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Adolescent attitudes toward the police in a western Canadian city

Henry P.H. Chow (Department of Sociology and Social Studies, University of Regina, Regina, Canada)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 8 November 2011




The primary purpose of this paper is to examine attitudes toward the police in a sample of Canadian adolescents.


Using survey data collected from 262 students attending 14 different high schools in a western Canadian city, the paper analyses adolescents' attitudes toward the local police. Criminal victimisation experience, police harassment or mistreatment experience, engagement in delinquent behaviour, and attitudes toward school among respondents were also explored.


The results demonstrated that respondents were only marginally positive in their evaluations of the police. Multiple ordinary least‐squares regression analysis demonstrated that respondents who were older and those who held more positive school attitudes, experienced no police mistreatment or harassment, reported no criminal victimisation, and exhibited lower propensity to engage in unlawful activities were found to rate the overall police performance significantly more favourably.

Research limitations/implications

As this study reports data based on a non‐random sample of high school students in one Canadian city, caution must be exercised in interpreting the results. Continued research attention should be devoted to high school student populations in other geographical locations.

Practical implications

Survey findings underscore the importance of the implementation of programs to foster a positive relationship between the police and young people, the promotion of student engagement with school, and the adoption of intervention strategies to reduce delinquent behaviour among at‐risk adolescents.


As only very few studies have explored police‐youth relations in Canada, this analysis offers insights into adolescents' perceptions of the police and factors contributing to their attitudes.



Chow, H.P.H. (2011), "Adolescent attitudes toward the police in a western Canadian city", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 638-653.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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