The Function of Police Forces in the Canadian State

The Function of Police Forces in the Canadian State

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The Function of Police Forces in the Canadian State

The origins of contemporary policing started in the late 1800s, but its roots trace back to the colonies. The establishment of the Canadian police marked a significant shift from traditional Anglo-Saxon policing practices, but the underpinning functions remained largely similar. While it is illogical to place police functions into a singular statement, the class readings highlight that police forces in the early Canadian state had multiple roles dependent on dominant societal context. Policing focused mostly on tow functions; making the populace behave themselves and protecting the vulnerable from harm. However, protecting the interests of the status quo and the government was a secondary role for law enforcement that would become apparent in times of social disorder. While law enforcement focused primarily on ensuring rabbles behave themselves and defenseless people are free from harm, ensuring nobody rebelled against the government and protecting the interests of affluent citizens were roles not beyond the police.

Guaranteeing social order and freedom from harm were the primary functions of the police force in the early Canadian state. Maintaining order by making the crowd behave themselves best describes the function of police forces in the Canadian state. Toronto Star’s (1914) article informs that the police had a morality department that addressed family and social issues, including bad romance, alcoholism and alimony payments. Social order was equally maintained criminal investigations and persecuting guilty parties. The police stations were known to hold a significant number of waifs and strays at any moment in time. The Globe’s (1886) article states that the police were responsible for retrieving stolen property. The retrieval of stolen property highlights the interplay between the role of protecting people from physical and financial damage and the protection of private interests.

The police are often called to restore social order in instances where individuals or parties seek to challenge the status quo. Dissent against the government or threats to the interests of private citizens were halted using police force. For instance, In Toronto, a group of boys were brought to trial for being a frequent nuisance to Sumach Street residents (Clark, 1898). The case was cited as an example of over-policing in the suburbs to protect the interests of affluent citizens. There was an equally above-average police presence in the coal mines when workers threatened to unionize and not work. Such cases denote the use of judicial force to protect the interests of private citizens or corporations.


(1870). Trouble among the labourers. Daily Morning News, p.2.

(1886). The police department. The Globe, p.2.

Clark, C. S. (1898). Of Toronto the good: A social study. The Toronto Publishing Company.

(1914). City’s wife deserters paid police $13000 in alimony. Toronto Star Weekly, p.9.

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