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 many of us the thought of encountering the police can be stressful. We immediately think that we will be reprimanded or worse, arrested. This should not be the case as the police are our allies, especially if you have done nothing wrong.

You have rights

Remember that you have rights even if you are a new member of the community. You cannot be harmed or abused just because you are an immigrant. With these rights come responsibilities. Each of us is responsible for maintaining the peace and order of our neighborhood. When dealing with the police, the general rule is to cooperate. Do not be defensive or disrespectful because they are just doing their job.

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

Tips for 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 may ask why they are stopping you.
  2. They may request to see your driver’s licence, registration, and insurance and ask a few questions. You have the right to remain silent. However, answering simple questions is often easier. Nevertheless, you cannot be punished for refusing to answer a question.
  3. They may ask to do a roadside breath test if you are suspected to be drinking alcohol. If you fail this, you will be asked to take a breathalyser test. If you say no to this procedure, your licence can be suspended.
  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 an 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). This is an independent agency that investigates public complaints regarding the police. For complaints against the members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), call 1-800-665-6878 or go to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP for more information.

If the police knock on your door

  1. 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 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 your rights and tell you the reason you are being arrested.
  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. Read Your constitutional rights upon arrest (Legal line.ca).

If you need help or wish to report a crime

  1. Call 9-1-1 if it is a situation where imminent danger is present. 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. Visit Brandon Police Service, Winkler Police Service, Morden Police Service, Altona Police Service for more information. You can also reach these stations by using 9-1-1 in emergency cases.
  4. Find and contact a specific RCMP detachment in Manitoba on this page. You can search by city or postal code.

To know more about Canada’s justice system, go to the Department of Justice website. If you need legal help, please refer to the Community resources below for free legal aid or assistance.
 
Article updated March 16, 2021.

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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.

Know more about acts and regulations specific to Manitoba law on its online version. Use the search tool on the menu to look for specific acts or regulations within the site.

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Dealing with the police

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