Anytime a police officer’s actions create media attention, it often seems to be related to the inappropriate conduct of a police officer. This is why it has been quite refreshing to see two Hamilton police officers receive positive media attention with respect to a recent arrest. From the perspective of a criminal defence lawyer, during the course of the arrest these police officers exhibited a level of professionalism that all police officers should strive towards. In my view, the Hamilton police officers then went above and beyond their duty when they attempted to explain to the public what they were doing and why they acted the way they did. The police officers certainly were not obligated to explain their actions to the public, but they attempted to anyways.
If you have not already seen the video, Hamilton police officers Mark Morelli and Chantal Wilson executed the arrest of a woman who attempted to resist arrest for several minutes. As a criminal defence lawyer I have had the opportunity to view several arrests, some of which in my opinion have involved excessive use of force, inappropriate conduct or were simply unlawful arrests. I can say with confidence that this arrest was conducted with the highest level of professionalism.
Anytime an arrest is executed in a public place the safety of everyone in the area must be paramount. It was clear from the video that the Hamilton police officers in this situation exerted a considerable amount of effort to prevent anyone from being hurt. Police officers are certainly permitted to use force to exercise a lawful arrest, provided of course the force is reasonable. I have watched the video a few times now and it would seem to me that the police officers used the appropriate amount force to execute the arrest taking into account the woman was resisting for a considerable period of time. Officer Morelli even tries to calmly speak to the woman and explain to her that she is being arrested while she continues to resist arrest. And if that’s not enough, the officer tries to answer questions from the public at the same time. I really don’t know what else could reasonably be expected of these police officers in this challenging situation.
At one point during the video Officer Morelli stated “While it may appear to be very rough to you, I apologize for you having to see that … but I am obligated to arrest her.” Notwithstanding the comment from Officer Morelli, the actions of the police officers were not very rough at all. As I said before, I have had the opportunity to witness the police arresting individuals as well as being privy to information relating to arrests. I can tell you that this did not appear to be a rough arrest. The fact is that the police officer had no reason to apologize. These officers did not create this public scene, rather this woman chose to resist what appears to be a lawful arrest.
The police officers did well to remain calm and exercise tactics to safely subdue the woman being arrested. It does not appear that anyone was injured during this arrest, notwithstanding the suggestions from the woman that the officer was allegedly ‘chocking her’ and that she ‘couldn’t breathe’. I still don’t understand how you can be choked and unable to breathe yet still be able to loudly scream these comments. Maybe someone can explain that to me one day.
The most offensive conduct that can be seen on the video is the behaviour of the male who recorded the arrest as well as other witnesses. First, although the actions of the man who recorded the event would not likely constitute obstructing a police officer, his actions were still distracting and did not assist the police officers in safely making the arrest.
Second, the suggestion by this man to the police officers that he knows the law, is absurd. As a lawyer I can tell you that we go to law school for 3 years, we practice law on a daily basis, and we often cannot agree how the law should be interpreted based upon a particular set of facts. I would be interested to know what legal education and experience, if any, this man has received. What is clear from the video is that this man appeared to do nothing more than second guess the professional conduct of the police officers who made a lawful arrest while showing concern for the safety of everyone involved.
During the course of the video you can hear the man make comments such as “there’s no way you can do that” “she’s not resisting” “just let her go” and “you tackled her like a football player”. I certainly do not profess to know everything there is to know about the law, however I do know this; (1) the police have the authority to execute a lawful arrest and are permitted to use force that is reasonable in the circumstances, (2) the woman in the video was clearly resisting arrest, and (3) when someone is resisting arrest, the police protocol is not to “just let her go” as suggested by the man recording the video.
If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have a question about criminal law, contact me today.