Police Resources in Canada, 2010

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By Marta Burczycka, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada

Police personnel and expenditures 2010

This report is based upon data collected through the annual Police Administration Survey conducted by Statistics Canada. This survey collects data on police personnel and expenditures from each police service in Canada. Data presented in this report represent police personnel as of May 15, 2010 and final expenditures for the calendar year ending December 31, 2009 (or March 31, 2010 for the few police services operating on a fiscal year).

Changes to the Police Resources Report

The table "Police operating expenditures in municipal police services", which was presented in previous years, is no longer included in this report because of comparability issues. Due to the different ways that individual police services report expenditure information, comparisons at the municipal level are problematic.

Police officer strength at highest point since 1981

There were 69,299 active police officers in Canada on May 15, 2010, an increase of almost 2,000 officers from 2009. The national-level increase was primarily driven by growth in Ontario (803 additional officers, or +2% in the rate) and Alberta (403 additional officers, or +5% in the rate).

Nationally, there were 203 police officers per 100,000 population in 2010, the highest rate seen since 1981. The 2010 rate was slightly lower than the peak recorded in 1975 (Table 1). Police officer strength rose by 2% in 2010, resulting in the sixth consecutive year of growth (Table 2).

Police services use the term authorized strength to refer to the number of positions available based on their budget. As not all available positions are occupied throughout the year, authorized strength numbers are generally higher than actual police strength point-in-time numbers. In 2010, there were 70,600 authorized policing positions in Canada, about 1,300 more than the actual May 15 number of active officers.

International comparisons show how Canada's police strength compares to other countries. In 2010, Canada's police strength (203 per 100,000 population) was 8% lower than Australia (222), 1  11% lower than England and Wales (229), 2  and 17% lower than the United States (244). 3 

Police forces are organized in different ways in different countries; they also categorize officers in different ways. These differences should be taken into consideration when making comparisons between countries.

Civilian personnel work with police services in a variety of occupations, including clerks, management professionals, dispatch officers and by-law enforcement officers. As of May 15, 2010, there were just over 27,000 civilian members employed in Canadian police services. The rate of civilian personnel per 100,000 population remained virtually unchanged in 2010.

As of May 15, 2010 there was 1 civilian employee for every 2.5 police officers. The ratio of police to civilian personnel has been decreasing steadily since 1962, when there were 4.6 officers for every civilian. In 2010, most civilian policing personnel were employed as clerical support workers (39%), management professionals (29%), or communications and dispatch personnel (13%).

At the same time that police officer strength has been increasing, the volume and the severity of police-reported crime have been on the decline. Both the 2009 police-reported crime rate and the Crime Severity Index decreased from the previous year, in keeping with a general trend observed over the past decade. In addition, the 2009 national weighted clearance rate 4  rose to 38.4%, the fifth consecutive annual increase. The clearance rate represents the proportion of crimes that are solved by police.

Saskatchewan leads provinces in police strength

As has been the case for the past decade, Saskatchewan reported the highest rate of police officer strength, followed by Manitoba. These provinces also had the highest police-reported Crime Severity Index (CSI) values outside of the territories. For the second consecutive year, Prince Edward Island reported the lowest rate of police strength as well as the lowest CSI.

The rate of police officer strength increased in most provinces and territories from 2009 to 2010. The largest increases were reported in Saskatchewan (+6%) and Alberta (+5%), where police officer strength grew more than twice as fast as the national average (+2%) (Table 2). Despite recent increases, Alberta continues to report the second-lowest rate of officer strength among the provinces.

Over the past decade, the largest increases in the rate of officer strength were recorded in Newfoundland and Labrador (+26%), British Columbia (+21%) and Saskatchewan (+19%). Since 2000, the trend towards increasing police officer strength has been seen in all provinces and territories except the Yukon. During this period, the national rate of officer strength has increased by 11%.

As in previous years, the rates of police officers per 100,000 population were highest in the territories in 2010. This is partly due to the territories' relatively small and sparse populations. The territories also tend to show police-reported crime rates that are well above the rest of the country.

Saint John reports most police officers per capita

Among all census metropolitan areas (CMAs), Saint John reported the most police officers per 100,000 population in 2010, followed by Regina, Thunder Bay and Saskatoon (Table 3-1). The rate in Saint John of 202 was almost double that of Kelowna, the CMA with the lowest police officer strength (107). Canada's two largest CMAs, Toronto and Montréal, reported identical rates of 181 police officers per 100,000 population, tied for 6th highest among the 33 CMAs.

The largest increases in the rate of police officer strength in 2010 were reported in St. Catharines-Niagara (+8%), Edmonton (+8%), Calgary (+6%), Saskatoon (+6%), Ottawa (+5%) and Halifax (+5%).

Among police services serving areas of over 100,000 population, the highest weighted clearance rates were found in Kingston and Durham Regional (Oshawa area), both at 48%. 5 

Steady increase of female officers continues

As in previous years, the number of female police officers increased at a faster pace (+4%) than their male counterparts (+3%). The rate at which female representation among police officers has grown has remained steady since the 1980s (Table 4, Chart 3).

The proportion of female officers increased slightly in 2010. Women represented about one in five officers, compared to approximately one in 15 reported in 1990 (Table 4). Among the provinces, Quebec and British Columbia reported the highest proportions of female officers in 2010, while Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island recorded the lowest proportions (Table 6).

The percentage of women in senior ranks continued to increase in 2010, with females representing about 9% of senior officers and 15% of non-commissioned officers (Table 5). The percentage of female constables has remained close to 21% since 2005.

Largest annual increase in constant dollar expenditures on record

Total spending reached over $12 billion in 2009, representing $365 per Canadian. After adjusting for inflation, police expenditures rose by 7.3% in 2009, the largest annual increase since 1986 when these data were first available (Table 7). This increase marks the 13th consecutive annual rise in constant dollar expenditures. Much of the increase noted in 2009 can be attributed to increases in police personnel.

Municipal and provincial expenditures on policing increased in all provinces and territories in 2009 (Table 8). Among the provinces, the largest increases were noted in Manitoba and Alberta, while the smallest increases were reported by Prince Edward Island and Quebec.

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, such as drug offences, 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/territorial policing

Provincial/territorial policing involves enforcement of the Criminal Code and provincial/territorial statutes within areas of a province/territory 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 following municipalities: St. John's, Corner Brook, Labrador City and 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, respectively. In Ontario and Quebec, the RCMP only provides policing at the federal level. Where a provincial/territorial policing contract is granted to the RCMP, the RCMP automatically assumes the provincial/territorial 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. Municipal police services employ 65% of all police officers in Canada and provide policing services to over 25 million Canadians (75% of the Canadian population).

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) 6  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.


Dauvergne, Mia and John Turner. 2010. "Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2009." Juristat. Vol. 30, no. 2. Statistics Canada catalogue no. 85-002. Ottawa.