Kent Roach on how Canadian policing works (and doesn't)

We sat down with Kent Roach on Free Lunch By The Peak to dive into how the Canadian policing system works, and his argument on why and how it should change for the better. 

At a high-level, how does policing work in Canada? 

“We have about 136 police services, and about 30 Indigenous self-administered police services, generally falling under provincial jurisdiction. Then, of course, we have the RCMP, which covers areas of federal jurisdiction. All these services enforce criminal law, but the RCMP has special jurisdiction over matters of national security. There is lots of overlap.

What are some of the big issues with policing today? 

“In the book, I talk about a combination of over-policing and under-protection. As an example, let’s say you have police issuing tickets to unhoused people for camping. Most tickets will never be paid, so the public is basically paying for an expensive police officer to write a ticket that doesn't have much effect. Meanwhile, those people are then under-protected when they are victims of crime because they migrate to places where the police won’t bother them.”

How do officers feel about the state of policing? 

“Police officers that I've talked to would be more than happy to cede some of their activities. to those who are better trained at dealing with, let’s say, addictions or mental health. I think that they feel just as overwhelmed by it as the public. It’s very important that those other agencies can get the funding that they need. I so get the sense the police know that they are dealing with problems that they were probably never really designed to deal with.”

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. You can listen to the episode here, or search "Free Lunch by The Peak" wherever you listen to podcasts.