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Let the Police Police, and Let Entrepreneurs Handle the Rest

Research Paper showing that security professionals can help ease budgetary pressures, reduce crime, and increase job satisfaction for police

For a few years now, crime rates have been rising in Canada. At the same time, our police forces are facing mounting financial pressures. This research paper proposes a new way of seeing the division of labour for police that could generate substantial savings all while improving the quality of services delivered to the public.

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This Research Paper was prepared by Krystle Wittevrongel, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI, and Olivier Rancourt, Economist at the MEI.

Crime rates in Canada have seen a modest upswing over the past few years. This reversal, combined with swelling costs, has required a balancing act between harmonizing fiscal responsibility and the need to fight crime. The time is thus ripe to examine the appropriateness of certain tasks being carried out by highly trained, highly skilled police officers. Supplementing the police force with licensed security professionals can ease budgetary pressures, increase overall police efficiency, reduce crime, and increase job satisfaction for police.

Chapter 1 − Licensed Security Personnel to the Rescue

  • Core policing services require a combination of physical, cognitive, emotional, and interpersonal skills for which police receive extensive training. Yet it is estimated that less than 10% of the tasks police officers carry out are highly demanding of all of these skills.
  • The demands on officers in non-core areas have increased over time, and the roles and responsibilities of police services in non-criminal areas have expanded—an example of mission creep.
  • A 2005 analysis of thirty years of police service data in British Columbia revealed that overall, officers spend 40% of their time on administrative tasks and report writing, not counting the additional hour of unpaid overtime per officer spent on paperwork daily.
  • Certain non-core elements of police work do not require the authority, specialized training, or credibility of a police officer and can easily be taken over by licensed security personnel. This frees up officers to refocus on their core tasks and fight crime.
  • Security personnel offer a number of services that lend themselves well to bolstering police forces in four major operational categories: administration, investigative support, areas involving highly specialized and technical knowledge, and uniformed services with limited police powers.
  • There is public support for the idea of contracting out certain tasks. In a 2017 poll, a majority of Canadians (59%) agreed with private security companies performing support tasks currently being carried out by police officers.

Chapter 2 − Potential Reforms: Case Studies

  • We propose a number of reforms in line with the areas of public support. Modelled through case studies in Alberta and Quebec, we illustrate how security personnel can be utilized by police forces to reduce costs without reducing quality.
  • Alberta has a total of 7,687 police officers, with an average yearly compensation of over $133,000. In Quebec, the median yearly compensation for the province’s 15,622 police officers is nearly $117,000. In comparison, a security professional draws a yearly compensation of just under $53,000 in Alberta, and just over $49,000 in Quebec.
  • Each year, there are over six million hours in Alberta, and nearly thirteen million in Quebec, in which these highly-trained officers are being paid handsomely to write reports and complete other paperwork and time-consuming administrative tasks.
  • Security personnel could also be used as an auxiliary force for a number of different activities carried out by officers in the “gendarmerie” branch of the Quebec police without major complications, at least to some degree.
  • We estimate a possible reduction in Quebec taxpayers’ burden of between $525 million and $615 million per year. These numbers represent a potential of between 17% and 20% in reduced annual operating expenditures.
  • Traffic management is another area where security personnel can easily support Alberta police officers, carrying out tasks like patrolling, directing traffic, and responding to the scene of a collision.
  • We anticipate a reduced Alberta taxpayer burden of between $171 million and $225 million per year. These numbers represent a potential of between 11% and 14% in reduced annual operating expenditures.

Chapter 3 − The Gradual Integration of Security Personnel

  • The introduction of security personnel into established police forces would be gradual, slowly replacing some retiring officers and some of those who leave the force for other reasons. As a result, the savings too would increase gradually.
  • As police officers are increasingly able to focus on the core tasks of the job thanks to the offloading of additional tasks and the curtailing of mission creep, their job satisfaction will increase, and with it their motivation and the quality of policing. Conversely, absenteeism and turnover rates should decrease.
  • Increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover will have a positive impact not only on the communities in which these officers serve, but also on the public purse once again through reduced training and management costs.
  • Looking to entrepreneurs to support the police in a complementary fashion is a strategy that has been tried in a number of places. In the United Kingdom, evidence has shown that such contracting out does indeed allow police officers to refocus on their core tasks, which increased the quality of services provided to the community.
  • In 2012, for instance, the Lincolnshire Police signed a 10-year contract with G4S, a private security company. By outsourcing the administrative duties and some minor tasks to G4S, they were able to save over £5 million (C$6.8 million) in their first year, and the crime rate fell by 14%.
  • As fiscal pressures continue to mount, acknowledging and utilizing the resources and support available through highly trained and qualified security personnel is a must.

Read the Research Paper (PDF Format)

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