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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Walk in our shoes, RCMP boss says of Taser use

March 22, 2009

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Halfway around the world, RCMP Commissioner Bill Elliott found himself dogged Sunday by questions surrounding the fatal Taser incident involving a Polish man last year in Vancouver.

While visiting Canadian troops and RCMP officers in Afghanistan, reporters asked about an ongoing inquiry into the death of Polish tourist Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport. Dziekanski had been zapped by a Taser electric stun device after apparently threatening several RCMP officers with a stapler.

Elliott said that he thought that there had been "a tendency to look at this as a black and white situation . . . The whole notion of looking at a whole notion of looking at a video in slow motion or frame-by-frame is completely contrary to how a real human being perceives things when they are in the midst of a situation."

In one of his strongest statements regarding what has been said and written in Canada after the Dziekanski tragedy, Elliott added, "Even in situations where people make mistakes or don't act appropriately, I think there is a requirement for a sober, sound examination of the facts and circumstances. I think the expression, 'Walk a mile in my shoes,' comes to mind."

"I am optimistic that the inquiry will result in an assessment and recommendations that are based on that and not based on a knee-jerk reaction to what is heard, what is said or seen," Elliot told reporters at Kandahar airfield, where more than a dozen RCMP officers are deployed.

The use of Tasers, or conducted energy weapons, as officials sometimes like to call them, has raised broader issues that "really relate to the public perception of the RCMP and public confidence in the RCMP," the commissioner said.

"I am concerned about and aware that our reputation has taken some blows," he said.

Nevertheless, Elliott still believed that "Canadians support the RCMP phenomenally . . . I would just ask Canadians to reflect for a minute before they jump to conclusions."

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