (Bell, 2002, p. 61). One of the most significant changes in the new act concerns the use of informal action (now called extrajudicial measures) and diversion to alternative measures (now referred to as extrajudicial sanctions). The YCJA stipulates for the police the appropriate responses and under what conditions and restrictions extrajudicial measures and sanctions are seen as fair and proportionate. Section 4 (c) states that “extrajudicial measures are presumed to be adequate to hold a young person accountable for his or her offending behavior” for nonviolent offenses even if the youth has a prior record (Tustin & Lutes, 2002, p. 14). The Act goes further by explicitly instructing the police that before charging a young person, they “shall . . .

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consider whether it would be sufficient to warn the young person, administer a caution . . . or refer the young person to a community-based program” (Tustin & Lutes, 2002, p. 16). Despite these options for police action existing informally under the YOA, this new Act creates a legal environment whereby these options must be considered prior to laying a charge for nonviolent offenses regardless of prior police contacts or convictions.

DEFINING A YOUTH AS DELINQUENT
When the police decide to use formal action by arresting a youth, they are publicly defining them as delinquent (Morash, 1984). According to prior research, a youth tends to be defined as a delinquent if he or she is “the kind of person who doesn’t respect the law [making him or her] a perfect candidate for arrest, detention, and eventual incarceration” (Morash, 1984; Werthman & Piliavin, 1967, p. 74). Therefore, it has been suggested that the police are more likely to arrest and charge a young person who is perceived as a delinquent by the officer. Although much research has been conducted on police perceptions of delinquency, there has been very little empirical attention devoted to this issue within the Canadian context. The interviews provide strong support for the hypothesis that the police are more likely to define a youth in a similar manner and to deal with a delinquent using more formal social control. Although officers include many factors in their typifications of delinquency, they are consistent in suggesting a delinquent is someone with a prior record (repeat or habitual offender), a bad attitude (with no respect for authority), and one who tends to come from a poor home environment with very little parental involvement. Beyond these initial facets of police officers’ definition of a delinquent, there are three predominant themes in the 52 interview segments that were relevant to this issue. First, according to officers the label of delinquent is something a youth earns during a period of time. A youth does not become a repeat offender overnight. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that a repeat offender has certain characteristics that are commonly associated with this status. For example, there is an element of criminal sophistication that police officers associate with a repeat offender. This may involve a youth’s demonstrating prior intent or the use of tools to commit the crime that are more commonly associated by the officers with adult offenders (e.g., the use of surgical gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints). Sophistication is also perceived by officers as a progression in the seriousness of the crimes a youth

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commits. To be a repeat offender as conceived within the definition of delinquent, a youth must commit multiple offenses that are defined by officers as serious crime. This finding is significant as it suggests that young offenders with a record of multiple offenses against the administration of justice are also defined as a delinquent and, consequently, dealt with by using more formal social control (e.g., laying a charge and detaining). Although demeanor will not be discussed in great detail for this analysis, within the concept of delinquent (as perceived by officers), a bad attitude is also processual. Officers suggest that a youth who doesn’t care and is indifferent to the consequences of their behavior has character traits that are not developed during a short period of time. In fact, officers closely linked the development of an attitude to the development of a repeat offender. For example, “if I walk in and somebody is looking at me like I’m even less scary than his 100 year old grandmother, then this is not a first time offender.” The implication is profound as a young person who commits a serious offense (e.g., break and enter) but who does not fit an officer’s definition of repeat offender or bad attitude will be dealt with using less formal social control (e.g., release with conditions instead of detaining) than a youth who has committed the substantive offense of break and enter but has a record of offenses against the administration of justice. Stated differently, officers suggest that delinquents “work pretty hard to be write offs.” Similarly, a young person from a poor home environment is not automatically defined as a delinquent by officers. This facet of the typification also occurs over time. A poor home situation for a delinquent involves the lack of parental involvement and supervision during an extended period of time that allows for the development of a prior record and a poor attitude. For example, officers suggested that they “know that he will reoffend because he is left on his own all the time and I know that his behavior is already established” and “this problem start[ed] with the parents [because] the youth is left on his own [to] make the friends he wants [and] to come back when he feels like it.” Second, how officers define a nondelinquent is not necessarily the antithesis of a delinquent. According to officers, a nondelinquent is not defined as someone who is a first- or second-time offender. In contrast, the typification of a nondelinquent does not mention a young offender’s prior record. Police officers suggest a nondelinquent is someone who is actively involved in activities outside of school (e.g., hockey, church group), has highly involved parents, tends to hang out with other youth whom the officers do

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not perceive as delinquent, and as a result exhibits a good attitude by acting scared and remorseful. Finally, police officers appear to be fairly confident in their classification and identification of youths as delinquent. Quite often officers suggested that they recognize a delinquent when they deal with them—“we know who the bad apples are” because “the bad ones really stand out.” This concurs with the findings of Werthman and Piliavin (1967) from more than 35 years ago that found that “the juvenile officer often proceeds directly to boys who have proven themselves capable of committing the crime” (p. 69). In other words, officers do not appear to apply preconceived notions on a youth based on their first interactions. Alternatively, they acknowledge this process as a form of labeling. For example, one officer said that once “your child gets labeled your whole family gets labeled.” Thus, a great majority of respondents not only hesitated to provide these typifications but also did so with the caveat that defining a youth as delinquent is not a knee-jerk or ad hoc activity but one that the youth earns over a period of time. Aptly summarizing this position is one officer’s explanation that a youth “has a delinquency curve” and it is only once “he has reached too high on his curve” that we see this youth is really a delinquent.

DEFINING AN OFFENSE AS SERIOUS
Based on the analysis of 61 interview segments, police officers’ typifications concerning serious crime vary in structure and respondents would usually qualify their answers and provide examples. Table 1 gives the frequency (total number of times) that certain offense types or generalizations were mentioned in the segments as situations where normally no discretion (or very, very little) is exercised. Although these offenses are listed separately in the table, a given officer would mention a few (in some cases 10 or more) of these as serious. When respondents were discussing the types of crime they perceived as serious, they almost unanimously included various offenses against the person in their typifications. In fact, police officers in this sample were more than twice as likely to consider crimes against the person as serious in comparison to crimes against property or other types of offenses. Specifically, the most commonly cited offenses in rank order are assault (14), breach of a judge’s order (9), any gang-related crime (9), assault with a weapon (8), offenses against a person or victim (7), any offense involving a weapon (7), and breach of probation (7). This past finding is of particular interest as the

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TABLE 1. Types of Crime Perceived as Serious by Respondents Type of Crime Crimes against the person Homicide Robbery Assault causing bodily harm Assault with a weapon Assault Utter threats Sexual assault Domestic violence Violent offenses Against a person (victim) Anything with weapons Total Crimes against property Break and enter Arson Fraud Theft of auto Theft Possession of stolen property Vandalism Mischief Total Other types of offenses Drugs Breach of a judge’s order Breach of probation Breaches by request Unlawfully at large Breach of a police undertaking Total Generalizations Degree of harm done Major crime Any gang-affiliated crime Source: Schulenberg (2004). Frequency

2 2 5 8 14 3 2 2 3 7 7 55 5 1 2 5 2 1 2 1 16 2 9 7 2 1 1 22 6 2 9

literature suggests that administrative offenses are not generally seen as serious crime. However, the explanations officers provided within their typifications and recipes for action help to elucidate these patterns. In general, most of the offenses classified under other types of offenses are normally seen as minor crime. However, the reasons for not using one’s discretion are pertinent as these offenses (particularly breach of a judge’s order and breach of probation) are viewed as quite serious by the police.

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Overall, police officers appear to approach offenses against the administration of justice in one of two ways: by using their discretion to a certain extent under various circumstances or using virtually no discretion. One predominant theme that emerges from the analysis is the idea that police officers are not justified in using their discretion when a youth breaches a judge’s conditions. For example, one respondent said that “the judge has said you follow these conditions and we don’t presume to have any better understanding of this person than the judge.” Alternatively, it appears that the police see other system agents as designators of offense seriousness. For instance, “if something comes in as a request, mostly social services or another agency, it’s already gone to the point that your discretion isn’t needed, your enforcement is needed. Someone has already signaled that it’s a serious matter.” In terms of breaching probation, police officers tend to view them as serious because they feel it is an indicator of a “serious lack of respect for the law.” Thus, police officers tend to have similar views on the definition of serious crime. However, these typifications do not generally incorporate the types of offenses one would expect to be perceived as serious and also suggest a variety of responses under violent, property, and other crimes. Although offenses against the person are the most likely to be defined as serious, it is the least serious of these offenses (assault) that is cited most often and the victimless offenses against the administration of justice are also typically defined as serious. Although these findings may be an artifact of the frequency with which youths commit these types of crimes, the results suggest that the police culture does have some impact on defining the seriousness of the offense as quite often the offenses within officers’ typifications are among the less serious ones in the Criminal Code and the YOA.

THE DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
On the basis of 88 interview segments, the evidence suggests that the final disposition of a case and the associated decision-making process are case dependent—that is, officers decide on their use of informal and formal social control depending on the unique set of circumstances in each youthrelated incident. Many of the interview segments suggest two primary objectives in their decision making. First, the process involves satisfying the requirements of law enforcement—an incident is investigated to identify and apprehend a perpetrator(s) and gather the evidence that would be

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required to prosecute. Second, a rather latent objective is to provide meaningful consequences through the delivery of an appropriate sanction that, at times, is semi-independent of the court and correctional system. This second objective is not suggesting police impropriety or illegal police actions. Rather, it suggests that police perceive their role as more expansive than the traditional view of police as law enforcers by including the prevention, response, and suppression of crime as part of their duties. Police officers do not view their decision making in terms of static categories (i.e., informal action, diversion, charging, and compelling appearance). In contrast, police decision making is a dynamic process that is a progression in the application of formal social control. An officer suggested that the differences between police services may be attributable to variations in these dynamics as “the law itself is fine. We have to work on how we apply it and that’s what makes the difference between two police forces [and] between two police officers—the way we interpret it.” Virtually all of the respondents consider informal action in all youthrelated incidents. The frequency with which officers use their discretion can not be overestimated as one officer suggests that “we contact those same people 20, 30, 40 times before we send them to some sort of formalized process such as alternative measures.” The various actions that are defined by officers as informal are quite extensive. Officers will commonly give a verbal warning—or “finger wagging”— when dealing with a young person that has committed a minor offense. A less prevalent form of the warning is a formal caution5 that, when applied, appears to be very effective for the majority of youth-related incidents. However, this practice is not universally accepted as one officer summarized:
When I talk to other colleagues from other police forces, they look at me like I’ve got three heads when I start to talk about cautions. I don’t think this is rocket science. We’re allowed to do it, the code spells it out for use and I think that’s why we have the changes that we’re going to be experiencing with the new Act because no one else got on board here—so now it’s going to be forced.

Another popular type of informal action is bringing the young person to the police station even if the officer has decided he or she will not be pursuing charges. Some officers explain that it is difficult to deal with a young person properly “with a piece of plastic between us” or for purposes of identification, notification of parents, and filling out the paperwork. Others do so to “show them, whoever you have in custody, this is what could happen”

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or to have a bigger impact. For example, “you can still be informal and be flexible but you do it on your turf [and] keep control of the situation. . . . When you go to their home, it really does change the dynamics of the situation.” Yet others feel this oversteps their legal authority and will normally bring the youth directly home. In regard to police discretion and the decision to charge, the data suggest that the seriousness of the offense plays a very large role in their decision making. However, as previously discussed, the official police response to offenses against the administration of justice appears to be quite unique. In other words, with this type of offense, police officers employ different decision-making processes. If the decision is made to invoke formal social control it tends to involve penal law. The data suggest that this decision is predicated on four interrelated factors. First, if the officer views the breach violation as an indicator of disrespect for authority, the offense is almost always dealt with by way of charge. Second, respondents who do use their discretion suggested that they will not lay a charge until there is a pattern of willful disregard for the order, whereby the young person has breached several times before a charge is actually laid. Third, there is evidence to suggest that offenses against the administration of justice are used as a leverage tool to get information. However, if the officer feels his or her workload is too great, he or she may just as easily decide to use discretion. For example, I “will use it [the administrative offense] to get information on other crimes. Other officers will use discretion quite frankly because they can’t be bothered to do the paperwork—it’s easier to drive a kid home.” Last, and by far the most prevalent theme in the data, was to invoke formal social control only in cases where the offense against the administration of justice occurs in conjunction with another substantive offense.
A lot of times we lay them in conjunction with something else. To simply breach somebody because they’re out past their curfew, or drinking, well, at least in my experience it’s 50-50 whether we’re really going to pursue it or not. The paperwork involved, the processes—it’s not an easy thing for us. . . .There’s no obligation for us to pursue. When I’ve been a watch commander I’d say, “What are you looking to accomplish? Did they do something else? Well no, then take them back to the guardian.”

Again, the concept of workload arises as the paperwork required to process an offense against the administration of justice is identical to that of any other substantive offense in the Criminal Code. When looking at the evidence concerning the impact of parental involvement on police decision-making processes, two predominant themes

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emerge. First, to some extent all officers aim to involve the parents even when they have made the decision to lay a charge. However, for officers that see the degree of parental involvement as a factor affecting police discretion they tend to summarize their decision making in a similar manner as exemplified in the following quote.
I try 100% of the time to get the parents involved and usually within the first five minutes of sitting down with the parents, I have a good idea of what direction I’m going to go with this youth because . . . 90% of the time, only the mother comes in. When I see a mother and father come in, that’s one check positive for the kid. Two checks if the parents are open and willing to discuss what happened, to do whatever it takes to fix the situation, [then] that’s another positive strike for the kid [and] I can present different options. So that tells me right off the bat little Jimmy or Sally are free and clear because Mom and Dad are doing all my work. Again, situations though where you just have one parent come in or none at all, I’m very suspect. Then you’re back to zero with the youth.

In other words, officers use the degree and nature of parental involvement as an indicator to assess how best to deal with the young person. Thus, when officers perceive a lack of informal social control from the family, they are more likely to use more formal social control. Second, they are typically more likely to charge a young person in cases where there is little parental involvement, poor parental attitudes, and no accountability or consequences and more likely to use informal action or divert when they believe there is a high level of parental involvement and appropriate consequences at home.

THE EFFECT OF POLICIES AND PROCEDURES ON POLICE BEHAVIOR
Initially, all interview segments were reviewed to establish whether police officers explained their behavior by referring only to policies or to policies and typifications or, alternatively, if they relied solely on typifications. The analysis of 40 interview segments from 29 different police agencies suggested two conclusions. First, out of the 25 police agencies where the explanations could be categorized with confidence, officers in 40% (10) explained their behavior in terms of references to policy, 44% (11) used both policies and typifications, and 16% (4) employed only typifications when describing their decision-making rationale. Thus, it appeared that the majority of officers relied either on policies or policies and typifications. However, when examining the substantive content of the interview segments, definite themes

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occurred within these categories that qualified the circumstances under which police officers rely solely on policy or use their typifications as well. Explanations for police decision making that rely only on references to policies and the law appear to occur in three dimensions: conditions for diversion to alternative measures,6 decisions made on the method to compel appearance in court, and youth-related incidents that occur on school property. When officers referred only to typifications, they described their decision making as a reliance on gut feelings and personal criteria. For example, one officer explained his rationale as having to “trust our feelings. We meet youths [and] we develop an experience that becomes a certain expertise. . . . We can trust our instinct when it comes to deciding whether the consequences are sufficient.” In contrast, the explanations that refer to both policies and typifications are thematically much more complex. The situational circumstances range from the decision to use diversion versus informal action, applying components of the YOA (e.g., notice to parents), recording interactions, charging a youth who is eligible for diversion, and compelling appearance. Yet most of these segments contain a generic process not evident in those explanations that use references only to policy or only to typifications. When citing both policies and typifications, police officers make reference to law and policy to explain what they should do in a youth-related incident and use typifications to describe the actions they generally take because they are justifiable. Sometimes officers refer to the fact that they must justify their actions to supervisors. One officer reasoned that “each individual [is] accountable for [his or her] actions, and as long as you can nicely cover off why you did what you did, as long as you’re comfortable with that, then I feel me personally, whether I charge someone is my decision [and] not someone else’s.” Stated differently, “you’d have to be able to explain it to the sergeant or someone else why you feel this one is getting a break . . . .The discretionary power is there but you have to be able to justify it.” On the other hand, other officers appear to require justification to themselves. For example, the relevant policy was stated but the officer continued by saying that
we still want to give officers discretion because maybe this kid deserves to be in a diversion program, maybe he doesn’t. The officer is going to be there, he’s going to see what the kid’s attitude is like; he’s going to see what the parent’s attitude is like when they’re informed of the situation. Then he’s going to have to make the decision [whether] diversion is going to waste everyone’s time.

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On further examination, these answers also suggested the possibility of variation by type of organization. The work of Hagan (1977) and Weber (1946) suggests that a positive relationship exists between police strength and the standardization of police discretion with the implementation of bureaucratic rules. Stated differently, the organizational structure of a police department varies in the degree of bureaucratization. In general, the larger the police force, the more bureaucratic it becomes. However, the theoretical proposition implies that the presence of bureaucratic rules is an intervening variable. Stated differently again, as the population increases and the police service grows, it becomes more bureaucratic and will “undertake to confine and structure its discretion by articulating its operating policies in the form of rules” (Goldsmith, 1990, p. 101). Cross-tabulating the presence of policies and procedures with police strength (χ2 = 11.59, p = 0.021; gamma = 0.493, p > 0.001; n = 92 agencies) suggests that only 32% of the police agencies with less than 50 officers have policies and procedures. Once a police agency has between 50 and 99 officers, 54% of the agencies in the sample had policies. Finally, police agencies with 100 or more officers were the most likely to have youth policy because 69% of the agencies in the sample had created policies and protocols. According to Maguire, “larger organizations rely less on centralization and more on formalization as a mechanism for achieving coordination and control” (Maguire, 2003, p. 21). These results concur as there is a higher likelihood of police policies and procedures for dealing with youthrelated incidents in larger organizations. To address the degree to which policies, procedures, and the police culture affect police behavior, a new variable was created to assess the degree that police officers in an organization deal with youth-related incidents in a similar manner—that is, the extent to which the presence of policies and procedures harmonizes police responses to youth-related incidents within the same police service. This composite variable measures the mean similarity among all interviewed officers in each agency based on their responses to interview questions that were quantitatively coded into 32 variables in the same manner that open-ended questions are coded in a survey.7 The mean similarity variable was calculated for all agencies that had at least two respondents. Of the 95 police agencies in the interview sample, 40 agencies could not be included in this variable as only one interview was conducted. For each pair of officers in the agency, their similarity was calculated as the number of variables with the same value (e.g., 0 = no, 1 = yes) divided by 32. For example, if there are 2 officers, there is one pair

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Schulenberg / POLICE AND YOUTH TABLE 2. Mean Similarity in Police Decision Making by Police Strength Mean Similarity in Decision Making by Officers in an Agency All Agencies Police Strength Less than 25 officers 25 to 49 officers 50 to 99 officers 100 to 499 officers 500+ officers Total M .86 .81 .81 .79 .77 .80 N 5 15 11 13 11 55
a

441

With Policies SE .05 .02 .03 .02 .02 .01 M .97 .82 .80 .79 .78 .80 N 1 7 7 9 8 32

b

Without Policies SE M .83 .80 .83 .80 .74 .80 N 4 8 4 4 3 23

c

SE .06 .04 .05 .05 .06 .02

.02 .03 .03 .02 .01

Source: Schulenberg (2004). Note: As with all significance tests for analyses of the interview data, these tests are only an approximate indicator of statistical significance because the data are based on a sample that was not randomly selected. a. The significance levels for the comparison of means t tests are significant for the comparison between less than 25 and 500+ (p > .05)—overall, F = 1.124, df = (4, 50), p = .356. b. The significance levels for the comparison of means t tests could not be performed because one group has fewer than two cases—overall, F = 1.529, df = (4, 27), p = .222. c. The significance levels for the comparison of means t tests are all not significant—overall, F = 0.437, df = (4, 18), p = .356.

compared. If there are 3 officers, 3 pairs were compared (1 to 2, 1 to 3, and 2 to 3). If there are 4 officers, there are 6 pairs (1 to 2, 1 to 3, 1 to 4, 2 to 3, 2 to 4, and 3 to 4). Once the similarities are calculated for each pair of officers, then the mean of these similarities was calculated with values ranging from 0 to 1. Three one-way ANOVA analyses were conducted and the results are presented in Table 2. The results suggest no support for this hypothesis. First of all, there is little difference in levels of similarity of police behavior, compared over size of police agencies. The means are all similar, and the overall F tests are all nonsignificant. However, some patterns do emerge. The first column for all agencies shows the mean levels of similarity among officers, broken down by five levels of police strength in the agency. Although the overall F test is not significant, the pattern of means clearly contradicts the hypothesis: As police strength increases, the similarity among officers’ reported actions decreases from 0.86 in the smallest agencies to 0.77 in the largest. Thus, the increased use of policy in larger organizations does not appear to have resulted in increased levels of similarity of behavior. The second and third columns repeat the comparison of means, separately for police agencies whose officers reported that they do or do not have written policy. The theoretical proposition predicts that agencies with policy will exhibit more similarity in their members’ behavior. The total mean

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similarities for agencies with and without policy are equal (0.80), contradicting that proposition. Furthermore, no substantial differences between agencies with and without policy in levels of similarity appear, even within agencies of equal size.8 For example, in agencies with 50 to 99 officers and those with 100 to 499 officers, the difference in mean similarity is tiny and not in the hypothesized direction. In the largest agencies (500+ officers), those with policy have a higher level of similarity (0.78) than those without policy (0.74), but the difference is extremely small. The data do suggest that policies are not effective in controlling police behavior in very large agencies. However, there is some evidence that the effect of policy varies by the size of police force (see column 2). It is conceivable that in smaller organizations, management maintains control through informal interactions, whereas the larger a police agency becomes, the effectiveness of informal control is reduced as seen by the decrease in mean similarity overall. Yet the results suggest that the use of policy to control police behavior in all agency sizes is not very effective and does not counteract the tendency for diversity in police decision making as the size of agencies increases. These findings concur with those of Maguire (2003) who found “little evidence about what strategies are most effective for changing people . . . formalization [with the imposition of bureaucratic rules] is probably not [an] appropriate strategy for achieving control in nonroutine people-changing organizations” (p. 90).

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
The objective of this article was to understand whether the effect of policies, procedures, and legislation varies within and across police agencies because of the influence of the police culture. Prior research has found that in the year 2000, 59% of all apprehended youth suspected of a Criminal Code offense were charged (Carrington & Schulenberg, 2003, p. 22). Consequently, further research was required to understand why, under the YOA, diversion was seen as appropriate in 75% to 80% of youth cases (Caputo & Kelly, 1997) but was used in less than 40% of youth-related incidents. The results from this research appear to shed some light on this facet of police behavior. The data suggest that there is continuity and discontinuity within and across police agencies in terms of police decision-making practices. Across agencies, police officers provided similar responses to defining delinquency. A delinquent is a young person with a prior record, a bad attitude,

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and often a poor home environment with very little parental involvement. How officers defined a nondelinquent was not the antithesis of a delinquent in that there was no mention of a youth’s prior record. Rather, police officers suggested that a nondelinquent is someone who is actively involved in activities outside of school, has highly involved parents, tends to hang out with other youth whom the officers do not perceive as delinquent, and as a result, exhibits a good attitude by acting scared and remorseful during the interaction with the police. The label of a delinquent is one that a youth earns over time and police officers indicated that they were fairly confident in their classification of apprehended youth as delinquents. Thus, in this instance, the effect of definitions within the police culture appears to be quite consistent across agencies. In terms of defining an offense as serious, officers across agencies also have similar views. In most cases, officers suggested that offenses against the person (particularly assault) and offenses against the administration of justice are seen as quite serious. Of importance, though, is the disjuncture between the definition of seriousness in the police culture and that within policy and legislation. Although these findings may be an artifact of the frequency with which youth commit these types of offenses, the results suggest that the police culture does have some impact above and beyond policy and legislation as the offenses defined as serious within officers’ typifications are among the less serious ones articulated in the Criminal Code and the YOA. The evidence indicated that the decision-making processes are case dependent and a dynamic process that is a progression in the application of formal social control. However, officers articulated two objectives in their decision making: (a) fulfilling the requirements of law enforcement and (b) providing meaningful consequences through the delivery of an appropriate sanction. Additionally, if officers perceive a lack of informal social control from the family, they are more likely to arrest and lay a charge but more likely to use informal action or divert when they believe there is a high level of parental involvement and appropriate consequences at home for the unlawful behavior. Again, the YOA is silent on providing meaningful consequences or using parental involvement as a factor in the use of police discretion that provides another example of the influence of police culture across agencies. Although the majority of officers in this sample relied either on policies or policies and typifications, they did so under certain circumstances. Typifications and recipes for action that relied on references to policy and

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law did so when discussing the conditions for diversion to alternative measures, decisions made on compelling attendance in court, and when dealing with youth-related incidents on school property (e.g., because of zero tolerance policies instituted by district school boards). However, when citing both policies and typifications, an intriguing generic process occurs in the decision-making process. That is, police officers make reference to law and policy to explain what they should do in a youth-related incident and use typifications to describe the actions they generally take because they are justifiable. What this suggests is an inherent limitation of the impact of policies and procedures on police behavior. This possibility was investigated through the assessment of the degree to which police officers in the same agency deal with youth-related incidents in a similar manner. The results suggested that the use of policy to control police behavior in all agency sizes is not very effective and does not counteract the tendency for diversity in police decision making as the size of agencies increases along with the likelihood of explicit policies and protocols. The implications of these findings are in one sense encouraging but in another quite profound. On one hand, officers already consider using informal action in virtually all youth-related incidents (Schulenberg, 2004) and also feel that part of the police role is to provide meaningful consequences through the prevention, response, and suppression of crime as part of their duties. This is highly consistent with the new legislation and the mandate therein stipulating that officers must consider extrajudicial measures and sanctions for nonviolent offenses regardless of prior record. On the other hand, the results suggest that the police culture plays a role above and beyond policies, protocols, and legislation in the degree to which it influences the interpretation of the law. Further analyses found that policies do not appear to be very effective at harmonizing police behavior regardless of agency size. Therefore, it is conceivable that the police will continue to arrest and lay charges for offenses they perceive as serious despite a definition to the contrary in the YCJA as the stipulation of procedural protocols did not produce a significant improvement in controlling police behavior. Thus, for legislative change to be effective in harmonizing police behavior, it must not only be represented in policies and procedures but also incorporated into the police culture. Further research is required as the data used in this study are based on police officers’perceptions while the YOA was still in effect. Thus, the projection of future police decision-making practices under the YCJA is extrapolating from the findings. Furthermore, interview data are not the

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most appropriate data type for causal analysis. Rather, future research using quantifiable data collected during observational ride-alongs using the method of systematic social observation would be more suitable to measure and assess many aspects of police decision making and discretion addressed in this study.

NOTES
1. Qualrus was chosen as the CAQDA software for two reasons. First, it allows the researcher to define a segment of text as one or more words each time a code is applied. In many other CAQDA programs, the flexibility to define segment length is limited. Second, Qualrus allows for exploratory and confirmatory analyses as well as the ability to export data to statistical software programs such as SPSS. 2. The aggregate Uniform Crime Reporting Survey provides data at the level of the police agency for the proportion of apprehended youth that were charged for a given year. 3. Four interviews were excluded from the quantification of the interviews as they involved civilian respondents (e.g., restorative justice conference volunteer). 4. Interview segments ranged from a few words to several paragraphs. 5. A formal caution involves the official documentation of a warning in a police agency’s records management system. Depending on the police agency, this may also involve the parents and the youth coming to the police station within the next week so the officer can emphasize that there was enough evidence to charge but the youth has been given a break. The implication is that this break has been officially recorded and the youth will not receive this favor twice. 6. Because the criteria for most diversion programs are determined at the provincial or territorial level, these results are not entirely surprising. 7. The interview questions used deal with officers’ decision-making practices in terms of almost always considering the use of informal action, diversion, charging, and detention, and the degree of discretion used with offenses against the administration of justice. 8. Means for the smallest agencies cannot be compared because there is only one agency in the with policy group.

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Carrington, P. J., & Schulenberg, J. L. (2003). Police discretion with young offenders. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Department of Justice Canada. Christensen, W., & Crank, J. P. (2001). Police work and culture in a nonurban setting: An ethnographic analysis. Police Quarterly, 4, 69-98. Cicourel, A. V. (1968). The social organization of juvenile justice. New York: John Wiley. Crank, J. P. (2004). Understanding police culture (2nd ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Anderson. Creswell, J. W., Plano Clark, V. L., Gutmann, M. L., & Hanson, W. E. (2003). Advanced mixed methods research designs. In A. Tashakkori & C. Teddlie (Eds.), Handbook of mixed methods in social and behavioral research (pp. 209-240). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Ericson, R. V. (1982). Reproducing order: A study of police patrol work. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: University of Toronto Press. Fisk, J. G. (1974). The police officer’s exercise of discretion in the decision to arrest: Relationship to organizational goals and societal values. Los Angeles, CA: UCLA Institute of Government and Public Affairs. Gelsthorpe, L., & Padfield, N. (2003). Introduction. In L. Gelsthorpe & N. Padfield (Eds.), Exercising discretion: Decision-making in the criminal justice system and beyond (pp. 128). Portland, OR: Willan. Goldsmith, A. (1990). Taking police culture seriously: Police discretion and the limits of law. Policing and Society, 1, 91-114. Greenspan, E. L., & Rosenberg, M. (2001). Martin’s annual criminal code 2001. Aurora, Ontario, Canada: Canada Law Book. Hagan, J. (1977). Criminal justice in rural and urban communities: A study of the bureaucratization of justice. Social Forces, 55, 597-612. Hagan, J., & Morden, C. P. (1981). The police decision to detain: A study of legal labelling and police deviance. In C. D. Shearing (Ed.), Organizational police deviance: Its structure and control (pp. 9-28). Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Butterworths. Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage. Lipsky, M. (1980). Street-level bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the individual in public services. New York: Russell Sage. Lundman, R. J. (1996). Demeanor and arrest: Additional evidence from previously unpublished data. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 33, 306-323. Maguire, E. R. (2003). Organizational structure in American police agencies: Context, complexity, and control. New York: State University of New York Press. McLaughlin, E. (2001). Discretion. In E. McLaughlin & J. Muncie (Eds.), The Sage dictionary of criminology (pp. 95-96). London: Sage. Morash, M. (1984). Establishment of a juvenile police record. Criminology, 22, 97-111. Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Methodological mixes. In M. Q. Patton (Ed.), Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed., pp. 247-255). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Roberg, R., Crank, J., & Kuykendall, J. (2000). Police and society (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Roxbury. Schulenberg, J. L. (2004). Policing young offenders: A multimethod analysis of variations in police discretion. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

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Skolnick, J. H. (1967). Justice without trial: Law enforcement in democratic society. New York: John Wiley. Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (1998). Mixed methodology: Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Tustin, L., & Lutes, R. E. (2002). A guide to the youth criminal justice act. Markham, Ontario, Canada: Butterworths. Weber, M. (1946). From Max Weber, essays in sociology. New York: Oxford University Press. Werthman, C., & Piliavin, I. (1967). Gang members and the police. In D. J. Bordua (Ed.), The police: Six sociological essays (pp. 56-98). New York: John Wiley. Worden, R. E. (1989). Situational and attitudinal explanations of police behavior: A theoretical reappraisal and empirical assessment. Law and Society Review, 23, 667-711.

Jennifer L. Schulenberg is currently an assistant professor at the College of Criminal Justice, Sam Houston State University. Her research interests are in research methodology, sociology of the family, juvenile justice, and policing. Her research has been published in several journals including the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CJCCJ), Canadian Woman Studies, and Sociological Imagination. She is coauthor of the “Department of Justice Canada Report—Police Discretion with Young Offenders,” coauthor of a report on police discretion for Statistics Canada, associate editor of the CJCCJ on the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and a member of the advisory board for the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.

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