Police strip search video prompts outrage

Public anger is mounting after the release of a video showing Ottawa police strip-searching a woman in the presence of male officers.

Premier Dalton McGuinty 'very troubled' by incident

Public anger is mounting after the release of a video showing Ottawa police strip-searching a woman in the presence of male officers.

Ottawa police say they have received more than 100 complaints since an Ottawa judge released the video showing the 2008 strip search of 27-year-old Stacy Bonds.

Bonds was strip-searched after being arrested on Rideau Street for public intoxication — a charge stayed by Justice Richard Lajoie of the Ontario Court of Justice in a verbal ruling issued Oct. 27.


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Lajoie released the video Thursday to the Ottawa Citizen after the newspaper filed an application.

Doug Baum, the head of the Ottawa Criminal Defence Lawyers Association, said the video is causing many people to question the police force's credibility.

"I think for your average person watching this video it's shocking and disturbing … but there's also a nagging doubt that arises," said Baum.

"If this happens in this instance, is this the normal course of events? Does this happen with other people? I think it does," he said.

Premier Dalton McGuinty also weighed in on Thursday, saying he hasn't seen the video but is "very, very troubled" by what he has heard.

"Every time something untoward like this happens, it shakes our confidence," said McGuinty.

McGuinty said he wants police to keep in mind that this woman was someone's daughter, someone's sister and "for all they knew, this might have been somebody's mother."

SIU investigates

The video shows four officers leading Bonds to the cell area at the Elgin Street police headquarters. A female officer knees Bonds and holds her down as three officers watch.

When Bonds kicks behind her, she appears to catch the female officer's leg. Another male officer enters the room and all four men force Bonds to the ground.

A male officer then cuts the back of Bonds's shirt and bra, leaving her back exposed. The female officer stands over Bonds, but does not appear to assist in the search.

The judge's ruling prompted an investigation by Ottawa police Chief Vern White, but that investigation is on hold pending a probe by the Special Investigations Unit, which looks into cases involving serious injury, death or sexual assault involving police.

White issued a statement on Thursday, saying he could not comment on the case while the SIU investigated, but said he understood that "Ottawa residents will be shocked by the video."

Ewart Walters, editor of the Spectrum, the monthly publication serving Ottawa's black community, said people who have spoken to him are angry after seeing the video of the strip search of Bonds, who is black.

"They are outraged that this could happen to them, or their daughters or to this young woman at all," said Walters.

"Two of them said to me, 'Why is this happening in 2010, are we going back into the dark ages?'" he said.

Walters said the incident goes beyond race, however, and should be concerning to all citizens.

"A group of citizens with guns and uniforms, trampled on the rights of another citizen without guns and uniforms," said Walters.

Doug Kirkland, a former Ottawa police sergeant who spent 25 years on the force, said it's standard practice to remove the clothes of someone in custody to protect them from harming themselves.

After watching the video he told CBC News that it looked as though the police officers "had to take the steps they could in order to put her into the cell."

Kirkland also cautioned the video leaves a lot left unknown, including what was said in the room.

"There was always somebody close to her head talking to her," Kirkland said.

"I'm speculating like everyone else does because we don't have the audio, but I'm sure [the officers] were saying 'settle down, settle down, just do this and this will all be over.'"

With files from The Canadian Press