Use of Force by Police

The Importance of Police in Neighborhood Safety

The safety of neighborhood members is greatly enhanced by the police. As a result, Canada gives law enforcement officials broad authority, including the ability to carry weapons and use deadly force when required. Anyone approved by the law is allowed to engage in law enforcement activity, according to the Canadian Criminal Code. (, 2017a). In other words, if a suspect fights arrest, retaliates against police assault, or attempts to flee to avoid being apprehended, the officers are permitted to use force that is likely to result in their death or serious injury. (, 2017a). However, the force should be proportional to the resistance from the suspect and used as a measure of last resort.

The Use of Force by Law Enforcement

The Canadian Criminal Code allows everyone authorized by the law to use any means in the enforcement or administration of the law. According to Desroches (2002), section 25 (1) and 25 (4) of the Canadian Criminal Code allows a private person, a public or peace officer, or any person helping a peace officer to use as much force as necessary as long as h/she acts on a reasonable ground. The law allows the officers to use any amount of force even when it can cause grievous bodily harm or death in various situations. These include when the suspect commits an offense for which h/she can be arrested without warrant or tries to take a flight to avoid being arrested (, 2017a). The law clarifies that officers can use force to protect themselves, people assisting the officers or any other person from harm or death caused by the suspect. However, the police should believe that it is necessary to use force not just when the suspect attempts to run away. Regarding a suspect taking a flight, the police must believe that no non-violent means of preventing the flight. All these circumstances should exist before a police are justified to use force that is likely to cause death or harm the suspect.

The Case of R v Nasogaluak

The case R v Nasogaluak is an example of the use of force by the police. The public notified the officers that the accused drove while under influence of alcohol and they followed him at a high speed. When his car stopped, he refused to come out (Mirza, 2015). The police were forced to use force to remove him but he resisted. One police punched him twice in the head while trying to remove him out of the car. Once the suspect came out of the car, he continued to resist. The police yelled at him to stop resisting and gave him another hard punch on the head. The officers then pushed the accused on the ground and one of them stood on the suspect's back while another one knelt on his thighs (Mirza, 2015). The accused still refused to surrender his hands to be handcuffed. One of the officers punched him twice hard on the back that ultimately broke his ribs punctured the lungs.

The Legal Ramifications

The accused finally surrendered to the police and was taken to police station. He was accused of impaired driving under section 253 (a) and flight from the police under section 249.1 (1) of the Canadian Criminal Code (Mirza, 2015). The suspect was supposed to serve 6-18 months in jail. However, he was released next morning to seek treatment. It emerged that his two ribs had broken and lungs punctured.

Court Decision and Views

Mr. R entered a guilty plea to the charges. The Albert Court of the Queen's Bench held that the RCMP had used unnecessary force during arrest and violated the rights of the suspects under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom section 7 (Mirza, 2015;, 2017c). As a result, the judge granted the accused a conditional discharge of the offense and a 12-month driving ban. However, the Court of Appeal maintained that although the police had used excessive force, the judge had no power to reduce the sentence. Therefore, the Court of Appeal overturned the conditional discharge and fined the accused $600 for impaired driving.

The case has sparked different views from professionals. Those who support the use of force point that the scenario was characterized by three conditions under which the police is justified to use force. First and foremost, the suspect escaped the police to avoid arrest (Mirza, 2015). The suspect could hit pedestrians or other cars and cause fatal accidents because he was a drunkard. Indeed, the RCMP could shoot the car but just speeded up to overtake the accused. The law allows the officers to use force to prevent the suspect from escaping. However, the police did not shoot because probably that could cause accidents.

The police were also justified to arrest the suspect without a warrant because he had breached the law against impaired driving (Mirza, 2015). In other words, the event met all the conditions that warrant the use of force. The police ordered the suspect to come out of the car after he stopped but he refused. The only option for the police to remove him from the car was by use of force. He further resisted being handcuffed thus forcing the police to punch him leading to injury. Based on the situations, the police were justified to use deadly force.

However, from a different perspective, the police should not have used deadly force as they did. First thing, the suspect was not overspeeding thus did not threaten any one's life. Moreover, there is no proof that the suspect escaped the police or just drove home. The only reason the police could cite for using the force was the suspect's resistance to come out of the car. Notably, the accused was not harmed thus the police could put him in their car and take his car to the police station. Instead, they resorted to using of unnecessary force. Moreover, the suspect did not revoke police to use force in any way. In this regard, the police did not act on reasonable ground.

The officers involved in the incident should have wrestled the suspect on the ground and handcuffed him without punching him. Silver (2014) and Harte (2015) hold a similar view by arguing that the police should uphold suspect's rights and only use force as the last resort. The Criminal Code only allow law enforcement officers to use lethal force when the suspect is harmed, threatens officer's life, or the life of other people around (, 2017c). In this case, the suspect was only under alcohol influence thus refused to cooperate. The law also allows the use of force when the suspect provokes the officers by blows, gestures, or words (MacKay, 2012). However, the accused did not provoke the police in any of these ways. The law further holds the officers accountable for using unnecessary excessive force during arrest (, 2017b). As such, the police should have wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him, and take him to the police station without injuring him as they did.


In conclusion, like other countries, Canada acknowledges the importance of the police in the maintenance of peace in the community. In doing so, the country enacted the Criminal Code which empowers law administrators to use deadly force when effecting the arrest of a resisting suspect. However, the officers should not use the law to harm rather than protecting the people. The use of lethal force should be the last resort after the exhausts other techniques. The case of R v Nasogaluak is a clear indication of the police abuse of the Criminal Code by using unnecessary lethal force to arrest unarmed suspect.

References (2017b). Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46): Excessive force. Retrieved from (2017a). Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46). Retrieved from (2017c). Your Guide to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Retrieved from

Desroches, F. J. (2002). Force & fear: Robbery in Canada. Toronto, Ont: Canadian Scholars' Press.

Harte, P. (2015). Police use of force: Where is the line? CBC News, 28 May 2015. Retrieved from

MacKay, R. (2012). Legislative Summary of Bill C-26: The Citizen’s Arrest and Self-defence Act. Retrieved from

Mirza, A. (2015). Mandatory (?) Minimums: R v Nasogaluak, 2010 SCC 6, [2010] 1 SCR 206. Retrieved from

Silver, L., A. (2014). Section 25 – The use of necessary force in law enforcement part one: episode 30 of the Ideablawg podcasts on the criminal code of Canada. Retrieved from

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