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Saturday, November 01, 2008

EDITORIAL: Taser investigation: left in suspense

November 1, 2008

Justice delayed has a price. In British Columbia, a 21-year-old man, much-loved, is dead, and an RCMP officer is alleged to have killed him accidentally while driving drunk. The officer is one of four Mounties involved in the fatal tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski last October at the Vancouver International Airport. For a full year, the prospect of criminal charges has been dangling over the officers' heads like a sword of Damocles.

It is, of course, impossible to know whether there is a connection between the Dziekanski tasering, the possibility of charges and the car accident that took the life of motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson of Delta. But it is only natural to wonder whether the pressure of being subjected to such a protracted criminal investigation played any role.

When justice is delayed so long, the first thing to suffer is public confidence in the justice system. By law, the Mounties investigate their own officers in any suspicious death. Then the file passes to a Crown attorney, who makes the decision on charges. The B.C. Crown's office has had the file since mid-June, and says a crucial piece of information – a medical report from an outside expert – needs to be completed before a decision is made. This is the second high-profile B.C. case involving the RCMP in the past three years (the first was the in-custody shooting death of Ian Bush by a Mountie) with such a slow-paced investigation. The police and Crown made lots of excuses in the Bush case (no charges were laid, ultimately). It's hard to see why the Dziekanski probe has taken so long. A year's wait is not fair to anyone, including the officers.

The tasering and other physical force used on Mr. Dziekanski were horrible misuses of police power. But given that the officers appear to have been acting according to the misguided RCMP policy and training on tasers, charges seem unlikely. British Columbia needs to make a decision, soon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The RCMP drags these charges out because they mistakenly believe that the public will loose interest over time. They really don't want to charge one of their own so they look for ways to stall and delay. There is no justice when it comes to the RCMP dealing with their own people.