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Policing disorder: Calgary Transit peace officers and the Alberta law enforcement framework.


In 1996, David Bayley and Clifford Shearing observed that policing in North America had reached a watershed moment. With the growing trend toward "privatized" or "pluralized" policing and increasing pressures on the public police to provide cost-effective services, one era of policing was clearly ending and a new one beginning (Bayley and Shearing 1996: 585).

First, privatized or pluralized policing refers to policing that is authorized and delivered by private rather than public bodies. (1) For example, Group 4 Securicor (G4S), which is providing security for the 2012 London Olympic Gaines, has 657,000 staff operating in more than 125 countries and is one of the world's biggest private employers. It operates six prisons in the United Kingdom and, in April 2012, started work on a 200 million [pounds sterling] police contract in Lincolnshire, where it will design, build and run a police station. Under the terms of the deal, 575 public sector police staff transferred to the company (The Guardian 2012). Second, numerous internal and external pressures on the public police have led police to rationalize their mandate. In particular, discussions within policing have focused on the maxim of "doing more with less" and determining what constitutes "core" and "non-core" services. Internal discussions within police organizations have also raised the issue of whether the police are pricing themselves out of the market.

This article examines the issues, complexities and possibilities for advancing Canadian public policing, providing a brief assessment of the current state of Canadian policing. It supports further development of policing based on the law enforcement framework of Alberta's Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General (Government of Alberta 2011). Using the Calgary Transit peace officer program to illustrate how both public and private policing can and should interact, this article argues that a low-cost investment by police can yield a high return for public safety. Further, because the Calgary Police Service is a critical stakeholder and partner in the delivery of transit policing, the Calgary Police Service has a legitimate governing role in ensuring alignment of the activities of peace officers with the Calgary Police Service mission to optimize public safety.

This article deliberately uses the term "policing" to describe the activities of both the Calgary Police Service--the "public police"--and Calgary Transit peace officers--the "private police"--although only public bodies are eligible to employ peace officers. Both organizations perform an "order maintenance or peace keeping" role within differing but related contexts. Transit peace officers have a mandate to provide for customer safety, which encourages more people to utilize the services of Calgary Transit and ultimately reduces mill rate-supported operating costs. The Calgary Police Service has a direct interest in the "private safety model" as it ultimately contributes to community safety through the extensive network of publicly accessible transit space running

throughout Calgary.

This article does not attempt to assess the effectiveness or efficiency of Canadian public police. Instead it focuses on the role and relationships of Calgary Transit peace officers to illustrate how municipal policing costs can be redistributed. The blueprint of this model is already in place in Alberta, but it creates new challenges for governance, particularly with respect to municipal-provincial relations and the principle of police independence, which is statutorily protected by the Alberta Police Act. Policy formation and legislative change require leadership to sustain changes already underway and, through a process of rigorous evaluation, institutionalize partnerships for improved community safety. Municipalities and the public police now have the opportunity to conceive of alternate models of police service delivery, making the best use of resources committed directly or indirectly to community safety. This requires strong leadership from the public police, police commissions and boards, all levels of government, and support from communities who ultimately authorize the role of police.

The shifting mandate of policing

Over the last forty years, policing has come under increasing pressure to be more effective and efficient. Dating back to the mid- to late-1970s, the community policing approach encouraged using the "eyes and ears" of communities in a "watchman" role, rather than as fully engaged partners. At the same time, a new service orientation in policing resulted in a "no call too small" response imperative--even the theft of a garden hose could be seen as a policing matter. The central tenets of the earlier "professional policing model," in place until the early 1970s, were exposed to research and evaluation, and many common policing practices, often referred to as the 3Rs (random patrol, reactive investigation and rapid response to calls), were shown to be generally ineffective (Kelling et al. 1974). These findings prompted the introduction of a "problem solving policing" approach in the late 1980s, officially articulated in Herman Goldstein's preeminent text Problem-Oriented Policing (Goldstein 1990). Since 1990, the community policing model has embraced an evidence-based approach, oriented around the key ideas of partnerships, prevention and problem solving. This revised model of policing sought alternative ways to deal with the proverbial garden hose theft, including not investigating at all unless it met the definition of "problem," which was the mandate on which policing ought to focus.

The mid-1990s marked the start of significant reductions in violent crime across North America. While the reasons for this drop cannot be fully isolated, it is generally agreed that operational police practices, such as "zero tolerance" policing (a cop on every corner) in New York, increased police accountability (e.g., CompStat (2)), and changes in population demographics have all played significant contributory roles. At the same time, many traditional policing functions were devolved to other municipal organizations or the private sector, including authority over parking, municipal bylaw enforcement and alarm response. The ethos of the 1990s for public policing can be described as "doing more with less" coupled with the fiscal imperative to do it better if possible.

The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States served to broaden police mandates to include what Murphy (2007) described as the "securitization of policing" in which the public police, particularly at the municipal level, took on a growing role in matters of national security, including extremism and radicalization. Incidents such as multiple shootings at Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal and Columbine High School; public transit bombings in Madrid, Russia and London; the Oklahoma City bombing; and the recent massacre in Oslo, Norway and nearby Utoya Island have also generated increased state support for public police in the areas of intelligence and investigations. This support translated into significant cost increases to ensure that public police have the critical capacity to manage in areas of intelligence, transnational and national investigations and prevention.

This securitization of policing has also resulted in the downloading of policing costs to municipalities already struggling to balance municipal budgets. The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) has found that fire and police protection are the fastest growing areas of municipal spending in Canada, with security, including policing, accounting for nearly twenty per cent of municipal operating budgets (Federation of Canadian Municipalities 2008). FCM argues that police roles, responsibilities and resources must be aligned and clarified so that each order of government can better ensure the performance of those duties. This is particularly true with respect to organized crime, drug-related operations, national security (including surveillance of possible terrorist targets), forensic identification, cyber crime, and border and port security, all areas in which municipalities appear to be underwriting federal policing costs. FCM estimates that municipalities fund close to $600 million of federal policing duties in these areas (2008).

The pressure on municipalities to demonstrate fiscal responsibility, particularly in light of ongoing global financial uncertainty, has led municipalities in consultation with police boards and commissions to consider ways to manage rising policing costs, recognizing that mandate determines costs. If a first approach involves separating "cote" policing tasks from non-core policing tasks, the next step in delineating the police mandate will focus more on crime control, leaving order maintenance and prevention activities as shared municipal responsibilities. Controlling costs thus requires a thorough analysis of the police mandate and an understanding that divesting resources and programs cannot simply shift responsibility to the private sector. Rather, a rational framework must be established in order to ensure that initiatives with favourable outcomes for public safety are carefully transferred to agencies capable of reproducing similar results. This more complex arrangement is what Bayley and Shearing (2001) describe as the "multilateralization of policing," involving an increasing separation between those who authorize policing and those who carry it out, as well as a transfer of both functions away from government.

Factors affecting the current model of policing

Contemporary demands on Canadian policing have increased the complexity and costs of keeping the public safe, requiring public police agencies to seek new approaches in building organizational capacity, particularly at the frontlines of police organizations. While there are numerous and growing demands on public police organizations, key issues are as follows: the impact of changing demographics; decreasing crime rates; the changing nature of crime; the impact of legal decisions; and the growth of technologies. Each issue has implications for how policing is delivered.


Changes in the age structure of the population, particularly for high-risk (15-24) and low-risk (over 50) offender groups can influence crime rates (Carrington 2007). Children aged 14 and under accounted for 17.7 per cent of the population in 2006, their lowest share ever in Canada. This was down from 19.1 per cent in 2001 and well below the proportion in 1961, at the height of the baby-boom, when one person in three was aged 14 and under. In short, the age cohort of crime--and victim-prone individuals will continue to support declining crime rates. According to the most recent population projections, seniors could outnumber children aged 14 and under within 10 years. The growth of the elderly population will start accelerating in 2011, when the first baby-boomers reach age 65. Given the strong correlation between age and crime, with criminal offending peaking at the age of 16 and then declining after that (Carrington 2007), the aging of Canada's population has significant implications for crime and consequently demand for traditional frontline police services.

While changing demographics may result in reduced criminality, it will also affect the ability of the police to recruit a sufficient number of new officers to replace those retiring. This problem is exacerbated by a decreasing interest in policing as a career among young people (Police Sector Council 2011).

Declining crime rates

In Canada and the United States, traditional indicators used to track changes in crime have been trending downward over the last decade. According to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Survey conducted annually by Statistics Canada, police reported that crime is decreasing, and Canadian crime rates are now at their lowest levels since the early 1970s (Brennan and Dauvergne 2011). While some suggest this may be due to the under-reporting of crime, the General Social Survey conducted during each federal census reveals little change in victimization rates between 2004 and 2009 (Perreault and Brennan 2010). Similarly, results from the 2004-05 International Crime Victim Survey (ICVS) round that, among the fifteen industrialized countries, the level of victimization peaked in the mid-1990s and has since shown slow but steady declines through to 2005 (van Dijk, van Kesteren and Smit 2007).

Not only has reported crime been trending down, but the severity of crime as measured by the Canadian Crime Severity Index (CSI) has also been decreasing since 1998, the first year this measure was calculated (Brennan and Dauvergne 2011). Despite its portrayal in mainstream and social media, crime and its severity have generally been decreasing since 1996. There is very little statistical support for the belief that the crime rate in Canada is out of control or that streets are no longer safe, though this does not mean that societal perceptions of crime and safety should be discounted. Despite these general trends, regional variations do exist and may place differing demands on police in responding to community needs. For example, reported crime and its severity tend to be higher in the Canadian north (Brennan and Dauvergne 2011). In these instances, it is necessary to examine the overall trends in light of the community context.

In addition to the overall downward trend in crime, there is a widening gap in the reporting of new and emerging forms of crime, making it increasingly difficult for the public police to gauge the magnitude of the problem. Statistics Canada has recognized this in relation to how fraud data are collected and reported, and recommends broadening the collection of data to include victim-reported data collected by private sector companies such as banks, credit card companies, telephone companies and internet service providers (Statistics Canada 2006). In terms of the governance of policing, incorporating additional sources of data will assist in the development of a more comprehensive model of crime control.

The changing nature of crime

Globalization is creating new opportunities for crime and makes enforcement difficult as victims and offenders may reside in other countries. Police are often required to conduct investigations across borders, with reliance on bilateral treaties and memoranda of understanding. New threats include transnational organized crime, human smuggling, cyber crime, child exploitation, terrorism, extremism and self-radicalization, and money laundering. The complexity of these crimes often makes it difficult for police, especially frontline police, to recognize relevant markers, which may not appear criminal. In many instances, it may not be the public police at all who discover suspicious incidents (e.g., bank personnel trained to recognize suspicious transactions).

The impact of legal decisions and new legislation

New legislation, such as the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act, and the impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on court decisions in critical areas such as arrest, detention, search and seizure are placing increasing training demands on the public police. They add to the length of time and costs to conduct investigations and bring them to trial. Charter cases have imposed additional obligations on the police in areas such as the collection and disclosure of evidence, electronic surveillance, seizure of electronic data stored in computers and Smart phones, and new forms of arrest warrants, known as "Feeney" warrants.

The growth of technologies

New technologies mean new opportunities to commit crime, and impose increased demand upon police to develop "technology crime" sections. Police increasingly obtain data from social media sites and computer hard drives as part of the investigative process. New technologies are continuously relied upon as evidence in court, particularly closed-circuit television video (CCTV), cell phone images and electronic records. In addition, new technologies, such as computer chips in Canadian passports, trigger new attempts to counterfeit. All of this comes at a cost as evidentiary disclosure requirements mean that police must be able to retrieve all evidence and provide it to Crown prosecutors. Calgary Transit, for example, has over 600 high-definition CCTV cameras. There has been exponential growth in requests for video footage for use in criminal, provincial and municipal bylaw investigations. Police organizations are making significant technology purchases with significant capital costs and ongoing maintenance agreements. Alberta police agencies, for example, are introducing a provincial records management system (Alberta Police Integrated Information Initiative [API3]) and an emergency first responders radio system (Alberta First Responder Radio Communications System [AFRRCS]).

Growth in police and policing costs

The factors described above place increased demand on police capacity, which has prompted the hiring of more public police personnel. While reported crime is decreasing, policing costs in Canada are increasing. In 2010, policing expenditures exceeded $12.6 billion, representing per capita policing costs of $318 per Canadian (Statistics Canada 2011). Although the 2010 increase was a modest one per cent after adjusting for inflation, annual increases in police expenditures over the past ten years ranged from three per cent to seven per cent. Further, 2010 represented the 14th consecutive year of growth in constant-dollar spending on policing, with overall policing expenditures now double what they were in 1997.

Most of this cost increase can be attributed to police personnel, whose ranks have grown by an average of 30 per cent (27 per cent increase in police officers; 39 per cent increase in civilian personnel) (Statistics Canada 2011). In May 2010, there were 69,299 police officers in Canada, an increase of nearly 2,000 police officers from the previous year. In addition there were 27,344 civilian police employees in Canadian police organizations bringing the total to 96,643 police personnel. Civilianization of key positions continues to be an important strategy for building capacity in police organizations.

In Alberta, an additional 403 police officers were hired between 2009 and 2010, representing a five per cent increase in the total number of officers (Statistics Canada 2011: 7). The Statistics Canada Police Administration Survey reports that, in 2010, the Province of Alberta had 6,602 police officers, consisting of 3,878 municipal police, 1,016 Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) working under municipal contracts, 1,285 RCMP working under provincial contracts, 362 RCMP assigned to federal policing responsibilities, and 61 "other" police (Statistics Canada 2011). Not included in police personnel counts are nearly 3,300 peace officers and sheriffs, all contributing to public safety in Alberta, and police volunteers, such as auxiliary constables, who perform key roles in building police organization capacity. When these officers and volunteers are added, the total number of law enforcement personnel, with varying degrees of "police" authority in Alberta, reaches almost 10,000. The Government of Alberta also estimates that an additional 9,000 private security personnel are working in the province (Alberta, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General 2011: 14), equivalent to one contributor to public safety per 173 residents in Alberta. This prompts the larger question: how many resources are enough for policing and what purposes do they serve? (3)

This section has identified the different demands on the public police and its resources. Building and sustaining capacity in police organizations is costly, time consuming and resource intensive. It is crucial to examine how Alberta's primary public police organizations can leverage peace officers as a "force multiplier" in discharging their overall responsibility for community safety, essentially "doing less with more"!

The Alberta law enforcement framework

In 2000, a review of policing in Alberta was launched through a government MLA committee. Research and stakeholder consultations informed the recommendations summarized in a report entitled, Report of the Alberta MLA Policing Review Committee (Alberta, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General 2002). The report offered recommendations for improving policing effectiveness, adequacy, efficiency and equity to communities.

In 2005, the Alberta government conducted another MLA review of the Special Constable Program in Alberta in order to better meet rapidly changing demands across all areas of law enforcement (Alberta, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General 2005). This review led to establishing Alberta provincial officers (sheriffs) and community peace officers (peace officers). The creation of sheriffs and peace officers followed similar developments in the United Kingdom, which maintains over 15,000 police community support officers (Dhani and Kaiza 2011). To implement these changes, the Alberta Peace Officer Act was enacted in 2007, establishing a revised vision for the delivery of police service (S.A. 2006, c. P-3.5). Through ongoing consultation, the Alberta government released its Law Enforcement Framework (2011) incorporating the following guiding principles:

--Public safety should be enhanced through better coordination among law enforcement organizations, with functions and activities organized to maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

--Law enforcement resources should be effectively organized and deployed to maximize community-based approaches to local policing, while ensuring the ability of police to handle complex investigations.

--Policing services should be delivered with minimal duplication, with functions placed with those personnel who are best suited in terms of training and authority.

--It is the Government of Alberta's role to set the direction, strategic framework, performance expectations and accountability mechanisms within which local law enforcement should be delivered. It is also the Province's role to set the pace for improvement and ensure law enforcement has the legislative powers and tools to fulfill their responsibilities in order to ensure law enforcement is adequate and effective.

--The cost of policing services in Alberta should be shared in an equitable manner among Albertans and Alberta communities (Alberta, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General 2011: 25).

The key element of this model is that the law enforcement framework allows Alberta's public police to tailor policing functions to their specific skills, knowledge and expertise. Sheriffs and peace officers perform supplementary and coordinated policing activities, thus allowing a better use of policing resources overall. The work of sheriffs and peace officers includes traffic patrol, prisoner escorts and place-based or location-based policing where public police agencies would have difficulty sustaining a constant presence. This approach is critical in terms of "Routine Activities Theory" (Cohen and Felson 1979) and is examined in the case study of Calgary Transit below.

There are now over 3,300 community peace officers in Alberta, working for 284 different agencies, with provincial government offices being the largest employer. All orders of government, as well as organizations such as public health authorities and post-secondary institutions employ community peace officers. Calgary Transit peace officers are authorized within this framework.

Calgary Transit

Calgary Transit is considered a medium-sized integrated transit agency with approximately 2,700 staff. Calgary Transit's fleet has over 900 buses and 190 light rail vehicles (LRV), and there are approximately 6,500 bus stops throughout Calgary.

In 1981, Calgary Transit became one of the first transit systems in North America to operate a light rail system (LRT), called the CTrain, which is now considered one of the most successful LRT startup operations based on ridership. The CTrain system carries approximately 275,000 riders on an average weekday, and is now comprised of three lines with 37 stations and platforms and 48 kilometres of dual track. In 2012, the CTrain system will expand to include a new west leg with an additional six stations, a further two stations on the existing northeast leg and another on the northwest leg. The CTrain is a surface-level, "open" system with no turnstiles or barriers controlling access. (4) Calgary Transit relies on voluntary compliance from customers to purchase a fare. The provision and delivery of security is authorized and organized through Calgary Transit's Safety and Security Division.

Safety and security measures for customers

Calgary Transit takes a systems approach to safety and security and, as a result, peace officers are aligned and fully integrated with CT's day-to-day operations. Calgary Transit's Public Safety and Enforcement (PSE) Section, an integral part of the Transit Safety and Security Division, employs 85.5 FTEs including 77 peace officers. The annual budget for the section is $9.5 million, nearly three per cent of its overall operating costs of $327 million per year. In 2011, Calgary Transit recovered over $1 million in fines--these revenues will increase by another 35 per cent in 2012, due to increased numbers of peace officers and changing enforcement practices based on annual fare evasion studies.

Calgary Transit personnel respond to all incidents, such as medical emergencies, passenger harassment, acts of vandalism or any other situations creating feelings of insecurity. Uniformed peace officers patrol the CTrain system 24 hours a day. Transit operators, supervisors and maintenance personnel serve as "capable guardians," constantly using the system and available to provide assistance.

Authority of Calgary Transit peace officers

The solicitor general and minister of justice administers the Alberta Peace Officer Program and appoints Calgary Transit peace officers. Their appointments include provincial statutory authority to enforce liquor laws under the Gaming and Liquor Act, enforce non-moving violations in relation to the Trafic Safety Act, and ban persons from Calgary Transit under the Trespass to Premises Act and Petty Trespass Act. Peace officers are also appointed as bylaw enforcement officers under Alberta's Municipal Government Act, which allows them to enforce municipal bylaws, mostly in relation to the transit bylaw. Peace officers also have citizen powers of arrest as opposed to police powers of arrest, and accordingly make arrests according to Section 494 of the Criminal Code (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46).

In 2011, peace officer authority was broadened to include apprehending individuals with warrants for their arrest and releasing eligible persons by way of a variety of legal forms. In most cases, this release can be done in the field without having to transport the individual to an arrest processing centre. This approach offers several advantages to Calgary Transit in that it ensures peace officers are not tied up with arrests and therefore unable to meet the needs of its customers. At the same time it reduces pressure on the police and provincial correctional staff who do not have to manage the processing of arrested individuals brought to their facilities. In 2012, Calgary Transit sought approval from the Calgary Police Service and the solicitor general to give certain peace officers limited criminal investigative authority in order to participate in an integrated graffiti team with the Calgary Police Service and The City of Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services. All increases in authority must be supported by the chief of the Calgary Police Service before authorization by the Government of Alberta.

Since 2000, the chief of police has approved the carrying of pepper spray and batons, authorized the creation of a stand-alone Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) centre, allowing peace officers to conduct criminal record checks on individuals, supported red and blue overhead lights for peace officer vehicles, and provided access to police databases.

Partnership with the Calgary Police Service

All conditions of the partnership between the Calgary Police Service and Calgary Transit peace officers are set out in a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which is reviewed every three years. It specifies limitations to peace officer authority, particularly concerning crimes involving a known weapon, domestic disputes and all cases requiring follow-up criminal investigation. In those instances, the Calgary Police Service is the primary responder.

The task environment of Calgary Transit peace officers consists of conducting proof-of-payment checks across the transit system; patrolling Calgary Transit facilities, vehicles and property; responding to requests for assistance from customers and employees; immediately reporting all criminal activity to the Calgary Police Service; assisting the Calgary Police Service in deterring criminal activity; arresting persons found committing criminal offences on or in relation to Calgary Transit facilities, vehicles and property; executing arrest warrants for persons wanted for federal, provincial and municipal offences; and, transferring arrested persons to the custody of the Calgary Police Service or transporting arrested persons to Calgary Police Service facilities.

Several criminological theories, as well as situational crime prevention and environmental criminology approaches, including crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), have informed the use and deployment of peace officers. Because of public access to bus stops and CTrain stations, the most effective policing strategy has involved applying Cohen and Felson's "Routine Activities Theory" which states that crimes of opportunity are mitigated by the presence of "capable guardians" (1979). Capable guardianship includes high visibility peace officer patrols that are geographically distributed, based on crime and disorder analyses, throughout the entire CTrain system. These officers patrol on board trains, where the combination of confined space and evidence of disorder can undermine customers' sense of safety. Regular patrols are focused at stations and platforms, particularly "hot spot" stations, which are generally adjacent to large shopping centres. The goal is to ensure that peace officers are deployed to locations where disorder is predictable and therefore preventable. The presence of peace officers reduces the duration of customer exposure to disorderly incidents.

Peace officers regularly recognize situational factors that may contribute to crime and disorder, such as poor lighting. They make recommendations based on CPTED principles, which are incorporated into the design of all new stations. The goal is to eliminate situational factors that make it easier for motivated offenders to commit crime and disorder.

Peace officers subscribe to the model of "broken windows policing," concentrating attention on behavioural offences and visible signs of disorder. Calgary Transit peace officers adopt "near zero tolerance" for behaviours that undermine customers' sense of security, including swearing, smoking, public intoxication and fare evasion. Proof-of-payment (PoP) checking is by far the single-most effective measure for establishing social control; it enables peace officers to approach anyone found on the transit system and determine whether that person is a legitimate transit user.

A final crime prevention strategy focuses on managing the reputation of Calgary Transit in the media. An effective strategy ensures that major incidents which may suggest that transit is unsafe (known as "signal crimes") are dealt with quickly in the media to restore confidence in transit safety. Not only does maintaining and increasing ridership serve as a natural measure of crime prevention and generate additional revenue, but greater passenger density also generally results in customers feeling safer, which ultimately reduces security costs. Calgary Transit communications staff work closely with the Calgary Police Service to ensure that information is reported accurately and with a view to managing customer perceptions of safety. Given that Calgary Transit's operating budget is based on 55 per cent cost recovery through revenue (45 per cent mill rate supported), all efforts are directed at increasing ridership.

Crime and disorder on transit

The 2010 Calgary Transit annual report observed that violent crime on transit was extremely rare. The most common "crimes against persons" were minor assaults and unarmed robberies. In addition, property crime on transit properties was very low, ranging from a low of 143 incidents in 2007 to a high of 181 incidents in 2009. Vehicle crime, reflecting both national and local trends, decreased by 78 per cent between 2007 and 2010. Indeed, customer concerns for personal safety were typically based more on exposure to antisocial behaviours (aggressive panhandling, swearing and causing a disturbance) and signs of physical disorder (graffiti, unclean or poorly lit locations) than on actual crime. Managing the perception gap between real and perceived crime is a key objective of Calgary Transit which, through its peace officers, focuses on behaviour modification strategies as a method of crime prevention.

The authority granted to Calgary Transit peace officers is sufficient for addressing customer safety and security concerns. For example, over the past three years, the most common calls resulting in peace officer reports were disorder-based incidents. In 2010, Calgary Transit peace officers were dispatched to 11,100 calls, down four per cent from the previous year. Of the 11,100 dispatched calls, 7,991 (73 per cent) resulted in reports. Seventy-seven per cent of reports originated from the five most prevalent calls: check on the well being of an individual (3,360 or 42 per cent of reports); unwanted patron (1,857 or 23 per cent of reports); subject having an arrest warrant (399 or five per cent of all reports); causing a non-criminal disturbance (328 or four per cent of all reports); and public intoxication (276 incidents or three per cent of reports). These incidents represent 77 per cent of all internal reports submitted by Calgary Transit peace officers. In addition, the Calgary Police Service was dispatched to 2,879 calls for service to transit property in 2010 (Calgary Police Service 2010). Over 40 per cent of those calls (1,160) can be defined as disorder, based on the classification of incidents listed above. Clearly, the nature of crime and disorder on Calgary Transit does not justify transferring complete authority for policing to the Calgary Police Service (Calgary Transit 2011).

Policing disorder: who should police transit?

Since Calgary Transit began operating its CTrain system in 1981 and hiring special constables to police the system, there has been a constant debate as to whether the Calgary Police Service should assume responsibility for transit policing. In 2008, following the stalking homicide of a female customer by a stranger, discussions of "police takeover" rose to the top of the public safety agenda, at times seeming a fait accompli. This question dominated policy debates of City Council and the Calgary Police Commission, and was formalized in the 2009-2011 Calgary Police Service Business Plan which included the following business item: "At the direction of the Calgary Police Commission, develop a plan to assume policing of the LRT system" (Calgary Police Service 2009). Public attitudes fueled by media depictions of a dangerous transit system vacillated between having more peace officers and having the Calgary Police Service assume primary policing responsibility on the CTrain system. This debate has overshadowed the stable, three-decade development of Calgary Transit's peace officer program and placed the Public Safety and Enforcement Section in constant protectionist mode.

Having the "public police" provide policing services on transit systems is not unique in Canada. In 2007, police officers from the Service de Police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) were assigned to police Montreal's transit system. In 2011, the Toronto Police Service took over primary policing responsibilities on Toronto transit, leaving 118 Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) security personnel (formerly special constables) with responsibility for fraud detection and fare enforcement. The Greater Vancouver region's Translink public transit system is policed by the South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police (transit police). In contrast, Edmonton and Calgary transit systems employ peace officers to provide day-to-day safety and security services, coordinated with the crime control activities of their respective city police services.

The takeover of policing on the TTC highlights difficulties of policing public spaces where both public and private policing interests are at stake. The public justification for having the Toronto Police Service (TPS) take over policing responsibilities on the TTC was based on TPS concerns that the TTC had exceeded its authority as set out in a 1997 agreement between the Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto Transit Commission (Toronto Police Services Board 2010). Violent crime was also cited in a 2009 story by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as a factor (CBC News 2009).

While both reasons should factor into discussions about policing the TTC, it appears that the policy preference supported by the Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto City Council trumped other considerations. This is not surprising given the similar and often overlapping mandates associated with policing spaces that have both public and private characteristics. Regardless of the merits of the Toronto decision, policing transit systems in Canada should not be subject to an "all or nothing" debate about who polices them. Rather, decisions regarding customer safety, protection of infrastructure, assets and reputation along with contributions to overall public safety should be based on the question of "how" they ought to be policed. Such discussion ultimately provides greater clarity about public and private policing roles, and institutionalizes partnerships resulting in net gains to community safety.

Stenning observes that much of the debate over public and private policing centres on policing "mass private property," which he defines as "... property in which the traditional associations between private ownership, privacy and the concept of a private place, in contrast to the traditional associations between public property and public space or a public place, have been disrupted" (2009: 5). More precisely, mass private property is property which, although under private (usually corporate) ownership, essentially constitutes a public place because the general public are routinely and often aggressively invited and encouraged to frequent it. Indeed, public patronage of such property usually constitutes its essential economic rationale. The corporately owned and operated suburban shopping mall provides an exemplar of such property, but there are many other examples, such as sports stadia and other recreational and entertainment centres, airports and other transport hubs (2009: 5).

Policing mass private property challenges public police and private police organizations to delineate clear roles and expectations for each other. This is never easy, particularly as transit systems run throughout the municipality. And while roles and expectations may be formalized at the top of police and transit organizations, implementation at the operational level is typically characterized by misunderstanding, acrimony and discord.

From police commissions to public safety commissions

Effectively managing this complex array of public and corporately focused policing organizations requires a public safety governance model capable of strategically engaging and aligning multiple public safety nodes. Literally hundreds of public safety organizations across Canada, working in both public and private capacities, contribute to safe communities and a safer Canada. These include independent municipal (Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver) police services, provincial (Ontario Provincial Police, Surete du Quebec) and federal police (RCMP), Canada Border Services, Canadian Pacific Railway police as well as large private security organizations, such as G4S, Commissionaires, and Paladin Security. Public police organizations in Canada are governed by police boards and commissions, whose oversight function is limited to the public police organization over which they preside. Public safety governance, in contrast, has the potential to oversee the public safety contributions of multiple organizations within a community, territory or municipality. More importantly, it offers the opportunity to govern the shared use of resources. For example, and on a smaller scale, the Calgary Fire Department, Calgary Police Service and the City of Calgary govern the activities of Calgary's 911 Public Safety Answering Point, called Public Safety Communications.

Stenning also suggests moving beyond the narrow mandate of police commissions to establish "policing" commissions with a broader governance role, overseeing public safety generally. In his view, "such a board should be responsible for overseeing, encouraging and coordinating the optimum deployment of all possible resources for effective policing provision, whether public, private or voluntary, which may be available within the municipality concerned" (2009: 13).

This suggestion accords well with the belief that the mandate of the public police will increasingly narrow to focus on crime control as a core service. This also provides new opportunities for aligning all public and private resources allocated to increasing public safety. Undoubtedly this is a much more complex proposition, but it fits within alternative service delivery models in Canada, respects principles of police independence and contributes to the evolving model of community-based policing.

In this respect, the provision of public safety is undertaken by numerous agencies representing various nodes within a public safety network. Aligning the activities of these agencies creates challenges to traditional systems of governance, particularly due to the doctrinal independence of police. However, new governance over an evolving public safety model may rationalize public safety expenditures and focus the activities of Canadian public police agencies.

This broader model of governance, described as "nodal governance" by Burris, Drahos and Shearing (2005), is "an elaboration of contemporary network theory explaining how a variety of actors operating within social systems interact along networks to govern the systems they inhabit" (2005: 33). These authors contend that nodal forms of governance are commonplace in contemporary life. Calgary Transit's Public Safety and Enforcement Section represents a single public safety node responsible for the safety and security of its customers while contributing to the broader model of public safety in Calgary. Other nodes include the City of Calgary Animal and Bylaw Services, taxi and building inspectors, and local private security and corporate security organizations. Each node must share its knowledge in the context of a broader public safety network, particularly if the total gains to public safety exceed the sum of its constituent parts.

Shearing (2007), in his case study of the Nexus Policing Project, examines positive public safety outcomes achieved through the institutionalization of public-private partnerships in the state of Victoria, Australia. The Nexus Policing Project led to a revision of the notion of "guardianship capacity." Previously used to describe reducing opportunities for crime at public places, the concept was adapted to argue that the role of the police should be to ensure that any social arena has in place guardians capable of governing security effectively. It requires highly effective and strategic partnerships, but does not require the public police to supplant the activities of a private policing body.

Shearing further suggests that "guardianship capacity" places the public police in the central role of nodal coordinators and facilitators. He states that this capacity operates at the strategic level. The legitimacy of this model allows the public police to assume a primary role as guarantors of guardianship who ensure public safety and security. As Shearing argues, while the notion of "guardianship capacity" itself is not new, it has radical implications for defining who the police could and should be when recognized as a central element in the governance of community safety and security. He states: "These implications enable the public police potentially to articulate a new vision for police that can and will inspire them and others" (2007: 12).

Implications for a revised model of public safety

Creating public safety commissions represents an important step for governing how policing is delivered across Canada. Internationally, this approach was recommended by the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland in 1999 and included establishing advisory District Policing Partnership Boards (Stenning 2009). As a governing body, these boards do not replace the legislatively prescribed role of police boards and commissions, but instead augment how public safety services are delivered, leveraging the most appropriate resources to engage in community problem-solving activities. The public police occupy the central point in this nodal governance model, legislatively mandated and regulated.

The evolution of a post-modern model of policing, characterized by globalization, emerging forms of crime, and growing demands for police service requires intensive inquiry into the best alignment of police resources and their relationship to achieving the goal of safer communities. It needs to address significant capacity gaps and issues that affect all police organizations, and should result in a new blueprint for community safety, one which takes a more inclusive and leveraged approach to the use and reliance on community resources.


The relationship between the Calgary Police Service and Calgary Transit peace officers highlights how organizations with similar mandates can work together in the spirit of the Law Enforcement Framework of Alberta. To move forward, three steps should be taken.

First, Statistics Canada should begin collecting and reporting the total number of personnel engaged in policing across Canada and not just in public policing. The United Kingdom, for example, includes in its Police Service Strength report the number of community support officers (Dhani and Kaiza 2011). This information will assist communities, civic officials, policy makers and police chiefs to more fully comprehend total law enforcement capacity and identify capacity gaps.

Second, leadership and support from police boards, police commissions and executives are integral to developing the model of policing and governance structure articulated here, and to institutionalizing partnerships among a broad range of public safety organizations. Strong leadership is essential to move from program-based partnerships to principle-based partnering. This approach will advance community policing and its principal strategy of problem-oriented policing much further than thought possible, by removing the police from the "expert" role and into a role of centralized public safety governance or "anchored pluralism" (Loader and Walker 2001). The model offers opportunities for organizational culture change and improvements to intelligence-led policing practices.

Third, a regulatory framework to guide the decision-making process in relation to the use of shared resources and dispute resolution must be established at the policing board level. In addition, the current role of police boards and commissions would need to be reviewed and reformulated.


We conclude with a few observations about the status of Canadian policing and some practical implications of our recommendations. First, there is no reason to expect that reported crime rates will reverse direction and suddenly begin to increase. Population demographics suggest that crime and disorder should continue to decline. In contrast, the impacts of globalization, technology, legislation and judicial decisions on public policing will increase financial demands on police services, requiring an examination of core and non-core services. Without a change to existing police mandates, it is unlikely that policing costs can or will decrease. In rural Alberta, employing peace officers is an effective and fiscally responsible means of providing policing services to residents, leaving local RCMP officers available for more complex investigations.

This study of the role and mandate of Calgary Transit peace officers highlights how policing services can be both similar and complementary, without degenerating into a debate about whether or not "disorder policing" should fall within the exclusive domain of the public police. This becomes a slippery-slope argument when trying to differentiate between public and private policing functions. While further development and strategic linkages are required, the overall relationship between the Calgary Police Service and Calgary Transit peace officers serves as a model of cooperation, consistent with the overarching principles of the Government of Alberta's Law Enforcement Framework. As a result of this partnership, the provision of Calgary Transit customer safety and security service translates into net gains for community safety. The model offers opportunities for a more strategic allocation of municipal resources to public safety.

The proposed model is both evolutionary and inevitable. The private sector will continue to bear more of the burden for crime prevention and asset protection, while the pressures described above will narrow the focus of public police services to crime control (Fischer and Green 2004). Policy makers need to guide the development of this model consistent with the underlying tenets of community-based policing and reinforcement of civil society.

Building on the strengths of this model requires an uncoupling of the idea that policing is the sole responsibility of the police themselves. As Stenning (2009) suggests, consideration should be given to the creation of "policing commissions" as opposed to more narrowly mandated police commissions (2009: 13), although the terminology of "public safety commissions" is perhaps more appropriate, as it recognizes the broader contributions of both public and private providers to overall public safety.

In closing the Institute for Strategic International Studies, in its report entitled, Policing Capacity in Canada: Scarce Resources or Infinite Potential? (Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police 2008: 10), noted the universal demand in Canada for more policing resources. In a strictly Hobbesian view of police and society, the demand for police resources reflects the demand for more capacity. However, in a society that is better represented as a network of fragments (CACP 2008, citing Kempa 2008), unlike in Hobbes' benevolent monarchy, the police are not the only actors on the public safety stage. For additional expenditures to be allocated effectively, the delivery of policing services in Canada must occur within a supportive and well-integrated public safety and justice system (Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police 2008: 10).


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(1) This growth was recognized in Closing the Gap: Policing and the Community, the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Policing in British Columbia, which was chaired by the Honorable Mr. Justice Wallace T. Oppal (British Columbia, Ministry of Justice 1994).

(2) CompStat meetings, short for "COMPare STATistics," were the New York Police Department's means of holding precinct commanders accountable for crime in their areas. Failure to achieve positive outcomes could result in the loss of command for senior police officials.

(3) This figure is based on the Alberta population figures from the 2006 federal census.

(4) There has been considerable debate about the merits of closed and open systems. Retrofitting the CTrain system into a closed system, similar to efforts in British Columbia, is cost prohibitive and doesn't represent a positive return on investment. Managing the "free rider" problem, which ranges between a 4 per cent and 5 per cent evasion rate, requires enhanced customer payment options and effective deployment practices by Calgary Transit peace officers.

Brian Whitelaw is coordinator, Public Safety and Enforcement, Calgary Transit, and an inspector (retired) with the Calgary Police Service. Ron Smith is supervisor, Business and Marketing Research, Department of Recreation, City of Calgary. Stephen Hansen is manager, Safety and Security Division, Calgary Transit.
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Author:Whitelaw, Brian; Smith, Ron; Hansen, Stephen
Publication:Canadian Public Administration
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Date:Sep 1, 2012
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