IntroductionThe public police in Canada are armed paramilitary services charged with the general responsibility of social control.
IntroductionThe public police in Canada are armed paramilitary services charged with the general responsibility of social control.


The public police in Canada are armed paramilitary services charged with the general responsibility of social control. The ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE, evolving from the 19th-century North-West Mounted Police, exist and operate under federal statute and contract their services in 8 provinces. Only Ontario and Québec have their own provincial forces and do not use the RCMP for rural or some municipal policing, while in Newfoundland the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary police St. John's, Cornerbrook and Labrador City. Other Canadian police services are governed by provincial legislation in the form of detailed police services acts.

Most policing, including that of the RCMP, who police suburban and urban locations in Western Canada, is now municipal. In 1994-95 there were 578 municipal police services in Canada, including 201 RCMP and 13 Ontario Provincial Police contract police forces. All public police in Canada are responsible to either one or all municipal, provincial and federal civil authorities, including government-appointed police commissions or boards to oversee policing, and by means of procedures and bodies to investigate public complaints of misconduct by the police.

Educational Requirements

Educational standards for recruit selection vary, although generally a high school diploma has been a normal requirement and preference. Overwhelmingly, police recruits have been white males, but equity requirements have steadily increased female recruit selection and may also increase the representation of visible minorities. Across Canada also there are native police in place in native jurisdictions.

There is no standard training for Canadian police, although similar curricula exist in major regional recruit training centres in the Maritimes, Québec, Ontario and BC. In some provinces, such as Ontario, recruits have been selected by police services and attend basic training with compensation, while in the Atlantic provinces aspirants attend a program at their own expense and without assurance of recruitment to a police service.

Duration of basic recruit training varies from 12 weeks for some municipal police recruits to 22 weeks for the RCMP at the Regina depot. Some form of supervised in-service training or mentoring also is characteristic for up to 6 months to a year of initial police service. The Atlantic Police Academy, for example, offers a 40-week program consisting of 17 weeks in the classroom in the first phase, followed by 15 weeks on the job training and a final phase of an additional 8 weeks of classroom training. Curriculum content has tended to emphasize enforcement skills related to driving, force techniques, firearms and requisite legal knowledge, with some recent effort to incorporate interpersonal skills training appropriate to preventive community policing. In Québec a community college program is required of recruits, but elsewhere no basic training or education is required in public post-secondary institutions.

Few Canadian police are university educated, but some senior police managers now prefer recruits with some post-secondary education. Virtually all police managers work their way up from the ranks with little or no formal management preparation. The national Canadian Police College in Ottawa, managed by the RCMP, does offer courses in specialized areas such as police management for selected serving police officers from across Canada.

Police Functions

Police science texts characteristically refer to the police functions of detecting crime and apprehending offenders, preventing crime, keeping order and protecting life and property - all of which may be summarized as order maintenance and law enforcement. Formally, Canadian police are variously responsible for enforcing the Criminal Code, provincial statutes and many municipal bylaws. The traditional emphasis of policing in Canada may be characterized as crime control in orientation, but at present there is increased emphasis upon prevention and service. Law enforcement remains the most publicized and romanticized of police activities. The police are expected to control disruptive social behaviours, especially deviance that violates formal law, but maintaining social order involves other activities as well, including the monitoring of deviant actions not explicitly illegal, surveillance and crowd control. In addition, a good deal of police activity is regulatory, as associated with traffic control and bylaw enforcement.

Police Work

Traffic or civic bylaw enforcement and general order maintenance associated with patrol comprise the bulk of police work. Only 20-30% of police working time is associated directly with crime intervention. Most police work is devoted to random patrol, traffic control, clerical duties and general noncrime-related services to the public. Motor patrol (either 1 or 2 persons) is the major overt police activity. The Metropolitan Toronto Police Service has 2-person patrol units, while many rural and urban areas have 1-person motor patrol units. In recent years there has also been some increased resort to foot patrol in high-density urban areas.

Most calls for service are handled by uniformed officers, but detective and CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION by specialized personnel is important and usually associated with major crimes. Major crimes investigations tend to be most prestigious in policing, and other activities such as domestic crisis intervention are viewed as unattractive and dangerous. By responding some of the time to some deviance, intervening and pressing charges on behalf of the public or ignoring some illegal behaviours, the police participate tacitly in a priorization that contributes to the definition of social norms or moral standards, as exemplified by selective enforcement of PORNOGRAPHY violations

Police Regulation

The police enjoy considerable discretionary powers in Canada, and are formally required to be nonpolitical. Unlike most municipal police services, which operate in a relationship to appointed police service boards or commissions insulating them from elected political representatives, the RCMP and provincial police services have been especially vulnerable to political direction (seeINQUIRY INTO CERTAIN ACTIVITIES OF THE RCMP). For example, historically the police have often been used in strikebreaking and continue to have responsibility to maintain order by monitoring and controlling strike pickets. Police intervention in the WINNIPEG GENERAL STRIKE in 1919 probably saved the RCMP from being disbanded, which was contemplated at the time.

Intelligence gathering and national security, once a responsibility of the RCMP, is now disassociated from public police services and attached to a federal intelligence agency (seeCANADIAN SECURITY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE; INTELLIGENCE AND ESPIONAGE). Police in Canada are subject to public complaints investigations with legislated procedures involving some form of internal investigation or external investigation and review, eg, the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario.

Community Policing

Canadian police services have been merging and centralizing since the 1950s. There continues to be a tendency to larger regional police services, but at the same time an attempt to localize services within the now pervasive model of community policing. The concept of community policing is invoked by most police services and is a reform model intended to stress service and local public contacts and accountability. Many cities now offer some local "storefront" or mini-police offices, and cities such as Halifax and Edmonton have attempted a general restructuring of policing to engage more police officers in a broad range of activities in consultation and collaboration with citizens in smaller zones or neighbourhoods. Expected benefits are increased public satisfaction with policing, citizen volunteer assistance, and improved job satisfaction for field level police personnel or the generalist police constable.

Police Population

The largest police services in Canada are the RCMP, the Metropolitan Toronto Police, Ontario Provincial Police, the Quebec Provincial Police (Surété du Québec), and the Montreal Urban Community Police. These 5 services account for about 60% of all Canadian police officers. Through the 1970s the numbers of police in Canada increased proportionately more rapidly than the total population, reflecting the effects of urbanization, a youthful population, and the elaborate demands for a diversity of police services ranging from criminal law enforcement to bylaw and traffic control to emergency intervention in noncrime crises. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, the numbers of public police stabilized and declined. Reduced public funding and personnel and the community policing model have encouraged a resort to explicit police response priorities ("Differential Police Response" systems) and the assistance of citizen volunteers to modify police response time to calls for service or to substitute with telephone or other service responses to violations such as break and enters.

Police Composition

In 1962 there were 1.7 police employees per 1000 population, including 1.5 sworn police officers. By 1977 the figures had risen to 2.8 and 2.3 respectively. The greatest growth was in the QUÉBEC PROVINCIAL POLICE or Surété, from 1562 in 1962 to 4248 in 1985, or 172% growth, as contrasted to the growth of 109% in the RCMP and 113% in the ONTARIO PROVINCIAL POLICE. The largest proportion of police to population was in the territories - 5.5. per 1000 in the Yukon and 5.3 per 1000 in the Northwest Territories, and 3.0 per 1000 in Québec. In 1962 there were 27 744 police officers in Canada; in 1985 there were 53 464, an increase of 97%.

By 1994 the total number of police officers in Canada was 55 865, a slight decline in police numbers for the second consecutive year, with slightly greater decline in the ranks of commissioned and noncommissioned officers as contrasted to constables. Civilian or nonsworn personnel have also declined from 1992 to 1994. While there is this overall decline, the number of women in policing has continued to increase steadily since 1970, when the 186 female police officers represented 0.5% of all police, to 1994 when 5056 female police officers represented 9% of all police.

Police Remuneration

Police officers are employed under contract or collective agreement, with salaries, benefits and working conditions negotiated by police employee associations, some of which are unions. Only in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and BC can police legally strike. Historically the most police strike-prone province has been Nova Scotia. Only the RCMP does not engage in COLLECTIVE BARGAINING, with salaries established by a formula that relates to major urban police salaries and employee representation by means of Division Representatives financed by the RCMP. Benchmark police services are those of Calgary, Edmonton, Montréal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver, the Ontario Provincial Police and the Québec Provincial Police. Vancouver City police in September of 1995 ranked first in total overall remuneration (salary and benefits), with constables of 11 years' service earning an average of $65 192, including $55 586 in cash compensation.

Policing Costs

The major costs of policing are associated with personnel. Census data in 1991 estimated the average police income in Canada as $47 444, ranging in the provinces from a high of a $48 308 average income in Alberta and $48 004 in Ontario to lows of $43 827 in New Brunswick and $43 955 in Newfoundland. The costs of policing have only recently stabilized after years of significant cost increases. Policing cost each Canadian $28 in 1971. Total police costs in 1994-95 were $5.78 billion, or $198 per Canadian, a slight decline from $200 per Canadian in the previous year.

Further Reading

  • Dennis Forcese, Policing Canadian Society (1992); R.C. Macleod and David Schneiderman, Police Powers In Canada: The Evolution and Practice of Authority (1994); Ronald T. Stansfield, Issues in Policing: A Canadian Perspective (1996).

External Links