Police resources in Canada, 2015
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by Benjamin Mazowita and Jacob Greenland
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- There were 68,777 police officers in Canada on May 15, 2015, representing a rate of police strength of 192 officers per 100,000 population. After increasing from 1999 to 2010, the rate of police strength in Canada has now declined for four consecutive years.
- On May 15, 2015 there were 28,368 civilians employed by police services across Canada, representing 29% of total personnel. Civilian personnel as a proportion of all personnel employed by police services has consistently and gradually increased since the 1960s. This growth has principally been the result of an increase in managers, administrators, analysts, and other skilled personnel employed by police services.
- In 2015, women continued to be increasingly represented in the higher ranks of police services. The proportion of senior officers who were female has more than doubled in the past decade, from 5.5% in 2005 to 12.4% in 2015, the highest proportion ever recorded.
- Since 2012, when detailed information on officer characteristics were first collected, the proportion of police officers under the age of 40 has declined from 49.6% to 45.5% in 2015, while the proportion of officers over the age of 40 has increased from 50.4% in 2012 to 54.5% in 2015. Information on hirings and departures corresponding to the calendar or fiscal year indicate that since 2012/2013, more officers have departed or retired from their respective police services (-8,770) than have been newly hired (+8,000).
- Year-end operating expenditures for police services in Canada in 2014/2015 totalled $13.9 billion in current dollars.
- When adjusting for inflation, police spending increased annually from 1997/1998 and 2010/2011. Since then, operating expenditures have remained relatively stable and were unchanged in 2014/2015. When accounting for population, police expenditures decreased from $315 per capital in 2013/2014 to $312 in 2014/2015 (-0.9%).
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The work performed by police services to ensure public safety encompasses a broad spectrum of responsibilities related to law enforcement, crime prevention, victim assistance, the maintenance of public order, and collaboration with external agencies.
Due to the changing context of police work as well as criminal activity, the conventional structure and operational demands on policing agencies in Canada are being fundamentally challenged (Council of Canadian Academies 2014). Criminal activities are becoming increasingly complex, defying spatial and jurisdictional boundaries. The domain of police work has expanded to include broader matters of national security, terrorism, globalized organized crime, financial crime, and cybercrime. Further, evidence suggests that police services are increasingly responding to calls for service not related to criminal violations but rather in response to broader social matters such as mental health issues (Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security 2014). These developments are occurring in parallel with debates on the economics of policing and community safety, focused on identifying the cost drivers of police expenditures as well as identifying cost efficiencies in delivering police services without compromising public safety (Public Safety Canada 2013).
Using data from the Police Administration Survey (PAS), this Juristat article presents the most recent data on the number of police officers in Canada, as well as the demographic characteristics of police officers, including age, gender, and education. In addition, the analysis presents information on the composition of police services and data on police operating expenditures.
The rate of police strength continues to decline
On May 15, 2015, there were 68,777 police officers in Canada, amounting to a rate of police strength of 192 police officers per 100,000 population (Table 1). Of these officers, the majority were constables (70%), just over a quarter (26%) were non-commissioned officers, including personnel between the rank of constable and lieutenant, while the smallest proportion ( 4%) were senior officers, normally at the rank of lieutenant or higher.
After generally increasing from 1999 to 2010 and remaining stableNote 1 in 2011, the rate of police strength in Canada has now declined for four consecutive years (Chart 1). The rate of police strength in 2015 amounts to a decrease of 0.9% from 2014 and a 5.1% decrease since 2011.
Description for Chart 1
|Police officers||Civilian personnel|
According to data compiled by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Canada has consistently reported below average rates of police strength in comparison with peer countriesNote 2 that are similar in terms of population, geographic land mass, and income per capita (UNODC 2015).
Among Canada’s provinces, the rate of police strength varied from 154 officers per 100,000 population in Prince Edward Island, to 202 officers per 100,000 population in Saskatchewan (Chart 2). In 2015, the provincial and territorial rate, which excludes the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) headquarters and Training Academy, was 189 officers per 100,000 population. As has been the case historically, the rate of police officer strength in the territories was markedly higher than in the provinces.
Description for Chart 2
|Rate of police strength||Provincial and territorial total|
In 2015, the rate of police strength declined in all of the provinces with the exception of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the rate was stable (-0.4%), and Alberta where the rate of police strength increased slightly (0.5%) (Table 2).
Since 2005, many of the provinces have followed a similar trend to that of the national one (Chart 1), with the exception of Quebec who saw little fluctuation in their rate of police strength over the past decade. Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia have also followed the national trend but saw the greatest growth in their rate of police strength from 2006 to 2008. As a result, despite recent declines, their 2015 rate of police strength remained notably higher than their rate reported in 2005. In New Brunswick, Quebec, and Saskatchewan, rates of police strength have declined below their 2005 levels.
Among police services serving Canadian municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more,Note 3 the average police strength was 150 officers per 100,000 population. Higher rates of police strength were reported in Victoria, British Columbia (240 officers per 100,000 population) and Montreal, Quebec (233 officers per 100,000 population). Lower rates of police strength were observed in Richmond, British Columbia (97 officers per 100,000 population); Lévis, Quebec (104 officers per 100,000 population), and; Richelieu Saint-Laurent, Quebec (104 officers per 100,000 population) (Table 3).
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In Canada, municipalities are responsible for the majority of policing services. Other policing is provided by provincial and federal agencies. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Ontario provincial police services (namely, the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, the Sûreté du Québec, and the Ontario Provincial Police) serve communities without municipal stand-alone police forces and are responsible for policing highways and other areas under provincial jurisdiction. In the Atlantic Region, Prairie Region, and British Columbia, provincial and some municipal policing is provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). All of Canada’s three territories are policed solely by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security 2014). The RCMP is also responsible for federal policing programs such as the Canadian Firearms Program, the National Centre for Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains, and the Canadian Centre for Missing and Exploited Children amongst other programs (Hutchins 2015).
In 2015 there were 176 stand-alone municipal police services serving 64% of the population of Canada. Provincial police services, limited to Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Ontario, policed 14% of the population of Canada. The RCMP provided municipal and provincial contract policing to 22% population of Canada in addition to its national and international policing programs.
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The civilianization of police services
In addition to sworn police officers, police services employ civilian personnel in positions such as clerks, dispatchers, managers, analysts, cadets, and security officers. The civilianization of police services is a term that has been used to describe the process of distinguishing tasks and responsibilities currently performed by police officers that could be carried out by civilian personnel. Some argue that a readjustment of responsibilities between police and civilian personnel may result in increased effectiveness and economic efficiency in the delivery of policing services (Griffiths 2014). On the other hand, others caution that civilianization be implemented in a way that is mindful of the duties that require sworn officers and that ensures the police service and the work environment would benefit from the integration of civilian personnel (Morrell 2014; Peak 2010).
On May 15, 2015 there were 28,368 civiliansNote 4 employed by police services across Canada, representing 3 out of 10 personnel (29%) (Chart 3). In 2015, civilian staff most frequently occupied clerical (10.2% of all personnel), management/professional (9.9%), and communication/dispatch (4.0%) positions. The remaining civilian personnel accounted for 5.1% of all personnel employed by police services and included staff such as security officers, cadets, special constables, and school crossing guards.
Description for Chart 3
|Senior officers||Non-Commissioned officers||Constables|
|Police officers||2.7||18.2||49.9||Note ...: not applicable|
The number of civilian personnel as a proportion of all personnel employed by police services has gradually increased since data were first collected in 1962. At that time civilian personnel accounted for only 18% of personnel employed by police services, compared to 29% in 2015. As a result, police services employed 4.6 police officers for every one civilian employee in 1962 compared to 2.4 in 2015.
The more recent increase in civilian staff has been principally driven by the number of management/professionals employed by police services. This category includes managers, administrators, analysts, scientists, and other skilled civilian personnel, this category has tripled since 1996. In 2015 management/professionals accounted for 9.9% of all personnel employed by police services (Chart 3; Chart 4).
Description for Chart 4
|Clerical staff||Management/professionals||Communications/dispatch||Other civilian personnel|
Continued increase in the number of female police officers
On May 15, 2015, there were 14,332 female police officers in Canada, accounting for one in five (20.8%) of all police officers. This represents an increase of +1.3% from 2014. The proportion of female officers employed by Canadian police services has increased annually since data were first collected (Chart 5).
Description for Chart 5
|Constables||Non-commissioned officers||Senior officers|
More recently, women are accounting for an increasing proportion of those among the higher ranks of police. The proportion of senior officers who were female began increasing notably in 1995 at 1.6%, and has more than doubled from 5.5% in 2005 to 12.4% in 2015. The proportion of female non-commissioned officers, with a rank between that of a constable and lieutenant, has similarly increased from 9.7% in 2005 to 18.0% in 2015.
While women are increasingly represented as sworn police officers, women in police services are most often in civilian positions. More than half (57.3%) of women employed by police services were in civilian positions, accounting for 67.8% of civilian personnel. In comparison, 85.6% of men employed by police services were sworn police officers, while the remaining 14.4% were civilian personnel.
Police workforce slightly older than in 2012
More than half (54.5%) of police officers as of May 15, 2015 were 40 years of age or older. Since 2012, the proportion of police officers under the age of 40 has declined from 49.6% in 2012 to 45.5% in 2015. Concurrently, the proportion of officers over the age of 40 has increased from 50.4% in 2012 to 54.5% in 2015. With respect to officers over the age of 50, they now account for 17.9% of all police officers, up from 14.9% in 2012 (Chart 6).
Description for Chart 6
|25 to 29||11.8||10.9||10.0||9.4|
|30 to 34||16.9||16.8||16.8||16.3|
|35 to 39||18.6||18.5||18.2||18.2|
|40 to 44||18.9||19.3||19.6||19.5|
|45 to 49||16.6||16.8||16.8||17.1|
|50 to 54||10.5||11.4||12.2||12.8|
|55 and over||4.4||4.7||4.9||5.1|
Information on hirings and departures corresponding to the calendar or fiscal year indicate that since 2012/2013, more officers have departed or retired from their respective police services than are being newly hired. From 2011/2012 to 2014/2015 8,770 officers have departed police services while only 8,000 officers have been hired.
In 2014/2015, 2,395 police officers were hired by police services. The majority (80%) of these officers were hired as recruit graduates, meaning individuals who had successfully graduated from a training program to achieve the status of a fully sworn officer during the previous calendar or fiscal year. The remainder (20%) were hired as experienced police officers.
Of the 2,496 officers that departed their police service during 2014/2015, 70% retired, while the remainder left for other reasons, including being hired by another police service. While 11% of all police officers in Canada were eligible to retire in 2014/1015,Note 5 only 2.6% (1,741 officers) actually did retire during the calendar or fiscal year (Table 4).
Police operating expenditures totalled $13.9 billion in 2014/2015
Year-end operating expenditures for police services in Canada in 2014/2015 totalled $13.9 billion in current dollars (Table 5). These expenditures comprise salaries and wages (66%), benefitsNote 6 (15%), and other operating expendituresNote 7 (19%). When adjusting for inflation, police spending increased annually from 1997/1998 and 2010/2011. Since then, police operating expenditures have remained relatively stable and were unchanged in 2014/2015 (Table 6).
Examining expenditures on a per capita level, from 1997/1998 to 2009/2010 police operating expenditures grew from $222 per capita to $320 per capita when controlling for inflation (Chart 7) (Table 6). Since 2009/2010, operating expenditures have generally been declining, including a 0.9% decrease in 2014/2015.
Description for Chart 7
|Current dollars||Constant dollars|
Of these total operating expenditures, $7.3 billion were associated with stand-alone municipal police services, which increased by 1.0% from the previous year after controlling for inflation. The operating expenditures of stand-alone police services increased in every province that had these types of police services, except Prince Edward Island (-2.1%) and Quebec (-1.5%) where expenditures declined.
Provincial police services in Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, and Ontario, combined to report current dollar expenditures amounting to $2.1 billion. Controlling for inflation, expenditures of provincial police services as a whole increased 0.7% in 2014/2015, this increase was entirely attributable to a 5.3% increase in the Ontario Provincial Police’s operating expenditures. This notable increase is a result of a salary increase coming into effect for members of the Ontario Provincial Police, following a two-year wage freeze. The operating expenditures of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary and the Sûreté du Québec, declined 11.9% and 3.4% respectively.
Total operating expenditures for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police amounted to $4.5 billion in 2014/2015. As the RCMP provides a variety of policing services to the provinces, territories and has national responsibilities, expenditures can be divided into contract policing expenditures (55%), Federal and International policing expenditures (19%), and operational support and services expenditures (26%). Overall, RCMP current dollar operating expenditures decreased (-1.4%) in 2014 after controlling for inflation.
The Police Administration Survey collects data on police personnel and expenditures from each municipal, provincial and federal police services in Canada. The following security agencies are excluded from the survey: the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, railway and military police, and government departments enforcing specific statutes in the areas of income tax, customs and excise, immigration, fisheries and wildlife. Additionally, private security services and private investigators are not included in the survey.
Data presented in this report represent police personnel as of May 15, 2015 and year-end operating expenditures for the 2014 calendar year or the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Police officers include the actual number of permanent sworn police officers available for active duty as of May 15, 2015. Part-time personnel are converted to a full-time equivalent. Police expenditures are actual operating expenditures and include salaries and wages, benefits, and other operating expenses such as accommodation costs, fuel, and maintenance. Expenditure data does not include capital expenditures, revenues and recoveries.
Since 2012, the Police Administration Survey has included a Supplemental questionnaire which captures detailed information on hirings, departures, eligibility to retire, years of service, age, education, visible minority status, and language. Due to data quality issues, some of this information is not published.
Detailed data tables
Table 1 Trends in police personnel, Canada, 1962 to 2015
Table 2 Police officers by level of policing, by province and territory, 2015
Table 3 Municipal police services serving a population of 100,000 or more, Canada, 2015
Table 4 Hirings and departures of police officers, by province and territory, Canada, 2014/2015
Table 5 Total expenditures on policing, current dollars, by province and territory, 2014/2015
Table 6 Current and constant (2002) dollar expenditures on policing, Canada, 1986/1987 to 2014/2015
Conference Board of Canada. 2015. Methodology. (accessed October 30, 2015).
Council of Canadian Academies. 2014. “Policing Canada in the 21st Century: New policing for new challenges.” The Expert Panel on the Future of Canadian Policing Models, Council of Canadian Academies.
Griffiths, Curt Taylor, Nahanni Pollard and Tom Stamatakis. 2014. “Assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of a police service: The analytics of operational reviews.” Police Practice and Research, 2014. Vol. 16, no. 2. p. 175-187.
Hutchins, Hope. 2015. “Police resources in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X.
Morrell, Kevin. 2014. "Civilianization and its discontents." Academy of Management Proceedings. Vol. 2014, no. 1. Academy of Management Proceedings, 2014.
Peak, Kenneth J. 2010. “Police issues and practices.” Justice Administration: Police, Courts, and Corrections Management. Sixth Edition. Pearson Education, 2010.
Public Safety Canada. 2013. Summit on the Economics of Policing: Strengthening Canada’s Policing Advantage. (accessed January 15, 2016).
Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. 2014. Economics of Policing: Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. House of Commons Canada.
UNODC. 2015. “Total police personnel at the national level.” Crime and Criminal Justice Statistics. (accessed October 30, 2015).