Number of police officers in Canada at lowest level in 10 years
RCMP officers work outside a crime scene in Penticton, B.C., on Monday April 15, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jeff Bassett)
TORONTO -- The number of police officers in Canada has fallen to its lowest level since 2009 – and after adjusting for population, the police presence per capita is at an 18-year low.
Statistics Canada released data Thursday taking a comprehensive look at police personnel and spending.
The agency found that there were 68,562 sworn police officers working in the country in 2018, 463 fewer than one year earlier.
More than 60 per cent of those officers were based in either Ontario (25,327) or Quebec (15,884).
Per capita, this meant Canada had 185 officers for every 100,000 people – the lowest rate since 2001. The three territories have the most police officers per capita, with the Northwest Territories boasting one police officer for every 240 residents, while Prince Edward Island has the lowest rate, at one officer for every 709 residents.
The decline came during the same year as the fourth straight increase in Canada's crime rate, although that number remains well below where it was a decade ago.
The total number of people employed by Canadian police agencies, meanwhile, rose to an all-time high of 99,612, thanks to a record number of 31,050 civilian employees.
More than 70 per cent of civilian police employees are women, while men make up 78 per cent of the sworn officer population.
That latter figure is the closest Canadian police have ever come to gender parity. StatCan started tracking the number of female police officers for the first time in 1986, when they made up 4 per cent of the total number. Women reached 10 per cent of the total police population in 1996 and 20 per cent in 2013.
According to StatCan, women make up 36 per cent of all special constables in Canada and 24 per cent of new police recruits.
Eight per cent of police officers reported that they belong to a visible minority group. Four per cent identified as Indigenous.
Advocates for justice reform have held up the overwhelming whiteness of the Canadian policing ranks as one factor explaining racial profiling phenomena such as non-white Canadians being far more likely to be stopped for 'carding' street checks.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission recommended last month that the collection of race-based data on police interactions be made mandatory and that police officers found to have discriminated against a citizen on the basis of race face penalties up to and including dismissal.
By age, StatCan reported that the proportion of police officers over 50 is increasingly steadily, and 11 per cent of officers are now eligible to retire with full pensions.
The data also looked at police expenses, finding that they increased by two per cent year-over-year to $15.1 billion, including $12.5 billion in salaries and benefits. The average salary of a Canadian police officer in 2018 was $99,298.