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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

RCMP actions in taser case 'appalling'

July 22, 2008
Ted Chernecki, Canwest News Service

GLIWICE, Poland -- A woman interviewed by RCMP officers investigating the death of Robert Dziekanski described her experience as an "ordeal."

RCMP investigators went to Poland in April to talk to people close to Dziekanski. The trip to Gliwice was planned soon after Dziekanski, who was immigrating to Canada, died after RCMP shocked him with a Taser at Vancouver International Airport last October.

Ivona Kosowska said the questions the team was asking about Dziekanski struck her as odd.

"What kind of person was he? Was he a drinker, drug user? Was he aggressive?" said Kosowska through a translator. "Most questions were to expose him as not a nice human being -- not to find out what kind of person he really was."

Dziekanski was Tasered early on Oct. 14, 2007, after he began behaving erratically in a secure area of the airport, pacing and throwing items against a glass wall.

By then, he had been at the airport for about 10 hours waiting for his mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops, to pick him up. She was waiting for him outside the international arrivals section, but they never connected despite her requests to airport officials to find him.

His death, captured on video, created international headlines. The police probe concluded in June. To date, no charges have been laid.

Kosowska said two RCMP officers questioned her for more than three hours at the city prosecutor's office. She was exhausted by the end of the interview, which left her with a very low opinion of the RCMP.

"I told them exactly how I felt that after a three-hour interrogation in front of a camera . . . I have very negative feelings toward the Canadian police," she said. "I'm appalled by everything . . . including the fact the policeman was not able to look me straight in the eye."

Ujjal Dosanjh, the federal Liberal critic for public safety, has been highly critical of the RCMP's handling of the Dziekanski case -- from the day the Polish man died at the airport to recent internal e-mails suggesting senior staff offered their support to the four officers involved in the Tasering. He said reports of the interviews in Poland only added to his suspicions.

"This raises very alarming questions about the modus operandi of the RCMP," said Dosanjh. "They're supposed to be protecting people, and they go there [to Poland], spend taxpayers' money, to undermine the criticism that's been levelled at them. It doesn't make sense to me."

Repeated calls to the RCMP in Ottawa late yesterday were not returned.

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