Who Does What Report | 2022

The Municipal Role in Policing

As the inquiry into the federal government’s use of the Emergencies Act continues, controversy over police accountability has resurfaced. Although municipalities play a significant role in the provision of police services (while others rely on provincial and federal police forces), they face constraints when it comes to police governance and accountability, including control over police budgets.

The fifth report in the Who Does What series from the Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance (IMFG) and the Urban Policy Lab focuses on the role that Canadian municipalities play in policing, which functions they are best suited to perform, and how they can work better with other orders of government.

Alok Mukherjee and Jihyun Kwon draw attention to the municipal policing responsibilities that arise from federal mandates or areas of federal jurisdiction. They call for an intergovernmental discussion on the division of responsibilities among federal, provincial and municipal orders of government. They suggest that municipalities should fund public safety–related functions, which should be separated from those requiring armed police. Provincial legislation on policing, they argue, should accurately reflect the delineation of responsibilities, different types of policing services, the consequent structures, and municipal obligations.

Erick Laming proposes replacing the current structure of local police services boards, which includes political representation, with a purely civilian model of governance. He provides a framework to implement this approach, ending with 10 recommendations to improve the governance and accountability of local policing.

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