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Rethinking policing to save hundreds of millions of dollars

Montreal, September 8, 2021 – For a few years now, crime rates have been rising in Canada. At the same time, our police forces are facing mounting financial pressures. A research paper published today by the MEI 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.

“A very significant portion of the work carried out by police officers does not involve the most specialized aspects of the extensive training they’ve received. In fact, only 10% of the tasks officers carry out are highly demanding of all of these skills. An analysis conducted over thirty years in British Columbia revealed that officers spend 40% of their time on report writing and other administrative tasks,” says Krystle Wittevrongel, co‑author of the publication.

“By all accounts, it is possible to entrust some of these non-core tasks, including administration, to private security firms that can carry them out at a lower cost,” adds the public policy analyst. “According to our calculations, we could reduce Quebec police forces’ annual operating expenditures by between 17% and 20%, which represents savings of between $525 million and $615 million per year.”

“A similar calculation for Alberta finds between 11% and 14% in reduced annual operating expenditures, representing savings of between $171 million and $225 million per year,” adds Ms. Wittevrongel. “This is a very simple way to get more for our money and reallocate our resources based on our priorities, whether that means reducing the deficit or improving the core services delivered by police forces.”

“We would all benefit from this kind of approach. In the United Kingdom, the communities that opted for this way of doing things experienced reductions in crime rates, in addition to generating savings. Moreover, the job satisfaction of police officers can only improve as they focus more on the tasks for which they were trained,” concludes the public policy analyst.

The publication entitled Let the Police Police, and Let Entrepreneurs Handle the Rest is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications, media appearances, and advisory services to policy-makers, the MEI stimulates public policy debate and reforms based on sound economics and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Daniel Dufort, MEI, Phone: 438-886-9919 / Email: ddufort@iedm.org

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