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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

RCMP apologizes for misleading information on Dziekanski Tasering

2 + 2 almost always = 4

ex SENIOR RCMP media relations officer + "now working in the traffic section" almost always = a huge embarrassment to the force

This ain't yer run-of-the-mill rocket science.

April 22, 2009
Neal Hall, The Vancouver Sun

A senior RCMP officer issued an apology Tuesday after a former media relations officer testified at the Braidwood Inquiry that he provided inaccurate information about a fatal incident at Vancouver's airport in 2007.

"The role of the media information officer is to provide information very quickly and to provide accurate information," Vancouver RCMP Sgt. Tim Shields told reporters during a break in the inquiry, which is probing the death of Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007, after he was Tasered five times at the airport.

"In this case, during the course of the investigation, we found some information that was made public that was not accurate and for those inaccuracies we apologize and we are sorry," he added. "A police media liaison officer is only as good as the information he or she has been given," said Shields, the senior media liaison officer for the RCMP in B.C.

The apology came after a former RCMP media liaison officer, Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre, testified he released inaccurate information about the Dziekanski incident, which was provided by another officer, Cpl. Dale Carr.

Lemaitre recalled he didn't initially realize he was inaccurate when he first told the media that Dziekanski died at the airport after he was Tasered twice.

Lemaitre said in one CTV interview, broadcast a day after Dziekanski's death and played Tuesday at the inquiry, that Dziekanski didn't respond to the first Taser shot so the weapon had to be deployed again.

The sergeant admitted under questioning by commission counsel Art Vertlieb that he had watched a portion of the video taken by an airport bystander before making any statements to the media, but did not notice Dziekanski fell after the first Taser shot.

Lemaitre, then the senior RCMP media relations officer and now working in the traffic section, recalled he was given information by Carr during a briefing at the Richmond RCMP detachment hours after the fatal incident.

"My only point of contact was Cpl. Dale Carr," he recalled of the early morning briefing, which was attended by about a dozen officers, including Cpl. Monty Robinson, one of the officers involved in the death of Dziekanski.

By the time he realized he had provided the media with incorrect information, he added, Carr had taken over as media spokesman for the investigation.

He said he thought Carr, who is scheduled to testify today, would correct the errors but he never did.

Lemaitre stressed he did not intentionally mislead the media. "Contrary to popular belief, we are not spin doctors."

The public didn't learn that five Taser shots were fired until last Dec. 12, when the Crown announced no charges would be laid against the officers involved in the incident.

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