Know Your Rights
This section is not intended to be a legal authority. If you need legal advice, you should contact legal aid or a lawyer.
Your Windsor Police Officers
Windsor Police Officers play a vital role in keeping our city safe for everyone. They have a sworn duty to preserve the peace, prevent crimes, enforce the law, protect lives and property. Encounters with the police can be intimidating, especially for people unfamiliar with the law and police practices. You may feel the police are harassing you for no reason. These experiences can lead to negative perceptions, mistrust and possibly fear of the police. The purpose of this section is to familiarize you with the role of police, police powers and your rights.
We are pleased to present you with a guide to police practices which should be useful to our citizens including students, residents, visitors and new Canadians. This section is meant as a guide to inform you about police procedures, suggested conduct when interacting with the police, and community resources and services. Please take time to read this section so that any encounter you have with the police will be positive for you and the officers. You can help keep our community safe for all residents.
The Windsor Police Service has a clear policy detailing a code of professional ethics. The policy is intended to reaffirm our commitment to unbiased policing and to provide members with clear guidelines by establishing the professional and ethical conduct expected.
The courts have deemed profiling to be "illegal". The Windsor Police Service has a policy statement that defines the "protected grounds for discrimination" and "illegal profiling".
The Protected Grounds For Discrimination include race, age, ancestry, colour, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status(including single status), gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), record of offences (in employment only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding), sexual orientation, and association or relationship with a person identified by one of the above grounds.
Illegal Profiling includes any action by a police officer including stopping, questioning, detaining or arresting a person base solely on the person's race, age, ancestry, colour, citizenship, ethnic origin, place of origin, creed, disability, family status, marital status(including single status), gender identity, gender expression, receipt of public assistance (in housing only), sex (including pregnancy and breastfeeding), sexual orientation, and association or relationship with a person identified by one of the above grounds.
For more information on the Windsor Police Service Human Rights Project and policies follow this link:
What are my rights if I get arrested?
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/const/page-15.html establishes rights to protect you if arrested or detained by the police. These rights include:
- The right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned and to be secure against unreasonable search and seizure.
- The right to be informed promptly of the reason you have been arrested or detained.
- The right to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of the right. This includes being informed of the availability of free Legal Aid Counsel and how to obtain it.
The words "without delay" are interpreted to mean once the situation is in control and the safety of everyone is ensured. If you are under 18 years of age you have the additional right of being able to speak with a parent or other appropriate adult as soon as possible. The Police must inform and explain these rights to you.
When can a police officer search me?
Generally, the powers of search are dependent on the circumstances and the beliefs of the officer.
- If you are arrested, the police can search you and the immediate surroundings including your vehicle if you are in one.
- If you are being detained temporarily for investigation or for safety reasons, the police may 'pat you down' or frisk you ensuring that you are not carrying a weapon.
- If you're in a car, this search could extend to a scan around the inside of your vehicle.
You can always refuse to be searched unless arrested, however, you may give permission to be searched to help alleviate suspicion. If you feel that a search is improper, don't confront the police officer, follow the complaints process by following this link. http://www.police.windsor.on.ca/services/reporting/Pages/Public%20Complaints.aspx
Do I answer the officer's questions or identity myself?
Generally, you are under no obligation to identify yourself to a police officer. However, there are exceptions including
- if you are driving a car
- if you have committed a provincial offence such as a liquor or driving offence
In these circumstances, it is best to cooperate and answer the officer's questions to avoid being arrested. If the police suspect that you have committed an offence or are acting suspiciously, they will want to know who you are. There are a few good reasons for telling the police who you are:
- If the police are looking for someone else, you may avoid being arrested by showing that you are not that person.
- If the police think that you have committed an offence, and you do not tell them who you are, they may arrest you and hold you at a police station until they find out who you are.
- If the police think that you have committed a minor offence, and you identify yourself to their satisfaction, they may give you a ticket or a notice advising you when to appear in court rather than arresting you.
What should I do when an officer approaches me on the street?
Most police officers are readily identifiable by their uniform. On occasion, you may encounter officers who are not wearing a uniform. If you have any doubts as to the identity of the police officer, you are entitled to ask for proper identification including the officer's name and or badge number.
Police can stop you under three general circumstances:
- If the officer suspects that you have committed an offence.
- If the officer actually sees you committing an offence.
- If you are driving a vehicle.
The officer may ask your name, address, what you are doing or where you are going. In some cases, the officer may ask to see your identification. Under most circumstances you are not required to produce identification; however, it is advisable to be polite and answer the officer's questions. Refusal to answer questions or being evasive may cause the officer to become more suspicious and to investigate more thoroughly. The goal for everyone should be toward attaining a resolution or solving crime.
A Police officer may ask to speak with you for reasons of which you are unaware. Police officers have a sworn duty to prevent and investigate crimes and to keep the peace. These duties entail interviewing potential witnesses of crimes and interviewing persons who, based on the circumstances appear to be suspicious.
If offenders could be identified simply by the way they looked or dressed, it would be easy to be a police officer but the fact is police officers have to investigate. Do not take offence to a police officer asking questions. They are doing their jobs, preventing crime for you and the rest of the community.
Points to remember:
- Keep your hands where the officer can see them, and put things down that you may be holding in your hands when the officer asks you to.
- Stay put and stay calm - never walk or run away from the Police?
- Attempting to leave will make the officer more suspicious and escalate the situation.
What is a Street Check?
If an officer has interaction with the public or comes upon relevant information during the coarse of their duties which serves a public safety purpose they may document this in a form of a street check report. These reports include a narrative from the submitting officer documenting the interaction with individuals or observations that were made by the officer. These narratives include the rationale for the interaction and circumstances of the interaction or observations by the officer. The purpose of the documentation is to gather relevant information for investigations and to ensure public safety. The interaction can serve to prevent crime or as an investigative tool. These interactions are not random or arbituary they are intelligence-led policing and your participation is voluntary and you can speak to the officer or leave at anytime.
Please review the following examples for more information.
What is investigative detention?
If an officer has reasonable suspicion that you were involved in a specific criminal offence the officer is allowed to detain you and hold you under investigative detention. The officer is required to explain the reason for the detention and provide you your right to counsel, including access to Legal Aid. You are not obliged to say anything unless you wish to do so, but whatever you do say may be used as evidence. If the officer is reasonably concerned for their safety, or the safety of others, they search you for weapons. After the investigation the officer may release you or place you under arrest.
Does the officer have to tell me the reason for the stop? YES
An officer is trained to advise persons the reason for which they are being stopped or detained. Windsor Police Service policy demands that a persons being stopped or detained are to be treated in a courteous manner. The Windsor Police Service does not condone acts of unlawful profiling or bias-based policing. Our rules mandate that the person be advised the reason for the stop and if the officers are asked to identify themselves, they must do so in a proper and professional manner. The officer can be identified by way of the officer's name and/or personnel identification number.
What should I do when an officer stops me while I'm driving?
Police have the authority to stop a car at any time to determine if the driver has consumed alcohol or drugs, the car is mechanically fit, the driver has a valid licence, and the car has valid insurance. The most likely reason the police will stop a car is a traffic violation.
For many reasons, traffic stops are the most dangerous aspect of police work. More officers are injured or killed conducting routine traffic stops than any other function. Officers must interpret the actions and behaviour of the occupants of the vehicle, as well as constantly monitor other traffic. For these reasons, officers are trained in making safe vehicle stops and to follow a set procedure. The way they approach your car is not meant to intimidate you.
If you are directed to stop by a police officer,
- Slow down and pull as far off to the right side of the road as possible.
- Stay inside your vehicle unless directed otherwise by the officer.
- Keep your hands where the officer can see them and don't make any sudden movements.
- Be prepared to produce the necessary documents. As the driver of a car, you are required by law, upon demand of a police officer, to surrender a valid driver's license, the vehicle and plate portions of the vehicle permit and proof of insurance to the officer. If these documents are in your pocket, purse or glove box, advise the officer and then retrieve them slowly.
As the driver, you are also accountable for the conduct of your passengers, especially if they are acting disorderly, throwing things out the window or hanging out of the window. You are responsible for passengers under 16 years of age.
What if I have a complaint about the Police?
The Windsor Police Service views the complaint process as a means of maintaining public accountability, correcting police misconduct and improving police services to the community. If you have a complaint about policies or services provided by the Windsor Police Service or the conduct of a police officer you can contact Windsor Police Professional Standards at 226-674-1360 or you may attend our office in person at 250 Windsor Avenue, second floor.
If you feel the police officer mistreated you, discriminated against you, or you were racially profiled, you can also file a public complaint and/or a human rights application.
You can make a complaint by contacting the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) for more information use the following link.
You can contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by visiting their website:
The Windsor Police Service obligation to report to Special Investigations Unit (SIU)?
The Windsor Police Service is obligated by law to report to SIU when a police officer is involved in incidents where someone has been seriously injured, dies or alleges sexual assault. For more information on SIU visit their website at http://www.siu.on.ca/en/index.php
Can I see what personal information the Windsor Police Service has collected on me? YES
If a police officer collected your personal information and you would like to see it, you can make this request by following this link:
The Windsor Police Service is your service and your feedback is important to us. If you have suggestions on how we can improve feel free to contact us. http://www.police.windsor.on.ca/contactus/Pages/default.aspx