What is the effect of wearing masks when entering a home?

Alberta, Canada


The following excerpt is from R. v. Al-Fartossy, 2007 ABCA 427 (CanLII):

That this was the respondent’s submission is confirmed by the trial judge’s response. She considered the forced entry and found it was justified as a means of preserving possible evidence and ensuring officer safety. She agreed with the respondent, however, that as a general rule the police must let the homeowner know, on entry, that it is the police service that is coming in through the door, rather than some other, unlawful, home invader – to preserve the safety of both the homeowner and the police. That is what made the other aspects of the entry – in particular, the fact the police entered masked – unreasonable and oppressive. Thus, she held, at paras. 19-20 of her reasons: While the forcible entry and the use of drawn weapons may be justified as necessary due to concerns about the possible destruction of evidence and officer safety, the masking of the faces of the police in order to conceal their identity is completely unjustified in this case. Common law requirements include the need for police to identify themselves as law enforcement officers (see Eccles v. Bourque, supra). The mere yelling out of the word “POLICE” by a member of a group of masked men not in readily identifiable police uniforms is not, in my view, sufficient in the circumstances. The intrusion into a private home by a group of masked, heavily armed people, in my view, greatly heightens the risk that someone in the home will react violently to defend himself, his family, or his possessions. Both the occupants of the home and the masked police officers involved in such an entry are thereby exposed to a higher degree of danger. The wearing of masks by the police also adds [an] unacceptable air of oppression to the scenario.

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