Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This chapter critically examines two central questions. First, what are the mechanisms which constrain and define executive accountability and police oversight in Canada? Second, can the need for the police to remain above partisan politics and beyond manipulation by the government of the day be reconciled with these mechanisms of governance and accountability? Sossin argues that an apolitical and autonomous model is best suited to the dynamics of policing in a constitutional democracy such as Canada, and has the potential to balance the need for political input into policing while countering inappropriate political interference in policing.

The executive-police relationship is shaped by multiple and overlapping forms of oversight, from internal review and disciplinary investigations to judicial and public inquiries. These multiple and overlapping forms of executive oversight are often criticized as unwieldy, incoherent and ineffective. The problem with the present system of executive-police oversight is its lack of overarching vision and coherence. Police commentators tend too easily to fall into pro-police and anti-police camps and these polarized groups tend to talk at each other rather than too each other. Governance and institutional structures reflect this bipolar situation.

This bipolar political backdrop is complicated by the policy/operational distinction on which the involvement of the executive in policing often turns. Sossin argues that the policy/operation dichotomy is maintained not because it accords with a readily identifiable boundary but rather because we have yet to discover any other way of distinguishing legitimate government interests from illegitimate ones. The “apolitical and autonomous” model of policing represents an alternative framework for discerning the boundary between legitimate and illegitimate executive involvement in policing. The goal of this ideal type to create a legal, administrative and political framework in which neither the police nor the executive can unilaterally impose its will on the other, and in which, as a result, avenues for deliberation and dialogue must be pursued.