Judges blast Chatham-Kent Police Service bra removal policy

A judge recently dismissed an impaired driving charge against a young woman who was told to remove her bra when she was taken into custody.
A judge recently dismissed an impaired driving charge against a young woman who was told to remove her bra when she was taken into custody. (Photo: iStock)

The Chatham-Kent, Ont., Police Service is in hot water for a policy that requires women to remove their bras while in custody.

A judge recently dismissed an impaired driving charge against a young woman who was told to remove her bra when she was taken into custody.

Tara Fice was detained for 28 hours when she alleges she was instructed to take off her clothes and placed on suicide watch.

She claims she was then forced to appear braless in front of the judge, as well as her family, for her bail hearing. She found the experience “traumatic” and “sickening,” and told the Toronto Star, “It’s embarrassing, it really is, for me and for my family,” to which she added “they made me feel like I wasn’t a human being.”

This isn’t the only time the police service has come under fire for the policy. In another case, a judge also recently chastised the Chatham-Kent Police Service for requiring a woman to remove her bra before taking a breathalyzer test last year.

Civil liberties advocates have soundly denounced the policy. Abby Deschman of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called the requirement “invasive,” and told the Toronto Star “To force a woman to appear in court without her bra is a very serious violation of physical integrity and privacy.”

Following the recent rulings, Chatham-Kent police Chief Gary Conn released a statement announcing a review of the bra removal requirement.

However, he also defended the policy, stating that the polices’ “primary concern was safety and the taking of clothing which could be used as ligatures for self-harm or strangulation.”

He also told the National Post that the policy was put in place because a woman tried to strangle herself while in custody in the early 1990s.

Though there may be a good reason for the policy, s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees Canadians the right to be free of “unreasonable search and seizure,” which can include bra removal, as a court found in a 2013 Ontario Superior Court decision.

In the case, the judge forbade the practice and ruled that bra removal should only be required on a “case-by-case basis.”

In other words, unless there is proof of potential self-harm, there should be no requirement for bra removal.

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