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Christopher O'Connor, PhD - University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Oshawa, ON, CA

Christopher O'Connor, PhD Christopher O'Connor, PhD

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Science and Humanities | University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Oshawa, ON, CANADA

Building evidence-based research around police use of new technologies and social media to guide law enforcement decisions



Law enforcement officers have a fundamental duty to keep communities safe for everyone; and they rely on extensive training and often instinct to handle difficult circumstances in the field. Today’s changing landscape and unceasing social media presence have brought new challenges and created a broader lens through which police officers are viewed. Christopher O’Connor, PhD, Assistant Professor of Criminology in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, works alongside Durham Regional Police Service (DRPS) and other community agencies to establish evidence-based research that will influence policy and guide police officers’ response to situations.

Motivated by social justice for vulnerable populations, he is collaborating with DRPS and local agencies to assess and determine best outcomes of a situation table that intervenes in high-risk cases in the community. Dr. O’Connor’s research will assist law enforcement and non-government organizations whose budgets face increasing cuts, in determining the best strategy forward for these cases.

Dr. O'Connor's research agenda focuses on the role of new technologies in police work, for example, the use of social media to communicate with the public. He is analyzing the factors used to determine the relevance of communicating police information via social media. His research also examines the lives of young people and rapid growth communities. He has published several articles examining these areas including how young people understand crime (e.g., auto theft, boomtown crime), the impact of social structures on their lives (e.g., gender, race, and class), and school-to-work transitions.

Previously, Dr. O’Connor spent three years as a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Human Behavior, Justice and Diversity at the University of Wisconsin where his research examined boomtowns and energy, before returning to Canada as an Assistant Professor at UOIT in 2014. His teaching is grounded in methods and statistics courses, demonstrating his passion for research and its importance in society. Intrigued by the potential to impact decision- and policy-making related to social justice issues, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and Criminal Justice with Highest Honours, and a Master of Arts in Sociology with Distinction, both from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario. Dr. O’Connor completed his Doctorate in Sociology from the University of Calgary, Alberta.

Industry Expertise (5)


Law Enforcement


Social Media

Social Services

Areas of Expertise (17)


Criminal Justice

Youth Crime


Auto Theft

Attitudes Toward Police

Police Use of Social Media

Youth and Society

Youth Transitions from School to Work

Youth Truancy/Absenteeism

Citizenship and Youth Councils

Urban Sociology

Energy Security

Oil and Crime

Boomtowns and Rapid Growth Communities

Social Cohesion and Disorganization

Research Methodology

Education (3)

University of Calgary: PhD, Sociology 2010

Carleton University: MA, Sociology 2005

With Distinction

Carleton University: BA, Criminology and Criminal Justice 2003

Highest Honours

Affiliations (3)

  • Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences
  • American Society of Criminology
  • Canadian Policing Research Network

Media Appearances (1)

Body cameras create new questions about policing

The Chronicle, Durham College and UOIT Newspaper  online


“I think there’s a lot of pressure on police to be more open about what they’re doing on a daily basis,” said Christopher O’Connor, an Assistant Professor from the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities at UOIT. “There’s still very little published information about cameras so we’re still trying to get a handle on it.”

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Event Appearances (9)

Theorizing Youth Truancy: Rethinking Absence and (Re)framing Justice Responses

52nd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences  Orlando, Florida


The Police on Twitter: Best Practices and Implications for Community Policing

70th Annual Meeting of American Society of Criminology  San Francisco, California


An Examination of the Impact of North Dakota’s Oil Boom on Crime

51st Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


North American Energy Security/Insecurity: All Roads Lead to Fort McMurray, Alberta

22nd Biennial Association for Canadian Studies in the United States Conference  Tampa, Florida


Youth Truancy: A Critical Review of the Literature

50th Annual Meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences  Dallas, Texas


Agency and Reflexivity in Boomtown Transitions: Young People Deciding on a School and Work Direction

83rd Annual Meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association  San Diego, California


Young People’s Perceptions of Crime and Disorder in a ‘Boomtown’

63rd Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology  Washington, DC


Boomtown’ Youth: Exploring the Impact of an Economically Prosperous City on School and Work Decision-making

106th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association  Las Vegas, Nevada


The Deviant Other in a Deviant City: Perceptions of Crime in a Boomtown

61st Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems  Las Vegas, Nevada


Research Grants (3)

A Mixed Method Study of the Sexual Victimization and Reporting Experiences of Students, Faculty, and Staff at a Diverse, Commuter University in Ontario

Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services $15048


This research involves an online survey and indepth interviews with UOIT faculty, staff and students to assess views on sexual violence and harassment on campus. Survey results will be used to guide the development of new polices in this area.

A Collaboration with Durham Regional Police Service to Study How Post-Secondary Institutions and Police Services Collaborate Around Issues of Sexual Violence and Harassment

Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services $25115


This project will review research, conduct a content analysis of post-secondary school websites, and interview stakeholders to develop recommendations and best practices for collaboration between police and post-secondary institutions in dealing with sexual violence and harassment on campuses.

An Examination of the Social Impacts of ‘Fracking’ in Canada

UOIT SSHRC Small Research Grant $4894


This research focuses on how communities in Canada have been affected by the use of ‘fracking’. In-depth interviews with community stakeholders are being used to determine social impacts.”

Courses (4)

Data Analysis

SSCI 2910U, 2nd Year Undergraduate Course

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Advanced Qualitative Methods

SSCI 3920U, 3rd Year Undergraduate Course

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Advanced Justice Studies

SSCI 4000U, 4th Year Undergraduate Course

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Criminology and Justice Integrating Project

SSCI 4099U, 4th Year Undergraduate Course

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Articles (5)

The Police on Twitter: Image Management, Community Building, and Implications for Policing in Canada Policing and Society


Technology has always played an important role in policing. In recent years, various types of new social networking sites have become important tools for police departments. For example, social networking sites have been used to help solve crimes and communicate directly with the public circumventing the traditional news media. At the same time, the public can more easily communicate directly with, or about, the police. This article examines the use of Twitter by police departments on an everyday basis.

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Classed, Raced, and Gendered Biographies: Young People's Understandings of Social Structures in a Boomtown Journal of Youth Studies


As young people attempt to adapt to a rapidly changing society, how they experience school and work has undergone significant changes in recent decades. Youth researchers attempting to understand these changes have drawn heavily on the concepts of agency and structure. In the process, researchers often end up taking a ‘middle-ground’ approach and in turn have critiqued the theorizing of Ulrich Beck for being too focused on agency. This article engages with this debate by examining young people's understandings of the social structures shaping their lives within the constantly changing environment of a boomtown.

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Insiders and Outsiders: Social Change, Deviant Others, and Sense of Community in a Boomtown International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice


In the last decade, the city of Fort McMurray, Alberta has undergone significant social changes due to the rapid growth of the oilsands industry in and around the city. In this short period of time, Fort Murray’s population has more than doubled attracting migrants from all over Canada and internationally to fill labor shortages in the city. In the process, Fort McMurray has become a twenty-first century boomtown. Drawing on in-depth interviews, this article examines how young people and (adult) key informants perceived disorder, crime, risk, and boomtown living.

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Engaging Young People? The Experiences, Challenges, and Successes of Canadian Youth Advisory Councils Youth Engagement: The Civic-Political Lives of Children and Youth


In recent years, various communities across Canada have recognized the need to include young people's input in community/urban decision-making processes. As a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Canadian governments and policy makers are obligated to take young people's views into consideration when decisions about them are made. The aim of this book chapter is to examine how some communities have attempted to involve young people in such decision making by creating youth advisory councils. This chapter draws on an open-ended small-scale survey conducted with youth council members and adults familiar with the operation of youth councils.

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Agency and Reflexivity in Boomtown Transitions: Young People Deciding on a School and Work Direction Journal of Education and Work


In recent decades, young people’s transitions from school to work have undergone substantial changes. As young people make their way from compulsory schooling to employment, they find themselves having to navigate an increasingly complex, technologically innovative and globalised world. These social changes have prompted youth researchers to reexamine young people’s transitions within the life course while paying particular attention to different contexts and risks young people encounter. As part of this reexamination, this article develops a conceptual framework that attempts to capture some of the complexity inherent in young people’s decision-making regarding school and work within the context of a boomtown – Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Drawing on interviews with young people from across the school-to-work transition, this article demonstrates the range of complex factors that young people consider in their school and work decision-making.

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