My reaction to Stacy Bonds’ manhandling by police was instant and probably similar to yours: Disgust and anger.
I’m sympathetic to Chief Vern White, tasked last week with more damage control than usual, dealing not only with public horror at the Bonds incident but also the anger of taxi drivers at the acquittal of Const. Shyldon Safruk on charges of assaulting one of them after a traffic dispute.
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“It’s difficult sometimes because the court of public opinion sometimes passes judgment quicker than we can,” he told me. “We have to conduct an investigation.”
I can’t fault Chief White’s approach. He’s keeping the lines of communication open. Neither of these stories is over. Ottawa Police and SIU investigations continue.
But when I watch the Bonds video, it drains me of patience and fair-mindedness. It also contradicts what was at the very least a self-serving version of events offered by police.
It reminds me of footage of brutal strip-searches at Kingston’s Prison for Women in the 90s which ultimately resulted in the shuttering of that institution, and that of Robert Dziekanski’s 2007 death at the Vancouver airport, which also put the lie to the factually-challenged testimony of the RCMP officers involved.
I’m trying to keep an open mind, but it’s not easy when I learn that two of the cops who abused Bonds had been caught roughing up prisoners on other occasions. One of them, Sgt. Steve Desjourdy, was disciplined for kicking and Tasering another female prisoner just days before the Bonds incident.
He’s been relieved for now of the burden of dealing with the public, and that’s sensible. Not to prejudge any investigation, but Sgt. Desjourdy’s people skills seem a little rusty. Again I wonder, without any desire to pre-judge, how many women could you brutalize in succession without getting fired from this police force?
While most of the focus is on the conduct of police, from arrest onward, I think we can spare a little scrutiny for the Crown, who, presumably in possession of the video evidence, went ahead with assault charges against Bonds. The judge, in throwing these out, denounced them as a “travesty.”
Am I rushing to judgment? Yeah, I guess so. I await, as always, new evidence that what Ms. Bonds experienced on her walk home that night was anything less than wrongful arrest, police brutality and prosecutorial railroading. But it would have to be pretty good.