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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Silence on Dziekanski a year later is outrageous

October 22, 2008
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

One year -- actually 372-odd days and counting by today -- and still no word on whether four RCMP officers will be charged or disciplined for Tasering Robert Dziekanski, the 44-year-old Polish immigrant who died at Vancouver Airport.

One year! What are prosecutors waiting for -- some statute of limitations on public outrage to run out?

Retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood was this month to begin the second phase of his commission of inquiry into the tragic death, which triggered an international outcry after people around the globe saw an eyewitness video.

His inquiry was postponed until Nov. 12 because the RCMP refuse to participate in the proceedings until a decision is made on the charges.

Braidwood said public confidence is the most important thing the Horsemen have going for them and any erosion of that support would impinge on the ability of police officers to do their job.

That's why he wanted to ensure the four Mounties had every opportunity to tell him what happened without a charge hanging over their head.

And he's right.

Lest we forget, one of the reasons Attorney-General Wally Oppal created this commission is that even he wasn't kept up to speed by the RCMP in the days after Dziekanski's death.

The Crown, however, promised a month ago to decide "by the second week of October" whether charges would be laid over the treatment the burly, distraught Dziekanski received on Oct. 14, 2007.

They didn't say why it was going to take them that long to review the recommendation from the investigators.

Now, by anyone's reckoning, the second week of October has come and gone and still silence. I'm told the Crown wants more information from investigators and it could be another two weeks before a decision is made.

It's incredible it has taken this long -- the delay has done nothing but tarnish the reputation of the RCMP and the B.C. legal system.

As was mentioned during remembrance services Saturday for Dziekanski in Kamloops, where his mom, Zofia Cisowski, lives, all kinds of questions remain unanswered about what happened and why.

"We wait for that public inquiry," Cisowski told people at the service. "I would like to see RCMP in public inquiry. Too many people dead."

Dziekanski, who didn't speak English, landed in Canada after a punishing day-long flight from Europe. He waited in one area of the airport for hours while Cisowski sat nearby in another -- yet both were unable to rouse immigration or airport authorities to help them find each other.

She returned home to Kamloops that fateful night while her son became more and more distressed until finally and fatally police were summoned and he died in the ensuing confrontation.

In the aftermath, RCMP mis-statements about what happened were exposed by the amateur video of the incident and a raging controversy ignited over use of the Taser. Several investigations and inquiries have followed.

What has emerged is that many police officers are indiscriminate in their use of this weapon and deceptive in their reporting about the incidents.

I still find it amazing that the Taser is in use without hard-and-fast regulations. They are being discharged with little or no constraint on the young, the elderly and the infirm.

Police continue to maintain it's better than shooting a suspect, as if every choice were jolt or die. The law-enforcement community and the makers of this space-age immobilizer insist it is safer than other alternatives. Yet there even have been other deaths since Dziekanski was zapped,

Consider, too, as others have pointed out -- any ordinary citizen can go buy a large-calibre handgun, but not one of these devices. Hmmm.

I've never understood what was wrong with a moratorium on the use of Tasers until we have parsed the problems that exist and made some sensible decisions.

Braidwood hopes to have another six weeks of hearings in November, December and January, more if necessary, to establish exactly what happened to Dziekanski.

He is actually conducting two inquiries. The first proceeding, held earlier this year, was on the use, safety and effectiveness of the conducted energy weapons and their use by peace officers in B.C., other than the RCMP. Although the RCMP functions as the provincial and, in most towns, the municipal police in B.C., as a federal force, it answers only to Ottawa.

The ex-justice's report on the use of the Taser is due to be delivered to Attorney-General Oppal Nov. 30.

Maybe we will have heard about charges by then.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With reference to Robert Dziekanski's horrific death, perhaps the powers that be are under the assumption that if they leave it alone long enough, people will forget....not a chance!