Strip-search in police cell 'a travesty,’ judge rules
By Gary Dimmock, The Ottawa CitizenNovember 17, 2010 5:21 PM
Stacy Bonds was stopped by Ottawa police for
no apparent reason on Rideau Street on Sept.26, 2008.
Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, The
OTTAWA — A judge has condemned a handful of Ottawa police
officers for subjecting a female prisoner to “an indignity” in a
strip search of the young woman, who had her shirt and bra cut
off by a male officer, only to be left partially clad in soiled
pants in a jail cell for three hours.
Moments before Stacy
Bonds, a 27-year-old theatrical make-up artist with no criminal
record, was stripped of her clothes by Sgt. Steve Desjourdy, she
was also the victim of “two extremely violent knee hits in the
back by Special Constable (Melanie) Morris, and (had) her hair
pulled back and her face shoved forward,” Justice Richard Lajoie
A police station videotape had captured the events of Sept.
Lajoie made an oral ruling on Oct. 27, deciding to stay a
charge against Bonds of assaulting police. In his ruling, the
judge severely criticized the officers’ actions, saying “there
is no reasonable explanation for Sgt. Desjourdy to have cut Ms.
Bonds’ shirt and bra off, and there is no reason, apart from
vengeance and malice, to have left Ms. Bonds in the cell for a
period of three hours and 15 minutes partially clad and having
soiled her pants, before she received what is called a blue
“That is an indignity towards a human being and should be
Desjourdy cut off Bonds’ shirt and bra with scissors after
she was forced to the floor with a plastic riot shield in the
police department’s booking room.
When Bonds was brought into the room, Lajoie noted that she
showed “no hint of violence and no hint of being aggressive.” He
described her as “co-operative.”
The judge said he was “appalled” that the strip search of the
woman took place in the presence of at least three male police
officers. “It is quite evident that none of these officers have
received gender training, and that they do give only lip service
to female dignity and privacy,” Lajoie said.
Bonds told the Citizen Tuesday that she’s still a wreck.
“It’s disgraceful. Being in a cell barefoot and topless for
hours (which is also on videotape),” she said.
“I wasn’t bothering anyone. I was on my way home, walking,
not driving, from an after-hours party. I wasn’t bothering
anyone and the police had no reason to bother me,” Bonds said.
“I was verbally and mentally raped.”
The events began when Bonds was stopped by police for no
reason on Rideau Street. They ran her name through their
computer and nothing came up, so they told her to keep walking
But after a few steps, she turned back and asked the officers
why they had bothered to stop her in the first place, and things
took a rapid turn.
The officers then arrested her for public intoxication, but
that arrest, according to Lajoie, was unlawful because she was
not drunk — not even close, the judge ruled.
But they handcuffed her, and
Const. John Flores, a junior officer who was under the
authority of a coach officer, showed her the backseat of a
“There was certainly no evidence that Ms. Bonds was a threat
to herself or anyone else. Const. Flores clearly did not have
reasonable and probable grounds to effect the arrest,” Lajoie
“Therefore, if the arrest is unlawful, the subsequent
detention can only be an arbitrary detention, and a clear
violation of Section 9 of the Charter,” Lajoie said.
Once Bonds was taken out of the cruiser at police
headquarters on Elgin Street, the judge noted after reviewing
the videotape that she was anything but “violent or aggressive.”
The one thing the judge said he did notice on the tape was
the way Flores held onto his prisoner.
“He held onto her left arm practically throughout the whole
duration of the scene at the police station.
“That is why videos have become so important. They provide us
with these extra details that put meat to simple words that are
spoken by witnesses,” the judge said.
The judge then noted that, during the initial part of the
police search, “someone has a hand inside Ms. Bonds’ pants, down
around her upper leg or hip area. We can see the formation of a
fist or hand inside her tight white pants.
“And it is at that point that Sgt. Desjourdy tells us that he
saw Ms. Bonds mule-kick Special Constable Morris.
“Ms. Bonds is immediately taken to the ground, and is not
resisting with hands flailing or feet flailing, as testified to
by both Special Const. Morris and Sgt. Desjourdy,” the judge
Still, the female prisoner was forced to the ground with a
riot shield, and then subjected to a strip search, with the male
officer cutting off her top and bra.
“The officers have tried to justify their actions on the
principles of safety, officer safety and accused’s safety, as
well as risk of suicide.
“No inquiry whatsoever was made by the officers prior to
their taking action, and that is a common trait that we too
often see in the recent past with the influx of a multitude of
new (police) recruits, who are often trained by other officers
who have one, two, maybe three years of experience,” the judge
“It is quite clear that the Ottawa Police has not been made
aware (of), or is lending a blind eye to, the recommendations of
the Supreme Court of Canada.”
The judge ruled that the strip search of Bonds was an
“extremely serious breach of (her) rights, apart from it being
unlawful.” The judge then stayed the charge against Bonds,
saying he didn’t want to be part of the “travesty.”
“And with the sheer number of appalling behaviours which I
have noted, it is quite clear that the only possible outcome,
and fair outcome … is one of a stay of proceedings, because as
alluded to by (defence lawyer Matt) Webber, it would be a
travesty to permit these proceedings to go on. And I certainly
would not be a party to such an action,” Lajoie said.
The prosecutor who tried the case declined comment. And
Desjourdy, who cut off Bonds’ shirt and bra, told the Citizen
that he can’t discuss the case because it’s under review by his
Bonds thanked the judge, saying “this is a judge on the right
side and actually serving justice.”
She doesn’t recall all of the details of her ordeal, saying
she was so confused.
“From the get-go, I knew I was getting screwed. It was
Webber said his client suffered a “horrifying” ordeal and her
confidence in law enforcement has been shaken.
“But for the fact that my client had to withstand the ordeal
of a trial, the case was laughable. Unfortunately, there was
nothing to laugh at,” Webber said.
“It’s an appalling example of abuse of power and misconduct
on the part of the police. It’s a complete disregard for her
dignity. It’s shocking,” Webber said.
Ottawa Police Chief Vern White said Tuesday that the force
has launched an internal investigation into the case.
White said candidly: “If the judge’s ruling is indicative of
what happened, it’s appalling.
“I look forward to a swift conclusion to our investigation.
Professional Standards (internal affairs) takes this very
seriously, as do I,” said White.
The internal investigation could take months and will include
a review of the images captured on videotape.
It’s not the first time Desjourdy has been under
investigation. Days before this 2008 case, he kicked and Tasered
a female prisoner in the cell block twice. In 2009, he pleaded
guilty under the Police Act and was demoted for three months
from sergeant to constable.
Bonds said she is now thinking about launching a lawsuit
against Ottawa Police.