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Police Encounters with Juvenile Suspects: Explaining the Use of Authority and Provision of Support, Executive Summary Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
Myers, Stephanie M.
This is a summary of a research study which examined the types of problems in which juveniles are involved and interact with police, the ways in which patrol officers handle their interactions with juveniles, and how police outcomes are shaped by officer and situational characteristics.
While in-depth reviews of the juvenile justice “process” are under way, the police part of the process is sometimes overlooked. As gatekeepers to the juvenile justice system, the police are the social control agents who make the initial decisions about how to handle incidents involving juveniles. The objective of this research study, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice was to consider the police role in juvenile justice and increase the knowledge of police administrators, policymakers, and police scholars about police-juvenile encounters by examining the types of problems in which juveniles are involved, the ways in which police patrol officers handle their interactions with juvenile troublemakers, and how police outcomes are shaped by officer and situational characteristics. This research utilized data collected for the Project on Policing Neighborhoods (POPN). Data were collected in 1996 and 1997 through systematic social observation of police officers and officer interviews. The study focused on police use of authority and police provision of support with juvenile suspects. The research showed that when police interact with juvenile suspects they are a source of both social control and support. The study informs on how outcomes are patterned by the situation, the officers, and to some extent the police organization. It is recommended that future research focus on better specifying theoretical frameworks for police decisionmaking with juveniles. Enhancing the knowledge about the role police officers play would assist in better understanding which factors determine outcomes for juveniles as they make their way through the juvenile justice system.
Date Created: April 25, 2004