While a large majority of Canada’s police do an excellent job of protecting us from crime and threats, there are some exceptions to this rule. Across Canada and Ontario, there has been an increasing number of reports over the last few years of police officers acting inappropriately or unreasonably with the general public.
Given the authority of the police, it is understandable that many victims of police misconduct feel they are helpless and unable to seek retribution against law enforcement officers. However, police officers are just as accountable to the law as the public and must follow strict regulations in their profession.
In this post, we will be explaining what Canadians and Ontarians can do if they believe they or someone close to them has been a victim of police misconduct.
Police misconduct is inappropriate behaviour caused by one or more police officers, who may be on or off duty. Police misconduct may involve exploiting their privileges as a law enforcement officer such as harassing somebody without reason or being unnecessarily physical against one or more individuals.
However, not all police misconduct is physical, a police officer might also make inappropriate comments about a victim for their appearance, gender, sexuality, race, or religion. Police misconduct may also violate your civil rights, such as your right to protest. This was the case in a series of violations committed by Toronto’s police force during the G-20 summit in 2010.
Police misconduct can occur in a variety of different situations, including:
Police misconduct is a serious incident and, in some exceptional cases, can put the victim’s life at risk.
While Canada’s police force does an exceptional job at protecting our citizens from crime, there is a small portion of the police force that behaves inappropriately. Reports of police misconduct have been increasing across Canada as more victims become aware of their civil rights and evidence of police misconduct becomes apparent through social media.
Here in Ontario, there has been a spate of reports concerning police brutality, including a young officer who carried out a violent arrest of a man in Barrie.
Toronto has also been a hub for reports of police misconduct. In fact, multiple studies and investigations are ongoing due to an alarming tendency for black people to be unfairly targeted by police officers for wrongful arrests or searches.
Police misconduct may be seen as a civil or criminal case depending on the nature of the incident. Therefore, if you believe you are a victim of police misconduct or brutality, your first call should be a lawyer. You should discuss your experience with your lawyer to determine what you need to do next.
If the incident is determined to be a criminal act, especially if you are severely wounded or a victim of police fraud, then the offending officer may be charged and held in custody until further notice. Depending on the severity of the charge, the charged officer(s) may receive the opportunity to leave custody on bail. If a police officer is on bail, they will likely be unable to work and will be forbidden from contacting you. If they break this condition, they will be immediately reprimanded and taken back into custody.
During the investigation, you will likely be questioned by the police to determine more about the incident. You may also have to make a court appearance. It is understandable that you may feel anxious by interacting with the police again, however you do have the right to keep your lawyer by your side during this.
If your case is deemed a civil issue, you will have the opportunity to make a lawsuit. Suing the police can be an uphill battle, which is why legal advice and representation is highly recommended to have a successful case. The police officer(s) in question will likely have a lawyer working against your claim, therefore it is important you cooperate with your own lawyer to gather any evidence or witness statements that will support your case.
If successful, you will likely receive a sum of money (a settlement) for your suffering. The police officer will be sanctioned and may be suspended or permanently unable to work in the police force.
If you believe you have been a victim of police mistreatment or misconduct during a criminal investigation, you should not attempt to carry this trauma with you alone. By acting with a lawyer to hold those officers accountable, you can help make law enforcement safer for the public.