OTTAWA — A beleaguered Ottawa police force is reviewing its detention policies and defending the rank-and-file after videos were released showing officers striking two prisoners and cutting a woman’s clothes off.
Chief Vern White says the videos have shaken the public’s confidence in the force.
“I’m always concerned about public confidence,” White told a news conference on Thursday.
“The public, overall, I think have tremendous confidence in what we do. And I understand they’re shaken by what they’ve seen.”
A video from 2009 released Wednesday shows an officer kicking a homeless man, Terry Delay, as he is dragged, prostrate into a cell.
The Delay video emerged after another video surfaced last week showing 27-year-old Stacy Bonds being kneed by the same officer and then having her shirt and bra cut off. The Bonds incident occurred in 2008.
The officer involved, Special Const. Melanie Morris, has been reassigned to desk duties pending an investigation. Special constables are not considered full members of the force. They have less training than regular police, although they have many of the same powers.
Most are restricted to duties such as working in cell blocks or transferring prisoners.
Charges against Bonds were stayed earlier this year by a judge who said he was “appalled” at her treatment. A charge against Delay was also stayed after a judge saw the video.
“We do demand that we be held accountable every day,” White said. “And we guarantee that we will be accountable.”
Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is examining both cases, but may soon have another on its hands.
Ottawa police have been served notice that another woman, Roxanne Carr, is alleging abuse while in custody.
In a notice of action filed last August, Carr accuses police of “assault and use of excessive force” in 2008.
White said the incidents are not representative of the actions of Ottawa police, who handle thousands of calls each year. The cases have affected morale on the 1,300-member force, he said.
“When an officer mentions that they’re embarrassed to represent us because of what people say to them, that makes it very difficult on morale — for all of us,” said White.
“Are we discounting everything great that’s been done? Because that’s not about fairness. We will hold people to account who need to be held to account every single day. But it’s unfair to hold those who should not be held to account for the actions of others.”