Officer Responsibilities and Public Rights

Police Officers need to engage with members of the public if they are to learn about the communities they serve and understand neighbourhood problems. Conversations between a person and a police officer are important because they provide the Medicine Hat Police Service with that knowledge. Everyone has the right to feel safe during such interactions and both parties need to understand their rights and responsibilities.

When engaging with a police officer, a person is generally free to leave and continue on their way. This does not prevent a police officer from trying to speak with a person, but that person is always free to leave unless the police officer has a reason to arrest or detain them.

Police officers are trained to follow policies put into place to ensure fair and impartial policing. The collection of personal information during police interactions with a member of the public can only be conducted if there are clear grounds that it may further an investigation or prevent crime, disorder and victimization.

It’s important to know what your rights are, as well as what a police officer’s roles and responsibilities are when you’re interacting with them. The following is designed to provide you with general information about what an officer must do, what you do not have to do, and what you may wish to do in situations involving the police.

When an officer stops or approaches you to speak with you, they must: 

  • Identify themselves.
  • Tell you why you have been stopped or why they want to talk to you.
  • If you are arrested or detained, tell you what for.
  • Advise you that you can talk to a lawyer if you are under arrest and provide you with an opportunity to do so in privacy and safety.
  • Let you be on your way if you are not being arrested or detained.

When you are stopped or approached by an officer, you:

  • Do not need to answer the questions of a police officer.
  • Are required to identify yourself if you are breaking a law – including municipal bylaws and provincial laws that require a ticket be issued – or are under arrest. You are also required to provide your driver’s licence, car registration and insurance if you are stopped while driving.
  • Can generally say, “No”, when police ask to search your belongings unless you are under arrest or being detained with safety concerns.
  • May leave unless you are being detained or arrested.
  • If you are arrested or detained, you have a right to speak with a lawyer as soon as officers can give you the privacy and safety to do so in your circumstances.
  • Have a right to know a police officer’s name or badge number.

This information is intended to provide general information on the interactions of a person and a police officer. It is not a complete description of all of a person’s rights. This information does not replace the advice of a lawyer, who can give you advice specific to you and your situation. You should consult a lawyer for advice on your situation. If you are arrested, a police officer will read you your rights and give you a toll-free number for free legal advice as well as other resources you might find helpful.