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Monday, October 27, 2008

Another arrogant response from the RCMP

October 27, 2008
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

RCMP foot-dragging in the investigation into the Tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport a year ago has forced a second postponement of the public inquiry into his death.

The inquiry was supposed to reconvene Oct. 20, but that was delayed a month ago until Nov. 20. At that time, Crown counsel said it would require at least two weeks to review the investigators' report on the incident that triggered international outrage and several probes into the use of the conducted energy weapons.

Turns out, the prosecutors weren't able to meet that deadline because the material received from RCMP investigators was deemed incomplete with a required report on the use of deadly force missing.

The inquiry now has been put off until Jan. 19.

"To fulfil its mandate in the most ideal way, the commission needs the cooperation of the RCMP, including access to the Dziekanski case files," explained Art Vertlieb, commission counsel. "But that's unlikely to happen until a decision is made on charges."

This is another arrogant response from the RCMP, which has behaved badly throughout this tragedy.

The force initially misled the public about what happened, tried to suppress a videotape of the incident shot by a witness and now RCMP investigators have taken more than a year to provide Crown with the material needed to decide whether any or all of the four officers involved should be charged with Dziekanski's death.

"The public has a right to know!" fumed Walter Kosteckyj, lawyer for the family, on Monday. "The delay is ridiculous. It makes us all look foolish. It makes the legal community look foolish."

This tempest exposes also the dysfunctional relationship between the provincial government and the federal police agency. We pay for the Mounties, but they don't report to Victoria, they report to Ottawa.

After Dziekanski's death, Attorney General Wally Oppal admitted even he couldn't get straight answers about what happened at the airport Oct. 14, 2007.

Now his prosecutors can't get the federal police agency to provide in a timely manner the requisite information to make a charge decision. Come on!

Retired B.C. Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, who is conducting the two-part inquiry, said he was disappointed at the second delay.

I bet.

The Mounties' lackadaisical approach has not only made a mockery of public concern about what happened, their foot-dragging tarnishes this inquiry.

Like all of us, Braidwood is frustrated and agrees that the public deserves answers about what occurred.

But without hearing evidence directly from the officers, and having access to the RCMP's files, it is impossible for him to do his job.

Oppal appointed him in February to conduct two related inquiries.

The first was a "study" commission into the use, safety and effectiveness of Tasers by B.C. police forces other than the RCMP. The second phase was to investigate the circumstances of Dziekanski's death.

After a day-long international flight, Dziekanski, 40, spent 10 hours at YVR apparently lost and unable to find his mother, Zofia Cisowski, who was waiting for him in a separate area of the terminal. After hours of futilely trying to get help, she went home to Kamloops.

Her son became more and more upset until his distressed behaviour caused RCMP to be summoned. Within seconds of their arrival, the Mounties twice Tasered the burly construction worker.

Dziekanski died as the officers subdued him.

"This is just such an unbelievable set of circumstances," Kosteckyj said. "We're talking about 20 or 30 seconds. Why would it take so long for the RCMP to complete their report? It leaves the impression they're delaying in the hope the public will forget."

Maybe they've never heard of the adage that justice delayed is justice denied.

These shenanigans have exposed more than anything how much the RCMP is in need of reform.

As Kosteckyj asked: "What happens in those circumstances when there's no videotape of what happened? What happens in those cases? That's what the public needs to know."

We already know - an outright whitewash.

It's time to end the policing contract with the RCMP and for B.C. to police its own turf. Then we'll be able to get answers when things go terribly wrong.

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