In Canada, the police officers work to enforce the laws, keep the order and peace in communities, and protect the general public. Everyone should expect honesty and fairness from the police.
Law Enforcement in Canada and PEI
In Canada there are three levels of police services: municipal, provincial and federal. All but three provinces, PEI included, contract out the provincial law enforcement responsibility to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the national police service.
In PEI, Charlottetown, Summerside, and Kensington have their own police departments. The rest of the province is policed by the RCMP.
Sheriffs' offices in Canada are primarily concerned with court services such as security in and around the courts, post-arrest prisoner transfer, serving legal processes, fine collection etc.
Security guards do not necessarily enforce the law. They are usually hired to protect a property and make sure nobody gets injured on that property. Sometimes they do have extended duties. For example, the security officers at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) handle parking regulations and enforcement, operate emergency phone numbers, etc. They are also authorized to conduct criminal investigations on campus.
The police are accountable to the public, but they cannot keep communities safe and free of crime on their own. They need cooperation from the people in the communities that they serve.
For this reason the police services in Canada often use a community policing approach to their work. This means that they collaborate with the residents of a specific community to prevent crimes and deal with safety issues. Police do this by setting up committees and neighbourhood watches, working with community organizations like Crime Stoppers and Child Find, and educating the public.
If You Encounter a Police Vehicle on the Road
If a police vehicle turns on their lights and/or sirens behind your vehicle, signal and pull over safely to the shoulder of the road and stop. Wait in your vehicle while the police officer approaches to speak with you. Do not get out of your vehicle unless asked to do so. Follow the officer's instructions.
If you are driving, and see a police vehicle parked at the side of the road with emergency lights on, slow down to half the posted speed limit and safely move to left passing lane (if there is one) or safely pass the vehicle being mindful of oncoming traffic. Sometimes police will set up a check point, and their vehicle will be parked in the middle of the road with emergency lights on. While passing, pay attention to see if an officer is signaling you to stop. [See Related Resources]
If you are Stopped, Questioned or Arrested by the Police
If you find yourself in a situation where you are stopped or questioned by a police officer, you should:
- Address the police officer properly by calling him or her 'officer'.
- Accept the police officer's authority -- do not argue.
- Be ready to show your identification if the officer asks you for it. If you are stopped by the police while driving a vehicle, the officer will probably ask you for your driver's licence, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration.
- Only tell the officer the facts about what has happened. Do not offer your own opinion.
- Never try to bribe a police officer by offering money or other things in order to get out of being fined or arrested. This is a serious crime and you could get in even more trouble.
If the police arrest you, they must:
- tell you who they are and show you their badge number
- explain why they are arresting you and tell you what your rights are
- allow you to call a lawyer right away -- If you do not have a lawyer, they must give you the phone book to find one or the Legal Aid telephone numbers and let you call.
If you are witnessing a life-threatening situation or another situation that needs immediate police intervention, call '911' for help. An emergency to which the police should respond could be a:
- car accident
- physical violence
If you need to contact the police to report a crime which does not constitute an emergency, or to get information related to law enforcement, you can call the police non-emergency phone number. [See Related Resources]