Vancouver – Vancouver Police officers must consider a person’s age, ethnicity, and the seriousness of an alleged incident prior to applying handcuffs, according to the VPD’s updated handcuffing policy. Furthermore, before applying handcuffs, a police officer must have lawful authority that is objectively reasonable, is proportionate to the potential risk of harm the officer faces, and is necessary to fulfil a legitimate policing objective. A focal point of the policy is that Vancouver Police officers must be able to articulate the specific circumstance necessitating the use of handcuffs to restrain a person.

The Vancouver Police Board undertook a review of the previous handcuffing policy in January 2020. The review included an examination of existing policy, training, case-law, and legal authorities surrounding the application of handcuffs and other restraint devices used by VPD officers. The updated policy came into effect in October 2021, following the handcuffing of Retired Supreme Court Justice Selwyn Romilly, who was detained during a police investigation near Stanley Park in May 2021, despite having no involvement in the incident being investigated.

The following strategic improvements are included in the VPD’s updated handcuffing policy:

  • A police officer who uses force in the course of their duties is legally responsible for the force applied and cannot rely on an administrative direction or order issued by the VPD, or any officer or supervisor within it to protect the member from legal responsibility. A police officer cannot view handcuffing someone who is under arrest, detained, or apprehended as a routine action.
  • A police officer must have lawful authority to apply handcuffs, and must consider whether the application of handcuffs is necessary to protect the officers or a member of the public from harm, prevent a person from attempting to leave, locate and preserve evidence related to the reason for the person’s arrest, and facilitate the search of a detained or apprehended person; and
  • Officers have discretion on whether to use handcuffs, even when lawful authority to do so exists. Factors officers should consider prior to applying handcuffs include a person’s age, disabilities, their medical condition, injuries, their size, their ethnicity, or whether they are part of other equity deserving groups.

Click here to view the Vancouver Police Department’s Regulations and Procedures Manual.