A fifth and final factor was that citizens, living in an increasingly liberal democracy, expected a more sophisticated approach to policing than the authoritarian approach that characterized many periods in Canada's past. As the powers of the state increased in Canada, incorporating ever widening responsibilities, citizens expected their police to assume an even broader and more public role. Its historical function would remain - to "preserve the peace" and promote harmony in society through enforcement of rules of conduct authorized by Parliament and legislatures. For citizens in a democratic society, however, the police had a new and additional responsibility: to act not only as the guarantors of order but the guarantors of equality before the law. The importance of greater citizen participation in criminal justice has recently been reaffirmed by the Law Commission of Canada in its publication, Transforming Relationships Through Participatory Justice.

Changing attitudes were not exclusively in the domain of ordinary citizens. Police forces too were changing and adopting more innovative approaches to law enforcement. They were not only continuing to apply newer scientific technologies such as finger-printing and breathalyzer testing but also incorporating knowledge about human behaviour from the field of criminology and from the social and behavioural sciences in general. These new insights into human behaviour not only increased police officers' understanding of the lives of criminals but were used to justify and solidify their own defense when they were publicly criticized for acting too aggressively. These issues are explored in more detail in a special issue of The Canadian Journal of Police & Security Services (Richard MacLennan, ed.) and in a recent essay on problems in training security personnel to kill (Baum "A Reporter").

Contrary to popular belief, democracies typically have levels of collective violence (as opposed to individual acts of violence) not commonly found in non-democratic countries. This occurs primarily because dissent is permitted and citizens can legally challenge public authorities (Torrance "The responses" 313). Those who choose to dissent and oppose the policies and practices of governmental authorities or the corporate world can, in a democracy, expect "fair treatment" despite the contrariness of their views and actions. Achieving a balance between freedom of expression and the need for various forms of social control is an essential component of a healthy democracy (Christopher MacLennan).

Democratic Control of the Police

Control of the police in a democracy occurs at three fundamental levels (Stone and Ward):

  • through the management and administrative operations of police departments (internal control);
  • through the state and its laws and legislation (external control); and
  • through various institutions of civil society (external control).