Strip Search of woman is troubling

Ottawa police restrain a woman in this screen image from a video.

Ottawa police restrain a woman in this screen image from a video.

This doesn’t surprise me at all, why? Because we live in a society where police are above the law and they are given the power to do what they want. And when it comes to investigating wrongful conduct, 8 out of 10 times the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) is on the police side. Trust me, I’ve seen it all and there’s no excuse for it. Unless there’s a physical threat to the police, there’s no excuse for the brutality.

OTTAWA—Premier Dalton McGuinty says he is shaken by accounts of a video showing Ottawa police strip-searching an Ottawa woman while male officers held her down.

“I must say what I have heard is very, very troubling,” McGuinty said Friday said of the video, which even Police Chief Vern White has acknowledged will shock Ottawa residents.

“From time to time things happen that shake us and it’s very important that we get to the bottom of this and that people know exactly what happened . . . and that it doesn’t happen again,” he told a news conference after touring an Ottawa recreation centre.

The treatment of Stacy Bonds, who is black, following her arrest on Sept. 28, 2008 had inflamed many residents of the national capital, even before the video was made public on the Ottawa Citizen’s website Thursday. (See video here and here.)

Among other things it shows Bonds being kneed by a female officer, followed by a male officer cutting off her bra while she is held on the floor of the police station by several male officers.

After Ontario Court Justice Richard Lajoie watched the security camera video, he stayed charges against her of assaulting police and condemned the behaviour of the officers involved, calling the treatment and subsequent strip search a “travesty” and an “indignity.”

The province’s Special Investigative Unit, which probes police conduct in certain instances, is investigating how the now 27-year-old Bonds was treated after being arrested on suspicion of public intoxication.

The 27-year-old was left topless in a cell at an Ottawa police station for three hours in soiled pants.

The Premier acknowledged an incident like this “shakes our confidence” in police and added it is “it is incumbent upon the Attorney General’s office and the Crown’s office in particular to review the circumstance and make sure that we are all using the best possible judgment.”

White has appealed for “understanding and patience,” noting police can’t comment while the Special Investigations Unit is probing the incident.

Toronto lawyer James Morton, past president of the Ontario Bar Association, said until he watched the video he took claims of police brutality with a “grain of salt.”

“But here it is happening live in front of me. I was really taken aback,” said Morton, who also showed a hushed class at Osgoode Law School of York University.

“You don’t know the context, you don’t know what Ms Bonds was saying but you can see that for no reason she is kneed a couple of time in the back and her hair pulled and her neck snapped back and that’s simply not something that’s appropriate in a free country, period,” he told the Toronto Star.