Police Resources in Canada, 2011

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

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

Data presented in this report represent two distinct time periods. Information on police personnel is based on a "snapshot date" of May 15, 2011, while data on expenditures represent the calendar year ending December 31, 2010 (or March 31, 2011 for those police services operating on a fiscal year).

Rate of police strength declines slightly in 2011

There were 69,438 active police officers in Canada on May 15, 2011, a slight increase of 188 officers from 2010. However, expressed as a rate per 100,000 population, police strength actually decreased 1% in 2011 
(Table 1). Despite the slight decrease recorded in 2011, police strength in Canada has generally grown over the past decade. In 2001, Canada recorded 184 police officers for every 100,000 people. By 2011, this rate had increased by 9%.

The increase in police strength over the past 10 years has coincided with a decline in police-reported crime
(Chart 1). In 2010 (the latest year of available data), both the volume and severity of police-reported crime were below the levels seen a decade earlier. At 6,145 incidents per 100,000 population, the 2010 crime rate was 19% lower than in 2000. Meanwhile, the Crime Severity Index (CSI) was at 82.7 in 2010, 23% lower than a decade before (Brennan and Dauvergne 2011). The number of Criminal Code (excluding traffic) incidents per police officer has also shown a general decline since peaking in 1991.

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Calls for police service beyond the Criminal Code

In addition to responding to criminal incidents, police workload can be broken down into three general categories: citizen-generated calls for service, officer-initiated enforcement and administrative duties.

Examples of citizen-generated calls for service not involving criminal incidents include: by-law complaints, false alarms, reports of sick or injured persons, traffic accidents, reports of suspicious persons, and disturbances (for example, domestic disputes, intoxicated person, mentally ill person).

Officer-initiated enforcement includes patrol, stake-outs, suspicious person stops, crowd control, traffic enforcement and proactive activities aimed at addressing community concerns. Administrative duties encompass activities such as report writing, court attendance and court security.

In addition to the actual number of officers on staff on May 15, 2011, police services reported the number of positions they were authorized to fill during the year. 1  The term authorized strength is used by police services to refer to the number of positions available throughout the year based on their budget, whether or not those positions were actually filled on that day. Together, these numbers provide a more complete understanding of police staffing throughout the year, as not all available positions are occupied on the May 15 survey snapshot date.

Authorized strength numbers are generally higher than actual police strength point-in-time numbers, because of normal changes in staffing occurring throughout the year. In 2011, there were 70,981 authorized police officer positions in Canada, about 1,500 more than the actual May 15 number of active officers. Reasons for the difference may include officers who retired earlier in the year and who had not yet been replaced, or positions held for recruits planning to graduate later in the year. 2  Overall, the number of authorized police officer positions on May 15, 2011 was 1% higher than in 2010.

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Police strength in other countries

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) compiles a biennial report comparing rates of police strength across a number of countries. While the most recent year for which the UNODC results are available is 2008, some countries have published police personnel data for 2011 and 2010 via their national statistical offices.

Among the eight countries that are included in the scope of the UNODC survey for which 2010 or 2011 data are available, Canada reported the fifth-highest rate of police strength (Text table 1). Scotland, with 17,263 full-time equivalent police officers as of March 31st, 2011, reported the highest police strength (331 officers per 100,000 population) among the 8 countries. In comparison, Finland reported the lowest, with 7,826 officers (146 officers per 100,000 population).

Since 2001, Canada's police strength has grown 9% (Chart 2), an increase that is comparable to New Zealand (up 8%) and Scotland (up 10%).Over the same period, increases in police strength were also recorded in England and Wales (up 4%), Japan (up 12%) and Australia (up 13%), while decreases in police strength occurred in the United States (down 2%) and Finland (down 9%).

In addition to police officers, police services across Canada employ civilian personnel such as dispatchers, clerks and bylaw enforcement officers. On May 15, 2011, there were just over 28,000 civilian employees working alongside police. The rate of civilian employees per 100,000 population increased slightly (up 2%) from 2010.

In 2011, the ratio of police officers to civilian personnel remained unchanged from 2010. Police services reported employing 2.5 officers for every one civilian worker, a ratio that has held steady since 2007. However, when compared to the 1960s, the ratio of officers to civilians has decreased substantially, as police services have continued to employ increasing numbers of civilian staff who may be responsible for work such as information technology support or forensic analysis.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba report highest rates of policestrength

In keeping with the national trend, rates of police strength among most provinces and territories declined slightly from 2010 to 2011. Among the provinces, the largest decreases were reported in New Brunswick (-2%) and British Columbia (-2%). Among the territories, police strength decreased in Nunavut (-3%) and the Northwest Territories (-2%), while Yukon recorded a slight increase (up 1%). The only provinces to record slight increases in police strength were Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Manitoba. Despite the slight declines in many provinces and territories in 2011, the longer term trend shows police strength increasing in all provinces and territories except Yukon.

In general, provinces and territories with the highest rates of police strength also reported the highest crime severity values, as represented by the Crime Severity Index (CSI). 3  More specifically, as in past years, Saskatchewan and Manitoba reported the highest rates of officers per 100,000 population among the provinces as well as the highest CSI values (Table 2-1, Table 2-2).

In contrast, the lowest rate of police strength among the provinces was recorded in Prince Edward Island, the province that also reported the second-lowest CSI.

In 2011, Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut continued to report rates of police strength well above those recorded in the provinces (Chart 3). As in previous years, the CSI values recorded in the territories were also above those in the rest of the country.

Ottawa records largest decrease in police strength amongCMAs

Similar to the modest declines in police strength recorded by most provinces and territories, police strength in many census metropolitan areas (CMAs) 4  decreased slightly in 2011. Decreases were limited to declines of 3% or less, with the exception of Ottawa (-4%). A handful of CMAs recorded no change at all to their police strength, and several others reported small increases. No CMA recorded an increase of more than 2%.

As in past years, the highest rate of police strength among CMAs was reported in Saint John (200) while Kelowna (112) and Moncton (114) recorded the lowest rates for the third consecutive year (Chart 4).

Those CMAs with higher rates of police strength also tended to report higher CSI values. Four of the five CMAs with the highest rates of police strength in 2011 – Regina, Thunder Bay, Winnipeg and Saskatoon – were among those CMAs with the highest CSI values in 2010 (Table 3-1). 5 

Number of female officers continues to grow in 2011

The number of female officers in police services across Canada continued to grow in 2011, while the number of male officers decreased. There were 285 more female officers in 2011 than in 2010, while the number of male officers decreased by 97 (Table 4).

The growth in the number of female officers recorded in recent years represents a continuation of a longer-term trend. For example, in 2001 women represented 14% of all officers; by 2011, that proportion had risen to 20%.

The presence of female officers is particularly evident in the ranks of non-commissioned and senior officers. Over the past decade, the proportion of female officers within these ranks has almost tripled, while the percentage of women in the rank of constable grew from 18% to 22% (Table 5, Chart 5).

The provinces with the highest proportions of female officers continued to be Quebec and British Columbia. In contrast, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island continued to report the lowest proportions among the provinces. As in past years, the proportions of female officers were lower in the territories than in the provinces (Table 6).

Clearance rates continue to increase

Clearance rates are one measure of police performance. A criminal incident is said to be cleared when a police investigation leads to the identification of an accused person against whom charges can be laid or recommended by police. Incidents can be cleared by the laying of a charge or by other means (e.g., through extrajudicial measures).The clearance rate represents the proportion of all crimes that were successfully cleared.

Factors beyond police performance itself can impact a police service's clearance rate. For instance, minor thefts and mischief are crimes that are more numerous and more difficult to solve than serious, violent crimes; thus, a police service with a higher number of these less serious crimes may have a lower clearance rate. For this reason, the weighted clearance rate was developed to provide a more meaningful picture of crime solved by police services.

Using concepts similar to the Crime Severity Index, the weighted clearance rate assigns values to crimes according to their seriousness with more serious crimes being given a higher statistical weight. 6  However, comparisons between police services on the basis of weighted clearance rates should be made with caution, due to various factors such as internal policies and procedures, resources and reporting technologies.

In its seventh consecutive annual increase, Canada's weighted clearance rate rose by 2% in 2010 (the most recent year for which data are available), reaching 39%. Among police services operating in areas with populations of 100,000 or more, the highest weighted clearance rates were reported by Durham (48%), Guelph (47%), Codiac (47%), London (47%) and York (47%). 7 

Growth in expenditures slows in 2010

Police service operating expenditures totalled about $12.6 billion in 2010. While total spending continued to grow in 2010 (up 3%), the increase was smaller than in recent years. After adjusting for inflation, police expenditures rose by 1% in 2010, compared to increases ranging from 3% to 7% recorded since 2000 (Table 7). 8  Nevertheless, 2010 represented the 14th consecutive year of growth in constant-dollar spending on policing.

Most police service expenditures in 2010 went towards salaries and benefits, with 79% of all dollars spent going towards these categories. Since 2009, expenditures on salaries and benefits increased by 5%, while a decrease of 4% was recorded in other operating expenditures.

All provinces saw increases in spending in 2010, with Alberta reporting the largest (up 12%). This growth was the result of increased spending by many of the province's municipal police services, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Quebec recorded the smallest increase in expenditures among the provinces, with 3% growth in 2010 (Table 8).

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Cost of policing the G8 and G20 summits and the Olympic and Paralympic Games

In 2010, Canada hosted the G8 and G20 summits and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. These events brought unique security requirements and associated policing expenditures. In general, these costs are not included in the main body of this report, since spending on these events fell outside regular annual expenditures on policing. However, some indirect costs (e.g. costs related to human resources) may have been impossible to exclude from regular police expenditures for the time period and thus may be included.

The G8 and G20 summits were held concurrently in June 2010. Over 20,000 police, military and security personnel were deployed to these events, through the Integrated Security Unit led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The costs for providing security to these events, estimated at about $510 million, were funded by the federal government through various agencies including the RCMP and Public Safety Canada. 9 

The 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games were held in the Vancouver area in February 2010. Unlike the summits, the costs for providing security to the Games were distributed among municipal, federal, and provincial levels of government. The total cost of providing security to the Games was about $558 million. 10 

Some of the costs associated with the provision of security to the summits and the Games were incurred during both the 2009/2010 and 2010/2011 fiscal years. In addition, agencies may have gone through internal resource reallocation, in an effort to minimize the amount of additional expenditures required for activities associated with these events.


Defined as the number of police officers for every 100,000 people, Canada's rate of police strength decreased slightly in 2011. Rates of police strength among the provinces and territories also registered slight declines. Despite these decreases, police strength in Canada has been rising steadily over the past several decades, while the volume and severity of crime has been on the decline.

Provinces with higher rates of police strength tended to report higher Crime Severity Index values, a pattern that was also seen among census metropolitan areas (CMAs). Changes in police strength among CMAs were varied in 2011, with increases and decreases reported across the country.

Women continued to increase their presence among police officers in Canada. Female officers are growing in number faster than their male counterparts, especially within the higher ranks.

Expenditures on policing continued to grow in 2010, reaching over $12 billion dollars. However, spending increased at a slower pace in 2010 than in previous years. All provinces recorded growth in police expenditures, with Alberta reporting the largest increase.


Brennan, Shannon and Mia Dauvergne. 2011. "Police-reported crime statistics in Canada, 2010." Juristat. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 85-002-X. /pub/85-002-x/2011001/article/11523-eng.htm (accessed July 21, 2011).