Blue Line

Features Back of the Book
A tip in appreciation

May 4, 2023  By Morley Lymburner

Photo credit: Freshidea / Adobe Stock

Eugene Francois Vidocq, one of the founders of French policing, encouraged and espoused a police service devoid of military affiliation. Later, Sir Robert Peel agreed. Both men argued that the establishment and maintenance of policing must be by public consent.

How does policing today measure up to their standards? The recent spate of demands to defund the police in the last few years has certainly put the pressure on for agencies to take a second look at how they can better fulfill their mandate.

Things can be done, however, to increase the public’s confidence that local police still seek and appreciate their approval. My position is that an entity like Crime Stoppers fits the bill quite nicely.

In most independent municipal police services, the public’s consent is more closely established by police services boards (PSB) and their reports to municipal politicians and, through them, directly to the public. With wider jurisdictional policing, this closer bond is sacrificed to a more remote nexus with the provinces or federal government through more distant and less accessible representatives.


To be fair, some municipal contract police allow for a “police committee” to give some suggestions over the manner in which community police function. The attendance to, or acknowledgement of, these committees, however, has the appearance of being completely optional. The prevailing attitude is that police will hear the committee out but not necessarily do what it suggests. This all depends on the approval of a higher, more ephemeral ranking individual or group.

If we truly believe in policing by consent, perhaps it is time to give back to the community something tangible that will be appreciated and evoke enormous good will.

Cops were once hired by size and poverty level and the public didn’t exactly hold them in high esteem. Policing was seen as a job that “had to be done by someone”. Boston, MA, once even considered instituting a draft for police officers. This is quite a contrast with policing by consent and Peel’s principles.

In today’s environment of “Walmart policing”, how much extra should we pay for more control? The public appears to be very accepting of “just-in-time policing”, as long as the bill is kept as low as possible. Does cheaper policing mean we must surrender policing by consent? These communities really only see bottom-line policing as something akin to garbage disposal and sewage waste. They want it to work but don’t want to know the details.

If we truly believe in policing by consent, perhaps it is time to give back to the community something tangible that will be appreciated and evoke enormous good will. I suggest using proceeds of crime money to do good in the community. Giving police committees or PSBs some authority over how to spend this money to help the community would go a long way toward giving residents a closer affinity with police.

Since 1976, Crime Stoppers has helped recover many hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of stolen property, and helped to capture wanted individuals and shut down drug and human trafficking operations. A considerable amount of the money recovered through proceeds of crime is at least partially thanks to this organization’s efforts.

An all-volunteer organization, Crime Stoppers volunteers spend countless hours looking for corporate sponsorship to help fund the operations and rewards. A percentage of funds from police agencies, which they receive through Proceeds of Crime legislation, would augment the fundraising efforts of countless volunteers and give many of these organizations a more stable funding base to build upon—especially in lean years, as recently experienced through the effects of COVID-19. Instituting efforts such as this by police would be a confidence-building exercise worthy of much public appreciation.

The RCMP alone has raked in more than $243 million from the Proceeds of Crime revenue over the last 15 years. Most provinces have a similar process – in Ontario it’s called “provincial civil seizures” and brings in around $30 million a year. Much of this money goes into general revenues, with some retained to buy equipment and pay for the programs of sponsoring agencies. A good portion of this revenue stream is attributable to the Crime Stoppers programs across Canada.

As one person put it to me, “When I get good, or even fair, service in a restaurant I always give the server a 15 per cent tip. Why should Crime Stoppers not be shown the same appreciation for their service?”

In an age that appears to be distancing itself from the early concepts of policing by public consent, it may be time for police to show a closer affiliation with the public and a much closer understanding of the public need.

Morley Lymburner, U.E., M.S.M., is a retired police officer and the former creator and publisher of Blue Line. You may contact him at

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