SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: Although police exercise wide discretionary powers when carrying out their general patrol duties, it is with respect to young people that these powers are the most extensive. The present research examines some of the factors that influence the use of police discretionary powers with young offenders. Over 220 sworn police officers from New South Wales Police responded to written surveys about the way in which they routinely dealt with, or planned to deal with, four offences commonly committed by juvenile offenders. Results show that police behavior toward the same offending may vary greatly, particularly in relation to minor offences. This is not particularly surprising, given the plethora of discretionary and diversionary options that have been introduced into Australian juvenile justice and policing legislation in the last decade. The purpose of giving these options was to provide police with greater scope to accommodate individual differences in offenders. An unintended consequence of this change, however, has been greater unpredictability of outcome. Given that there is a broad range of police officer typologies as well, a young person’s experience with the law, especially in relation to minor offending, is becoming more “lottery”-like.
Abstract: Law enforcement training programs rarely address how juvenile developmental differences affect police encounters with aggressive or potentially aggressive juveniles. This neglect is surprising since a large percentage of police threat of or use of force contacts are with juveniles. While additional training represents one strategy to address this shortcoming, it is unclear whether such training affects the police officers’ perceptions of juveniles and their attitudes toward handling juvenile aggression. This study examines the effectiveness of an experimental training program designed to improve officers’ recognition of juveniles’ developmental difference and change their attitudes toward their role in handling aggressive or potentially aggressive juveniles. Results showed that training affected officer responses in the desired direction directly following training and at follow-up. Additionally, these findings indicated that a majority of trained officers who encountered aggressive juveniles utilized verbal techniques from the training and found them effective.