A new paper Policing Alberta: An Analysis of the Alternatives to the Federal
Provision of Police Services, released today by The Fraser Institute, recommends that the
province undertake a thorough review of the costs and benefits of
restoring a provincial police force in Alberta.
As part of an on-going public debate over the restoration of
provincial police forces, the authors outline several options for
police services, particularly outside of Calgary and Edmonton.
Among the alternatives to be considered, the province can:
- Maintain the status quo whereby the federal police (the
RCMP) continue to provide police services for the province.
- Replace the federal police in all capacities with a
provincially administered force.
- Replace the federal police in communities with a population
greater than 15,000 with a provincially administered force.
- Replace some, or all, federal police detachments in rural
areas with several regional forces based in larger population
Barry Cooper, co-author of the paper and director of the
Institute's Alberta Policy Research Centre, lays out the
historical context of policing in Alberta and points out that the
province reluctantly dissolved its own police force in 1932
(established after the withdrawal of federal services in 1917) to
be replaced by a federal force.
"The federal government promised to deliver more for less.
Whether the federal police delivered on that promise remains to
be seen," says Cooper. "What they unquestionably gained was
something approaching a provincial policing monopoly - except, of
course, in Ontario and Quebec which retain their own police
services to this day."
The existing arrangements regarding federal involvement in
policing in Alberta appear to be financially advantageous because
federal taxpayers pay a share of the costs of such policing (30
percent for communities with populations less than 15,000 and 10
percent for communities greater than 15,000).
However, the authors point out that the cost of federal provision
of police services in the province is more a function of the
population of the communities policed and associated criminal
activities than it is of the frugality of the RCMP. Moreover, a
comparison with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) clearly
indicates that a provincially administered police force delivers
services at a lower cost than the federal police.
Cooper also points out that federal policing deprives Albertans
of input into and control over policing in the province. In
addition, the federal police appear less capable than municipal
departments in Alberta of maintaining current levels of spending,
such as in the area of officer salaries.
Replacing the federal police with a provincial police
The provincial government has two major options. First, it could
recruit and train its own police force and simply replace the
federal police with this new force while maintaining the current
police act. This alternative would have two initial effects: a
revived Alberta Provincial Police force would patrol rural areas
with populations under 2,500; and municipal governments that wish
to do so could contract with the provincial (rather than the
federal) government for policing services.
"This alternative would maximize the influence of Albertans on
policing practices in the province. At the same time, it would
extinguish the federal provision of policing in the province,"
If the provincial government were not prepared to remove the RCMP
completely, a preliminary step would be to allow communities with
populations above 15,000 to contract with a new provincial force
rather than with the federal police. Regional police forces would
amalgamate urban departments and surrounding rural areas and
The result would be a net decline in the federal provision of
police services and a net increase in provincial provision of
these services. A further benefit would be to provide direct
access to smaller communities of the more sophisticated crime
units available in urban centers. It would also reduce costs by
lowering administrative overhead and duplication.
Cooper also points out that a reduced federal police presence in
all the provinces would enable the RCMP to focus more on genuine
federal issues: organized crime, internal security, interdiction
of illegal immigrants, as well as on major crimes that occur
In addition to undertaking an extensive and detailed analysis of
specific federal police operations around the province, the paper
recommends that the province consider additional issues including
the role and deployment of special, auxiliary, or deputy
constables, and the use of private security firms, particularly
where protection of property is concerned.
"Just as with the original presence of the Royal Northwest
Mounted Police, the departure of the federal police in 1917, and
their subsequent return, any move to replace the existing federal
police with a new provincial force in Alberta or anywhere else in
the country will involve a complex mixture of political will and
economic analysis of costs and benefits," Cooper