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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lawyer for Mountie takes issue with fire captain's criticism of RCMP as 'unprofessional' at inquiry

January 28, 2009
By Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

Vancouver - A Richmond fire department captain held firm today on his opinion given in testimony a day earlier that the behaviour of four Mounties was unprofessional.

Despite a grilling by David Butcher, a lawyer for Const. Bill Bentley, one of the officers involved, Capt. Kirby Graeme maintained that the actions were unprofessional because none of them were monitoring Robert Dziekanski when the fire crew arrived at Vancouver International Airport after 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 14, 2007.

"I said they were unprofessional, not highly unprofessional," Graeme told the Braidwood inquiry, which is probing the death after Dziekanski was Tasered five times, restrained and handcuffed.

Graeme testified there were four Mounties standing around and no one was monitoring Dziekanski, who was face down on the floor and handcuffed behind his back.

Graeme asked police to remove the handcuffs but one of the officers refused, saying the man had been violent.

"I said we need them off to do a proper assessment," the witness recalled.

He said the officer responded: "No, we can't do that."

The lawyer, Butcher, suggested to the witness that it would be highly unprofessional to criticize the actions of police without full knowledge of the facts.

"I meant no disrespect to the RCMP officers at the scene," Graeme replied.

Butcher said the witness did not answer the question, so he repeated twice again.

"Yes," Graeme replied.

Butcher asked the witness whether he had read today's Vancouver Sun.

Graeme said he had.

"So you're aware your comments have been publicized locally and nationally," Butcher said.

The inquiry commissioner, Thomas Braidwood, a retired appeal court judge, interrupted Butcher.

"We're here to find the facts as to what happened that night, not in terms of comments of what's in the press," Braidwood said.

Asked if Dziekanski was in the proper recovery position, Graeme said: "He wasn't in anything close to the recovery postion."

He also said he wasn't aware that an RCMP media relations officer had at one time stated that Dziekanski was put in a recovery position after he collapsed.

At the Braidwood inquiry, David Butcher is the lawyer representing RCMP Const. Bill Bentley, one of the most junior officers who responded to the call at Vancouver's airport that led to Dziekanski's death.

Lawyer Reg Harris is representing RCMP Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, lawyer Ravi Hira is representing RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington, and Ted Beaubier is the lawyer repesenting RCMP Const. Rundel.

There are more than a dozen lawyers at the inquiry representing various parties, including the Vancouver Airport Authority, the federal government, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, the City of Richmond, Taser International Inc. And the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Even the government of Poland has retained a Vancouver lawyer, Don Rosenbloom, to attend the inquiry.

The Braidwood commission lawyers are Art Vertlieb and Patrick McGowan.

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