Dealing with the police

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The members of the police force are sworn to protect people and are authorized to enforce the law. They issue tickets, make arrests, monitor criminal activity, investigate crimes, and generally keep the peace (that’s why they are called peace officers). However, for some of us, just the thought of encountering the police is a scary prospect. We jump to the conclusion that we could be reprimanded or worse, arrested. This should not be the case as the police are our allies, especially if you have done nothing wrong. So you shouldn’t worry.

As a new member of the community, remember that you have rights. You cannot be harmed or abused just because you are an immigrant. And with these rights come responsibilities. Part of being a good member of the society is that you help preserve the peace and order of your neighborhood. So the general rule here is that when you encounter the police, cooperate with them. Do not be defensive or disrespectful, as they are just doing their job.

“As a new member of the community, remember that you have rights. You cannot be harmed or abused just because you are an immigrant.”

Here are a few tips when dealing with the police in various situations:

If you are pulled over when driving

  1. Calmly pull over to the right side of the road and wait inside your car for the officer to approach you. You may ask why they are stopping you, but remember to do it politely.
  2. You may be asked to present your driver’s licence, registration and insurance. While you do have the right to remain silent, it will be good if you can respectfully answer their questions and cooperate, so long as it is within your rights.
  3. If you are suspected to be drinking alcohol, they may demand to do a roadside breath test. If you fail this, you will be asked to take a breathalyser test. If you refuse it, your licence can be taken away for 2 years. However, you can request to have a lawyer present when you take the test. (Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties).
  4. NEVER attempt to bribe a police officer.
  5. To know more about your rights and responsibilities as a motorist, read Manitoba’s Highway Traffic Act.
  6. If you feel that your rights have been violated by a peace officer after being pulled over, you can lodge a complaint at any Police Station or get in touch with the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA) which is an independent agency that investigates public complaints about police. For complaints against the members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), you can call 1-800-665-6878 or go to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP website for more information.

If the police knock on your door

  1. In Manitoba, an officer may not enter a house except with your consent or when they have a warrant (search or arrest).
  2. The police can enter your house in cases of emergencies. They can come in when they have followed someone into your home that they believe has committed an offence, or is about to commit an offence; if they believe that a person inside your home is about to harm another person; or if they need to provide emergency aid to someone inside your home. (Legal line.ca)
  3. If the police present you with a warrant, you have the right to read/inspect it (check the address, name, and the dates and hours they can conduct the search) and request for the officer’s official identification.
  4. For more about Inspection and search and seizure, read 241.1 (3) Entering a dwelling place of the Manitoba Highway Traffic Act.

If you are arrested

  1. The police must read you your rights and tell you what you are being arrested for.
  2. If you are under 18, notify the arresting officer. This is important since you have different rights (refer to Youth Justice on the Department of Justice site).
  3. You have the right to call your lawyer (and parents if under 18). If you do not have a lawyer, you will be given a chance to get free legal advice from Legal Aid duty counsel.
  4. To be aware of your constitutional rights when charged or arrested in Manitoba read this page from Legal line.ca.

If you need help or wish to report a crime

  1. If it is an urgent situation, call 911. To know what types of situations are urgent go to: 311 City Services Winnipeg. It also has useful guidelines on how to call 911.
  2. If you are in Winnipeg, the non-emergency number for the Winnipeg Police Service is 204-986-6222, with a 24-Hour Hearing Impaired line at 204-942-7920. You can also find a police station or service centre on this page: Police service districts.
  3. You can visit the Brandon Police Service, Winkler Police Service, Morden Police Service, Altona Police Service for more information. For emergency calls, you can reach these stations also by using 911.
  4. You can find and contact a specific RCMP detachment in Manitoba on this page. You can locate it by city or postal code.

To know more about Canada’s system of justice, go to the Department of Justice website. If you need more legal help, please refer to the Community resources below for free legal aid or assistance.

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Community Resources

You can ask a settlement services agency near you for assistance.

Legal Aid Manitoba provides legal advice for Manitobans and representation for low-income individuals.

The Community Legal Education Association has a Law Phone-in and Lawyer Referral Program which provides general legal information and advice over the phone. You can also go to the Law Society of Manitoba’s Lawyer Lookup, The Canadian Law List, or JusticeNet to look for a lawyer.

You can know more about acts and regulations specific to Manitoba law on its online version. You can even search specific acts or regulations using searches within the site.

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Dealing with the police

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