April 16, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, Vancouver Province
VANCOUVER — A Vancouver police expert on use of force on Thursday told an inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski — the Polish immigrant who died after being Tasered in Vancouver's airport — that the four RCMP officers involved used "appropriate force."
Sgt. Brad Fawcett came to the conclusion without interviewing any of the officers involved, airport staff or bystanders who witnessed the Oct. 14, 2007 incident.
Fawcett based his report on written statements provided by the four officers involved — despite knowing they changed their accounts after viewing contradictory video evidence. And the investigator called the fact police Tasered Dziekanski five times in 31 seconds a "minor discrepancy" from their original statement they hit him only twice.
Fawcett, who provided a report to homicide investigators on the officers' use of force, testified that, in his opinion, all that matters in determining whether an officer used appropriate force is his or her perception entering into the conflict.
"What really matters is the officers' perception," said Fawcett.
Fawcett, who is a Justice Institute of B.C. instructor in the use of force for all rookie police officers, did admit that the guidelines for "use of force" are based on what a "reasonable" police officer would do in a critical situation.
Pressured by commission counsel Art Vertlieb to say whether he would have responded the same as the RCMP, Fawcett admitted: "Would I have done the same thing? . . . Probably not."
After viewing a video of the incident, the four RCMP officers recanted their evidence on several key points, agreeing at the inquiry that Dziekanski was not combative, was given conflicting commands he didn't understand, did not raise a stapler in the air as a weapon.
He also agreed that the officers did not wrestle Dziekanski to the ground, as they initially asserted, but rather Dziekanski is seen on the video to crash down with the first Taser blast by RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington.
"The perception of the officers was that they were forced to wrestle the deceased to the ground," insisted Fawcett.
Fawcett said that few, if any, of his own apparent errors mattered in reaching his conclusion that the RCMP used appropriate force.
Nor did Fawcett think his opinion would change had he closely compared the Pritchard video — which he said he viewed "a long time ago" — with the officers' assertions, later recanted, that Dziekanski raised the stapler "near his head."
At no time is Dziekanski seen to raise the stapler, which the officers testified they viewed as a potential weapon, until it flies out of his hand after he is Tasered, a fact Fawcett doesn't acknowledge in his report.
Fawcett called that, along with several other points such as how many times the Taser was actually deployed, a "minor discrepancy."
Dziekanski, who would have celebrated his 42nd birthday Wednesday, was Tasered and restrained by the RCMP, who did not first speak to bystanders, obtain an interpreter, conduct a scene assessment or try to calm down the distraught man.
WELCOME to TRUTH ... not TASERS
Thursday, April 16, 2009
April 16, 2009