Strip-search in police cell 'a travesty,’ judge rules




Stacy Bonds was stopped by Ottawa police for no apparent reason on Rideau Street on Sept.26, 2008.

Photograph by: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen

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 said.

A police station videotape had captured the events of Sept. 26, 2008.

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 suit.

“That is an indignity towards a human being and should be denounced.”

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 home.

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 cruiser.

“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 said.

“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 said.

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 said.

“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 superiors.

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 disgraceful.”

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.

Gary Dimmock can be reached at

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