Research: Young people with cognitive disabilities and their experiences with police

Young people with cognitive disabilities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. While about 4% of young men and 3% of young women have a cognitive disability in Australia, a much higher proportion of young people in detention (about 14%) has some form of cognitive impairment.

To contribute towards understanding this problem, Dr Kelly Richards (School of Justice, Queensland University of Technology) and Dr Kathy Ellem (School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work, University of Queensland) recently undertook interdisciplinary research on young people with cognitive disabilities’ first point of contact with the criminal justice system: the police. Funded by the Queensland Centre for Social Science Innovation, the research drew on the disciplines of criminology, social work and disability studies, and involved interviews with service providers who work with young people with cognitive disabilities in south-east Queensland. The project also sought the views of young people themselves, and for the first time, gave voice to three young people with cognitive disabilities who had been in contact with the police.
The research yielded a number of key insights that make a significant contribution to this under-examined topic:

• Service providers identified the phenomenon of “escalation” – ie, that once in an interaction with police, young people with cognitive disabilities face a range of difficulties exiting or evading police contact in ways that other young people usually successfully manage. Young people with cognitive disability may become highly visible to police and are at heightened risk of cycling in and out of the criminal justice system as offenders.
• Service providers also identified that young people with cognitive disabilities often come into increased contact with police due to the complex constellations of disadvantage that this group commonly experiences, such as homelessness, being in out-of-home care, co-morbid mental health conditions, and poverty. Further, a young person with cognitive disability may present with complex behavioural issues that others close to them find difficult to manage. Parents of young people and youth residential workers have been reported to deliberately involve the police as a strategy to cope with a young person’s challenging behaviours, again leading to increased police contact.
Young people with cognitive disabilities themselves reported in their interviews that being treated by police in ways that are “procedurally just” (ie being able to have a say, being treated with dignity, respect and fairness) enhanced their interactions with police. For example, 18-year-old “Justin” appeared to have a positive experience of citizen participation in his interaction with police. He reported having being supported by his disability worker to make a statement to police about a physical assault he had experienced. He reported that the police were “nice”, gave him time to explain things and directed some questions to his disability support worker, which he found helpful.
Findings from the study underscore the urgent need for better non-criminal justice supports for families of young people with cognitive disabilities, skill development in staff of youth services to better respond to complex behaviours of young people, as well as improved police training on issues of both youth and disability. The authors have recently been invited to present their research to Queensland‘s Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women.

Publications from the research:
Richards, K., Ellem, K., Grevis-James, N. and Dwyer, A. (2017) Young people with cognitive impairments’ interactions with police in Queensland: A report to the Queensland Centre for Social Science Innovation. Brisbane: https://eprints.qut.edu.au/109470/

Ellem, K. and Richards, K. (2018) Police contact with young people with cognitive disabilities: Perceptions of procedural (in)justice. Youth Justice: An International Journal https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1473225418794357

Richards, K. and Ellem, K. (2018) Young people with cognitive impairments and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system: Service provider perspectives. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/15614263.2018.1473771

Publication: Police perceptions of prejudice: how police awareness training influences the capacity of police to assess prejudiced motivated crime

CJRC member, Dr Toby Miles-Johnson has recently published an article in the journal Policing and Society, Volume 28, Issue 6, August 2018.  This is now available online on Taylor & Francis Online.

ABSTRACT

Prejudice motivated crime (PMC) is defined as crimes motivated by bias, prejudice or hatred towards members of particular groups, communities and individuals. To understand how police awareness training facilitates or constrains the capacity of police officers to appropriately classify and respond to PMC, data were collected from a population of Police Recruits (PRs) and Protective Service Officers (PSOs) (N = 1609) to ascertain their perceptions of PMC pre- and post-PMC awareness training. These were used in a logistic regression model to identify factors explaining whether PRs and PSOs would identify a vignette/scenario as a PMC. We found PRs and PSOs were more likely to correctly identify a PMC scenario than a control scenario, but only 61% as likely to identify an incident as PMC post-PMC awareness training after accounting for other variables. We argue that awareness training programmes need to be more aligned to the specific needs of policing in diverse societies.

The full article can be found here:  https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10439463.2016.1206099

 

Research Showcase – Queensland Police Service

On the 8th March the Crime and Justice Research Centre was invite to deliver a Research Showcase at Queensland Police Service. The event, hosted by Frontline Research and information, Organisational Capability Command at QPS and facilitated by our QUT Police Fellow, Inspector Chris Emzin.

Four CJRC members: Professor Kerry Carrington, Dr Cassandra Cross, Dr Claire Ferguson and Associate Professor Mark Lauchs presented their work to the QPS cohort, to highlight and share work conducted at QUT.

Professor Carrington discussed the policing of gendered violence in the Global South, focusing on the innovative approach of women’s only police stations in Latin America and possible applications in the Australian context. Her ARC Discovery project with Professor Maximo Sozzo will explore the prevention of gendered violence; lessons from the Global South.

Dr Cross reflected on her work with online fraud which she began while working for the Queensland Police Service, and her Churchill Fellowship which extends this work and the challenges police and victims face when responding to fraud. She also outlined her current projects and future research directions in the field of cybercrime, digital crime, fraud and romance fraud.

Dr Ferguson spoke on her fascinating research and consultancy in the field of forensic criminology, offender evidence manipulation at homicide scenes, how police can combat these efforts and processes of determining death in complex cases. She outlined her research in Australian jurisdictions and beyond, on strategies offenders use and features police can use to combat these efforts.

Associate Professor Mark Lauchs’s presentation covered his work on organised crime and outlaw motorcycle groups. He summarised strategies researching these fields in Australia, with limited data in the public domain; how to redress knowledge gaps and explore the ‘organised’ component of crime as well as impacts on the community.

Thank you to the team and to Chris for facilitating what was, we hope, the first of a series of research events with Queensland Police. We look forward to exploring future research collaborations and initiatives with QPS.

 

Professor John Scott keynote at Indian National Justice Conference

Professor Scott is presented with gifts by Professor Sibnath Deb, Dean of Law, Pondicherry University.

Professor John Scott has recently returned from Puducherry (a part of French India until 1954), India where he presented a keynote conference paper on the theme of ‘Southern criminology and cognitive justice’.  The two day conference, organized by the School of Law, Pondicherry University (A Central University), examined The Role of Law Enforcement Authorities and Government in Upholding Justice. Distinguished presenters at the national conference included Justice N. Santosh Hegde (Former Judge, Supreme Court of India), Justice Indira Banerjee (Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Chennai), Justice Ravi R. Tripathi (Law Commission, Government of India) and Mr. V. Narayanswamy (Chief Minister, Puducherry Union Territory).  Scott made the case for a globally inclusive criminology noting that Australian, US and British textbooks ignored crime in the Subcontinent. This was especially striking in the case of Australia and Britain given the shared legal, social and political history. He argued that the extent of neglect exposed a bias in the way in which criminological knowledge was produced and disseminated and discussed the historic development of criminology in India and its growth over the last few decades. Major themes of the conference included access to justice, human rights, the role of police and political corruption. Approximately 200 people attended the conference.

 

QUT Justice Alumnus wins IAWP Officer of the Year Award

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Acting Assistant Commissioner Debbie Platz has been globally recognised after she was presented with the International Association of Women Police (IAWP) Officer of the Year Award at a luncheon in Barcelona, Spain on Sunday. Debbie is a QUT Justice Alumnus who completed a Graduate  Certificate in Justice and Legal Studies in 1998.

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