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Monday, May 11, 2009

RCMP deputy issues outright apology for Dziekanski death

May 11, 2009
Tonda MacCharles, Toronto Star

OTTAWA – The RCMP's second-in-command has issued an outright apology for the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

"We are very sorry for Mr. Dziekanski's death and we are committed to learning as much as possible from this terrible event," Deputy Commissioner William Sweeney told a Senate committee today.

Sweeney's apology was delivered in the absence of Commissioner Bill Elliott who was attending a regimental funeral of a Mountie killed while off-duty. It went further than either Elliot or senior B.C. officers did two weeks ago.

Asked later what actions he was apologizing for, Sweeney told reporters:

"We're very sorry that Mr. Dziekanski died. Obviously, when we go to work every,day, our men and women don't ever anticipate they're going to be in a situation when somebody has lost their life as a consequence of interventions by the police and — not that that we know all of the facts and circumstances of this event, we probably will not have all of that information until Mr. Braidwood responds to the requirement to prepare reports — but it's a very sad, tragic circumstance."

Dziekanski, a unilingual Polish immigrant, died moments after the four Mounties took charge of him in the Vancouver airport and zapped him five times with a conducted energy weapon.

Sweeney declined any more specific comment, saying "it's inappropriate" while the inquiry is under way. But during testimony, he spoke generally of how much violence officers now face, especially in the Lower B.C. Mainland, and how violent incidents can "escalate in milliseconds" and lead to results officers fail to anticipate.

Sweeney stressed the need for officers to reduce, not escalate, tensions in confrontations.

"I can say generally de-escalation is clearly something in every circumstance, every situation we find ourselves in, should be of first and foremost consideration for our members."

Sweeney also admitted that "this tragic event playing out day in and day out in the media ... has not promoted confidence in our organization, there's no question. . . When the courts are completed, we have to respond with an informed series of actions."

B.C. officers have already publicly apologized for releasing and failing to correct erroneous information about Dziekanski's confrontation with the four officers at the Vancouver airport.

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