You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Monday, December 15, 2008

RCMP must be zapped with rule change

December 15, 2008
Joey Thompson, The Province

Zap: 50,000 volts.

Zap: 50,000 volts.

Zap: 50,000 volts.

Zap: 50,000 volts.

Zap: 50,000 volts.

A pack of burly officers scorched bewildered arrival Robert Dziekanski five times before dogpiling the stricken man as he lay in the international lobby area of Vancouver International Airport after travelling 21 hours from Poland.

Not twice, which is the line RCMP brass have fed us for the past year.

Supt. Wayne Rideout, the investigating team's top dog, said Friday that, once Mounties realized their error, they couldn't tell the public differently for fear it might taint the investigation into the man's abrupt death within minutes of being jolted by the stun gun.

How solid is a top-level Integrated Homicide Investigation Team's work if it faces extinction by the mere correction of a single factual error, you ask?

And why couldn't Mounties do the math? Witnesses had no trouble.

Records of the fallout from Dziekanski's brutal death reveal eye-witnesses were certain they heard four or five Taser firings.

But RCMP Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre kept insisting: No. Just two.

We should have known not to rely on his accounting; he's the same guy who maintained the frightened, confused man was swarmed by three cops when it turns out he was really beset by four.

Ever notice that when cops err, the goof is always in their favour?

A reading of the nation's criminal law and of RCMP policy by B.C. criminal justice branch officials concluded the cops acted within reason; their conduct acceptable.

Sure, if war is where you're at.

Appropriate to you and me would have looked more like a measured, conciliatory greeting, an offer to fetch an interpreter, a jug of water, perhaps a blanket, coffee, cushion or jacket. Did he need a washroom? A cigarette? A telephone?

And if the Taser torching didn't cause the 40-year-old's heart to pack it in, what did? Interestingly enough, the branch's seven-page statement steps gingerly: Use of the Taser did not directly cause the cardiac arrest, it read, but three pathologists were unanimous that heart disease due to chronic alcohol abuse and/or an agitated state of delirium might have been contributing factors.

As were the following: "Stress of physical restraint worsened by deployment of the Taser [and] decreased ability to breathe [due to] being restrained in the prone position for part of the struggle."

Now, I read that as meaning the explosive actions of four armed police barging in and ganging up on a guy they had been warned was disoriented, befuddled and sweating profusely may have led, in part, to the guy's massive heart failure.

While their actions may fall within the acceptable standards of criminal law and police policy as it currently exists, it doesn't follow that their confrontational stance didn't contribute to Dziekanski's death.

Or that, faced with a similar set of circumstances, another distraught citizen won't meet the same fate.

Which tells me law or policy be darned; the force must be directed to rewrite its rules and reform its conduct regarding Taser-gun use and exertion of force in order to spare the lives of those Canadians who aren't a picture of health.

We'll be mourning the loss of a lot more citizens if they don't.

No comments: