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Friday, May 22, 2009

EDITORIAL: Rethink police training

May 22, 2009
Richmond News

Mike Webster may be bitter towards the RCMP. He claims a lot of the contract work he did with the force dried up after he criticized the force in the Dziekanski affair. But before that, Webster spent 30 years training police agencies, and has some pretty impressive credentials. He is a police psychologist who worked with the RCMP during the Gustafson Lake standoff and has been a consultant for the FBI.

So, sour grapes aside, when he says there is something seriously wrong with the way the RCMP are trained, we should pay attention. During testimony this week at the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, Webster lent credence to the gut reaction that so many ordinary people have when they watch the amateur video shot of four Richmond Mounties involved in Tasering Dzeikanski.

"They panicked," Webster said. "They abandoned their basic training and they embraced their more recent and questionable Taser training, provided for them by their misguided employer."

Webster characterized the repeated Tasering of the distraught Polish immigrant as "excessive force," and he blamed RCMP brass for what he described as an outdated approach to policing that relies too heavily on intimidation and use of force.

Webster gave a credible voice to those ordinary citizens -- including retired police officers -- who feel police are now trained to use excessive levels of force. Hence, the headlines in recent years about a senior citizen being Tasered for refusing to get out of his car and, of course, that tragic and now infamous incident at YVR. When police become a danger to the very public they are sworn to protect, it is time for a major overhaul in the heirarchy.

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