I’m still stuck on this story, and have not yet moved on to Adam Nobody. In the original post I quoted from an editorial by David Tanovich. He then sent me Bonds: Gendered and Racialized Violence, Strip Searches, Sexual Assault and Abuse of Prosecutorial Power (FORTHCOMING (2011), 76 CRIMINAL REPORTS (6th) ____). Click here for the pdf (which has been updated since I first posted), And this morning, I heard him on the radio – CBC, the Current, to be exact, with freelancer Roberta Walker providing a detailed and accessible discussion of the SCC case Golden, the harms of strip searches, and current practices re strip searches – hint – not what Golden suggests they should be.
Thanks to David for sending his work – I look forward to more discussion on this issue.
The issue of gendered violence against racialized women by police and state officials is an under-studied and litigated area in Canada. ….
Perhaps one of the legacies of Bonds will be a greater recognition and understanding of gendered violence in policing and attempts by academics and lawyers to develop legal strategies to address the problem.
Just to make some “links”, you might click through to David’s article if you’ve been thinking about:
The recent death of Patricia Monture, whose own work did and surely would have continued to take up these issues – or –
Police activities during the G8/G20 in Toronto (see my ref to Adam Nobody, above). The public discussion has at times disturbed me because of the lack of connection to activists from racialised communities who have been trying to get justice for violence and illegal behaviour of police for decades.
Here is the decision in R. v. Bonds, the Ottawa case not from the SCC, but getting a lot of press. PDF here or here.
I noted before (in this post: Gender Invisible: “Many Police Stops in New York Unjustified, Study Says”) that we usually assume that it is men who are stopped (illegally and/or on the basis of racial or other forms of profiling), so the fact that THIS case is the one getting so much press is really interesting. What it all means i do not know, since much is being made in the media of Ms. Bonds slight stature and spotless record. Well, if you have to be small and largely perfect in order to get attention when you’re assaulted by police officers, then I doubt we’ll get that much out of Bonds’ ordeal. Well – we’ll get this: YAY for VIDEO!
The judgment doesn’t talk about WHY these things happen (see below for snippets), but concentrates on WHAT was done. Prof. David Tanovich at the University of Windsor Law School says some of what needs to be said in the Ottawa Citizen:
As Bonds is a black woman, there is also the lurking question of whether race and/ or gender were a factor not only in their decision to stop her on the street, but also to subsequently humiliate her. Given what we know about racism in policing and given that one of the officers was earlier temporarily demoted for assaulting and repeatedly Tasering a young woman in a cell less than a week before this incident, this is a very real likelihood.”
I think the video is a must watch. It’s disturbing since you watch a woman being assaulted by another woman and three men. But it’s being done in our name and I think that is why we can’t turn away from it. I hope I’m right about this. Link to video.
Here are some bits from the judgment of Judge Lajoie.
The stop & arrest
[As the] cruiser in which [Constable Downey] and Constable Flores are, approach[es] the van , Ms. Bonds separates herself from the van, and the van drives away . As Ms. Bonds walks away , she takes a sip from t he bottle of beer and then disposes of this bottle in the city waste basket . That demonstrates to me that she is conscious that she shouldn’t be doing what she is doing , and that she understands the situation. When she is approached by the Constables, she does provide her name and date of birth as required , and this information is checked, either by Constable Flores or Constable Downey , and Ms. Bonds is found to truly be a person of n on-interest. There are no reports involving Ms. Bonds with the Ottawa Police Service .
Then Ms. Bonds is questioned by the officers and is told t o go home. She walks away, but seemingly has second thoughts and wants to have more information regarding why she was stopped by the police. She is told a second time to go home . It is at that point when she is again questioning her police intervention that she is arrested by Constable Flores for being intoxicated in a public place .
Constable Flores defined her intoxication as being the smell of alcohol from her breath and staggering when walking away . It is quite evident that these two very minor observations , together with her past behaviour with the police, do not come close to the definit ion of public intoxication.
At the station
We then see that Special Constable Morris is somewhat on the right side of Ms. Bonds, and through another camera scene , which is the overhead, it is quite evident that at that point in time, someone has a hand inside Ms. Bonds pants , down around her upper leg or hip area . We can see the formation of a fist or hand inside her tight white pants. And it is at that point in time that Sergeant Desjourdy tells us that he saw Ms. Bonds mule kick Special Constable Morris.
I was appalled by the fact that a strip search was undertaken by [female]Constable Morris in the presence of, and with the assistance of at least three male officers . It is quite evident that none of these Officers have received gender training, and that they do give only lip service to female dignity and privacy.
I lived across from that police station in Ottawa for a year. People who visited would sometimes say, “Oh, that must make you feel safe.” and I would stare at them in horror. It was creepy at best. I’m not trying to suggest here that I felt danger. For a whole variety of identity and privilege reasons, I didn’t. But I worried about others and I was creeped out by thinking about what was going on in that building. And no, I don’t hate police officers. I’m just focused on reality. Many are lovely, I’m sure, and I don’t think that being very hard on those who aren’t and challenging the structures which allow and encourage illegal, racist, violent behaviour is somehow disrespectful to excellent officers of the law. I think if anything it is supportive.
All best luck to Ms. Bonds in pursuing justice for herself. I hope that she gets some.
This NYT article on the study, conducted for a test case being brought by the US Center for Constitutional Rights is interesting and informative. I suspect that the study is as well, and this issue is critically important. But with my gender analysis hat on, let me tell you this: Not once in this article is gender mentioned. So you get really interesting findings:
Another of the Fagan study’s main areas of focus was where stops were concentrated.
It found that the highest proportion of stops occur within police precincts that cover areas with large numbers of black and Hispanic residents. A chart in the study shows that in the quartile of the city with the highest concentrations of black residents, the police stopped people at a rate two to three times as much per criminal complaint than in the quartile of the precincts with the lowest percentage of black residents.
But, isn’t something missing? Is it just intended to be obvious that we’re talking about men?
I’m certainly not alone in thinking that the intersection of race and gender holds a good deal of explanatory power, and I think that it’s equally interesting and important to be asking about gender in these cases. I don’t know what we’d see with the gender data. Maybe we’d learn something about gaps in the experiences of black men and women in NYC. Or, maybe the data would show something surprising – how many people, on reading the article, actually picture the police stopping women at all? Likely to capture the depth of raced and gendered discrimination in policing you have to study a variety of police activities – not just stops, but for instance, conversations with victims of crime, family members of those arrested detained, etc.
Here’s a link to the CCR and the case they are bringing – it includes a link to the study itself. If you check it out, let us know through the comments what’s in there. I cannot spend anymore time on the internet today!