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 believe that a police officer has used unnecessary force. 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.
Use of Force as Police Power
Police officers or other peace officers only have the power to use force if they have legal authority to intervene with a person. They have the power to use force when it is necessary to control a person, prevent their escape, protect human life or defend themselves.
In Quebec, future police officers are taught the National Use of Force Model. According to this, the police officer has 5 options for the use of force:
- Their presence. The mere presence of a police officer can positively influence the behavior of an individual or the course of a situation.
- Communication. A police officer can communicate verbally or non-verbally to gain control of a situation.
- Physical control. The police officer can use a technique to subdue an individual without the use of a weapon. There are so-called light techniques that are unlikely to cause injury: immobilization techniques, escort techniques, joint control, pressure point or handcuffing without resistance. There are also powerful techniques, which risk causing injury, such as punches, kicks, the takedown technique or a neck control.
- Intermediate weapons. It is the use of a weapon that is not intended to cause grievous bodily harm or death. A police officer can use an electric conducted energy weapon (TASER), an impact weapon such as a baton, or an aerosol such as tear gas or pepper spray.
- Deadly Force. A police officer's last option is to use a weapon or technique intended to cause grievous bodily harm or death, such as a firearm.
If a police officer intervenes with a person with the aim of arresting them, the use of force option they choose depends on the degree of danger and the risk of flight of this person. This evaluation takes into account situational factors, the behavior of the individual, the perceptions of the police officer and tactical considerations. They must make this assessment continuously throughout the intervention in order to ensure the safety of the public and their own.
Here is how the behavior of the person can influence the degree of force used by the police officer:
- Cooperation. If the person cooperates and offers no resistance, physical control should generally not be used in these circumstances. However, it may sometimes be appropriate despite everything to decide to exercise weak physical control by handcuffing even a cooperative person during his arrest after having assessed that this person presents a certain degree of dangerousness or a high risk of absconding.
- Passive resistance. If the person demonstrates passive resistance at the time of arrest, i.e. refuses to obey the orders of a peace officer, the police officer has the power to exercise light physical control if communication fails to change his behavior.
- Active resistance. The individual physically resists arrest, either by backing away or moving away from the officer when he attempts to handcuff them, by running away, or by openly walking towards them. In these cases, the police officer can exercise strong physical control and possibly use an intermediate weapon if the strong physical control is not enough to control them.
- Aggression. The use of an intermediate weapon is generally appropriate when the individual shows signs of aggression or commits assault towards a police officer or another person.
- Serious or fatal bodily injury. Finally, if the individual's behavior suggests that they intend or is about to cause serious bodily injury or death to a person, then the police may be justified in using deadly force to to protect themselves or to protect the potential victim.