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Friday, April 24, 2009

National Post editorial board: The RCMP tests another new low

April 24, 2009
National Post

Thanks to the latest testimony at the hearing into Robert Dziekanski’s death, we now know the RCMP’s sorry mishandling of the 2007 tragedy reached well beyond the four officers who Tasered the Polish traveller until he died.

Corporal Dale Carr, spokesman with a unit tasked with investigating the death, made clear that the four officers are just one link in a chain of command which takes for granted that misleading the public, misinforming journalists and covering up for one another is a routine part of their job.

Consider Cpl. Carr’s testimony. He told the inquiry, headed by former Appeal Court justice Thomas Braidwood, that within hours of Mr. Dziekanski’s death at Vancouver International Airport, he attended a meeting of homicide investigators, and twice watched an amateur video showing the confrontation that led to Dziekanski’s death. Making notes, Cpl. Carr wrote that Dziekanski grabbed a computer, ignored instructions from police, swung at the officers and continued to resist once knocked to the ground by the first Taser strike.

None of that was true. Nevertheless, he passed the imagined narrative on to another RCMP spokesman, and stood by him as he related the falsehoods to reporters. (He claims he wasn’t really listening.) When it became evident later that the information was wrong, a superior told him not to correct the record. Nor was he allowed to acknowledge the existence of the damning video, which the force gave up only after its owner went to court.

All of this comes amidst a debate about how much latitude officers should be given to use Tasers to subdue victims. In this regard, the Dziekanski revelations have done little to bolster the RCMP’s claim that its officers should be able to use such weapons at their own discretion. By brutalizing a confused traveller, and then apparently conspiring to obscure the truth about the encounter, the RCMP has squandered much of the esteem in which Canadians hold this institution.

National Post

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