Police Discretion with Young Offenders

Methodological Appendix

I.  Interviews

I.  Interviews

1.0  Sample

1.1  Target sample

A sample of 118 police agencies was selected to be interviewed. This consisted of 76 agencies which we designated as high priority, and 42 additional agencies which were designated as "to be interviewed if time permits".

The target sample was based on the principles of representativeness of the regions of Canada, of communities of different sizes, and communities inside and outside Census Metropolitan Areas, and the different modes of delivery of police services: independent municipal, provincial, RCMP municipal and provincial contract, OPP municipal contract, and First Nations self-policing.

The 76 first-priority agencies consisted of 47 independent municipal police services, 20 RCMP detachments, 5 provincial police (OPP and RNC) detachments or headquarters, 2 First Nations police services, one police training facility, and the headquarters of the Sûreté du Québec.

The 42 second-priority agencies included 27 independent municipal services, 8 RCMP detachments, and 7 OPP detachments, with a number of detachments of the Sûreté du Québec, to be determined in consultation with the headquarters of the Sûreté.

1.2  Actual sample

The target sample had to be modified in various ways, which are discussed below. The outcome was that members of 98 police agencies were interviewed. These are shown as push-pins in the map in Figure A-1, and listed in Annex A-1, at the end of this Appendix. These police agencies fall into 5 categories:

  1. Independent municipal police services (in all provinces except Newfoundland) (n=50);
  2. RCMP detachments in 5 provinces and 3 territories (NWT, Nunavut, Yukon, B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and New Brunswick (n = 29);
  3. Provincial police detachments (Ontario Provincial Police and Royal Newfoundland Constabulary) (n=14);
  4. First Nations police services (n=3);
  5. Training facilities (n=2).

Of the original sample of 76 first-priority police agencies, 15 could not be included in the final sample. Six of these 15 agreed to participate, but could not be accommodated in the interviewer's travel schedule. Representatives of one police service (the Sûreté du Québec) expressed initial interest in participating, but eventually declined to participate after consultation with the provincial Ministère de la sécurité publique. The other 8 first-priority police services which could not be included are all located in Province of Québec. Municipal consolidation and the amalgamation of policing services during 2002 in Québec have resulted in the substitution of regional police, or policing by the Sûreté, for smaller independent municipal services. These 8 police services were in the process of being dissolved or merged into larger regional services, and were therefore unsuitable for inclusion in the study.

Thirty-seven police agencies were added to the 61 original first-priority agencies included in the sample. These 37 additional agencies were selected according to two criteria: they had characteristics which improved the representativeness of the resulting sample, and they were relatively convenient to interview, given the travel schedule imposed on our interviewers by the locations of the 61 first-priority agencies.

Initiatives by the RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police were extremely helpful in overcoming the shortcomings of the target sample, particularly its under-representation of rural and small-town policing. This bias in our target sample in favour of larger communities was partly a result of our priority on representativeness by population, and was partly forced on us by the necessity of concentrating our interviewers' visits in cities and surrounding areas in order to use their time and travel budget most efficiently.

On the initiative of Dorothy Franklin, Officer in Charge, National Youth Strategy, Community, Contract and Aboriginal Police Services, contact was made on our behalf with 12 RCMP members who had served recently in 7 detachments in the Yukon, Northwest Territories, or Nunavut, but were now posted to Ottawa, southern Ontario, or Edmonton. Project staff were able to interview these members without travelling to the North. The interviews provided unique information on policing with young offenders, and indeed, policing in general, in the North.

A similar opportunity was provided by the OPP, on the initiative of Supt. Susan Dunn, Commander, Operational Planning and Research Bureau. Her staff arranged for officers currently posted to 10 remote detachments in Northern Ontario to travel to OPP HQ in Orillia to be interviewed by project staff.

Apart from these 17 remote RCMP and OPP detachments, we were able to include from the second-priority list, 6 RCMP detachments in B.C., Alberta, and Saskatchewan, a police training academy in B.C., and one municipal service in each of Ontario and Nova Scotia. However, the main substitutions occurred in the Province of Québec, due to the large number (9 out of 14) which could not be included from the first-priority sample. Nine additional municipal and 2 First Nations police services in the Province of Québec were incorporated in the resulting sample of police services interviewed.

We believe that the resulting sample provides adequate representation of public policing in the regions of Canada, in communities of different sizes, and communities inside and outside Census Metropolitan Areas, and the different modes of delivery of police services: independent municipal, provincial, RCMP municipal and provincial contract, OPP municipal contract, and First Nations self-policing. The only major aspect of policing which is not represented in the sample is provincial policing in the province of Quebec.

The number of members interviewed per police agency varied between one and seven, depending on the size of the agency and the availability of interviewees. Altogether, 199 interviews were conducted with more than 300 members of the 98 police agencies. Their names are listed with their permission in Annex A-2.

Qualitative data from all the interviews has been incorporated into the report. The statistical analyses of the interview data are based on 194 interviews with 95 police agencies since key information was not available from 5 interviews with 3 police agencies.

2.0  Interview Procedure

2.1  Contact

Initial contact with the sampled police agencies was made in three ways:

  • Project staff attended and made presentations at the semi-annual meetings of the POLIS (Police Information and Statistics) Committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, in October, 2001 and March, 2002. This committee has members representing the largest police services in Canada, including the RCMP, the 3 provincial police forces, and approximately 12 of the largest municipal forces, representing almost every province of Canada. After receiving expressions of support at both POLIS meetings, and invitations from some POLIS members, project staff contacted most members of POLIS as the first "wave" of interviews, in March, 2002. Eventually, all members (as of October, 2001) of POLIS were contacted to request interviews.
  • A letter of introduction requesting cooperation was sent in March, 2002, by the Director General, Youth Justice Policy, Department of Justice, to the Commanding Officer (Chief of Police, Chief Constable, etc.) of every sampled municipal and provincial police service, and to the Commanding Officers of the RCMP Divisions for the 5 provinces in which sampled RCMP detachments were located. This letter enclosed a brief description written by project staff of the objectives of the project, the information which we wanted to elicit in the interviews, and the kinds of officers whom we wanted to interview (see Annex A 3).
  • A representative of Youth Justice Policy arranged a meeting in March, 2002, at RCMP National Headquarters between project staff and members of the Community, Contract and Aboriginal Police Services, RCMP. This resulted in a strong expression of support for the project, expressed in a letter of introduction written by Dorothy Franklin, Officer in Charge, National Youth Strategy, requesting cooperation from the Divisional Commanding Officers for the 5 provinces (and for "Depot" Division) where we wished to interview RCMP members; with copies to the Officer in Charge, Criminal Operations, in each provincial Division, and to the Officer in Charge of each sampled detachment.

We believe that each of these approaches probably contributed significantly to the extremely high degree of cooperation which we subsequently received from police services. In our approaches to the many police services which do not belong to POLIS, we cited the support for the project expressed by POLIS, and the fact that almost all members of POLIS had agreed to participate in the study. Presumably the support of POLIS and its individual members, in combination with the letter requesting cooperation sent by Justice Canada, encouraged the commanding officers of other police services to allow us access.

In the case of the OPP, it was in response to our presentation at the March, 2002, meeting of POLIS that the Commander, Operational Planning and Research Bureau, offered the services of her office in coordinating the interviews with OPP officers which we had planned, and also made the very generous offer to bring members of Northern detachments to OPP Headquarters to be interviewed.

In the case of the RCMP, we believe that the letter of introduction from the OIC, National Youth Strategy, was probably crucial to obtaining the cooperation of the provincial Divisional Commanders, who then arranged access for us to the individual detachments.

The second contact with each sampled municipal police service, and the two RNC detachments, took the form of a short letter faxed to the Commanding Officer, written by the Principal Investigator. It referred to the letter of introduction from Justice Canada, briefly repeated the objectives of the project, listed the (growing number of) names of police services which had already agreed to participate, suggested a day for the interviews to take place, and invited the recipient to contact the Principal Investigator to arrange the interviews. A copy of the project summary was included (Annex A-3). In the case of the RCMP, this letter from the Principal Investigator was sent to the provincial Divisional Commanders, and listed the detachments which we wished to interview and the days, or week, during which our interviewer would be available to visit the detachments. A slightly different procedure was followed with the police services in the Province of Québec; this is discussed below.

In some cases, the faxed letter elicited a telephone call from the Chief's office, or someone in the police service assigned by the Chief to liaise with us. If no response was forthcoming, project staff contacted the Chief's office by telephone. In the phone calls, we answered questions about the project, since many of the police services which we contacted had concerns about our objectives, our methods, and the nature of our intended report; and explained what kinds of officers we wished to interview, and arranged a mutually convenient day or days to visit the police service.

In the case of the smaller police services, it was often possible to make the arrangements for the visit in one or two telephone calls, with either the Chief himself, or his secretary or Deputy Chief. In some of the larger police services, the Chief's executive assistant, or a Deputy Chief or other officer in a management position was assigned to assist us, and arrangements were made fairly easily. In other police services, responsibility for assisting us was passed from person to person down the chain of command; in these cases, several phone calls, over a period of weeks, were needed to arrange a visit. In some cases, more than a dozen phone calls were required to make the arrangements.

In the case of the RCMP, our first phone call was to the office of the provincial Divisional CO. In one province, the CO assigned an officer to assist us, who requested information from us concerning our preferred interview times, then personally contacted all the detachments which we had identified, and arranged all the visits for us. In the other provinces, the CO notified the detachments by letter of our wish to visit them, requested their cooperation, and left it for us to arrange the visits. We then contacted the Officer or NCO in Charge of each detachment, as though it were an independent police service - with the important difference that the provincial CO had already requested that the OIC of the detachment cooperate with us. In all but one province, staff of Divisional Headquarters were made available to us to interview, although in two provinces, our interviewer's crowded travel schedule made this impossible.

A few police services required detailed information about the questions which we planned to ask during the interviews, and our provisions for maintaining the confidentiality of oral answers and documentary material. In these cases, we provided the police service with a written Confidentiality Protocol (Annex A-4) and a complete Interview Schedule (Annex A-5).

We used a slightly different procedure to contact police services in the Province of Québec, since the regular project staff are not fluent in French. A bilingual interviewer who is resident in Montreal was engaged in late April, to do interviews with police in the Province of Quebec. During May, she translated our main interview documents into French, including the interview schedule (Annex A-6) and letters of introduction to police (Annex A-7). After the Director General, Youth Justice Policy, had sent the initial letter of introduction (in French) to sampled police services, our bilingual interviewer faxed the follow-up letter on our company letterhead, under her own signature, with an invitation to contact her at her Montreal office. If she did not receive a reply, she then made contact with the police services and arranged the interviews.

2.2  Interview procedures

With very few exceptions, interviews were conducted on-site, either at the premises of the police agency, or in the officer's car. The exceptions are two telephone interviews and one conducted at a conference which the interviewee was attending. All interviews were tape-recorded, with the permission of the interviewees. There were some group interviews with two or more members participating. Almost all interviewees were sworn police officers; a very small number were civilian employees in administrative support divisions, such as Records.

Interviews were conducted between March and August, 2002. For the sake of consistency, we decided to have all the anglophone interviews conducted by the same interviewer, the Assistant Project Manager. (Actually, a few interviews were also conducted by the Principal Investigator when the Assistant Project Manager was unavailable.) This imposed limits on how much time she could spend with each police service, since she had to visit a large number of agencies, scattered all across Canada, in a few months. Generally, we allocated half a day for visits with smaller police services (and detachments), where we anticipated conducting only one or two interviews; and a full day for visits to the larger municipal police services, involving three to seven interviews. For a few very large municipal services, two days were allocated.

In the case of police services with specialized youth detectives, and where the interviewer's schedule permitted, we requested that the interviewer be taken on a ride-along with a youth detective. Eleven ride-alongs were conducted. No tape recorder was used during the ride-alongs, but the interviewer's observations were recorded afterwards, and incorporated into the analysis.

The interview schedule is reproduced in Annexes A-5 and A-6. Interviews were semi-structured; that is, the interview schedule was used by the interviewers as a guide to topics to be covered, rather than to be slavishly followed. If the interviewee wished to pursue a line of thought which was not, strictly speaking, in the interview schedule, but seemed relevant to the project's objectives, then s/he was not discouraged from doing so.

The last part of the interview schedule, covering recording practices, was devised mainly to shed some light on the genesis of UCR data, for the benefit of project staff doing analysis of statistical data, rather than to provide substantive information for the final report. This section turned out not to be very successful, since many or most of the officers interviewed were not in a position to give informed answers, and there were few opportunities to interview personnel in Records. Furthermore, this section came at the end of the interviews, which tended to be lengthy and tiring for both interviewers and subjects, and which were usually conducted during a fixed period of time; so that there was often no time to cover this section, or it seemed inadvisable on account of the subject's or interviewer's fatigue. In addition, this seemed to be the one topic on which interviewees seemed reluctant to speak frankly. Therefore, interviewers adopted the practice of omitting this section, unless there was some particular opportunity to pursue it (e.g. someone from Records was made available for interviewing).

Although interviewers attempted to ask all the questions in the interview schedule (with the exception noted above) in the course of interviewing each police agency, they did not necessarily ask all the questions of each interviewee. Subsets of questions are designated in the schedule as being particularly appropriate for upper management to answer; subsets for middle management, and subsets for general duty officers (patrol and investigators). However, in the smaller police services, where only one or perhaps two officers could be interviewed, a larger portion or all of the questions were addressed in the one or two interviews. In some large municipal police services, some interviewees had highly specialized functions, and the interviews with them concentrated on these functions.

Further limitations on coverage of the interview schedule for some police services were imposed by the busy schedules of some interviewees, and occasionally by the travel schedule of the interviewer.

Relevant documentary material was requested from all police agencies, and in many cases was provided. Much information about the nature of the community, general police service orientation, and organizational structure was also obtained from the web sites maintained by some police services and municipalities.

Following the visit, a letter was sent to the CO or Chief expressing appreciation for the participation of the police service, and thanking by name the members who had been most instrumental in the success of the visit.

2.3  Transcription and translation

The English interviews were transcribed by a local transcription service. The French interviews were transcribed in French, and then translated into English.

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