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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Analysis: Even the RCMP is admitting it's time to give up self-investigation

September 23, 2009
By Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun

The Braidwood Commission into the death of Robert Dziekanski at YVR is no further ahead after its unexpected three-month hiatus triggered by the disclosure of a controversial, previously unseen RCMP e-mail.

It has another 18,000 pages of documents from the Mounties and a new mystery (a week-long black hole in a senior B.C. officer's electronic archive around the time the key e-mail was sent), but little new insight.

Oh, unless you count the fact that even a senior Mountie realizes the force has lost public confidence and it's time for an independent investigative agency in B.C. to step in when RCMP conduct is an issue.

The inquiry into Dziekanski's tragic death Oct. 14, 2007, should have ended long ago and the report into what happened should be near completion.

Instead, the second anniversary of the Polish immigrant's death will come and go without any closure.

The delays, the foot-dragging and the late-disclosure by the RCMP have obviously irked former justice Thomas Braidwood, who spoke sharply to lawyers Tuesday and cut short their cross-examination whenever it strayed from relevance.

"Why would I possibly want to know that?" he snapped at one point.

"I don't see that as an issue."

His frustration is understandable given the mire.

The author of the Nov. 5, 2007 note whose content suggests the four Mounties who Tasered Dziekanski misled the inquiry, Chief Supt. Richard Bent said he did his best to ensure the three-paragraph note was accurate.

"These are serious matters we don't take lightly," he said.

But he admitted his note could be wrong, especially the key sentence he penned to his boss RCMP assistant commissioner Al Macintyre:

"Finally, spoke to [Supt.] Wayne [Rideout] and he indicated that the members did not articulate that they saw the symptoms of excited delirium, but instead had discussed the response en route and decided that if he did not comply that they go to CEW [conducted energy weapon, commonly known as a Taser]."

Tagged with saying the Mounties decided to zap Dziekanski before even laying eyes on him, Rideout complained Bent definitely misunderstood.

"That is not what happened," he emphasized. "The way he has portrayed my comments to him in that passage as read out is wrong."

The man who received the e-mail, the province's second-in-command Horseman, MacIntyre could shed no light on it and said he didn't pay much attention to it.

He added that he also could not explain why investigators looking to recover other relevant documents discovered his electronic archive had been deleted between Nov. 1 and Nov. 8, 2007.

"I have no explanation," he said about the missing documents.

No wonder Braidwood is grumpy.

Here is the official Marcel Marceau version of what happened:

Four officers having lunch together in the detachment office received a call about a man throwing around luggage; without a word, they rose as a unit, mutely jumped into four separate squad cars, raced silently to the airport and within 24 seconds (without ever having spoken) they jolted Dziekanski five times.

You can understand why people are skeptical.

Even Rideout conceded that he personally thought the RCMP was fighting a losing battle for public support.

It was time for an independent investigative agency to handle cases involving police officers, such as they have in Ontario, he said.

"While we're comfortable and competent in our investigations, we recognize that's not the perception," Rideout explained.

"We shouldn't be doing this. We can't do an independent investigation and market the RCMP.... We are not winning. We are not perceived publicly as being able to investigate ourselves. It's a perception problem. It's unwinnable."

Crown prosecutors have decided not to charge Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Kwesi Millington and Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson in Dziekanski's death.

However, there have been calls for them to reconsider, given the concerns the investigation was flawed and the officers lied about what happened.

Braidwood hopes to wrap up the extra days of testimony this week and to hear final arguments starting Oct. 5 from the score of lawyers involved in the inquiry.

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