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Sweeping changes needed to restore faith in Ottawa police

Looking at my recent web stats – particularly the keyword searches that bring people to this site – I see that I’m getting a big spike in traffic from people googling police brutality in Ottawa. They’re coming from all across Canada, as well as the US and other countries. And they’re coming, of course, because of the Stacy Bonds case.

Stacy Bond’s experience may be shocking to those who previously believed the cops really are the good guys. Unfortunately it’s not an unusual story. I’ve heard it – and worse – from a number of people who have been assaulted by police and corrections officers. The only real difference is that in the absence of video evidence, it boils down to ‘their word against yours’ and it’s a lot easier to give the benefit of the doubt to the police. After all, the police rank much higher on our collective hierarchy of credibility than criminals. I even find my own natural tendency is to give more weight to the police version of events, and I know better.

In this case there’s video evidence to back up the prisoner’s version of events, along with a judge’s outright condemnation of Stacy Bonds’ treatment at the hands of the Ottawa Police. And this means that all kinds of people who previously believed in the system, and who believed that the police are the good guys, are having their eyes opened. Because if the police will gang up on and brutalize a small woman with no criminal record in full view of their own video camera, then they’ll do it to anyone, anywhere.

Some people will still maintain that this is a case of a bad apple. If that were true, there would not have been five officers actively participating in the acts committed against Ms. Bonds. Some of them would have refused to participate, or would have objected, or would have reported the abuse after the fact. The fact is that every officer visible in that video was an active participant. This suggests that this manner of treating prisoners is common, if not routine.

Conducting an investigation into the alleged brutality is a good start, but it’s not enough. If you look back on my Bank Street Bully experience, you can’t help but wonder how one tiny woman ended up unconscious at the hands of Ottawa police officers. The subsequent investigation resulted in no action taken against the officers involved, because there was no evidence. This is not unusual. An internal investigation that yields no evidence and results in no action is a typical outcome. Same thing with an SIU investigation.

I very much hope that Stacy Bonds is the catalyst that brings some much-needed and long-overdue changes to the way people are treated while in police custody, the way the police are policed, and the way allegations of misconduct and brutality are investigated. Anything less will result in more of the same.

6 comments to Sweeping changes needed to restore faith in Ottawa police

  • Ottawa’s police are now about as respected as Saskatoon’s.

  • There needs to be a cultural, systemic change in the way police are recruited and trained, as well. Policing (including the RCMP) tends to attract a certain type of personality, which is why the stereotype exists. The attitudes need to be changed at entry level and this cannot be done unless attitudes change at the top.

  • Zoom! I applaud you for writing about this. The video is deeply disturbing and I’m not even one of those who thinks of the police as the good guys. I had friends who went to the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. To observe. Because they were college students and were interested in our democratic process.

    They came home to us (University of Michigan) with stories of being maced and clubbed. I had known one of these gentle and interested guys since grade school. He was a respectful young man . . . on the wrong street corner at the wrong time so he was beaten.

    I thought this sort of stuff happened only on my side of our long border. I’m deeply saddened to hear that it happens on your side as well.

    I am reaching deeply to find compassion for the perpetrators of this violence against Stacy Bonds. So far, I haven’t been able to go deep enough to find it. I’m still angry. Infuriated actually.

  • I cannot watch the entire video. This is SO disturbing.

  • and now more footage of the same female cop as was searching Bonds kicking a homeless man into a cewll – released to tyhe media by the judge preciding over his case where he’s charged with assaulting a police officer. Add that to Nobody’s claims from the G20 in toronto ….LOOKS LIKE IF YOU GET ASSAULTED BY THE POLICE THEY CHARGE YOU WITH ASSAULT!!!

    So should we all look at any charge of assaulting a police officer with a jaundiced eye now?

    My viewpoint remains the same – if this is just a few bad apples the other officers present need to step forward, start filing complaints themselves and when asked to be witnesses for these citizens they need to step forward.

    Otherwise it’s the whole barrel that is rotten.