‘Measuring Up’: A Self Examination of Police Receptivity to the Extrajudicial Measures Referral Database

Canada is a global frontrunner in using extrajudicial measures to deal with non-serious youth offenses. As opposed to dealing with a youth offence through the formal criminal justice system, police officers can use extrajudicial measures to divert youth into alternative programs to hold them accountable and to assist them in making better choices. Specifically, when encountering a youth who is in conflict with the law, police officers have two options; to charge the young person or to divert them through extrajudicial measures that may involve one of three options in British Columbia. These options are to pursue no further action, warn the youth, or refer them to a community agency. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), police officers have discretion in dealing with non-serious youth offences, though they are mandated to consider whether an extrajudicial measure may be adequate to hold the young person accountable for their actions. The most salient themes in the academic literature identifying those factors that most influenced police decision-making with respect to extrajudicial measures were the seriousness of the offence, past history of the offender, offender demeanour, and certain police officer characteristics. Given that police officers act as ‘gatekeepers’ for the criminal justice system, it is important to understand how attitudes and behaviours among police officers effect the use of alternative measures when responding to youth.

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