Policing in Ontario
Appropriate, effective policing is vital so we can all live in safety in our communities. To make sure the people of Ontario have the security they need and expect, the Police Services Act (the Act) and related regulations set the standards for police services and spell out who is responsible for police services and how they will operate. The legislation:
- gives municipalities the responsibility for providing police services
- gives the ministry the responsibility for interpreting the Act and regulations, as well as the responsibility for inspecting the activities of Ontario’s police services
- identifies core activities for policing in Ontario
- describes six principles for police services to follow in carrying out those activities.
The role of municipalities
Municipalities can provide police services for their citizens in several ways. They can:
- set up their own police service
- arrange with one or more municipalities to have a joint police service for the area
- hire the police service of another municipality
- hire the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP).
There are 50 municipal police services in Ontario, in addition to the OPP, for a total of 51. There are also nine self-administered First Nations police services in Ontario.
The role of the ministry
The ministry has a wide range of responsibilities for policing in Ontario. Under the Act, the ministry:
- Writes and updates the Policing Standards Manual which explains in detail the standards Ontario’s police must follow. The manual also provides guidelines on how to follow the standards.
- Inspects police services to make sure they comply with the Act.
- Is responsible for the Ontario Police College, which trains police recruits and offers advanced training for experienced police officers and civilian employees of police services.
- Is responsible for Ontario Provincial Police, which provides police services in some municipalities plus police service on the province’s highways, trails and waterways.
- Researches criminal justice trends that affect policing.
- Oversees the Ontario operations of the Canadian Police Information Centre. This is a national database of information on wanted and missing persons, stolen vehicles, and other crime-related issues.
Standards for police services
The standards that police services must meet are set out in the Act and regulations such as the Adequacy and Effectiveness of Police Services regulation.
The ministry’s Policing Standards Manual contains these guidelines to help municipalities and police services, including the OPP, understand and know how to follow the Act and regulations. The manual:
- explains the ministry’s position on policy issues
- gives information and advice on how to manage and operate a police service
- makes recommendations for local policies, procedures and programs
- helps police services coordinate their activities
- encourages community-oriented police services
- promotes professional police practices, standards and training.
Inspecting Ontario’s police
The Act gives the ministry the responsibility for inspecting Ontario’s police services. This ensures that communities in Ontario receive a consistently high standard of policing. The ministry:
- regularly checks on police services to make sure they follow the Act, the regulations and the guidelines
- helps police services work together to share intelligence and exchange information about major cases across the province
- helps local police boards, community policing advisory committees, municipal chiefs of police, employers of special constables and police associations to resolve questions or issues about policing and police services
The police services advisors help municipal governments, police services and police services boards to consider their options for providing local police services. The advisors are always in contact with police services to help them solve problems. They also train local police services boards to help them understand their responsibilities.
Policing in Ontario: core activities
Ontario’s police services:
- prevent crime
- enforce our laws
- help victims
- keep public order
- respond to emergencies.
Municipalities must also:
- provide the police services with the support systems, buildings and equipment they need so they can carry out their activities.
Policing in Ontario: six principles
Ontario is the first province in Canada to have a Declaration of Principles written into its statutes. With these principles, Ontario’s police are committed to:
- Ensuring the safety and security of all people and property in Ontario.
- Safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- Working closely with the communities they serve.
- Respecting victims of crime and working to understand their needs.
- Being sensitive to the diverse, multiracial and multicultural character of Ontario society.
- Ensuring that police services are representative of the communities they serve.