West Carleton-March Councillor Eli El-Chantiry has asked a really pertinent question, why would we bother to prosecute a police officer who assaulted a citizen?
“The taxpayer of the city is on the hook for approximately a million — so did the SIU have a case?” he asked Wednesday. “The question should be sent to them — are they dealing with those cases on the merits of the evidence or are they dealing with it based on public pressure, they read the paper and they see public outrage about something and they acted?”
This is in relation to the Steve Desjourdy case. In case you don’t remember, Desjourdy was in charge of the cell block when an Ottawa resident was arrested without cause, assaulted by cops (as she resisted the patently-illegal detainment) and was stripped. It was Desjourdy who stripped the woman, cutting off her shirt and bra. Keep in mind, this wasn’t a strip search, this was… well… apparently nothing more than punishment for this woman daring to resist her unlawful detainment.
In total, three officers were charged, but it is Desjourdy who has received most of the criticism.
The abuse handed down by police in the cell block scuttled one legal case, which triggered an investigation, led to a lawsuit (which the police settled) and resulted in Desjourdy being found guilty of discreditable conduct by a disciplinary committee.
The committee, it seemed, didn’t like the fact that Desjourdy decided to cut the clothes off a woman. (You see, in pretty much any scenario, if you strip a woman (or a man!) against her will, it’s sexual assault. Luckily for Desjourdy, the courts looked the other way in this instance.)
So, here we have a man caught on tape committing a crime. A judge has already called out the offending behaviour. An internal review as well as a disciplinary hearing have determined that the behaviour was indefensible, and the city has already given up defending itself in a lawsuit.
And our fair councillor, chair of the police services board, wonders why we might pursue criminal charges.
Perhaps it’s time for a period of introspection for Mr. El-Chantiry.