About Board > History of Board

History of Boards

In most common law jurisdictions the responsibility for the provision of public police services was regarded as a local concern. Prior to the establishment of municipal governments, in England and Canada this service was fulfilled through the local office of the Justice of the Peace. Local constables and High Constables were sworn in by, and were accountable to this local judicial and administrative officer. With the arrival of local governments, this responsibility was passed on to the "Watch Committees" composed of members of the local elected municipal councils.

In 1858, the legislature of Upper Canada enacted the Municipal Institutions of Upper Canada Act, Section 374 of which provided that in each of the five cities in the colony there was to be a Board of Commissioners of Police. Section 379 provided that "The Constables shall obey all the lawful directions, and be subject to the government of the Board…" This section was gradually expanded to include other municipalities in the province.

The idea of a Board of Police Commissioners as a municipal police governing authority was taken from New York City in the United States, and was subsequently adopted in other Canadian jurisdictions, often with great modification as to its membership and authority.

The Police Act was enacted in the 1940's. Section 17 stated in part that "…the Board is responsible for the policing and maintenance of law and order in the municipality and the members of the police force are subject to the government of the Board and shall obey its lawful directions."

The Police Services Act took effect on January 1, 1991. The duties and responsibilities of police services boards are spelled out in Section 31.