You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

EDITORIAL: Can the RCMP be trusted?

March 5, 2009
Times Colonist

Across Canada, people are in jail because courts relied on what they believed to be accurate accounts of events by trained RCMP officers, supported by their notes made at the time.

The Dziekanski inquiry is raising troubling questions about the reliability of that evidence. The contradictions and inaccuracies in the evidence of the three officers who have testified suggest they were incompetent or dishonest.

Hours after the death, the officers made notes on what happened that night at the Vancouver airport. They were interviewed then, and again the following day, by investigators. Their accounts were wildly inaccurate and self-serving.

Const. Kwesi Millington, who fired the Taser repeatedly, told investigators that Robert Dziekanski was obviously agitated when the officers arrived. Video shows he was standing calmly.

Millington said Dziekanski raised a stapler in the air, assumed a "combative stance" and stepped toward the officers in a "threatening manner." Video evidence shows he didn't raise the stapler or advance on the officers.

Millington told homicide investigators that Dziekanski didn't fall when hit with the Taser the first time and had to be shot again and then wrestled to the ground by the officers. In fact, as the video shows and Millington conceded, there was no struggle. Dziekanski collapsed on his back as soon he was hit, writhing in pain, his legs in the air. Millington zapped him with the Taser again, one second after releasing the trigger from the first shock. And then again, and again, and again.

Const. Bill Bentley, another officer on the scene, wrote in his notes that "subject grabbed stapler and came at officers screaming." He told RCMP officers investigating the incident that Dziekanski "came at the police screaming." Those statements were not true, as Bentley conceded in giving evidence last week.

Bentley told investigators that as soon as the officers arrived, Dziekanski "started backing up, looking for something to grab. He uses an object and putting that in front of him he kind of swung it at us." That was not true.

And he too told investigators that officers had to wrestle Dziekanski to the ground as he was "fighting through" the Taser. Also false.

Const. Gerry Rundel told investigators that Dziekanski had waved the stapler above his head in a threatening way. The video showed that evidence was false.

These are not questions of judgment. Three officers provided inaccurate, even false, information to homicide investigators. If not the for the video, shot by a Victoria man who was in the airport, their statements might have been accepted. The truth would never have come out.

The RCMP's reputation is being brutally damaged every day this inquiry continues. The force has not taken any position on the inaccurate evidence provided investigators. There has been no indication obstruction of justice charges were considered.

There are just the images of Dziekanski's horrible death, and the glaring contradictions between the officers' statements and what really happened.

No comments: