‘Ottawa’ Excessive Force Lawsuit Begins Against Ottawa Police
A civil trial involving allegations of excessive force against the Ottawa police from a woman who was dragged into the police station, had her clothes stripped off and was left naked in a cell got under way Wednesday.
Roxanne Carr is suing the Ottawa police and several of its officers for close to a million dollars after an arrest in August 2008 that she alleges resulted in her being left bloody and bruised with a broken wrist in a cell without clothes for several hours.
Surveillance video expected to be entered as an exhibit during the trial shows Carr being dragged into the police station’s cellblock with her hands cuffed and legs bound, placed on the floor and searched before an officer wraps a strap around her arms to hoist her off the floor. She is then put in a cell. Minutes later, officers rush in and her clothes can be seen getting tossed out of the cell.
There is no video of Carr eventually being provided a gown hours later; that surveillance video has gone missing.
Two of the officers involved, Sgt. Steve Desjourdy and special constable Melanie Morris, were implicated in another case involving another female prisoner whose clothes were cut off after she was wrongfully arrested and brought to the same Ottawa police cellblock.
Desjourdy was later acquitted of a criminal charge of sexual assault in that case following a high profile trial; a civil lawsuit filed by the woman, who can’t be named because of a court-ordered publication ban, was settled out of court.
“She was dragged through the cellblock, tied up and had her clothing removed,” said Carr’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, during his opening address to the court Wednesday.
Greenspon said his client’s personal injury lawsuit is alleging false arrest and imprisonment, assault and battery, excessive force, negligent investigation, and breaches of several of Carr’s Charter rights.
Greenspon said he’ll ask the judge to find that police acted improperly and that Carr’s treatment at their hands was “unlawful, excessive and inexcusable.”
In her statement of claim, Carr alleges police used force maliciously as a means of “punishing” her for conduct that the officers considered disrespectful and challenging of their authority. None of the allegations has been proven in court.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit found no criminal wrongdoing by police, and an internal investigation by the department’s professional standards section also cleared the officers.
At the time Carr’s lawsuit was filed, police alleged there was a “crisis” in the cell and that Carr had tried to hang herself.
Greenspon said he expected Ottawa police to argue that Carr was the “victim of her own actions,” and that she was screaming, angry, swearing, resisting arrest and suicidal.
Carr, a 47-year-old former chef and chocolatier who once worked in high-tech, is suing for $975,000 in damages. Carr said she has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder since the arrest and is no longer able to work.
Carr was arrested after the ex-boyfriend she was living with called police and asked that she be removed from the Moncton Road residence they shared.
Carr alleges she had done nothing wrong when police showed up and asked her to leave because her name didn’t appear on the lease, even though she was a tenant at the property.
Carr was taken to the ground and handcuffed by the officers, then placed in the back of a police cruiser. The agitated Carr then kicked out the police cruiser’s windows before she was moved to the back of a second police car without a back seat. Carr alleges she suffered second-degree burns to one of her hands after being place onto a scalding metal bench where the back seat would normally be.
Criminal charges laid against Carr, including assaulting a police officer, mischief and obstructing police, were all later withdrawn.
The eight-day trial is expected to hear testimony from Carr, her psychotherapist, and several of the officers involved.