Legal issues for teachers and students with background information and teaching resources.
Students might consider the role of police in society, what rules govern their actions, why some fail to live up to those rules and the consequences of such behaviours. This provides an opportunity to review how regulations governing police conduct are created - through legislative process and how the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has impacted police action. It is important to note that the increased attention to individual rights outlined in the Charter seems to have diminished the power of the police to fight crime, but to also note that the terms requiring officers of the law to exercise more care as they enforce the law has ensured that people (even those suspected of committing a crime) have rights that are entitled to protection.
After reading the Backgrounder divide the students into groups and have each group research one of the case studies briefly mentioned at the beginning of the article. Have each group review the facts for the class and then lead a discussion on whether or not they are satisfied with the outcome of the official investigation into the case. Each group should consider what else might have been done to make the process fairer, both to the victims and the police officers involved. Students might be encouraged to talk to a police officer or a person who has felt victimized by police action. We live in a society where everyone is subject to the law. While police officers and members of the court are authorized to enforce the law, they too are bound by its constraints. When a person oversteps their authority, there is a system that allows for an independent review. Maintaining that independence from both public pressure and political influence is important. Students should consider the importance of independence for decision makers who supervise those who enforce the laws.