You may have arrived here via a direct link to a specific post. To see the most recent posts, click HERE.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Mountie defends email as Taser inquiry resumes

September 22, 2009
Suzanne Fournier, Canwest News Service

VANCOUVER -- One of B.C.'s top Mounties told the Braidwood inquiry Tuesday morning that he stands by the accuracy of his email that said four Mounties had decided to use a Taser on a Polish immigrant before they even met him.

The email contradicts the four officers' testimony heard earlier this year at the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death at the Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

RCMP Chief Supt. Dick Bent quietly repeated on the stand Tuesday that he was just recording in his Nov. 5, 2007, email what the four Mounties' supervisor had told him, "that the members had discussed en route and decided that if he [Dziekanski] did not comply that they would go to CEW [conducted-energy weapon]."

The email was addressed to Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre and sent on the eve of the release of bystander Paul Pritchard's video, which showed Dziekanski being Tasered, restrained and eventually dying on the airport floor.

Inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood -- a retired Supreme Court judge who had hoped to complete his lengthy inquiry last June but had to adjourn proceedings until Tuesday -- testily rejected bids by lawyers from the Canadian government and the officer who used the Taser on Mr. Dziekanski to suggest that Supt. Bent may have been "mistaken" or that his email did not reflect all of the factors that the officers faced at the scene.

Commission counsel Art Vertlieb told the inquiry that over the summer, since the adjournment but long past the date the commission was supposed to conclude, the RCMP forwarded 18,000 documents to the commission.

Mr. Vertlieb praised the efforts of Canadian government lawyer Jan Brongers in obtaining and releasing the documents, after Supt. Bent's email went overlooked during the first round of hearings.

Government of Canada lawyer Helen Roberts, who tearfully presented the email last June, is no longer on the case and has been replaced by senior justice lawyer Mitchell Taylor.

Const. Kwesi Millington, who Tasered Dziekanski five times, and his three fellow cops insisted at the inquiry they had no plan and did not discuss in advance how to handle the agitated Mr. Dziekanski, 40, who spent 10 hours at the airport trying to emigrate to Canada. Police were called when Mr. Dziekanski threw a small table.

Two more emails written by Supt. Bent were marked as exhibits at the commission on Tuesday morning. The first was to RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dale McGowan on the morning of Nov. 5, 2007, warning that the bystander video would soon be released.

"We were talking about our communication strategy and we want to get our powder dry," Supt. Bent urged.

The second email, which derailed the inquiry in June, was sent later that day to Mr. MacIntyre, saying the frontline Mounties discussed using the Taser before they even met Mr. Dziekanski.

And the third email, this time from Supt. Bent to his superior officer on Nov. 22, 2007, outlines seven policies that the four RCMP officers at the airport were supposed to follow but ignored. They include talking to the distraught person to find out what language he speaks, talking to other passengers and crew, checking identification and visa, trying to find a translator, checking with partner agencies, or finding a 24-hour police interpreter.

Under further cross-examination by lawyers for two of the four Mounties who handled Mr. Dziekanski, Supt. Bent agreed that his email represented only his side of a conversation with the four officers' supervisor, Supt. Wayne Rideout.

Supt. Bent agreed that he wrote the e-mail soon after the conversation and that he was primarily concerned with whether the frontline officers detected "excited delirium" in Mr. Dziekanski, which Supt. Bent thought could have been an explanation why the Polish immigrant was Tasered within 25 seconds of police arrival.

Mr. MacIntyre took the stand briefly to say that he receives 150 to 200 emails a day, and although several thousand related to the Dziekanski incident, he located a "gap" of several crucial months around the time of the Taser-related death.

The inquiry will also hear from Supt. Rideout and Sgt. Doug Wright, the Richmond officer-in-charge of the four Mounties who met Mr. Dziekanski at the airport.

Mr. Dziekanski's mother Zofia Cisowski was in court listening to proceedings.

No comments: