Published On: Tuesday, 06 June 2017

Canada's Policing Model Needs Review

Canada's Policing Model Needs Review

- The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing 200,000 businesses. The authors of this article are the Hon. Perrin Beatty, the Chamber's President and CEO, and the Hon. Christian Paradis, Senior Vice President, Strategic Development, Protective Services at Garda World.

CANADA - When we visit the dentist’s office, the individuals working there are not all dentists. The reasons for this are obvious to us: we want to free up the professionals so they can focus on providing the services that only they can perform.

In our police forces, on the other hand, trained and qualified police officers are required to perform tasks that have nothing to do with their essential duties – chores for which their expertise is not at all required, from routine administration to non-essential procedures. Can we really afford such a mismatch between duties and qualifications in our police services?

Governments are constantly reviewing their spending. Most public entities, including municipalities that deliver policing services, have seen their budgets shrink. At the same time, we are seeing a reverse trend for our police service costs, even while crime rates are declining.

In fact, the authors of "The Economics of Canadian Policing: Five Years into the Great Recession," are even projecting an increase in policing costs in Canada of 61% per capita between 2011 and 2025. Labour costs are skyrocketing and can account for up to 90% of police budgets.

This growth rate is clearly unsustainable. We need to think differently and review how we deliver police services, while keeping the safety of Canadians at the heart of our concerns.

Currently, police officers perform support functions that could easily be carried out by other people, including private security guards. Consider detention services and transportation, or the waste represented by having a police officer direct traffic and carry out administrative support tasks.

Let us be clear: outsourcing police support services does not mean security guards performing work that requires full policing power. Instead, having other people, including security guards, perform support duties allows police officers to focus on their core duties, and therefore, better protect the public. It makes far more sense to have them use their specialized skills in the areas that are most important to our citizens, instead of tying them up in administrative duties.

Canada’s private security industry is mature enough to perform police support functions. The sector is subject to strict regulations that have professionalized it over the last few years, and there are now more than 140,000 licensed guards available and willing to help. Credible monitoring organizations have been implemented, ensuring that this sector performs professionally.

In his note on January 2015, Mathieu Bédard of the Montreal Economic Institute demonstrated that outsourcing auxiliary tasks to the private sector could generate substantial savings – in some cases exceeding 50%.

Police services in Lincolnshire, UK provide a good example. Outsourcing non-core duties to private security guards has led to a 20% decrease in operating costs and a 14% decrease in the county’s crime rate. The reason is simple: by outsourcing non-essential duties, police officers can concentrate on core duties, such as keeping the public safe and investigating crime.

To get similar results here, we need to thoroughly review tasks and duties to clearly identify what can be turned over to others. We need to approach this collectively – authorities, unions and industry leaders.

Next, it is important to introduce a competitive bidding process which is based on well-defined objectives that are clearly communicated to the industry. This will allow for optimal resource management: agility, flexibility and compliance with key performance indicators.

The result? Our trained and qualified police officers will be focused on performing work for which they are uniquely qualified, supported by security officers and guards. This will lead to an increased efficiency and quality of services, better cost control and more motivated police forces.

It is time for governments to take a fresh look at how to provide the best possible police services at a cost that taxpayers can afford. The Government of Ontario has already said it wants to review its legislation. Let's hope this initiative spreads across the country.