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The rate of police strength in Canada remains stable from 2019

Released: 2022-03-31

After having decreased since 2011, the rate of police strength in Canada was stable in the second year of the pandemic, in comparison with the previous survey cycle (2019). There were 70,114 (correction) police officers in Canada on May 15, 2021, 1,267 (correction) more than on the same date in 2019. In 2021, the rate of police strength was 183 officers per 100,000 population, similar to 2019.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Rate of police officers and civilian personnel per 100,000 population, Canada, 1962 to 2021
Rate of police officers and civilian personnel per 100,000 population, Canada, 1962 to 2021

Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant repercussions in Canada and around the world. In many respects, the pandemic has changed the day-to-day functioning of the Canadian working population. While for many types of jobs, individuals were able to continue their professional activities remotely via telework, some other jobs, especially those deemed essential, have had to be adapted so that workplaces remain open and available despite these unprecedented times. Policing, like many other occupations, has been declared essential.

Canada's police services are mandated with the essential task of administering and maintaining law and order across Canada. They also have to ensure public safety and are an essential service during times of crisis, such as in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Often, police officers are among the first responders to mental health calls, drug overdoses, suicides, public disturbances, motor vehicle accidents, and many other community safety and well-being issues that may not be criminal.

Since 1962, Police Administration Survey (PAS) data have been collected annually. It is important to note that because of the pandemic, data for 2020 were not collected. As a result, this article provides the first results since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—those of the 2021 PAS, which include data reported by Canada's municipal, First Nations, provincial and federal police services.

Police services spend nearly $33 million on personal protective equipment in 2020/2021

One major impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is a substantial increase in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE). This equipment includes masks, face shields, gloves, goggles, hand sanitizer, disinfectant and disinfecting wipes. In Canada, in 2020/2021, police services spent nearly $33 million to properly equip all personnel with PPE.

Since the start of the pandemic, many police services have had to reorganize the way they carry out their daily operating tasks. This was not only to ensure that health measures were followed, but also to account for officers absent for COVID-19-related reasons. Nearly half (42%) of police services, excluding the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), reported that 20% or more of their staff had taken at least one day off from work at some point in 2020/2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, over 9 in 10 police services (93%) stated that they had introduced new operating measures or made adaptations within their workplace because of the pandemic. The five most common measures put in place by police services as a result of the pandemic were adjusting training methods (88%), changing the workplace layout (77%), changing how they deal with suspects in cells (76%), changing work schedules (70%) and teleworking (65%).

Calls for service drop in 2020/2021

Because of stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19-related restrictions, many Canadians in certain regions of the country remained at home for long periods in 2020/2021. These restrictions reduced the possibilities for committing certain types of crimes. In fact, both the volume of criminal incidents reported to the police and calls for service declined in 2021. Specifically, the police-reported crime rate was down 10% in 2020, and calls for service decreased by 5% in 2020/2021 compared with 2018/2019, when data were last collected. In 2020/2021, police officers answered around 11.8 million calls, or an average of 1,345 calls for service per hour. Among all police-reported calls for service, municipal police services handled just under two-thirds (62%), the RCMP responded to 25%, provincial police services to 12% and First Nations police services to 1%.

The number of female officers in all ranks grows

While the number of women in Canadian police services continues to rise, this growth has happened over a long period of time. The number of women has been steadily increasing since 1986, when data on sex were first collected. That year, women accounted for just under 4% of all officers, whereas in 2021, women represented 22% of all sworn officers. On May 15, 2021, there were 15,723 (correction) female police officers in Canada, an increase of 404 (correction) from 2019.

Across the different officer ranks, female police officers held mostly constable positions, making up about one-quarter (24%) of constables in Canada. Although women make up a slightly smaller proportion of both commissioned and non-commissioned officers, their presence in these roles continues to increase and is almost equivalent to the proportion of women among constables. From 2019 to 2021, the number of female commissioned officers rose from 656 (correction) to 840, accounting for 18% of all commissioned officers in 2021. This represents the highest number of female commissioned officers since data on sex were first collected in 1986. However, the proportion of female commissioned officers decreased slightly from 2019 as a result of an increase in the total number of commissioned officers.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Female officers as a percentage of total police officers, by rank, Canada, 1989 to 2021
Female officers as a percentage of total police officers, by rank, Canada, 1989 to 2021

Fewer than 1 in 10 police officers are members of a population group designated as a visible minority

Diversity and inclusion are central to discussions about police culture, recognizing the importance of representing the various groups that make up the Canadian population within its personnel. To that end, efforts are being made through various hiring policies. According to data from the 2016 Census, 22% of Canada's population were members of a population group designated as a visible minority, as defined in the Employment Equity Act. In 2021, 8% of all police officers and 11% of recruits in Canada were members of a population group designated as a visible minority. Both of these proportions are unchanged from 2019. In the RCMP, officers who were members of population groups designated as visible minorities accounted for 12% of police personnel, while in stand-alone municipal police services, this proportion was 7%.

The representation of Indigenous people in police services is close to the proportion seen in the 2016 Census

In 2016, nearly 5% of the Canadian population self-identified as Indigenous, namely First Nations people, Métis or Inuit, and, on May 15, 2021, 4% of police officers (or 2,653) identified as Indigenous, as well as 3% of recruits (or 57). In Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, the representation of Indigenous people among police officers was relatively close to the proportion of the Indigenous population in those provinces.

In comparison, Prince Edward Island had a larger proportion of officers identifying as Indigenous relative to the size of the Indigenous population in the province. Elsewhere in Canada, the proportion of Indigenous officers was lower than the proportion of Indigenous people in the total population of those provinces.

In First Nations police services, just over half (59%) of police officers self-identified as Indigenous. In addition, the proportion of Indigenous officers was 1% in stand-alone municipal police services, 2% in the Sûreté du Québec and Ontario Provincial Police, and 7% in the RCMP.

The number of civilian employees in police services is increasing

Police services are increasingly composed of civilian employees, such as clerks, communications staff, managers and other professionals who primarily take care of administrative support, operational communications, information technology services, reception services, and vehicle and facility services. In addition to sworn officers, police services employed 32,316 full-time equivalents and recruits as of May 15, 2021, an increase of 598 employees over 2019. Of this number, 27,897 were civilian employees (86%), 2,584 were special constables (8%) and 1,835 were recruits (6%).

Civilians accounted for the overall growth of all employees (excluding sworn officers), an increase of 1,001 from 2019 to 2021. In 2020/2021, police services hired 1,400 recruits and 255 special constables. Despite this, from 2019 to 2021, the number of recruits decreased by 365, and the number of special constables by 38. On May 15, 2021, women represented 70% of civilian personnel within police services, 33% of special constables and 31% of recruits.

Police operating expenditures rise 5% compared with 2018/2019, to $16.5 billion in 2020/2021

Across Canada, the 2020/2021 total operating expenditures for all police services amounted to $16.5 billion in current dollars. These expenditures are composed of salaries and wages (66%), benefits (17%), and other operating expenditures (18%). These proportions have remained relatively consistent over time.

After inflation is accounted for, total operating expenditures rose by 3% from the previous cycle (2019), and have generally been on the rise since 1996/1997. On a per capita basis for Canada, in constant dollars, police operating expenditures amounted to a cost of $317 per person in 2020/2021. This amount was stable from 2018/2019 and represents the second-highest per capita operating expenditures since 2012/2013.

Chart 3  Chart 3: Police expenditures per capita, current dollars and constant dollars, Canada, 1988/1989 to 2020/2021
Police expenditures per capita, current dollars and constant dollars, Canada, 1988/1989 to 2020/2021


  Note to readers

Despite the Police Administration Survey being an annual survey, the 2020 cycle was cancelled. Therefore, 2021 cycle data are compared with 2019 cycle data.

Policing in Canada is administered on three levels: municipal, provincial and federal. At the municipal level, there are stand-alone police services and First Nations self-administered services. Self-administered First Nations police services are created under agreements between the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, and the communities looking to administer their own police service. At the provincial level, there are three provincial police services, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, and Quebec. At the federal level, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) provides provincial, municipal, rural and First Nations policing (where self-administered police services have not been established). The RCMP is also responsible for all federal policing matters, such as serious and organized crime and financial crime, as well as specialized policing services, such as the Canadian Firearms Program and the National Child Exploitation Crime Centre.

Many factors can account for the differences in the number of police officers per 100,000 population across jurisdictions and police services. These include differences in police services' priorities, policies, enforcement procedures and practices, as well as the availability of resources.

In Canada, information on police personnel and expenditures is collected by Statistics Canada through the Police Administration Survey. Using data reported by each police service in Canada, this report provides details on police personnel at the national, provincial and territorial, and municipal levels.

The data in this article cover two distinct periods. Most of the information on police personnel is based on a "snapshot date" of May 15, 2021, while expenditures represent the calendar year ending December 31, 2020 (or the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021).

Among the reasons for employees being absent from work, police services were to include absences for personal circumstances related to COVID-19 (e.g., personal safety, own or household member's diagnosis, self-isolation, taking care of children because of school closure, caring for an elder relative) and to exclude any personnel who were teleworking.

The data on police officers who were members of population groups designated as visible minorities are based on comparisons of data for census divisions from the 2016 Census with data on police service boundaries, which may not include the same census subdivisions.

In this release, rates with a percentage change that rounds to 0% are considered stable, and percentages may not sum to 100% because of rounding.

Corrections were made to a number of data points in this release. In addition to the data points identified as "corrections" in the text itself, the data revision also affected data points in Chart 2 and Table 1, as outlined below:

  • Chart 2: The number of non-commissioned female police officers for the 2019 reference year, as well as the number of female commissioned police officers, number of female constables and total number of female police officers, for both 2019 and 2021 reference years.
  • Table 1: The total number of police officers in Canada, rate of police officers per 100,000 population, percent change in rate, total personnel, police officers as a proportion of total personnel, civilian personnel as a proportion of total personnel, and ratio of police to civilians, for both 2019 and 2021 reference years.

Products

The infographic "Police personnel and expenditures in Canada, 2021" is now available (Catalogue number11-627-X).

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; infostats@statcan.gc.ca) or Media Relations (statcan.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.statcan@statcan.gc.ca).

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