Policing Disorder: Calgary Transit Peace Officers and the Alberta Law Enforcement Framework

By Whitelaw, Brian; Smith, Ron et al. | Canadian Public Administration, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Policing Disorder: Calgary Transit Peace Officers and the Alberta Law Enforcement Framework


Whitelaw, Brian, Smith, Ron, Hansen, Stephen, Canadian Public Administration


Introduction

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. …

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