Prof. Christian Leuprecht shows why the escalation in budgets is unsustainable, and refocuses debate to the way police services are delivered and administered

OTTAWA, March 31, 2014 –  More police and firefighters appear on Ontario's annual Sunshine List of public employees making more than $100,000 than any other profession. Of the 96,500 Ontario provincial employees who made the 2013 list, released last week, almost 75% were first responders: police, fire, and ambulance.  The reason is that they consistently net pay increases of about 3% a year. Their total yearly wage bill amounts to roughly $8 billion. Their salary hikes have been costing Ontario taxpayers about $250 million extra a year. Why is that? Should something be done? If so, what are the options?

A new study released today by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute reveals that Canadians are not getting all the policing they pay for. Highly paid, well-trained uniformed officers are spending too much time away from core policing duties on tasks such as sitting in court waiting to give testimony, transcribing interviews, teaching CPR, or transporting prisoners.

In the study titled, "The Blue Line or the Bottom Line of Police Services in Canada?: Arresting runaway costs", Leuprecht writes that while call volumes remained stable between 2002 and 2012, "provincial expenditures on security grew at an average annual rate that is almost double GDP growth over the same period". Overall security spending has become a $12 billion business in Canada, with 70,000 officers in uniform.  In the paper, Leuprecht examines the various factors driving up the cost of policing in Canada. Leuprecht then offers a variety of solutions for reducing overhead in police operations, including:

  • having forces share or contract dispatch, tactical teams, forensics and investigations;
  • common provincial standards and processes for hiring, communication and procurement;
  • using technology, including the systematic use of record management systems to gather evidence and share it with the court and defence; and using lapel cameras, licence plate readers, and other measures that make the job easier.

But the quest for savings must go beyond reductions in overhead. Leuprecht writes that "police work is complex, difficult, and demanding and should be well compensated. The real question is why police who are making upwards of $100,000 a year are performing so many discretionary tasks that are not really core policing duties and have a proven track record in other jurisdictions of being delivered as or more effectively, efficiently and productively through alternative service delivery in the form of both civilianization and outsourcing".

Examples of tasks that can be performed as effectively at lower cost by contractors or civilians include:

  • administrative functions, such as finance and human resources;
  • burglary investigations, lifting fingerprints, and collecting DNA evidence;
  • prisoner transport and court security;
  • transcription of interviews;
  • professional development and training; and
  • background checks.

Leuprecht writes, "In the end, the responsibility lies with legislators to provide legislative frameworks that constrain cost escalation on the one hand, and provide greater latitude in service delivery on the other".

# # #

Christian Leuprecht is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Economics at the Royal Military College of Canada, and cross-appointed to the Department of Political Studies and the School of Policy Studies at Queen's University where he is also a fellow of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations and the Queen's Centre for International and Defence Policy. Leuprecht's award-winning publications have appeared in English, German, French, and Spanish, and include a dozen books as well as more than 80 scholarly articles and book chapters. He is a frequent commentator in national and international media.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute is the only non-partisan, independent national public policy think tank in Ottawa focusing on the full range of issues that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government.

For more information, please contact David Watson, managing editor and communications director, at 613-482-8327 x. 103 or email at david.watson@macdonaldlaurier.ca. On Twitter @MLInstitute