The Canadian Review of Policing Research (2004)

ISSN: 1710 6915


Scott Blandford

Scott Blandford is a sergeant with the London, Ontario Police Service, Corporate Planning Branch


Substantial change is occurring in emergency services in Ontario. Improvements to the governance structures of municipal police services are furnishing municipal councils with greater authority to ensure effective and cost-effective police services in every community. Under the Police Services Act, the Province controls the scope of policy-making authority. The continued imposition on municipalities and special purpose bodies such as police services boards of legislated adequacy standards for policing will determine the range of services that municipalities can or must deliver.

Over the past decade, policing in Ontario has undergone dramatic changes. Many of these changes have been driven by the introduction of new legislation, case law, and the move by organizations to improve efficiency through the adoption of best practices. The effect of such changes on police organizations in the province has been to create inconsistent and divergent service delivery.

Before 1997, policing standards produced by the Ministry of the Solicitor General were largely advisory. Some chiefs of police adopted them wholly or in part, while others ignored them. This led to some serious deficiencies and inconsistencies in service delivery throughout the province. When the Ministry audited a police service, weaknesses were identified in accordance with the standards and other best practices. Yet, no matter how poor the audit results might show a police service to be, it would often take years, if ever, for a service to be brought into compliance.

In 1997, to establish benchmarks for police services, the Ministry of the Solicitor General developed a working document featuring policing standards supported by detailed directives. The document led to legislated regulations, supported by guidelines, which are enforceable. The goal of the initial drafts of the legislation was to identify and consolidate many of the changes impacting police organizations, and to develop a framework under which they could be addressed, and consistent police service delivery could be monitored.

Adequacy Standards

In January of 1999, the Ontario government introduced Ontario Regulation 3/99, the Police Adequacy and Effectiveness Standards Regulation, commonly referred to as the “Adequacy Standards”. The Adequacy Standards address the six core policing functions prescribed by the Police Services Act as necessary to ensure the delivery of adequate and effective police services. The six core functions are: crime prevention; law enforcement; victims’ assistance; public order maintenance; emergency response services; and administration and infrastructure. The Ontario Policing Standards Manual was revised to contain guidelines and sample police services board policies to assist police services in understanding and implementing the police Services Act and its regulations, including the Adequacy Standards Regulation. To date, the Manual has included 70 separate guidelines, establishing a framework to provide consistent police service delivery in the province of Ontario. All police services were to be compliant with the Adequacy Standards Regulation by January 1, 2001.

As a result of the Adequacy Standards, Ontario police services have undergone wide-ranging change to fulfill mandated requirements. It is a challenge, however, to provide the increased service delivery required because it places additional strain on already limited human and financial resources. In particular, the increased pressure on financial resources has caused municipalities to question the actual costs for which they are responsible. Certain costs such as hours dedicated to training to meet standards, and the creation of newly mandated positions are visible so can be quantified. What are not readily calculable are the service delivery costs, as there are any number of variables that directly impact such matters as investigation time and service delivery.

The fact that not all the impacts of the Adequacy Standards are transparent presents a challenge for quantitative analysis. Although some police services implemented strategies before the Adequacy Standards became effective, they have to be considered in any quantitative analysis as impacts of the Adequacy Standards. The reason for this is that prior to the Adequacy Standards, even where police services implemented the voluntary standards, they always had the option of decreasing, altering, or removing those specific initiatives. For the most part, the officers used to fill the new positions were taken directly from front-line, uniformed patrol personnel. Now, because of the Adequacy Standards, police organizations are mandated to supply certain services to the public and cannot arbitrarily decide to remove them. The positions therefore cannot be returned to regular front line duties. In addition, the Adequacy Standards require officers to have the knowledge, skills and abilities, in other words, appropriate training courses, before being placed in certain roles whereas, before the Adequacy Standards were introduced, the officers could have been working in their assigned areas for months or years before attending courses. The end result has a direct impact on the financial resources of police services.

Special Purpose Bodies

Canada has an extensive history of local government restructuring and reform. Some legacies of the past should be kept in mind as we look at the contemporary period: our inheritance from the turn-of-the-century urban reform movement, specifically the creation of local special purpose bodies, operating at arm’s length from municipal councils, and the emphasis on managing urban growth through annexation and amalgamation, or through the creation of special purpose bodies who mandate across municipal boundaries1 . Local special purpose bodies are the agencies, boards, and commissions charged with responsibility for single purpose functions at the local level.2

The use of special purpose bodies to perform local functions is controversial. Tony Clement, the former Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, stated,

I believe that the Government of Ontario should sooner, rather than later, undertake a major review of all the boards and commissions and special purpose bodies across the province. The municipal taxpayer funds all of these agencies and yet in many cases, the municipal council is held at arm’s length. This is simply no longer acceptable in a world where budgets are tight and the full costs of the services offered by a municipality should be measured against the larger demands of the populace.3

A police services board by definition and design is a specific special purpose body. In 1990, in response to criticism, the Police Services Act changed the name of police commissions to police services boards and modified their mandate. In addition, in response to the concern of municipalities that they were a minority on the boards responsible for providing services within their jurisdictions, they were guaranteed three of five seats on regional and metropolitan police services boards where previously they had held only two and the Province three. The difficulty now is that tension can erupt between a police service board and its municipal government during the budget approval process, when significant expenditures requested by the police department have to compete with the demands of other municipal departments. In effect, the municipality now has more control over the purse strings of the municipal police service.

This tension is exacerbated by two legislative requirements contained in the Police Services Act. Section 31 states that there shall be a police services board for every municipality that maintains a police force, and the board is responsible for the provision of adequate and effective police services in the municipality4 but, under section 3, the provincial Solicitor General “shall, (a) monitor police forces to ensure that adequate and effective police services are provided at the municipal and provincial levels; and (b) monitor boards and police forces to ensure that they comply with prescribed standards of service”5

This duality of responsibility creates a dilemma: who actually controls and directs municipal policing? This question has been addressed by many authors, but has been stated most succinctly by Paul McKenna:

“There has been a long standing point of debate over the unique status of such police agencies, largely due to the overriding significance of police legislation that establishes an accountability regime that is different from other municipal departments”6

The reality is that police services and, by extension, police services boards serve two masters. Yet, the provincial government clearly attempted to divest itself of policing, stating that, “The avowed purpose of these shifts has been to disentangle provincial-municipal relations and to shift responsibility for a service to the level of government that is best able to deliver it.”7 The difficulty in this move towards disentanglement is that the province continues to direct through the Adequacy Standards the level and quality of police service that municipalities must maintain, but does not fund the training and capital expenditures required to meet these standards. In effect, the costs of meeting provincial standards have been downloaded to the municipal level. This reality was expressed by Alvin Curling, a member of the provincial legislature. He said:

No matter what kinds of standards the Solicitor General has announced, the fact remains that municipalities, which would be required to pay the bulk of the costs of training, may not be able to afford to really effect the kind of police training that is needed.8

Financial Implications

As stated previously in this paper, the true costs downloaded to municipalities as a direct result of the Adequacy Standards are difficult to quantify as they are not necessarily transparent. There are however, some areas where costs can be quantified; in particular in the area of training.

Besides prescribing service requirements for police services, the Adequacy Standards Regulation also require police personnel to have the knowledge, skills and abilities to perform their roles. In some cases the knowledge must be obtained through Ministry accredited training, such as approved Ontario Police College courses. Larger police services have become regional training centres and are expected to develop training courses for their own personnel and for surrounding smaller services. There is an advantage to having an in-house course in that the service is able to train more officers at one time at a reduced cost but, in some cases, courses must receive accreditation through the Ministry of the Solicitor General, namely the Ontario Police College is an agency of the Ministry.

With respect to the Emergency Response section of the Policing Standards Manual, the Ministry accredited standards set very specific guidelines regarding the skills, abilities, and equipment that must be possessed and used by specialty teams. The Standards mandate specific training that requires expensive capital expenditures for such facilities as close quarter battle firearms ranges and explosive forced entry training sites by police services. Many smaller police services have struggled to meet the prescribed standards, in some cases relying upon larger departments to provide training and contracting with them for such specific services as emergency response and forensic investigation. In some cases local services have been disbanded in favour of regionalization or contract policing with the Ontario Provincial Police.

In each of these cases, there are a number of externalities. For example, when larger police services train smaller services it produces a positive externality in better coordination, proficiency and integration of cross-jurisdictional investigations. In contrast, service contracts for specialized services can produce negative externalities. When a larger police organization enters into an agreement provide a particular service, it must do so upon demand of the smaller service whether or not the larger organization has exigent circumstances requiring attention in its own jurisdiction. Although there is an element of cost recovery, the end result is that two municipalities exchange money to support services mandated at the provincial level. In addition, the larger municipality incurs costs greater than cost recovery arrangements can provide. For example, in a service agreement for the use of a tactical unit, the smaller service does not incur the capital expenditures and ongoing operational and training costs to maintain such a unit. These costs are absorbed by the larger service.

Another example of a positive externality provided by the Adequacy Standards relates to the recommendations of the Campbell Commission of Inquiry into the Paul Bernardo investigation. As a result of its recommendations, a province-wide major case management model was developed and subsequently enshrined in the Adequacy Standards. This has led to greater sharing of information and investigative resources among police services which, in turn, will contribute to safer communities. There are numerous other examples of the Adequacy Standards leading to positive externalities in the province but they come at a cost which, up to this point, has fallen squarely upon the shoulders of municipalities to bear (notwithstanding the costs incurred by the Ontario Provincial Police which is a provincially-funded organization).

It is clear that the implementation of the Adequacy Standards has had a dramatic impact upon police service delivery, and that municipalities continue to bear the burden of the cost while the province continues to chart the course through legislation and control over local police service boards. The question then becomes whether the provincial government should assume a portion of the costs of meeting the standards. The provincial government is in a position to provide conditional grants, or transfer payments, to a wide variety of worthy initiatives at the municipal level, with the understanding that while local governments are best positioned to provide services, the externalities are substantial enough to warrant provincial intervention.9

According to David Siegel, “The main rationale for the use of conditional transfers is to compensate a municipality for interjurisdictional spillovers or for externalities that occur when expenditures made by one locality benefit other jurisdictions.”10 This statement refers directly to the responsibility of the provincial government to provide transfer payments to subsidize policing in situations where these spillovers (externalities) occur. Siegel goes on to say that “Provincial governments also use conditional grants to encourage or enforce standardization of services across the entire provinces.”.11 With the implementation of the Adequacy Standards, the provincial government has surely incurred this obligation and conditional grants should be a natural progression in the process. To date, however, no funds have been forthcoming.

The impact upon annual operating and capital budgets is staggering, and without transfer payments to offset the costs, the municipalities must absorb the amount. Many local governments are demanding that true costs be calculated and quantitatively documented at budget time, but the most police services are unable to grasp this elusive figure, relying upon anecdotal evidence.

As Caroline Andrews has stated, “One of the major pressures facing all governments today is that of expenditures: municipalities as well as the provinces are trying to cut their budgets in ways that are politically palatable, or the least harmful politically. Strategies are relatively limited: it is possible to cut services and simply argue that they are not needed, but it is obviously more attractive politically to argue that they are not needed, but it is obviously more attractive politically to argue that the services will be assumed by someone else. This “somebody else” could be the private sector or another level of government”12 In other words, it is politically expedient for the province to download the costs to the municipal level and thereby force the municipality to decide which services to cut and which to keep.


It is clear that the requirements of the Adequacy Standards have impacted Ontario municipal police services and their respective service boards significantly. These impacts have resulted in substantial increases in training hours, investigative demands, and capital expenditures to the organizations. These impacts can be readily translated into additional costs that must be accounted for in police services board budgets approved at the municipal level.

An examination of the relevant legislation governing police services clearly indicates that the province controls the quality of police service delivery, yet does not contribute directly to the increased costs of implementing the legislated standards. In short, the provincial government sets the standards, maintains a quality assurance unit to ensure compliance, and further mandates inter-service agreements for specialized service delivery. This last point indicates recognition at the provincial level of the obvious externalities that exist in the policing industry, and all indications are that they accept responsibility for funding, through conditional grants, service delivery which results in such inter-jurisdictional spillovers. Why then do they resist such funding for police services?

The answer perhaps lies in the inability of most police services to develop the necessary methodology to empirically demonstrate the true flow-through costs attributable to the Adequacy Standards. Until police services can demonstrate the true costs, they will continue to rely upon anecdotal commentary to support municipal budget increases, and be unable to rally the necessary interest of municipal governments to successfully lobby the provincial level for an increase in transfer funds.

Indications from the provincial governments are that the Adequacy Standards mandates will continue to increase, and therefore continue to play a major role in policing. With this in mind, it is incumbent upon police services and their respective service boards to devote further study to the ongoing financial implications.


1. Katherine A. Graham and Susan D. Phillips with Allan M. Maslove, Urban Governance in Canada, Toronto: 1998, Harcourt, Brace & Company, p. 65.

2. Ibid, p. 36.

3. Tony Clement, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, “Executive Summary Local Government Reform Hamilton - Wentworth”, Nov. 26, 1999, Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing Press Releases, Online - May 15, 2000.

4. Ibid, p. 59

5. Ibid, p. 8

6. Paul F. McKenna, Foundations of Community Policing in Canada, Toronto: 1998, Prentice-Hall, Canada Inc., pp. 278.

7. D. Siegel, “Urban Finance at the Turn of the Century: Be Careful of What You Wish For”, in E. P. Fowler and D. Siegel (eds.), Urban Policy Issues: Canadian Perspectives, Don Mills, Ontario: 2002, Oxford University Press, p. 51.

8. Ontario Legislature records, Wed. Nov. 18, 1992, _debates/35_parl/session2/estimates/e030.htm

9. Andrew Sancton, "Systems of Urban Government", Advanced Local Government Course Material, Local Government Program, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario: 2003, p. 37.

10. David Siegel, "Urban Finance at the turn of the Century: Be Careful of What You Wish For", in E. P. Fowler and David Siegel, Urban Police Issues: Canadian Perspectives, Toronto: 2002, Oxford University Press, pp. 36-53.

11. Ibid. p. 47.

12. C. Andrew, "Provincial-Municipal Relations; or Hyper-Fractionalized Quasi-Subordination Revisited", in James Lightbody, ed., Canadian Metropolitics: Governing Our Cities, Toronto: 1995, Copp Clark Ltd., 1995.