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Respectful Encounters

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Respectful Encounters

This page has been written for the purposes of legal education. Its purpose is to present in a general and simplified manner the law in force in Quebec concerning police powers and duties, your obligations as citizens and advice when you consider that a police officer is showing a lack of respect or of politeness. Its content should therefore not be construed as legal advice or advice. To find out the specific rules or advice appropriate to your situation, consult a lawyer.


Does a police officer have the right to act in a disrespectful or rude manner with the public?

Article 5 of the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers states that a police officer or any other peace officer must behave in such a way as to preserve the trust and consideration required by his or her function, by acting in a professional manner, in particular by showing respect and by avoiding discriminatory acts towards the population he or she serves. They shall not be disrespectful or discourteous to any person or use obscene, profane or abusive language. It can therefore be said that, in general, the police are failing in their duty when they do so without justification.


How should I act when stopped or questioned by a police officer? 

Stay calm and be polite. Cooperate with the officer and follow their instructions.


Am I allowed to be disrespectful or rude to the police or other peace officers?

Some municipal by-laws in Quebec prohibit the public from insulting or abusing their peace officers. For example, the Quebec City by-law prohibits "insulting or abusing a peace officer or a municipal employee in the performance of his or her duties or using offensive, defamatory, blasphemous or rude language". You may be issued a statement of offence if you fail to comply with this by-law. In general, you have the right to express opinions, frustration and blame to the police. However, as with any other person, your interactions with police officers and other law enforcement officers are likely to go more smoothly if you are polite in your interactions.


What should I do if a police officer is acting rudely or disrespectfully towards me? 

Trying to have the last word or to prove that the officer is wrong to act the way he or she is acting is never the wisest or most beneficial strategy to adopt in a police interaction. You will lose out every time if you do this. Here are some tips on how to report a dereliction of duty without causing you harm. 

  • Remain calm and respectful of the officer. If you act in a respectful and calm manner, your conduct could positively influence the officer's conduct and thus reduce the risk of a confrontation. On the other hand, the more blameless you are during a police interaction where the officer is acting disrespectfully, the less likely the officer will justify his or her behaviour.

  • Film or record the interaction. You have the option of filming or recording the interaction or having a witness do so to obtain evidence of the incident. However, this action may irritate the police officer and you must decide if filming is the best decision for your situation. Make sure that filming or recording the interaction does not interfere with the officer's ability to do his or her job, as you could be arrested for obstruction. If they tell you that you are too close, it is best to distance yourself further. It is also important not to try to intimidate the officer by your actions or words.

  • Get the badge number or name of the offending officer. If the officer has given you a document, then his or her name and badge number will be on it. In cases where you do not receive a document, you may want to politely ask for the officer's identity.

  • Take notes. Take notes about what happened immediately after the interaction, with as many factual details as possible (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?). It is especially important to be as accurate as possible in reporting the officer's disrespectful words and actions, rather than presenting feelings or impressions. Be as objective as possible in describing the situation.

  • Wait and then review your notes. Take time to let the dust settle and review your notes to assess whether the officer's words and actions were objectively disrespectful and unjustified. Sometimes a person who is the subject of a police intervention can become emotional, defensive and misperceive that they have been disrespected. You may wish to report the incident to a third party and ask for their input. 

  • Consider filing a police ethics complaint. Find out if a police ethics complaint is appropriate for you and if so, file one.


What can I do if I witness an interaction between a police officer and a citizen and the police officer acts in a rude or disrespectful manner towards the citizen? 

You must keep a distance in order to remain safe and not interfere with the intervention. You can film the intervention and offer to transmit it to the citizen as proof in case he or she wishes to file a police ethics complaint. You can also file a police ethics complaint as a third party complainant. 


How can I establish a respectful relationship with the police in general? 

By being cooperative when a police officer interacts with you, respecting the law and showing consideration for the work that police officers do, which can sometimes be very difficult. You can also participate in community policing initiatives and take opportunities to engage with the police in a positive way.



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