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Saturday, March 14, 2009

RCMP review is disgraceful indictment

March 14, 2009
By BILL KAUFMANN, Edmonton Sun

I thought we'd hear something mitigating from those Richmond, B.C., Mounties, at least a few words to cast a shred of doubt on the damning video.

Naivete springs eternal.

As an indictment, their words almost equal Paul Pritchard's video, which would capture an Oscar if such a category as "honest non-fiction" existed.

Three of the officers seem allergic to truth, peddling make-believe tales suitable for some parallel universe.

It's clear from Pritchard's handiwork the four burly Mounties were not threatened by Polish arrival Robert Dziekanski.

On point after point, the Mounties either lied or were grossly mistaken. Const. Kwesi Millington can't even recall how many times he shocked Dziekanski with the Taser, as if it was too casual an act to count.

One cop suggested Dziekanski raising his hands - a universal sign of surrender - constituted a threat.

The stapler has now taken its place in crime-busting lore with Millington's description of the one wielded by Dziekanski as menacing him in "the open position."

One can only wonder if the stapler's safety was off.

When initially hit with the Taser, Dziekanski crumpled in writhing agony, but Millington insists he shocked the doomed man several more times, fearing the device wasn't working.

He also recalls being "scared" by the outnumbered, unarmed and non-lunging Pole. Earlier that night, an apparently unfrightened woman approached Dziekanski - even as he brandished a piece of furniture.

Millington insisted he acted according to training, which is terrifying enough. And a B.C. Crown report, explaining why no charges would be laid against the four, concludes the "actions of the officers were consistent with RCMP policy and training."

Granted, there is nonchalance in Pritchard's video, as police arrive and unhesitatingly fell their bewildered quarry. As Pritchard told reporters: "They all look like they should be having a coffee or a cigarette."

The B.C. attorney general's office concluded their conduct was "reasonable and necessary in all circumstances." That those who came to these conclusions apparently watched the same video is shocking.

We can only surmise virtually any circumstance would justify a multiple 50,000-volt onslaught.

The report tellingly notes the officers attempted to use hand signals for a whopping "several seconds" before turning on the juice.

It falls back on witness descriptions of Dziekanski's earlier belligerent demeanour, notably absent once the Mounties had arrived.

Ironically, Dziekanski's actions alone are described as "bizarre and aggressive." Absent the video, Canadians would have to accept the curiously consistent, bogus word of these Mounties.

If part of the Crown's intention was to reassure Canadians and newcomers to this country, they've failed.

The honesty of police officers throughout the country - most of whom serve admirably - has now been thrown into question. Whenever currently serving cops defend the actions of the Richmond four, it's yet more reason for alarm. No one's interests would be better served by harshly condemning these Mounties' actions than other police forces.

Predictably, a tone-deaf RCMP is doing nothing to help its image, keeping the officers on its payroll while hiding behind a laughable B.C. Crown report.

The silence from our law-and-order, get-tough federal politicians has been just as deafening.

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