The PLEA: Canada's Legal System: An Introduction

The PLEA: Canada's Legal System: An Introduction

The Role of Police

The police help keep peace in society. They do this by patrolling public areas, providing public safety, investigating crimes, and participating in community programs.

The police cannot arrest anyone at any time without any evidence of a crime. Nor can the police arrest or punish people just because they dislike something about them or the way they look. The police do not have the power to arrest people on discriminatory grounds such as race, colour, religion, disability, sex, sexual orientation or age.

To arrest someone, the police need reasonable and probable grounds to believe that a person has committed, or is about to commit a serious crime. Reasonable grounds means that the police officer has a strong suspicion—and some evidence to back up that suspicion—that a crime was or will be committed. The officer can then arrest and search the person for further evidence.

It is important that if a person is placed under arrest, certain procedures are followed and certain rights are preserved. Our legal system includes a number of rights to ensure people under arrest are treated fairly.

Everyone has the right to know why they are being arrested. Everyone also has the right to remain silent when questioned by the police. If a statement is to be used against someone in court, it must be shown that it was made voluntarily. Statements made because a person is afraid or intimidated by threats or because they were promised some advantage are not truly voluntary. Such statements cannot be used as evidence and may be struck down by the court.

Consider: Bribing a Police Officer

The police are able to exercise some discretion when they encounter criminal activity. This means that for minor offences, sometimes the police may simply provide a warning.

However, this does not mean police can be unduly influenced.

This is well-illustrated by the story of a Toronto bar owner. In 2012, several people in the community complained that a bar was illegally selling liquor. The ongoing issue prompted police to set up an undercover operation.

The police found evidence that the bar was indeed illegally selling liquor. When they began to seize the liquor, the police alleged one of their officers was approached by the bar’s owner.

The owner was said to have offered the police $500 to stay away from the bar. The police turned down the offer, and instead charged the man with bribery and an attempt to obstruct justice.

  1. Attempting to bribe a police officer is a serious offence. How does such a law preserve the integrity of Canada’s justice system?
  2. Police officers will be of help in all kinds of situations. For example, if there has been an accident, theft, if someone has hurt you, or if you see a crime taking place, the police can help. Why is the trust that people put in police officers important to Canadian society?

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