Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This chapter provides an overview of the multiple sites where the governance of police in a democratic society is negotiated, with examples and solutions drawn from policy documents, public inquiries, legislation, and case law. Multiple factors bear on the ways that this intricately structured legal relationship is worked out in day-to-day situations, including political, institutional and legal influences. Bearing in mind the political and institutional contexts, this chapter examine the legal instruments and institutions that both structure the relationship and are part of resolving the inevitable conflicts that arise between these two very general concepts. The central argument is that these relationships have evolved in various ways into a partnership, negotiated daily at various sites within the legal and constitutional systems.

Many of these negotiations take place informally and out of public view while others are managed by the courts in individual cases. Issues only occasionally emerge as a matter of public concern and are usually perceived as an aberration or ‘crisis’. These crises can be identified in individual contexts, for example in Charter motions in criminal cases, or in civil law suits against the police, and in institutional settings, often precipitated by media controversy. The minority generate sufficient challenge to legitimacy that special responses evolve or are called upon: such as legislative change and new modes of civilian review; and Public Inquiries, often driven by community and media pressures. In all cases, it is argued, better outcomes would be achieved if both police actors and judicial and political decision makers were better informed about the history of the relationship and the reasons for doctrines.

These arguments are made with the use of examples from police services across the country, including the RCMP, and a case study of the governance of the Toronto Police service, to demonstrate how police are actually regulated, and the ways that the theory of accountability to the rule of law operates at different sites.