Extrajudicial Measures Referral Database

The Extrajudicial Measures Database (EMD) is an online listing of mental-health and substance abuse services for youth in British Columbia. Designed specifically for police dealing with youths in conflict with the law, the database lists programs and services delivered by various provincial, regional and community organizations.

The database was created in 2011 by the British Columbia Centre for Safe Schools and Communities, in partnership with the RCMP ‘E’ Division, Abbotsford Police, and the University of the Fraser Valley. The Department of Justice Canada’s Youth Justice Fund provided financial support. The project, which continued through 2011, enabled young offenders to access treatment and support services, discouraging them from criminal behaviour through non-judicial measures — a key goal of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Police officers can access the Extrajudicial Measures  Database directly from patrol cars. The database, maintained by volunteers and partner agencies, lists available services and programs both by region and by type.

Project assessment

A team of three researchers from the University of the Fraser Valley’s School of Criminology and Social Justice conducted the assessment during the three months after the database went online. The assessment was based on interviews with 29 people: 19 police officers (including shift supervisors, officers in charge and EMD trainers) and 10 representatives of community agencies.

The assessment focused on two topics: the success of EMD training and promotional campaigns and the ability of the database to help police officers refer youths to appropriate programs and services.

Key findings

The Extrajudicial Measures Database enjoyed broad and significant support among interviewees. Many stated that the ability to access accurate, relevant information from patrol cars was particularly valuable. 

A large number of front-line officers, however, had neither used the database nor been aware of its existence. Many claimed that the burden of training and paperwork requirements led them to be less than receptive to new initiatives, such as the EMD. Few officers recalled training for the database — perhaps due to the fact that the interviews occurred five months after the initial training sessions. No follow-up training sessions had been provided.

Several interviewees complained of technical problems. The interface was not user-friendly, for instance: officers had to navigate through a series of screens to access appropriate information. Some officers worked around the problem by loading the EMD onto the desktops of their mobile workstations. Two field coordinators expressed disappointment that the database did not include all of the community service agencies they had provided.

Lessons learned

Analysis of the interviews identified three general themes:

  • Youth referral was a low priority for officers, largely because of time constraints.
  • Officers did not have a clear understanding of their options under Section 6 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
  • Systems and protocols to initiate and support multidisciplinary collaboration under the Act were generally underdeveloped.

The assessment concluded that much police work took place  in a ”climate of expediency” — that copious amounts of paperwork prevented officers from fully meeting community demands. Many officers said that they had backlogs of 30 to 40 files at any given time; one officer claimed to feel pressure to conclude files as soon as possible, “at the cost of focusing on what the best solution to a particular problem was.”

Many officers suggested that training should focus on how the EMD can reduce paperwork and save time. Efforts to promote the database should emphasize its long-term benefits, such as improving the justice system’s ability to serve the best interests of youth and communities.

Conclusion

The Extrajudicial Measures Database succeeded, in a small but significant way, in linking young offenders to appropriate programs and services. It also increased awareness among police officers of local programs and services that can help reduce youth criminal behaviour.

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