February 27, 2009
Concerns have surfaced that officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski may have tainted their own testimony when they shared their versions of events during an RCMP critical incident debriefing session.
The Braidwood Inquiry, which is underway in Vancouver, was set up to probe the circumstances of Dziekanski's death after four RCMP officers used a Taser to stun him five times in October 2007.
On Thursday, inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood ordered the four RCMP officers involved to provide details of what they said to each other at an RCMP debriefing session following the incident at Vancouver International airport.
It's standard practice for lawyers at the inquiry to ask witnesses whether they've discussed what happened with anyone else involved; for most witnesses, the answer has been, "No."
But Const. Bill Bentley surprised the inquiry on Thursday when he was asked the same question by Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer for the government of Poland.
"We did have what's referred to as a 'critical incident debrief' where we all told our version of the events that transpired that evening," he said.
Bentley said that, along with the four officers involved in Dziekanski's death, a psychologist and staff representatives were present, but he could not remember when it took place.
Rosenbloom then wanted to know whether the officers were comparing notes.
Bentley told Rosenbloom the meeting was mainly to discuss their feelings and emotions.
"Did you learn anything new at that meeting you didn't already know about the events of that night by listening to your fellow officers?" Rosenbloom asked.
"No," Bentley responded.
Walter Kostecky, the lawyer for Robert Dziekanski's mother and a former RCMP officer himself, said these kinds of post-incident meetings aren't uncommon, but this one was different.
"The question about this particular debrief is, why are all four of the police officers telling their story to each other? And that raises a lot of questions about just how much you can rely on the fact that their evidence is untainted," said Kostecky.
The revelation of the meeting was also surprise to the inquiry's lead counsel Art Vertlieb, who said it had never come up during months of planning and preparation.
The inquiry has asked the RCMP to immediately provide any records of how the meeting was arranged, and what was said.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Saturday, February 28, 2009
February 27, 2009