Policing the Wild North-West: A Sociological Study of the Provincial Police in Alberta and Saskatchewan, 1905-32

By Zhiqiu Lin | Go to book overview

3 THE SHIFT IN THE OBJECTS
OF POLICE CONTROL IN
THE PRAIRIE PROVINCES

As we discussed earlier, to understand the objects of police control is important for our investigation of the police professionalization process. Existing studies in the objects of police control are based primarily on the analysis of the relationship between police and crime in urban com munities. There is as yet no study on the question of how the objects of police control were transformed in rural communities while a police force undertook the professionalization process. The empirical study of the shift in police control has been based primarily on the analyses of arrest rates and police strength available in the annual reports of various urban police forces. This approach is based on the understanding that police behaviour could adequately account for the variations in arrest statistics.1 Monkkonen, as an exponent of the theory, claims that “the variations in the arrest rate came from changing police behaviour … rather than changing criminal behaviour.”2

Employing Monkkonen’s perspective, we examine the objects of pro vincial police control through analyzing crime trends as well as their correlation with police strength during 1906–50. This forty-five-year time frame allows us to understand changes in the function of the provincial police and the differences between the RNWMP and the provincial po lice in terms of their policing priorities. For these purposes, six variables concerning arrests for various crimes and police strength were created from the police annual reports.3 The variables are (1) total arrest rate for crimes under the Criminal Code of Canada, (2) arrest rate for serious crime, (3) arrest rate for public order offences, (4) arrest rate for offences against the person, (5) arrest rates for offences against property, and (6) police strength rate.4 These crime rates measure only crime trends in rural areas in Alberta and Saskatchewan because the RNWMP and the

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