Peel’s Fourth Principle

Principle 4 

To recognize always that the extent to which the cooperation of the public can be secured diminishes, proportionally, the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.   

The corollary of this principle is that frequent use of force and compulsion by police is an indication of the degree of public cooperation or lack thereof.    

Most police agencies in Canada and indeed North America have adopted policies that  employ a use of force continuum.  The continuum lists the various use of force options available to police and the accompanying policy outlines the process police should employ to determine the appropriate level of force to use.  The continuum spans options that range from verbal instructions or commands to the use of deadly force at the other extreme of the spectrum.  Between those two options fall a variety of options depending on the training and policy of a particular police agency.  The continuum can include soft empty handed control, joint manipulation, pain causing techniques, non lethal weapons such as batons, pepper spray and conducted energy devices, and deadly force which involves the use of firearms. 

What this principle lays out is that a lack of public cooperation will necessitate not only more frequent but also a higher level of force and compulsion by police.  

Another interesting trend that is developing in policing is the reliance on technology based weapons such as Tasers as opposed to other methods.  The incident involving Robert Dziekanski and the RCMP at the Vancouver Airport in October of 2007 is one such example.  Prior to the introduction of Tasers, situations such as the Dziekanski incident (where there was one unruly person with a weapon [in this case a stapler] confronting four  police officers) would have resulted in the suspect being physically restrained, handcuffed and processed.  There might have been a few bumps and bruises, but everyone would have left the scene alive.  

The more frequent use of Tasers and other ‘intermediate’ weapons may come as the result of many police officers now on the streets never having policed without such options.  It may be a mindset reinforced by training.  Current training may prompt officers to resort to Tasers more quickly then police officers would have resorted to physical force or the use of a baton in the past.     

Another factor that may contribute to the policing mindset is that in the past the majority of officers cut their policing teeth by walking the beat, alone.  Walking the beat necessitated the development of superior verbal skills: the ability to negotiate and talk oneself out of many difficult situations.  That skill may no longer be as prevalent among police officers as it was in the past.  

Under Canadian law officers are entitled to use as much force as is necessary to achieve their lawful purpose.  It should never be suggested that police officers should unduly expose themselves to risk or danger, but neither should they resort to the use of force simply because they can.  Such an approach serves neither the police nor the public well.