March 5, 2012
Shifting into Adolescence
- How these changes have impact on relations police have on you and the
relations police have with the youth
- When children have interactions with the police in North American society, young
people under age 12, the interactions not always, but for the most part are pretty
positive. Positive because of the context in which young people interact with the
police. When children see the police it’s usually in the mass media, in schools –
give young people information on drugs for example (public education), done in a
non threatening and non confrontational way. At that point the relations with
police are usually pretty positive, children overall don’t often have negative
interaction with the police unless it’s through the parents.
- That begins to change when young people start to shift into adolescence. Their
attitudes towards authority figures in general begin to change. Once a young
person gets into grade 7-high school attitudes towards authority figures begin to
change – teachers, parents, police, etc. Youth start to question authority, with
that youth start to question if police are right in everything they do. This is not just
an attitude thing that comes with growing up it also has to do with their direct
experiences. When people start growing up in western society, you’re in this
limbo stage between childhood and adulthood – invention of adolescence, age
range where young people aren’t old enough to do several things such as drink
and drive, however, young people do engage in adult behaviours before they hit
legal age in which they are legally allowed to do these things. For example,
drinking. Because of their status this could get them into trouble. Besides that
status thing going on, young people are also moving into environments that are
considered contested terrains – public places where they hang out that can raise
suspicion – adults in neighbourhood calling police and leads to altercations.
- Another thing, when you try to hang around with your friends when you’re under
the drinking age, you can’t always drive either, so you may have to drive illegally.
All of these circumstances can lead young people into altercations with the
- The police know that the highest range of offending for most crimes are young
people in their mid to late teens. Offending tends to peak around that age group.
As youth are being treated suspiciously by the police even when they haven’t
done anything that can lead to feelings of harassment. Young people feeling
harassed by the police may give police attitudes and cops do not like to be
questioned so it could make the situation worse.
- Key thing here is that this life course shift leads young people to more
opportunities to get into trouble with the police.
- Young people are also out later than they would be if they were children 2
- One of the key things researchers looked at was how this translates into police
youth relations. One of the first studies that looked at this was research done by
black and Reiss. What they did was a ride along and looked at what happened
when police stopped and questioned people during their shift, what led to police
questioning youth – was it about youth’s criminal activity or was it due to other
kinds of factors?
Legal vs. Extra-legal Factors
- When it comes to policing young people and adults
- Legal factors are the most common sense ones as far as why a police officer
would stop someone
o Offence characteristic – reason to believe that the person has broken the
law – reactive policing. But also proactive policing, if they have reason to
believe young person has committed a crime. Mostly seriousness of
offence – more likely a person will be charged
o Past record – if young person has a previous record then that’s another
legal factor that can be linked to police charging a young person
- Extra-legal factors that really shouldn’t have effect on whether or not you’re
charged or arrested, some include
o Age – older a young person is more likely they are to be charged
- So are these youth being charged because of what they did or was it because of
extra-legal factors? (Reiss and Black). They found that lower class youth were
more likely to draw attention to police than youth from middle class backgrounds
regardless of what they were doing. Police discretion is being used based on
non-legal variable of social class. Well why might social class be linked to
o According to police: working class kids are involved in more crime, not
profiling lower class, it is what it is
o Police surveillance is greater in high crime neighbourhoods
o Sampson police are often likely to police working class neighborhood’s
b/c they feel that in poor neighbourhoods youth don’t have a lot of
monitoring. They are out on their own devices, so police feel they are a
backup to make sure these kids are protected in one way or another. They
feel that to some extent they should take on parental role.
- Most research on police reported data; show that youth crime is socially
patterned on the basis of social class. Working class are more likely to be
spotted – Merton’s theory, more likely to be involved in crime because of balance
b/w goals and means. Lower class neighbourhoods are more likely to be policed.
This goes back to the Burgess concentric zone theory. When self report data
became more prominent researchers questioned youth class link for young
- Hirschi and control theory – found that a better predictor of crime among kinds
who go to school is more due to lack of bonding than social class. Weak bonds 3
lead to crime. That is a stronger predictor than social class. In a sense people
started wondering why police data shows that youth crime is class based where
SRData say it’s not about that. Well maybe police are biased.
- Another study that kicked off this research was Chambliss – Saints and the
Roughnecks – Roughnecks had more questionable reputations than the saints, if
you looked at what these kids actually did, both were involved in delinquent
activity, roughnecks were the ones who received the most attention because they
were working class males and they would spend their free time hanging around
the streets in groups and would be drinking, fighting, etc and police would always
be there trying to deal with them. The saints kept clean in their neighbourhood
but on weekends they would travel to another city and go wild. Saints were
untouched by all of this, went on to get decent jobs, etc but roughnecks had a lot
more police contact, etc. Not so much what they were doing, more related to
resources for hiding their deviance. This is why police are more likely to be
arresting working class kids, it’s because of their visibility.
- Work of black and riess when doing ride along, you don’t see this being done
anymore. Two reasons for this:
o Insurance purposes, if you get hurt there’s liability issues.
o Research has also exposed the police and has made them look less than
good, so police don’t want to be looked at negatively.
o Data is not observational now so where do researchers get their
information? Surveys and official police data.
- For age research shows that the younger you are (12-17), so if you’re 12-13 your
chances of getting charged are lower than if you’re 16-17. Is that fair? Thought
that a 17 year old should know better – thought to be more culpable. Extra-legal
factors can interact with legal – there’s a chance the 17 year old has a prior
record whereas if you’re 13 there’s less chance of having one.
- What about gender? Some might think it’s because girls are involved in less
violent crimes. But research shows that girls tend to get off easier than guys but
not in all cases. Girls are involved in things like shoplifting, minor theft, etc, they
tend to get a warning – Gender appropriate crime (stealing). Whereas it could
work the other, what’s a girl selling drugs or in an assault? Maybe we should
charge them whereas if a guy does it, boys will be boys logic applies. *Look in
- Demeanor – how a young person interacts with a police officer, if kid takes
ownership – kid is more likely to be given a break than if kid is seen to be lying to
the cop. If police think the kid is not lying they’re more likely to get off easier. Not
just about admitting guilt but it’s also how you do it – how sincere you appear or
how insulting you are.
- Research shows that police departments vary in charging practices. Some issue
more charges than others. This isn’t necessarily because of police discretion but
how they’re being rewarded/promoted, pressure from superiors, etc, can have
impact on whether or not youth are getting charged. Administrative issues can
have impact on youth being charged *see text 4
- Race – In US, roughly half of people in penitentiaries are African American,
which is disproportionate to the amount of in the entire population. Are the police
involved in racial profiling?
- Doob and Chan – Factors that affec