Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change is a comprehensive and critical examination of Canadian policing from its colonial origins to its response to the February 2022 blockades and occupations. Police shootings in June 2020 should dispel any complacency that Canada does not face similar policing problems as the United States, and a vicious circle of overpolicing and underprotection plagues many intersecting disadvantaged groups. Multiple accountability measures — criminal investigations, Charter litigation, complaints, and discipline — have not improved Canadian policing. What is required is more active and proactive governance by the boards, councils, and ministers that are responsible for Canada’s police. Governance should respect law enforcement independence and discretion while rejecting overbroad claims of police operational independence and self-governance.
Even before pandemic-related deficits, the costs of the public police were not sustainable — these budgets require fundamental change without expansion. Such change should include greater service delivery by more expert and cost-effective health, social service, and community agencies. Indigenous police services — unfortunately, Canada’s only chronically and unconstitutionally underfunded police services — can also play a positive role. To that end, Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change offers concrete proposals for reforms to the RCMP, use of force policies, better community safety plans, and more democratic policing.
After George Floyd: June 2020
The Vicious Circle of Overpolicing and Underprotection
The Limits of Legalized and After-the-Fact Accountability
Paralyzed and Divided Undergovernance
The Unsustainable Costs of the Public Police
Broader Approaches to Community and Officer Safety and Well-Being
Decolonizing Policing in Indigenous Communities
What Is to Be Done with the RCMP?
“I was born on a First Nation Reserve at a time when over-policing was palpable and directed at enforcing our lives as authorized by government policies like the pass system and legislation like the Indian Act. I served Canada for eleven years as a trial judge and fourteen years as the first ever Indigenous judge to serve on an appellate court in Canada. I believed this lived experience made me as knowledgeable as anyone about Canadian policing. Turns out, I was wrong. This book by Professor Kent Roach has reminded me of what I have said many times: anything written by him is a chance to learn something vital about our system of justice. This book is a shock to the system and a lesson about what makes a healthier society. Professor Roach lives up to his global reputation as a criminal law expert; reminds us about dark pieces of our history; and does so in clear and compelling prose, concluding with how we can be a better nation and a more just society.”
The Honourable Harry LaForme
“Kent Roach’s book, Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change, is the most thorough and best-researched account of the problematic aspects of policing in contemporary Canada. It is an indispensable guide to citizens and scholars on the costs and effectiveness of policing, as well as police structures and the accountability of police to elected governments.”
Peter Russell O.C.
Professor of Political Science Emeritus
University of Toronto
“Professor Roach has once again shone a bright light on the under-theorised area of policing in Canada. This time he has gone beyond analysis and offers the reader a path forward to address underlying issues bedevilling public confidence in policing in this country. I recommend his book to anyone with a passing interest in the subject of Canadian policing in the twenty-first century.”
Ian R. Scott, former head of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit
“Canadian Policing: Why and How It Must Change by Kent Roach is a timely and persuasive commentary on policing in Canada, with thoughtful suggestions for reform. In Canadian Policing, Roach provides necessary context and perspective for the current issues relating to the law and governance of policing in Canada — it is an engaging and essential read for all who are interested in this topic.”
Kate Puddister, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science
University of Guelph
“With characteristic erudition and urgency about the issues that most trouble our legal system and those subject to it, Kent Roach delivers an essential anatomy of the crises facing Canadian policing and the experiences of communities who suffer the harms of the ‘vicious circle of over-policing and under-protection.’ Taking his cue from social movements and public debate calling for reform or abolition of policing as we currently know it, Roach guides the reader through the history and structure of policing institutions, governance, and oversight, all the while inviting us to imagine different futures for policing in Canada. This is a book filled with critical analysis and keen insight, but it is defined by its ethic of care: care for vulnerable and marginalized communities, for the individuals called on to discharge the heavy burdens of policing, and ultimately, for the justice of our legal system.”
Benjamin L. Berger
Professor and York Research Chair in Pluralism and Public Law
Osgoode Hall Law School
“We need to have the political courage to openly examine current systems and practices in the policing world, and it starts with understanding the facts. Rule of law in a democracy requires consent of the people, and where the law is or is perceived to be illegitimate, discriminatory, or unfair, we risk losing that consent, so there is a lot at stake. This book provides a solid foundation of some difficult facts and is a must-read for all involved in the policy process relating to law enforcement. Police have millions of inconsequential and positive interactions with the public and we need police. But it’s the bad stuff that has to be reviewed as the springboard for better policies to be developed. Professor Roach’s contribution here will hopefully move the needle.”
David Asper, Q.C.
Former Dean of the Faculty of Law
University of Manitoba