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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Officer’s unlawful actions revealed in detail

November 24, 2010
Gary Dimmock, The Ottawa Citizen

Days before Sgt. Steve Desjourdy was caught on videotape strip searching Stacy Bonds in the police station booking room, the Ottawa officer lost his temper with another female prisoner who was also kicked in the back, stripped of her clothing and tasered.

Desjourdy, a former spokesman for the Ottawa force, was in charge of the cell blocks on Sept. 2, 2008, when a female panhandler was arrested on Rideau Street for public intoxication and brought into detention.

Desjourdy watched the jailed prisoner from a closed-circuit television monitor and when she took her shirt off and tied it to the cell bars he expressed concern that she was going to hurt herself. He grabbed a Taser and approached the cell.

But according to an agreed statement of facts, harm came to her not from her own hand, rather by Desjourdy’s, who would later plead guilty to unlawful exercise of duty — a Police Services Act charge.

Desjourdy threatened to use the Taser on the woman if she didn’t calm down. So she obeyed, and the topless female prisoner knelt, with her back facing the locked cell door.

Desjourdy then entered the cell and proceeded to kick the kneeling woman in the back, knocking her into the cell’s stainless steel toilet. He kicked her a second time, then took a position on the cell’s bed with his Taser at the ready while a female officer came in and stripped off the rest of the woman’s clothes.

At this point, the female prisoner grabbed at Desjourdy’s leg — that’s when he tasered her twice.

Terence Kelly, a retired York Regional Police deputy chief who presided over the Police Services Act case, said in a report that described the incident that he gave Desjourdy what he termed a lighter sentence — three months demotion to constable — because Desjourdy showed “remorse” and pleaded guilty right away.

“The public must be confident that police officers will strive to set the example for those in the community. Anything short of this will be seen as a contradiction and serve no other purpose but to undermine the efforts of all police officers and the explicit goals of the service. An informed police officer possesses a sense of responsibility to the service of which he is part, and the community, which he serves,” Kelly wrote in the April 9, 2009, decision.

The hearing officer noted that being a police officer can be stressful and “on occasion unfortunately leads to a loss of temper.”

“It is unfortunate that when faced with this situation Sgt. Desjourdey (sic) would not have permitted himself to be guided by his better judgment; he must be understanding of human failings and yet, for the good of the police … he must be tolerant of improper actions of prisoners under his care. It is clear from the evidence presented in this tribunal that he had all the necessary assistance to control this situation,” Kelly wrote. And, after 90 days, Desjourdy was reinstated as a sergeant.

Unbeknownst to the office of Chief Vern White, days after the Sept. 2, 2008, case described by Kelly, Desjourdy would use a pair of scissors and commit what a Ottawa judge last month branded as an unlawful strip search and an “indignity.”

On Sept. 26, 2008, Desjourdy cut the shirt and bra off a 27-year-old theatrical makeup artist named Stacy Bonds in the booking room of the police cell block. Bonds, who has no criminal record, had also been arrested on Rideau Street.

Ontario Court Justice Richard Lajoie said last month that not only was Bonds not drunk, but that he didn’t want to play any part in the case against Bonds, who was charged with assaulting police during her “unlawful” strip search.

Lajoie stayed the assault charge, calling it a travesty. He also described police treatment of Bonds as an “indignity” and condemned the officers involved as malicious.

Desjourdy is now under investigation by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit for alleged sexual assault against Bonds, who is now considering suing the police. She has told the Citizen that she felt as though she had been “mentally and verbally raped.”

She said she was simply walking home from an after-hours party when police stopped her on Rideau Street. They asked her name, ran it and came up with nothing and told her she was free to go. But she turned back and asked why she was stopped. “They wouldn’t even give me their names,” she recalled.

And when she questioned them, they arrested her for public intoxication.

White said last week that his officers have no authority to arrest citizens for public intoxication unless they pose a risk.

Desjourdy joined the Ottawa Police Service 12 years ago. Before joining the Ottawa force, he was a member of the MRC des Collines police force in the Outaouais. White has banned him from dealing with the public while he is under investigation.

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