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Friday, February 27, 2009

RCMP memo warned of public taping of Taserings before Dziekanski

February 27, 2009
Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Just weeks before the Tasering of Robert Dziekanski was caught on a bystander's video and shown around the world, B.C. RCMP warned its officers that the availability of cheap cameras and sites such as YouTube could expose them to unprecedented public scrutiny.

"The proliferation of video cellphones and easy access to Internet video sites such as YouTube makes it a simple matter for RCMP operational actions and behaviour by members to be instantaneously publicized to the world," states the report, obtained by the Vancouver Sun through the Access to Information Act.

"This creates intense scrutiny of member actions, without the filter of at least the theoretical balance that might be afforded through traditional news media telecasts.

"In addition, postings on outlets such as YouTube often quickly make it to standard news media outlets such as radio, television, and the print media."

The report, completed in mid-September 2007, goes on to note that recordings of police operations could lead to "increasingly more public exposure of RCMP member actions that some may perceive to be inappropriate."

One month after the report was written, on Oct. 14, 2007, Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport. A video of the incident, recorded by bystander Paul Pritchard, later became public, sparking international media attention and public outrage. B.C. RCMP spokeswoman Const. Annie Linteau said there was no particular incident that sparked the report's warning about amateur video.

The inquiry into Dziekanski's death has heard that the four RCMP officers felt threatened because the Polish immigrant had been wielding a stapler and had taken a "combative stance."

Despite discrepancies between the video evidence and the police statements, one officer denied that there was a coverup.

Dziekanski was Tasered five times for a total of 31 seconds, although the electrical probes may not have made full contact at all times. He died at the airport.

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