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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Judge releases cellblock video of alleged mistreatment by Ottawa police

July 28, 2011
Steve Rennie, Canadian Press (via Globe and Mail)

A cellblock video has been released that captures the arrest of a woman who claims Ottawa police injured and strip-searched her before leaving her naked in a cell without medical attention.

Roxanne Carr was arrested and charged with assaulting police, obstructing police and damaging property in 2008. Those charges were dropped in April.

She is now suing the police department over their treatment of her during her arrest.

Several media outlets, including The Canadian Press, went to court to have the video released. Last week, an Ontario Court judge agreed to release the footage, but court workers couldn't find the video in the case file. A duplicate copy was released Thursday.

The incident is broken up into 26 video clips showing Ms. Carr's arrest from several different angles.

In the videos, officers drag a handcuffed Ms. Carr, who is wearing a black tank top and dark pants, from a police car through the hallways of the cellblock.

Ms. Carr's arms are cuffed behind her back. She does not appear to resist.

Two officers hold her by the elbows and lead her into a room with a counter. They lower her head-first onto the floor. Her head comes off the floor and falls back onto it as they shift her body.

She is lying face down when the officers remove her handcuffs. Then, they take two objects from her hair or neck and toss them onto a nearby counter. One officer kneels on Ms. Carr's back as the police wrap a strap around her arms. They then hoist her to her feet and walk her to a cell.

The videos do not have any sound.

There is no camera inside Ms. Carr's cell. At one point, a white gown is tossed from one of the cells. Later, an officer leads Ms. Carr, who is now wearing a white gown, from her cell to retrieve her clothes from a bin. She gets changed in another room.

The video shows Ms. Carr, again in the black shirt and pants, standing at a counter signing documents. She leaves the cellblock, stops in a stairwell to put her hair in a ponytail, and leaves the station.

It is not clear from the videos if she is in any pain.

She claims her arm was broken during the arrest and that she was dropped on her head.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

“It's clear from the video that there's not an instance, not a muscle of resistance. And despite that, there's six police officers hog-tying her and then leading her on a leash to the cell, taking her clothes and leaving her naked for at least an hour,” said Lawrence Greenspon, Carr's lawyer.

“It's a very disturbing video. I shudder to think if people treat people like this when they know they're on video, how do they treat people when they know they're not?”

In a statement released this week, Ottawa Police Acting Chief Gilles Larochelle noted the Ontario Special Investigations Unit and the Ottawa Police Service's Professional Standards Unit both probed the incident and did not lay charges or find any misconduct.

“I am satisfied that cellblock officers handled the custody of Roxanne Carr with the utmost professionalism, especially when faced with a crisis in the cell,” Mr. Larochelle's statement says.

The Carr case has similarities to another case in which an Ottawa police officer was charged with sexual assault after a woman's much-publicized arrest.

The Special Investigations Unit was called in after video showed a special constable kneeing Stacy Bonds while she was being booked at police headquarters Sept. 6, 2008.

The video also showed male officers holding Ms. Bonds down while another officer cut off her clothes the night she was arrested for a liquor offence.

Ms. Bonds was subsequently charged with assaulting a police officer, but Ontario Court Justice Richard Lajoie stayed proceedings in her case after seeing the video.

Other elements of the Ms. Bonds video, along with several other videos showing different cases of alleged police brutality, are still under investigation by various agencies.

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