Policing in Ontario
Learn about the roles, standards and responsibilities of police services to ensure the safety of our communities.
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- set the standards for police services
- spell out who is responsible for police services how they will operate
The Police Services Act
- gives municipalities the responsibility for providing police services
- gives the Ministry of the Solicitor General the responsibility for interpreting the act and regulations, as well as the responsibility for inspecting the activities of Ontario’s police services
- identifies core activities for policing in Ontario
- describes six principles for police services to follow in carrying out those activities
Ontario’s police services:
- prevent crime
- enforce our laws
- help victims
- keep public order
- respond to emergencies
Ontario is the first province in Canada to have a Declaration of Principles written into its statutes. Ontario’s police are committed to the following six principles:
- Ensuring the safety and security of all people and property in Ontario.
- Safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- Working closely with the communities they serve.
- Respecting victims of crime and working to understand their needs.
- Being sensitive to the diverse, multiracial and multicultural character of Ontario society.
- Ensuring that police services are representative of the communities they serve.
The role of municipalities
Municipalities can provide police services for their citizens in several ways. They can:
- set up their own police service
- arrange with one or more municipalities to have a joint police service for the area
- hire the police service of another municipality
- hire the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP)
There are 43 municipal police services in Ontario, in addition to the OPP, for a total of 44. There are also nine self-administered First Nations police services in Ontario.
The role of the Ministry of the Solicitor General
The Ministry of the Solicitor General has a wide range of responsibilities for policing in Ontario. Under the act, the ministry is responsible for the following:
- Inspecting police services to make sure they comply with the act.
- The Ontario Police College, which trains police recruits and offers advanced training for experienced police officers and civilian employees of police services.
- The Ontario Provincial Police, which provides police services in some municipalities plus police service on the province’s highways, trails and waterways.
- Researching criminal justice trends that affect policing.
- Overseeing the Ontario operations of the Canadian Police Information Centre. This is a national database of information on wanted and missing persons, stolen vehicles and other crime-related issues.
Standards for police services
The standards that police services must meet are set out in the act and regulations such as the Adequacy and Effectiveness of Police Services regulation.
The Ministry of the Solicitor General maintains guidelines to help municipalities, police services boards, and police services understand how to follow the act and regulations. The guidelines:
- explains the ministry’s position on policy issues
- makes recommendations for police service board policies, police service procedures and programs
- helps police services coordinate their activities
- encourages community-oriented police services
- promotes professional police practices, standards and training
Inspecting Ontario’s police
The act gives the ministry the responsibility for inspecting Ontario’s police services. This ensures that communities in Ontario receive a consistent, high standard of policing. The ministry:
- regularly checks on police services to make sure they follow the act, the regulations and the guidelines
- helps local police service boards, community policing advisory committees, municipal chiefs of police to resolve questions or issues about policing and police services
Police service advisors
Police services advisors help municipal governments, police services and police services boards consider their options for providing local police services. The advisors:
- are always in contact with police services to help them solve problems
- train local police services boards to help them understand their responsibilities
Notice of collection — use of force and race data collection
Under the Anti-Racism Act, 2017, the ministry is required to collect data on:
- the race of individuals who have experienced a use of force when interacting with the police; and
- a member of the police force completes a Use of Force Report
Use of Force Reports
The police must complete Use of Force Reports, as per R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 926, Equipment and Use of Force under the Police Services Act. Examples of when a report is required include when a police officer:
- points a firearm at someone
- discharges a firearm
- uses a weapon on another person
- points a conducted energy weapon at a person
- discharges a conducted energy weapon
Police must include their perception of the person’s race, age and gender in the report. Designated staff in the police service review the reports and their chief of police, or designate, must submit information from the report to the ministry.
On January 1, 2023, police must use a new version of the Use of Force report. This new version collects additional information about individuals involved and more contextual information related to the incident. The ministry does not collect individuals’ names in the report.
The information gathered by the ministry is used to support the objectives of the Anti-Racism Act, 2017 to:
- identify, monitor and address potential systemic racism
- advance racial equity while maintaining the privacy of all individuals involved
The ministry also uses the information to inform and enhance police practices, standards and training.
For questions about police use of force reporting, contact the ministry’s Public Safety Division by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions about race data collection, contact Senior Manager, Anti-Racism Strategy and Analysis Unit at SolGen.ARSAU@ontario.ca
Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario
Criminal Intelligence Service Ontario (CISO) is a partnership between the Ontario government and the law enforcement community. It brings together police services and provincial and federal government agencies to identify and tackle organized crime across the province.
The CISO is part of a Canadian network of similar organizations that make up Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC).
What the CISO does
CISO links organizations that are responsible for:
- intelligence gathering
- criminal investigation
- enforcing provincial and federal laws
These connections make it possible for police and government to work together effectively to fight organized crime.
It also provides specialized intelligence training to police officers and funding to support major organized crime investigations targeting:
- street gangs
- illegal drug manufacturing
- weapons and cigarette smuggling
- auto theft rings
- money laundering
- illegal gambling
- identity theft
- black marketing
- human trafficking and human exploitation