A Longitudinal Study of of the Cumulative Effects of Discretionary Decisions in the Criminal Justice System


List of principal investigators for A Longitudinal Study of the Cumulative Effects of Discretionary Decisions in the Criminal Justice System: A Research Proposal to the Canada Council, [197-]

"'It is possible to view the system of
criminal justice in its entirety as a system
of interlocking decisions' and 'one way to
proceed in analyzing the criminal justice
system is to concentrate on decision
points' (Henshel and Silverman, 1975, p.5).
This is the approach to be taken in the
proposed research, keeping in mind that we
are interested in the interactive processes
involving each of the parts."
(A Longitudinal Study, 1971, p.5)

The five-year research project titled “A Longitudinal Study of the Cumulative Effects of Discretionary Decisions in the Criminal Justice System” was first proposed by the Centre for Criminology in 1971 and aimed to clarify the roles of actors within the criminal justice system and the experience of an accused as they travel through the levels of the system. 

In their research proposal, the Professors at the Centre for Criminology stressed the importance of examining the criminal justice system as an operating whole rather than separate parts. To accomplish this, the research team was comprised of a multi-disciplinary team consisting of a criminologist, three sociologists, a lawyer and a psychologist.  

The Longitudinal Study was broken down into several sub-series and was studied by the following professors:

  1. Mobile Police Patrols, Detectives Studies, and the Accused (Richard Ericson) 
  2. Crown Attorney and the Judge (James Wilkins) 
  3. The Victim (John Hagan) 
  4. Legal Issues (Bernard Dickens) 
  5. Juveniles (Anthony Doob) 
  6. The Defence Counsel (Jim Giffen) 

Professor Ericson and the Peel Region Police

"Item #7 was clearly unaceptable to the
researchers and to the University.
Therefore, the following letter was written
and the principles were accepted by the
Board. Unfortunately a formal agreement was
never written."

Draft contract for Richard Ericson's Research Programme with the Peel Regional Police, March 1976. 

Between 1976-1981, Professor Ericson engaged in a study of the behaviour of the police and detectives where he used the Peel Regional Police Force as the subject of this case study. Former UofT masters criminology student, Hans Helder assisted Professor Ericson as they joined various detectives and officers on their daily patrols. For ten months, they would examine the use and, in some cases, abuse of discretion by examining how routine cases were handled by police in their routine fashions. 

The research proposal first began in 1976 where Chief Burrows agreed to allow his police force to become the subject of Ericson's study on the basis of seven conditions outlined in a letter addressed to Gordon Watson, the Centre for Criminology's Director at the time. Item #7 of the contract written by the Board of Commissioners of Police stated, "Results of the research programme are to be provided to the Chief of Police before publication and any matter the Board or Chief consider should not be used, will be handed over the Chief and not referred to in any way.". Both the Centre for Criminology and the president of the Graduate School of Studies at the University of Toronto felt that this clause violated the University's right as a research institution to have control over the scope and content of their research. After several letters of correspondence with Chief Burrows, the item was redacted in place of allowing Chief Burrows and the Board of Police a maximum of six months' time to take anticipatory action and openly address their concerns at any point in the research and drafting processes. 


"Mug shots for Tony [Doob]." Created by Meyer-Wallace to commemorate the Peel Region Police project, 1981.


"Making Crime: A study of detective work", The Bulletin Brief, June 8, 1981.

In a letter addressed to Director Watson in April of 1979, Chief Burrows expressed his disappointment with Ericson’s first draft of The Reproduction of Order and wrote the following: “much of the material included in the draft is contrary to an overwhelming amount of evidence I have in my possession of the thousands of favourable and tremendously professional acts performed by our Officers annually” (Folder #3:21). Burrows also addressed Ericson’s lack of discussion on Peel’s Special Services Detectives, whom the Chief insisted was responsible for handling the “major” crime cases; a fact used to counter Ericson’s finding that the detectives he studied only handled “minor” cases Ericson and the newly appointed Director Anthony Doob quickly pointed out the inconsistency in Chief Burrow’s concerns including the fact that Ericson had not been given access to study Peel’s Special Services Detectives.  

In July of 1980, Professor Anthony Doob wrote to Chief Burrows, providing Burrows with a deadline to provide any additional comments before interested publishers would begin to print Ericson’s detective study. Chief Burrows was once again displeased with Ericson’s draft and believed the research revealed a bias towards the police, painting detectives and cops as individuals who engaged in far more non-police activities than their assigned duties. Despite their attempts to console Chief Burrows and make revisions where necessary, the constant correspondence between the Chief and the Centre would ultimately delay the publication of Ericson’s research. It soon became clear that Chief Burrows was unwilling to let Ericson’s work reveal the behaviour of detectives in the belief that it would taint the reputation of the police force. This was non-negotiable with the Centre who argued that omitting such information would be a “severe injustice to our organization”. Over the next year, the Centre for Criminology would work with legal representatives to push for the publishing of Ericson’s work. Finally, in 1981, after a year of involvement with legal representatives, Ericson’s book titled, Making Crime: A Study of Detective Work was published.  


Clipping, "Why the police hate this man", Toronto Star, 4 July 1981.

The coverage following the release of his book often painted Professor Ericson as a man whom the cops hated, primarily because his book openly discussed the realities of Detective routine work. Even some scholars at the University of Toronto were quick to disprove of Ericson’s research while others praised Ericson for shedding light on how the police and detectives realistically spent their time. 

Click the coloured sections in the article below to see more material related to Ericson. 

The correspondence between the Centre for Criminology and Chief Burrows as well as legal advisors spans 9 folders and can be found in the Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies' Archive. See a small selection below.