October 2, 2012
Nothing sexual about search, special constable testifies
By Megan Gillis, QMI Agency
OTTAWA -- There was nothing sexual about an Ottawa Police sergeant's call to snip a woman's shirt and bra, a special constable told his cellblock sex assault trial Tuesday.
In fact, it was the "least intrusive" way to search a prisoner who'd just kicked her in the pelvis, Special Const. Melanie Morris said.
But Morris agreed with Sgt. Steven Desjourdy's lawyer Michael Edelson that cellblock officers were often "left to their own devices" on what to do.
Ottawa Police strip search policy didn't say what should happen when the only female officer in the understaffed cellblock was hurt and unable to continue the search of a female.
The woman - arrested for public intoxication on Sept. 6, 2008 - is seen on video shown at Desjourdy's trial on a charge of sexual assault struggling with officers as Morris attempts to search her.
Morris delivers two knee strikes - which she said didn't connect - then the woman mule kicks her twice.
As Morris limps away, male officers ground the woman facedown and Desjourdy appears with scissors.
Morris agreed what was done by Desjourdy - who has pleaded not guilty - was "the furthest thing from sexual."
"He was not touching her except for cutting the shirt and the bra with scissors?" Edelson asked.
"Yes, sir," Morris said.
"Sgt. Desjourdy didn't personally apply any force to her?"
"No, sir," Morris said.
The fact the woman resisted a search raised "red flags" she was hiding something, Morris agreed. Prisoners have stashed small knives and crack pipes in their bras.
Morris said the search had to be completed before the woman was put in a cell, but she was too violent and unpredictable to be taken to a private room. She said it was "not my feeling" she could have been searched without being restrained.
Morris said she heard no sexual comments or taunts directed at the woman and nothing intended to humiliate, punish or put her in her place as the Crown has charged.
It was Morris who removed the woman's clothing and shook it out at the doorway to the cell and she was the only officer standing in front of the woman as she was topless.
Morris agreed with Edelson that people in the calm of the courtroom can look back with the "binoculars of hindsight" but officers were trying to deal with an exceptional and urgent situation that unfolded in seconds.
The trial continues Wednesday.