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Sunday, December 14, 2008

EDITORIAL: No surprises in taser probe

December 14, 2008
Editorial, The Province

Stan Lowe, Crown spokesman for British Columbia's Criminal Justice Branch, stood at a podium Friday and announced there will be no charges in the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski. It was, shall we say, a Lowe point.

Dziekanski, as everyone in the world with Internet access now knows, was repeatedly Tasered by RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport last year.

He died.

Leading the investigation on whether or not the RCMP officers used the Tasers inappropriately or illegally was a crack team of, um, er, RCMP officers.

Hands up, everyone who didn't see "no charges" coming out of that investigation.

OK, everyone on planet Earth, you can put your hands down now.

Seriously though, the RCMP has to stop investigating the RCMP. It's getting ridiculous.

Here is some of the information that surfaced when the Crown went public with its decision to not press charges against the officers involved in the deadly takedown of the victim:

Number of times Tasered

Dziekanski was Tasered five times during the incident. The public was originally told the victim was only Tasered twice. RCMP Supt. Wayne Rideout claims misinformation arose out of a rush to provide media information immediately after the incident.

Well, Wayne, the next time you provide such incredibly wrong information we recommend you correct it as soon as possible. This newspaper has a legal obligation to correct its mistakes within a certain time limit. Why should the RCMP be allowed to have such egregiously wrong information floating about the metaverse for more than a year? No doubt, if you originally claimed to have Tasered the poor man five times, only to discover the real number was two, RCMP spokespeople would have fallen over themselves getting to the podium to correct the record.

We will give the final word on this point to the victim's mother, Zofia Cisowski, who, upon hearing her son was Tasered three more times than she was told, reportedly said: "How can you tell me a Taser was deployed five times on my son and it isn't excessive?"

Digging up dirt

An RCMP team of investigators actually went to Poland to get the goods on the victim. This investigation allegedly revealed Dziekanski was in a highly agitated state when he left Poland to be with his mother in Canada. Moreover, the 40-year-old immigrant had a drinking problem.

We fail to see how any of this -- true or false -- has any bearing on whether or not excessive force was used. Dziekanski's life could have been hanging like an anvil on the end of a thread just prior to the encounter with the RCMP. The question is: Did the RCMP conduct themselves in a manner that can be ruled "not excessive."

The Crown says yes; the video says no.

We'll give the final word on this point to some fitting sarcasm from the Polish embassy in Ottawa: ". . . it appears the main reason for Mr. Dziekanski's death was his fear of flying, tiredness and lack of ability to communicate in English . . ."

And finally. . .

The message here is worrying for Canadians who do not behave like good robots when in the vicinity of an RCMP officer.

Gone are the days when you could argue a point or disagree openly with the authoritarian rule of our national police force. Should you be fortunate enough to encounter a benevolent officer capable of empathy, you may actually be reasoned with.

But be warned: step out of line, show a little frustration, even, heaven forbid, yell and throw something like a stapler aimlessly into the air, you risk immediate Tasering and a beat down.

Fortunately, this isn't over. A number of other investigations and inquiries are planned. The finding can't get any worse.

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