Ottawa police face 5th lawsuit

Ottawa police are facing another lawsuit over allegations of abuse against a person in custody at the police station.

Alleges mistreatment in custody

Ottawa police are facing another lawsuit — their fifth —over allegations of abuse against a person in custody at the police cellblock.

Ernest Schuhknecht alleges officers kicked and kneed him and slammed his head against a table while taking him into custody on July 29,2009.

According to the statement of claim filed Thursday, police found Schuhknecht intoxicated and on the floor of a Bell Street apartment building and transported him to the station. 
Lawyer Jessica Adley said her client does not appear to be resisting police while in cellblock. (CBC)

Schuhknecht is suing Ottawa police, the three officers allegedly involved and police chief Vern White for $700,000.

He originally filed the suit in 2009 but the case did not proceed.

Ottawa police have not released the video, but Schuhknecht's lawyer, Jessica Adley, said she has seen the video.

She said it shows her client clearly limping and said he does not appear to be resisting police. Adley said the use of force by police is "a cause for concern."

None of the allegations have been proven in court and no statement of defence has been filed.

Charges withdrawn in case

Prosecutors ultimately withdrew obstruction charges against Schuhknecht. He is the fifth person to have criminal charges against them withdrawn or stayed following the emergence of video surveillance of their time in the cells.

Four others — Stacy Bonds, Roxanne Carr, Terry Delay and William Sarazin — have also launched lawsuits against Ottawa police.

University of Ottawa crimonology professor Michael Kempa said the rise in lawsuits against police is a sign of a lack of faith that public institutions — like police watchdogs or rights tribunals — will be able to address the interests of the public.

"There's more of a sense that if you have a problem you have to take action on your own behalf to pursue a remedy through the civil courts," said Kempa.

Kempa said while Ottawa police made changes to how they handle people in custody after the Bonds case attracted national attention, police haven't done a good job of convincing the public that the measures go far enough.

"Where we haven't done such a great job is for the police services board to explain to the public exactly what's being done, and where we're satisfied and not satisfied to date," said Kempa.

"It's a hard job for police services boards to do, but it really is their primary function."