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People being arrested should expect police to use force: B.C. government

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Police officers don't have to be perfect, nor do they have to be nice when arresting people who may become abusive, according to B.C.'s criminal justice branch.

The branch made the comment after deciding that two RCMP officers who arrested a woman in Port Alberni, B.C., after an altercation won't face charges, even though the woman's knee was broken in the melee.

"Police are not held to a standard of perfection and are not required to measure with nicety the force that they use," the branch said in a news release on Monday.

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"A legally acceptable use of force is one which is not gratuitous, and which is delivered in a measured fashion."

The Independent Investigations Office took on the case after the incident on Feb. 15, in which RCMP in Port Alberni were called to investigate a disturbance outside of a government office.

When two officers attempted to arrest the woman, a fight broke out and the woman suffered the broken knee.

The branch said the Crown carefully reviewed the IIO's report and concluded it is unlikely the officers would be convicted because it is not clear they acted outside the bounds of a lawful use of force.

"A use of force by police may be lawful even in circumstances where an injury is caused by or during that application of force," the branch said in the news release.

That doesn't mean officers have the unlimited ability to hurt someone.

"The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly established that the allowable degree of force remains constrained by the principles of proportionality, necessity and reasonableness," the branch noted.

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"What is proportionate, necessary and reasonable within the meaning of the law will depend on the totality of the circumstances and is assessed from the point of view of the officer, recognizing the characteristically dynamic nature of police interactions with citizens. … A legally acceptable use of force is one which is not gratuitous, and which is delivered in a measured fashion."

In deciding not to lay charges, the Crown took into account evidence from the woman herself and interviews with the two officers, and concluded it is doubtful the two officers would be convicted of using "disproportionate, unnecessary and unreasonable" force, the branch said.

However, the woman involved has been charged with two counts of assaulting a peace officer and one of obstructing police.

The branch released few other details of the events that led up to the altercation because the charges against the woman are now before the courts.

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