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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

EDITORIAL: Reputation at risk

The Edmonton Journal
March 4, 2009

RCMP commissioner William Elliott has doubtless read some pretty unpleasant reports since taking over Canada's national police force 18 months ago. But few things can have made shiver involuntarily like news of the noisy, snickering contempt of the gallery Monday at the inquiry into the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski.

Const. Kwesi Millington, who fired the Taser, drew the derisive response when he demonstrated how Dziekanski came at the four officers armed with an office stapler.

"At that moment when he picked up the stapler, I feared for the safety of the officers."

In the fullness of time, Canadians will have the thoughtful, thorough conclusions of the enquiry; it is too early to pass definitive judgment on the actions of the officers in this tragic episode at Vancouver Airport.

But it is not too early to worry about the wider impact on the RCMP's reputation, given the discrepancies between the officers' report and the video they didn't know was being taken by a bystander, and the inability of four strong, well-trained officers to subdue a confused man without repeatedly administering charges of 50,000 volts.

Elliott will understand that many observers will be wondering how often a video of an incident, if it were available, would tell a story at odds with officers' reports. And he will rightly worry about risk to the RCMP's most priceless assets -- the benefit of the doubt enjoyed in this country by a proud, storied institution.

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