Description of Policing in B.C.
Under the Police Act the Ministry must ensure that an adequate and effective level of policing and law enforcement is maintained throughout B.C. Policing in the province is provided mainly by the RCMP (federal, provincial and municipal forces) and independent police departments, including one First Nations administered police service.
There are also several agencies that provide supplemental policing in B.C. For example, in the lower mainland area of the province, the South Coast British Columbia Transit Authority Police Service provides policing on and around the transit system – this police service is supplemental to jurisdictional police. Similarly, the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railway police forces provide specialized law enforcement within the province. There are also enhanced police services at the Vancouver International Airport, dedicated First Nations police services operating in numerous communities, and a number of integrated teams operating throughout the province.
Police Services Division (see About Us page on this website) produces a publication called Police Resources in British Columbia. The publication provides an overview of policing functions and responsibilities as well as information on police resources and costing for municipal, provincial and First Nations policing jurisdictions.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada's national police force. The RCMP is unique because it is the only police force in the world that serves as federal, provincial and municipal police services. As the federal police force, the RCMP enforces federal statutes across the province and is responsible for border integrity and national security, drugs and organized crime, financial crime and international policing.
For more information, see Federal and International Operations on the RCMP website.
The RCMP is B.C.'s provincial police force. The RCMP provincial force can be broken into two main categories: detachment policing and the provincial police infrastructure.
Detachment policing provides local police services to municipalities under 5,000 population and unincorporated (often rural) areas throughout the province. Detachment policing includes uniformed patrols, response-to-call duties, investigative services, community-based policing, traffic enforcement and administrative support to provincial detachments.
In addition to detachment policing, the RCMP provincial force maintains the policing infrastructure for the province. This infrastructure has the capacity and expertise to resolve high risk incidents, target organized crime, gang violence and serial crimes, respond to existing and emerging crime trends and to provide security and policing services for large scale community events and emergencies. The provincial force also includes capital-intensive items such as boats and planes and provincial operational communications centres which provide dispatch services to all provincial and municipal police units outside the lower mainland. Under the umbrella of the provincial police force, the provincial police infrastructure provides services to the entire province including municipalities with independent police forces.
The RCMP in British Columbia is referred to administratively as E-Division. For more information see the RCMP in BC website.
Under the Police Act, municipalities with populations over 5,000 are responsible for providing policing and law enforcement within their municipal boundaries. These municipalities may form their own independent municipal police department, contract with an existing independent police department or contract with the provincial government for RCMP municipal police services.
There are two different cost-sharing formulas for municipalities with RCMP contracts:
- Municipalities with populations between 5,000 to 14,999 persons are responsible for 70 percent of the cost-base described in the agreement; the federal government pays the remaining 30 percent.
- Municipalities with populations of 15,000 persons and greater are responsible for 90 percent of the cost-base described in the agreement; the federal government pays the remaining 10 percent.
In 2013 there were 63 municipalities in B.C. that contracted with the Province for RCMP municipal police services. The RCMP operates stand-alone detachments for many individual municipalities in B.C. The RCMP also operates regional and integrated detachments in many areas of the province. An integrated detachment is comprised of two or more municipal and/or provincial police units working out of the same detachment building. For example, the North Vancouver detachment houses three policing units: two municipal (North Vancouver city and North Vancouver district) and one provincial (North Vancouver provincial). In integrated detachments, RCMP members from each policing unit report to one commanding officer and usually provide services to the combined provincial and municipal policing areas.
The regional detachment structure adds another layer to integration. Regional detachments offer a central point of management, coordination and comptrollership for multiple integrated or stand-alone detachments in the area. For example, the Kelowna Regional Detachment is located in the City of Kelowna and the Kelowna municipal unit is the only policing unit that works out of that building. However, the West Kelowna Integrated Detachment (consisting of the West Kelowna municipal unit and the Kelowna provincial unit) and the Lake Country Detachment (consisting of the Lake Country municipal unit) fall under the umbrella of the Kelowna Regional Detachment. These types of arrangements allow for specialized and/or administrative police services to be delivered regionally.
Twelve municipalities in British Columbia are policed by eleven independent municipal police departments. The municipalities with independent police departments are: Abbotsford, Central Saanich, Delta, Esquimalt (policed by Victoria Police Department), Nelson, New Westminster, Oak Bay, Port Moody, Saanich, Vancouver, Victoria and West Vancouver.
These police departments are referred to as 'independent' as they are governed by the municipality's police board. The role of the police board is to provide general direction to the department, in accordance with the relevant legislation and in response to community needs. Each police board is chaired by the municipality's mayor, and consists of one person appointed by the municipal council and up to five people appointed by the Province. Police board members are civilians.
For more information on police boards see, Municipal Police Boards and Governance page on this website.
First Nations Policing
The Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service is currently the only First Nations administered police service in British Columbia. The Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service is a designated policing unit as established under section 4.1 of the Police Act. This police service is modeled on the structure of an independent municipal police department. Police officers recruited by the police board are either experienced officers or graduates from the Police Academy of the Justice Institute of British Columbia. All officers are appointed under the Police Act.
In other areas of the province, dedicated policing for First Nations communities is provided by First Nations Community Policing Services (FNCPS) program and the Aboriginal Community Constable Program (ACCP). Both FNCPS and ACCP are an enhancement to local policing services.
For more information, see First Nations Policing page on this website.
Integrated Policing Teams
There are a number of integrated teams in the province. Integrated teams provide services to more than one policing jurisdiction. These teams may be comprised of police officers from more than one police force, and/or multiple policing jurisdictions multiple jurisdictions may contribute to funding the team.
In B.C. there are three broad categories of integrated teams: federal, provincial and regional/municipal.
Federal integrated teams are funded primarily by the federal government and may include members from independent, municipal, provincial and/or federal forces. Federal integrated teams/programs are included under Federal Serious and Organized Crime (FSOC). FSOC is comprised of multi-discipline groups and teams such as those formerly known as Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET), Coordinated Marihuana Enforcement Team (CMET) and Integrated Proceeds of Crime (IPOC).
Provincial integrated teams are primarily funded by the provincial government and may include members from municipal (RCMP and independent), provincial and/or federal forces.Provincial integrated teams include:
- Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU)
- Integrated Road Safety Unit
- Integrated Child Exploitation Team (ICE)
- Hate Crime Task Force
- Integrated Sexual Predator Observation Team (ISPOT)
- Integrated Witness Protection Services
- Project Evenhanded
- Unsolved Homicide Unit
Regional integrated teams are formed to address concerns or provide services to specific regions of the province. These teams may include members from municipal (RCMP and independent), provincial and/or federal police services. For example, the Lower Mainland Forensic Identification Service (FIS) provides service to all RCMP municipal and provincial policing jurisdiction in the RCMP Lower Mainland District. The cost of these teams is generally shared between the participating jurisdictions according to a pre-determined funding formula.
South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Police
In 2005 the South Coast British Columbia Transit Police Service was established by B.C.'s Solicitor General as a designated policing unit under section 4.1 of the Police Act. This police unit provides policing and law enforcement on and around the lower mainland transit system and is commonly referred to as the Transit Police. Transit police services are supplemental to the policing already provided by the 21 police jurisdictions the transit system passes though. Transit police officers have the same authorities and powers as other police officers while enforcing the Criminal Code of Canada, other federal statutes and provincial laws.
For more information see the Transit Police website.
CN and CP Railway Police Forces
The Canadian National (CN) Railway Police and the Canadian Pacific (CP) Police Service both operate in British Columbia. These unique police forces are responsible for policing the property owned or administered by the respective railway company and the protection of persons and property on those lands. CN and CP railway police officers are sworn under the federal Railway Safety Act and have the same powers of arrest as other police officers in Canada.
For more information see the Security page on the CN Rail website or the CP Police Service page on the CP Rail website.
Community Policing – Auxiliary/Reserve Constables
British Columbia’s Auxiliary/Reserve Constable Program strengthens community and police partnerships by providing an opportunity for citizen volunteers to perform authorized activities in support of strategies to address the causes of, or reduce the fear of, crime and disorder.
The volunteers participate in community policing and crime prevention activities under the direct supervision of a police officer or under the general supervision of the detachment or department.
Some of the activities Auxiliary/Reserve Constables may participate in include ride-alongs, assisting at community events, presenting crime prevention initiatives in schools, conducting traffic control, doing foot or bike patrols, participating in search and rescue, parades and other ceremonial events.
The following document is the provincial policy on Auxiliary/Reserve constables:
Contact your local police detachment to find out more about the Auxiliary/Reserve Constable Program and for information on how to apply – see Police Contact Information page on this website.