Blue Line

A snapshot of Canadian policing

February 3, 2014  By Corrie Sloot

Statistics Canada’s annual police administration survey provides details on personnel and expenditures at the national, provincial and municipal levels. For the first time in 2012, a new supplemental survey collected detailed information on police hirings, retirements, eligibility to retire and, where available, visible minority status.

Most of the personnel information is based on a “snapshot date” of May 15, 2012, while data on hirings, departures and expenditures represent the calendar year ending December 31, 2011 (or March 31, 2012 for those police services operating on a fiscal year).

{Slight decline in strength}

(Recruitment A-STRENGTH CHART.tif)


There were 69,539 police officers in Canada on May 15, 2012, 115 more than in 2011. Expressed as a rate, police strength declined slightly (-1.0 per cent ) from the previous year, to 199 officers per 100,000 population.

While strength has been generally increasing since the late 1990s, the police-reported crime rate has continued to decline (<Brennan, 2012>). In 2011, the latest year for which data are available, both the volume and severity of police-reported crime decreased. The 2011 crime rate was 24 per cent lower than in 2001 and at its lowest point since 1972 (<Brennan, 2012>). Similarly, the Crime Severity Index (CSI) was at 77.6 in 2011, 26 per cent lower than a decade earlier and at the lowest point since data became available in 1998 <1>.

The number of Criminal Code (excluding traffic) incidents per police officer declined by six per cent in 2011. The ratio of 29 incidents per officer was the lowest since 1970. The number of incidents per officer has decreased by 31 per cent over the past decade.

(Recruitment STRENGTH CRIME CHART.tif)

Editor’s note – tally showed the top 10 agencies are 157 officers below their authorized strength. The largest shortfall appears to be in the greater Toronto and Montreal areas, which are short 117 officers. Large agencies suffer the most from officers moving to other police services. >

{Civilian strength}

There were 28,220 civilian employees working alongside police on May 15, 2012, a slight increase of 78 employees from the previous year. The rate of civilian employees per 100,000 population remained virtually unchanged from 2011, at 81 per capita.

Police services reported employing 2.5 officers for every one civilian worker in 2012, a ratio that has held steady since 2007. The ratio of officers to civilians has decreased substantially since the 1960s, when it was reported as between 4.6 and 4.1 officers for every civilian staff member. This change has coincided with increased employment of civilian staff that may be responsible for work such as dispatching, information technology support or forensic analysis.

{One in ten officers eligible for retirement}

(Recruitment AGE CHART.tif)

The potential impact of retirements and other types of workforce mobility have become a concern for executives at many Canadian police services (<Lewis, 2011; Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2010>).

Based on information on workforce mobility during 2011 <7>, the survey measured the number of positions left vacant and those filled by incoming officers.

The majority of officers who left their service in 2011 did so to retire (1,300, 65 per cent of departing officers) <3>. Retiring officers made up about two per cent of total officers employed by the services reporting this information. Almost half (49 per cent) of retiring officers had between 30 and 35 years service; over one-quarter (26 per cent ) had more than 35 years service.

The proportion of departing police officers leaving to retire was highest in Nova Scotia (75 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (73 per cent). Reporting police services in Alberta and Manitoba recorded the highest percentages of officers leaving for reasons other than retirement (50 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively).

The number of officers retiring was considerably smaller than the number eligible to do so <4>. A total of 7,459 officers were eligible for retirement with full pension in 2011, representing about one in ten (11 per cent) of Canadian police officers <5>. Over half (52 per cent) of officers eligible to retire in 2011 had over 30 years of policing service <6>.

While little variation was noted among provinces with respect to retirement eligibility, differences exist among police services. For example, the RCMP reported that 19 per cent of officers were eligible to retire in 2011, while the average among non-RCMP municipal police services was eight per cent. In large part, these variations were due to the number of senior officers on staff and specific characteristics of various collective agreements.

Officers aged 60 and over accounted for less than one per cent of all police officers, while those between 50 and 60 years old represented 15 per cent. The largest cohorts were officers aged 30 to 40 years (35 per cent) and those aged 40 to 50 years (35 per cent). Officers between 20 and 30 years old represented 14 per cent of all officers, while less than one per cent were under 20 <7>.

Among officers hired by police services during 2011 and for whom prior policing experience was known, the majority (80 per cent) were recruit graduates <8, 9>. Officers who had experience with another police service made up the remaining 20 per cent.

{More female officers}

(Recruitment FEMALES CHART.tif)

For the second consecutive year, the number of female officers increased while the number of male officers decreased. There were 234 more female officers in 2012 than 2011 and 119 fewer male officers.

The increasing number of women in policing is part of a longer-term trend that began in the 1960s. Over the past decade alone, the proportion of women has increased from 15 per cent of all officers in 2002 to 20 per cent in 2012.

There are also more women among the higher ranks. The proportion of women serving as senior and non-commissioned officers has increased steadily, reaching 16 per cent by 2012, while the proportion of female constables has remained relatively stable since 2007 at between 21 and 22 per cent.

The provinces with the highest proportions of female officers continued to be Quebec (24 per cent) and British Columbia (21 per cent). In contrast, Manitoba (15 per cent) and New Brunswick (16 per cent) continued to report the lowest proportions. As in past years, the proportion of female officers was lowest in the territories.

{Aboriginals and visible minorities}

Data from the 2006 Census shows Canada’s ethnocultural diversity is steadily increasing (). In response, some police services are looking to staff their ranks with officers representative of the communities they serve <(RCMP, 2010>). The 2012 supplemental questionnaire asked services to provide information on the visible minority identity of their officers <10>.

While the Canadian Human Rights Commission permits employers, including police services, to collect data on whether their employees are Aboriginal or visible minority, some police services choose not to collect this information (). Those that do collect these data do so on a strictly voluntary basis – meaning officers can choose to disclose they are in those groups but are not compelled to do so. In 2012, this information was unknown for 33 per cent of officers, as either the police service or the individual officer chose not to report it.

Information was collected for the more than 46,000 police officers who voluntarily self-identified as Aboriginal, visible minority or Caucasian <11>. Eighty seven per cent reported being Caucasian in race or white in colour. A further nine per cent reported being a member of a non-Aboriginal visible minority group and five per cent reported being Aboriginal <12>.

Some variation was seen with respect to self-reported visible minority status for experienced officers versus recruit graduates. A larger proportion of experienced officers reported being members of a visible minority than did recruit graduates: among experienced officers, 11 per cent reported being a visible minority, compared to four per cent of recruit graduates. The proportions of experienced officers and recruit graduates who self-identified as Aboriginal showed less variation – four per cent of recruit graduates and three per cent of experienced officers.


  1. The Crime Severity Index (CSI) takes into account both the volume and seriousness of crime. In calculating it, each offence is assigned a weight, derived from average sentences. The more serious the average sentence, the higher the weight for that offence. As a result, more serious offences have a greater impact on changes in the index. All Criminal Code offences, including traffic offences and other federal statute offences, are included in the CSI.

  2. Data represent departures during the 2011 calendar year or the 2011/2012 fiscal year, depending on how individual police services chose to report the information.

  3. Information on departures due to retirement is based on data collected from police services employing 98 per cent of Canadian police officers. They were able to report their total departures, including for retirement, but may not have been able to report details for other reasons.

  4. Information on eligibility to retire is based on data collected from police services employing 97 per cent of Canadian police officers.

  5. This number may or may not include officers who retired in 2011 (1,310 officers).

  6. While most police collective agreements set the minimum years of service required for retirement with full pension at 25 years, other considerations may sometimes apply. For instance, many agreements require a minimum age in addition to minimum years of service, while others use a formula such as the “80 factor,” where years of service plus age must equal 80.

  7. Officer age information is based on data collected from police services employing 99 per cent of Canadian police officers. Information on age wasn’t available for four per cent of these officers.

  8. Information on hirings wasn’t available for one per cent of police officers. In addition, police services employing 36 per cent of officers were unable to provide the level of experience (experienced police officers or recruit graduate) at time of hire. These services are excluded from the percentage calculations.

  9. Recruit graduates include senior officers, non-commissioned officers and constables who achieved the status of a fully-sworn officer during the calendar or fiscal year prior to the year for which data are shown.

  10. Definitions related to visible minority status found on the supplemental are based on those used by the Census and the Employment Equity Act. Aboriginal peoples refers to whether the police officer is an Aboriginal person of Canada, that is, First Nations (North American Indian), Métis or Inuit. Visible minority refers to persons who are not Aboriginal or Caucasian or non-white. Non visible minority populations are persons who are Caucasian or white.

  11. Though the definitions for Aboriginal and visible minority specify that Aboriginals be counted separately from members of visible minority groups, it is possible that some individuals were counted in both categories. The number counted in both is estimated to be less than one per cent .

  12. Percentages add up to more than 100 due to rounding.


This is an edited version of Statistics Canada’s release.

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