Sgt. Steven Desjourdy has been found guilty of discreditable conduct at an internal Ottawa police disciplinary hearing into a widely reported, controversial cellblock strip search in 2008.
In September 2008, Desjourdy left a female prisoner half naked in pants soaked with urine; her shirt and bra had been cut off during a strip search after she mule kicked an officer in the cellblock area.
It took more than three hours for Desjourdy to provide her with temporary clothing called a blue suit.
He was charged with sexual assault, but was later acquitted. The police disciplinary hearing was called to determine whether Desjourdy was guilty of discreditable conduct under the Police Services Act.
Hearing officer Robert Fitches, a retired Ontario Provincial Police superintendent, said Tuesday he did not believe Desjourdy really thought the woman was suicidal.
He noted that Desjourdy made no such remarks in his log, and that regular checks on the woman weren't performed. Fitches also said the woman was described as angry and belligerent, not sad or despondent, and that there must be clear and obvious reasons for leaving a prisoner partially naked for more than three hours.
'This has been a difficult time for many,' police chief says
“This has been a difficult time for many,” Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau was quoted saying in a police media release. “As a Service, we have learned from this incident and we have moved forward to better serve the community.”
Police also said their review and change of cellblock operations "reflect the Service’s commitment to accountability, transparency and support to the professional staff assigned to the care and handling of prisoners."
Desjourdy is currently an investigator in central district and his most recent cases were related to human trafficking and assault.
With the guilty verdict, Desjourdy could face a pay cut or demotion from sergeant to constable. A sentencing date is expected to be chosen on April 28.
Testimonies inconsistent, prosecutor argued during hearing
During closing arguments in January, prosecutor Robert Houston argued that Desjourdy's testimony in the internal hearing and testimony he made under oath during a preliminary hearing three years ago was inconsistent.
During the hearing, Desjourdy testified that his reason for the delay was “safety reasons” because he worried she might be suicidal and could use the blue suit to strangle herself.
Three years ago, Desjourdy said he left her alone for so long because he had other duties to attend to, Houston said.
Houston argued that the issue isn't whether Desjourdy told the truth during the woman's preliminary hearing in 2010, but whether he's "credible and reliable" today.
Lack of rules on blue suits created 'no man's land,' defence argued
Defence lawyer Michael Edelson, who also represented Desjourdy during his criminal trial, argued there is no evidence that Desjourdy brought discredit to the police service.
He said the lack of rules about temporary blue suits created a "no man's land."
Edelson also pointed out that nearly two hours after finally being given a blue suit, the woman still hadn't put it on.
He added that the woman — who cannot be identified — was violent, aggressive, belligerent, profane and "the author of her own misfortune."