Judge blasts OPP officers for ‘egregious’ strip search of impaired driving suspectA judge stayed impaired driving charges a woman was facing after she was forced to remove her bra at an Ontario Provincial Police detachment.
As Ontario’s police watchdog continues its systemic review of police strip search practices across the province, a Belleville judge has come down strongly on an OPP detachment for failing to follow the law around the controversial practice.
Ontario court Justice Elaine Deluzio stayed impaired driving charges last month against Jillian Judson, who was told by officers to remove her underwire bra, when there were no reasonable grounds to do so, after she was taken to the police station in May 2016.
Deluzio said she was not only concerned with what happened to Judson, but also with the fact that the officers involved testified that they would continue to ask female detainees to remove their bras.
“The indifference expressed by both Officers (Amanda) MacFadden and (Janet) Allaire to their obligation as police officers to abide by the legal constraints surrounding strip searches is very concerning,” Deluzio wrote.
“And the apparent willingness of both officers, and possibly other police officers at Quinte West OPP detachment, to continue with a practice of removing at least every underwire bra worn by female detainees, knowing that this practice, when implemented automatically and without exception towards every female detainee, is illegal, is an egregious abuse of police power.”
Strip searching is “inherently humiliating and degrading,” the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a landmark case 15 years ago, and should only be done when there are reasonable grounds to do so, such as looking for weapons or evidence related to the arrest.
Yet police officers across the province have continued to conduct what judges have deemed to be illegal strip searches, where there were no grounds to have detainees remove their clothes. The illegal searches have resulted in lawsuits against police and criminal cases being tossed.
The situation became so bad that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director announced last July that it was launching a province-wide, systemic review into police strip search practices. The review is ongoing.
“I’ve had enough,” Gerry McNeilly, the independent police director, told the Star last year. “There is no regard being given to the rules.”
Judson’s lawyer, Pieter Kort, said police cannot argue that the law isn’t clear around strip searches given the judicial condemnation of police conduct in the past, and again in Deluzio’s ruling.
“The police can no longer take the position that they were unaware of what the law was,” he told the Star. “There’s no uncertainty now. It cannot be said that there’s any question with what the law is with respect to strip searches.”
A spokesperson for the Ontario Provincial Police said the force accepts Deluzio’s ruling and is reviewing it, but that the officers would not be commenting.
Aside from the general training all police officers receive at the Ontario Police College, the OPP’s procedures on searches of arrested individuals are also covered “regularly” in training sessions at the Ontario Provincial Police Academy, said OPP Staff Sgt. Carolle Dionne.
“While I can’t anticipate the results of the OIPRD review, the OPP will certainly take into account the findings and take the necessary steps to remedy any identified issue(s),” she said.
In a sworn statement filed in court, Judson said she was told she had to remove her bra for safety reasons, and said she felt “extremely uncomfortable.”
“Having to be in that state in front of strangers was intensely embarrassing,” she said. “Having no control over being made to remove personal items or where or how to remove them as a 35-year-old woman was degrading and humiliating.”
Officer Amanda MacFadden testified that she has female inmates remove their bras “for their safety and ours,” and said that in the past she’s found objects in underwire bras including bear mace and crack cocaine.
She also testified that she was unaware at the time of her encounter with Judson that asking a woman to remove her bra is a strip search. She said she has since been told by a senior officer that the removal is indeed a strip search, but MacFadden also said she has not changed her practice.
“She says that she was taught that the removal of an underwire bra is a ‘normal part’ of searching someone in police custody and so she still does this,” Deluzio wrote. “She believes that anyone wearing an underwire bra poses a danger to police.”
After removing her bra, Judson entered a room to give breath samples with a white blanket wrapped around her chest area, as shown on video that was presented in court. The readings on the breath samples were 150 mg of alcohol in 100 mL of blood, nearly double the legal limit, according to the ruling.
The breath tech officer, Janet Allaire, testified that she knew Judson wasn’t wearing a bra “because she expects that every female prisoner she deals with has removed her bra.”
She said she had been trained to have female detainees remove their bras, and was unaware until this case that the removal constituted a strip search.
“Officer Allaire said she had not changed her practice,” Deluzio wrote. “She said she had not been asked to change her practice and she said she is not aware of any new training at the detachment dealing with the searching of female prisoners.”https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/0 ... spect.htmlhttps://www.thespec.com/news-story/7415 ... g-suspect/