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Police Resources in Canada 2008

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Police Resources in Canada, 2008

Police personnel and expenditures

Following a period of decline throughout the 1990’s, police strength in Canada has increased over the past decade. At 196 officers per 100,000 population, the 2008 rate was 8% higher than in 1998, although 5% lower than its peak in 1975.

While police officer strength has been increasing, Canada's police reported crime rate has been decreasing. The 2007 crime rate was at its lowest point in over 30 years. At the same time, the proportion of crime solved by police reached a 30 year high.

There were over 65,000 “active” police officers on May 15, 2008, two-thirds of which were employed by municipal police services. However, there were an additional 13,234 “authorized” positions that were not staffed for a number of reasons, including difficulty in replacing officers who had retired or otherwise left the police service, were on maternity/paternity leave or were on long-term medical leave.

Civilian personnel, such as clerks, dispatch officers and by-law enforcement officers, has increased over the past 10 years at a rate more than twice that of police officers. In 2008, there were over 25,000 civilian personnel accounting for 28% of all policing personnel or 1 civilian per 2.5 police officers.

Chart 1
Rates of police officers and civilian personnel, 1963 to 2008

Over the past 10 years, all provinces and territories, except the Yukon, recorded increases in the rate of police officer strength. The largest provincial increases were in Newfoundland and Labrador (up 21%) and Nova Scotia (up 17%).

Chart 2
Police officer strength among the provinces, 2008

As is historically the case, police per capita in 2008 was highest in the territories, where crime rates are well above the rest of the country.

Among the provinces, Saskatchewan reported the highest rate of police officers for the eighth year in a row, while Alberta and Prince Edward Island reported the lowest.

Over the past decade, all 27 census metropolitan areas recorded increases in police officer strength, with the exception of Victoria. The largest gains since 1998 occurred in Sherbrooke, St.Catharine-Niagara and London, all up by more than 20%.

In 2008, Thunder Bay had the highest rate of police officers, followed by Saint John and Regina.

Among Canada’s nine largest metropolitan areas, the rate of police officers was highest in Montréal and Winnipeg. The rate of police strength in Toronto, where crime rates were among the lowest, was also above average compared to the other large cities. Québec reported the lowest rate of officers as well as one of the lowest rates of crime.

Female officers grew at a faster pace than male officers in 2008, continuing the rise in female recruitment that began in the mid-1970s.

In 2008, females accounted for almost one in five officers in Canada compared to approximately one in eight a decade ago. In 2008, Quebec and British Columbia reported the highest proportion of female officers among the provinces. The lowest proportion was found in Prince Edward Island.

After adjusting for inflation, police expenditures rose for the 11th consecutive year, reaching $10.5 billon in 2007 or $320 per Canadian. Total spending was 4% higher than in 2006 and 43% higher than in 1997.

Generally, about one in every three police-reported crimes is cleared, either by a charge being laid or by other means. In 2007, the proportion of crime solved by police went up for the third consecutive year, reaching a 30 year high of 37%. Police strength, the volume and type of crimes and the complexity of police investigations are among the many factors which affect clearance rates.

Overview of policing in Canada

Policing in Canada is the responsibility of all three levels of government: federal, provincial/territorial and municipal. While the federal government is responsible for criminal law, under the Constitution Act, each province and territory assumes responsibility for its own policing at the provincial, territorial and municipal levels. Further, many First Nations communities also administer their own police service.

Federal policing

The federal government, through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), is responsible for the enforcement of federal statutes in each province and territory, and for providing services such as forensic laboratories, identification services, the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), and the Canadian Police College.

Provincial and territorial policing

Provincial policing involves enforcement of the Criminal Code and provincial statutes within areas of a province not served by a municipal police service (i.e., rural areas and small towns). In some cases, police boundaries may overlap. For example, in some areas provincial police perform traffic duties on major provincial thoroughfares that pass through municipal jurisdictions.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are the only areas in Canada without municipal police services. In Newfoundland and Labrador the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, which is a provincial police service, provides policing to the three largest municipalities (St. John’s, Corner Brook, and Labrador City) as well as to Churchill Falls. Newfoundland and Labrador contracts the RCMP to provide policing to the remaining municipalities and the rural areas.

The RCMP provides provincial/territorial policing and community policing services in all provinces and territories except Quebec and Ontario, which maintain their own provincial police services: the Sûreté du Québec and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), respectively. In Ontario and Quebec, the RCMP only provides policing at the federal level. Where a provincial policing contract is granted to the RCMP, the RCMP automatically assumes the provincial policing powers. In the provinces and territories where the RCMP are contracted to provide provincial level policing, the provinces are billed 70% of total contract costs in most cases. The remaining funds come from the federal government.

Municipal policing

Municipal policing consists of enforcement of the Criminal Code, provincial statutes, and municipal by-laws within the boundaries of a municipality or several adjoining municipalities that comprise a region (e.g., Durham Regional Police in Ontario) or a metropolitan area (e.g., Montréal Urban Community). Municipalities have three options when providing municipal policing services: to form their own police force, to join an existing municipal police force, or to enter into an agreement with a provincial police force or the RCMP. In cases where the RCMP is granted a policing contract to police a municipality, under the billing agreement, municipalities with a population under 15,000 are billed 70% of total expenditures, and municipalities of 15,000 and over are billed 90% of total costs.

First Nations policing

In addition to federal, provincial/territorial and municipal policing, there are also various types of First Nations policing agreements for Aboriginal communities in place across Canada. The First Nations Policing Policy (FNPP), 1  announced in June 1991 by the federal government, was introduced in order to provide First Nations across Canada (with the exception of Northwest Territories and Nunavut) with access to police services that are professional, effective, culturally appropriate, and accountable to the communities they serve.

The FNPP is implemented across Canada through tripartite agreements negotiated among the federal government, provincial or territorial governments and First Nations. The agreements are cost-shared 52% by the Government of Canada and 48% by the province involved. Depending on the resources available, the First Nation may develop and administer its own police service, as is the case in most of Québec and Ontario, or it may enter into a Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA). Like self-administered agreements, CTAs are negotiated between the Federal government, the province or territory in which the First Nation is located, and the governing body of the First Nation. Under such agreements, the First Nation has its own dedicated contingent of officers from an existing police service (usually the RCMP). Best efforts are made for these police services to be staffed by Aboriginal police officers.