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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Four cops to face spotlight at Taser inquiry

February 21, 2009
ctvbc.ca With a report by CTV British Columbia's Peter Grainger

The first of four RCMP officers involved in the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski will begin testifying Monday at the Braidwood Inquiry. Little is known about the four Mounties-- which is why the lawyer for the Dziekanski family is fighting to get the facts of their professional lives out in the open.

The images of the four officers who took Robert Dziekanski down were out there in the public domain within a month of the tragic encounter.

It's only now, because of testimony at the inquiry looking into the polish immigrant's death, that names can be put to the all the officer's faces.

One of them is Const. Gerry Rundel. He'll be the first to testify.

"We're getting the officers in the way they had involvement,' said Art Vertlieb, Crown Counsel at the Inquiry

So officer Rundel-- who we could see on the video-- was in and out more than others, so his knowledge of events might be a bit less perhaps," said Vertlieb.

Next on the stand will be the red-headed Mountie Const. Bill Bentley, who can be seen hammering his collapsible baton beside Dziekanski's head.

Kwesi Millington is the Constable who fired the Taser.

And the man in charge that night was Corpl. Monty Robinson. He was arrested last fall after motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson was killed in a collision with a jeep in Delta.

The four officers were shielded after the incident and the subsequent information vacuum has become a problem. So says the lawyer representing the Dziekanski family.

"We're trying to get to the truth of what happened," said Walter Kosteckyj, who wants to see the code-of-conduct records of the officers entered as evidence.

"We don't know any of these individuals. I'm just concerned about knowing if there is anything related. For example have any of these officers had problems with people they've had in custody?" he said.

Kosteckyj had asked the RCMP for the officer's service records. His request was ignored-- so he filed a motion to get the Mounties to comply.

Because of this concern, the inquiry ground to a halt. After heated haggling, Judge Braidwood ordered all 14 lawyers to go behind closed doors to sort it out. It took two hours to come to an agreement.

"Any previous, substantiated allegations of excessive use-of-force, unlawful arrest or failure to properly care for prisoners will be provided to the Commission and all participants," said David Butcher, the lawyer acting for Const. Bentley.

Kosteckyj also wants to see all pertinent use-of-force policies-- particularly on the Taser, and all training materials these officers were given.

"This is just not good police training. And the point is, if that's what the training is, we the public deserve better," said Kosteckj.

It was only the lawyers representing the RCMP as a whole who objected too much of this information being revealed. They say they'll need time to gather it. But the inquiry won't wait. The first of the officers is slated to testify on Monday.

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