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Identifying Variation in Police Officer Behavior Between Juveniles and Adults

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 37 Issue: 2 Dated: March/April 2009 Pages: 200-208
Date Published
April 2009
9 pages

The study examined officer behavior during encounters with juvenile suspects to determine whether officers responded to the same cues during encounters with juveniles and adult populations.


Results indicate a positive relationship between juvenile status and arrest; officers were significantly more likely to arrest juvenile suspects net other effects. However, using the police authority scale, the direct effects equation indicated that officers were no more likely to demonstrate higher levels of authority during encounters with juveniles. Age-status influences the decision to formally initiate the justice system process, though officers are no more or less likely to demonstrate variation in the amount of authority based on the age status of the individual. Certain characteristics consistently influenced the decision to arrest across disaggregated models, including offense seriousness, quantity of evidence, commission of crimes in the presence of an officer, officer race (White), and intoxication. The presence of each of these factors during encounters significantly increased the probability of arrest regardless of suspect’s age. Differences were observed in the predictive power of several of the correlates: adults encountered in less distressed communities were significantly more likely to be arrested, while juveniles encountered in communities with greater levels of distress were significantly more likely to be arrested. Finally, results demonstrated a difference between juveniles and adults in the correlates that influenced officers’ exercise of authority: community distress and officer race. Community distress did not impact the exercise of authority during encounters with juveniles, yet significantly more authority was exercised with adults who encountered the police in less distressed areas. Data were collected through systematic social observations of street level officers of the Cincinnati Police Division between April 1997 and April 1998. Tables, notes, and references

Date Published: April 1, 2009