March 4, 2009
GARY MASON, Globe and Mail
After admitting that many of his original statements about his role in the deadly confrontation with Robert Dziekanski were wrong, RCMP Constable Kwesi Millington yesterday faced the provocative suggestion that has been hanging over him: That he deliberately misrepresented the facts - that he lied - to cover up mistakes in judgment that he made in the minutes leading up to his decision to blast Mr. Dziekanski five times with a taser.
"You were covering yourself in your notes and statements, weren't you?" asked Walter Kosteckyj, the lawyer for Mr. Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski.
"No," Constable Millington told the inquiry into the death of the 40-year-old Polish immigrant at Vancouver International Airport in October, 2007. "They were my best recollection of the events."
Mr. Kosteckyj accused the RCMP officer several times of intentionally embellishing events or giving misleading statements to RCMP investigators to save his hide. Each time, Constable Millington denied that the often glaring and inexplicable discrepancies between his statements and the video of the incident were part of a deliberate cover-up.
He wasn't very convincing.
In some respects, it was an even worse day in the witness box for the 31-year-old constable than the day previous, when he sat glum-faced while the famous Paul Pritchard video of the tasering was shown several times, revealing many inaccuracies in the Mountie's statements to RCMP investigators about what happened.
Yesterday, Mr. Kosteckyj revealed more mistakes and contradictions.
For instance, he asked the constable why his notes made at the time said he tasered Mr. Dziekanski three times before the four RCMP officers at the scene - including him - had to "wrestle him to the ground" because he wouldn't go down.
In fact, Mr. Dziekanski had gone down after the first discharge of the conducted-energy weapon, screaming and writhing in pain while curled up in the fetal position.
How does someone get that wrong?
The constable also said in statements that Mr. Dziekanski was yelling at him and his fellow officers when they first confronted him. He said the immigrant was throwing things and grabbed a stapler and began shaking it menacingly above his head as he advanced toward the officers in a combative manner. The video shows none of this.
In at least seven or eight instances, Constable Millington gave statements to investigators or wrote reports that included things about the incident that cast him and his actions in a more favourable light, but were simply not true.
Mr. Kosteckyj, himself a former RCMP officer, took the strapping 6-foot-1, 205-pound Constable Millington back to Depot, where RCMP officers get their basic training, training that includes how to disarm suspects without drawing a weapon. The lawyer got Constable Millington to acknowledge that at Depot, officers learn that the RCMP refers to members of the public as "clients" and that the first rule in almost any encounter is to try using empathy to prevent a volatile situation from escalating.
But none of that training appeared to have been put to use here.
Mr. Kosteckyi asked Constable Millington why, after deploying the taser the first time, he hadn't joined his three fellow officers in trying to subdue the much smaller Mr. Dziekanski rather than blasting him again a second later. And then three more times after that.
"Because I felt he was still struggling and fighting with the members," he answered.
It was a line he had clearly rehearsed. But also clearly at odds with the facts.
How the RCMP and the B.C. Crown counsel's office - which decided not to pursue charges in this incident - can dismiss the string of erroneous statements given by Constable Millington and his fellow RCMP officers as simply bad memory is beyond me. And frankly disgraceful.
As is the fact that Canadian taxpayers are paying for five high-priced lawyers at this inquiry to defend the officers.
Meantime, the victim's mother - the near-penniless Ms. Cisowski - was lucky to find a lawyer who agreed to work pro bono.
I have no idea how much we're paying all these lawyers defending the Mounties, but as a taxpayer footing the bill, I'm a little offended by it all. The scales of justice in this case are weighed dramatically against the victim.
Before stepping down from the witness box for a final time, Constable Millington was asked if, in retrospect, he would have done anything differently.
He replied no, not much.
Which, of all the things he said in two days of testimony at the inquiry, was the scariest of all.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
March 4, 2009