Judge blasts OPP officers for 'egregious' strip search of impaired driving suspect

July 13, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

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.

Read more: Judge blasts OPP officers for 'egregious' strip search of impaired driving suspect