BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. RCMP Chastised By Judge For Videotaping Woman's Strip Search

02/07/2015 06:18 EST | Updated 04/09/2015 05:59 EDT
Grant Faint via Getty Images
KELOWNA, B.C. - A judge has chastised Kelowna RCMP for videotaping a woman as she was strip-searched in the detachment.

In a court decision released online this week, Judge Ellen Burdett criticized the force for ignoring a 13-year-old law that outlines the proper way to conduct strip searches.

The judge said police violated the woman's charter right to be secure from an unreasonable search by videotaping and broadcasting the footage to a monitoring room while she was partially naked.

"It appears videotaping inside strip-search rooms and simultaneous broadcasting to a central monitoring location is a routine policy at the Kelowna detachment," Burdett said.

"The policy of videotaping and monitoring all strip searches in the Kelowna detachment demonstrates an ignorance of charter rights."

Senior RCMP officers declined to say Friday whether their strip-search policy had changed. Detachment spokesman Const. Kris Clark said it was inappropriate for police to comment on a judgment.

"We're reviewing the judgment to determine its impact on our procedure, policy or training," he said.

Undercover police arrested Madison Fine for possessing drugs for the purpose of trafficking in downtown Kelowna on Feb. 27 last year.

Officers suspected she was supplying cocaine to street-level dealers who sell to customers.

When an officer approached her in a pickup truck, she was holding two cellphones. Inside her purse was a wallet with $915 and an open bag of baking soda, commonly used as a cutting agent, Burdett said.

A female Mountie was asked to transport Fine to the detachment.

Together with a female civilian employee, the officer took Fine into a search room. When she told Fine to remove her pants, a piece of tin foil fell out. When Fine took off her underwear, a bag was visible.

Inside the bag were 48 packets of cocaine, crack and heroin, Burdett said.

During a voir dire, Fine's lawyer Rajdeep Basra argued police had no reasonable grounds to arrest Fine and delayed her from calling a lawyer due to the strip search. The judge concluded there was no such breach.

Fine removed her own clothes during the strip search and she was never fully undressed. But she was not told she would be videotaped or monitored.

"The idea that many other individuals, including men, could potentially view the strip search if they were in the monitoring room was not communicated to her," Burdett said.

Such videotaping should only be captured on a recorder inside a private search room and accessible to a limited number of people if allegations of misconduct arise, she said.

"The police conduct in this case showed an ignorance of the law rather than a pattern of misconduct. ... She had an expectation of privacy while in the ... room." (Kelowna Daily Courier)

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