Police chief responding to outrage over Bonds video
Published Friday, November 26, 2010 6:36PM EST
Ottawa's police chief is personally responding to community members outraged by the video of Stacy Bonds being strip-searched and pinned down by Ottawa Police.
Leslie Swartman emailed Chief Vern White expressing her disgust at the video. She said he called her back within two hours.
"He said I know you're disgusted Leslie, so am I."
Anger over the video has spread across the province. Premier Dalton McGuinty says although he hasn't watched the video that shows police pin down and strip an innocent Ottawa woman of her clothes, he's been briefed on the issue and police must act according to the law.
"I ask people to remember, but particular our police -- this is somebody's daughter; this is somebody's sister. For all they knew, this might have been somebody's mother and I just think we have to be very, very careful about how we deal with each other. And it's very, important that the police act in what is keeping in what is right, and appropriate, and lawful," McGuinty told reporters in Ottawa on Friday.
The video, obtained through a court order by the Ottawa Citizen, shows Stacy Bonds struggling with several Ottawa police officers after she is brought to a booking desk.
She is kneed by Special Const. Melanie Morris and later pinned to the ground by a group of officers. Sgt. Steve Desjourdy then gets a pair of scissors and cuts off her shirt and bra.
Bonds was later taken to a cell where she was left topless with soiled pants for several hours. She was charged with assaulting police.
A judge ruled on the case last month, throwing out the charges against Bonds. He called the treatment of the Ottawa woman an "indignity toward a human being."
However, Bonds' lawyer says this isn't the first time Morris has been caught on video applying force to someone in custody. He entered footage in the Bonds court case of a separate incident involving Morris.
"We had video footage of that gentleman being dragged up the hall like a dog and put into a cell and Melanie Morris kicks him in the cell," said Matthew Webber, Bonds' lawyer.
In that case, charges against the man were stayed.
Ottawa police officers are governed by Ontario's Police Services Act. If an officer displays bad conduct, punishment according to the Act can go as far as dismissal.
However, the Police Services Act does not apply to Morris who is a special constable – or a civilian member of the service.
Ottawa's police chief issued a statement Thursday, saying he knows Ottawa residents will be "shocked" by the video. However, he wants residents to know he's taking the case very seriously.
The chair of the police services board is also urging the public to keep their trust in police.
"We need to get to the bottom of this and I hope the public will keep trusting the chief and the board to do the right thing," said Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board.
Bonds, a 27-year-old theatrical make-up artist, was walking along Rideau Street in September 2008 when she was stopped by police. Officers ran her name through their database and let her go when nothing turned up.
However, when Bonds asked why she'd been stopped, police arrested her for public intoxication.
The case is now before Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, which is called in whenever police are involved in incidents that result in serious injury or death.
With files from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins
Ottawa Police Chief Vern White updates the media on charges laid in a firebombing of a Royal Bank in Ottawa on May 18, 2010.
Premier Dalton McGuinty reacts to the Stacy Bonds case in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 26, 2010.
A judge ruled last month that Stacy Bonds was treated unlawfully by Ottawa police officers when she was arrested in September 2008. Photo courtesy: Ottawa Citizen
Matthew Webber, Stacy Bonds' lawyer, says this isn't the first time Melanie Morris has been caught on video applying excessive force on a suspect.