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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Poland seeks 'significant findings of misconduct' in taser case

October 6, 2009
Ian Bailey, Globe and Mail

Poland’s government wants the Braidwood inquiry to make “significant findings of misconduct” against the four Mounties who tasered Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in a 2007 confrontation that led to his death.

Poland’s Vancouver-based lawyer made the request in closing submissions Monday to inquiry head Thomas Braidwood, who is probing the death of Mr. Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007.

Don Rosenbloom accused the police of “blatant” wrongdoing, suggesting there was no need to taser Mr. Dziekanski, and that the four Mounties involved cooked their accounts of the incident, which has prompted an enduring debate about the police use of stun guns.

“Mr. Commissioner. It takes a strong nation to have the courage to microscopically examine such deep problems within its institutions, but as painful as the incident might be, society is strengthened by engaging in such proceedings,” Mr. Rosenbloom said as lawyers for at least 14 other parties looked on in the hearing room.

“No nation should pretend it is immune from institutional failure, whether it be the police forces or otherwise. Poland wishes to praise Canada and British Columbia for pursuing such an exhaustive and courageous examination of the incident.”

The praise was echoed in a letter from Piotr Ogrodzinski, Poland’s ambassador to Canada, that Mr. Rosenbloom read to the inquiry. Mr. Ogrodzinski saluted the B.C. government for launching the Braidwood inquiry, and Mr. Braidwood for welcoming Mr. Rosenbloom.

But the ambassador acknowledged disappointment that the Crown decided in December, 2008, not to lay criminal charges against the four Mounties.

There is an instinctive reaction among viewers who have seen the widely viewed bystander’s video of Mr. Dziekanski’s fatal confrontation “that justice must be achieved, responsibility determined and wrong-doers be made accountable through criminal prosecution,” he wrote.

Mr. Rosenbloom was far more blunt than Poland’s top diplomat.

“We are inviting a finding from this commission that absolutely no force was called for in these circumstances. It’s our position that Mr. Dziekanski had been unnecessarily subjected to tasering; the officers showed a callous disregard for his medical condition as he lay dying on the floor and their indifference was neither in conformity with police standards nor basic humanity,” he said.

“We ask that there are significant findings of misconduct in respect to the action of the four officers.”

He added: “There was blatant police wrongdoing at the scene, compounded by the officers untruthful reporting of the incident, both in their police statements and here at the inquiry. Additionally there were misjudgments of senior officers and an unwillingness by the RCMP at the highest level to acknowledge error.”

Lawyers for the four officers will have an opportunity to make their own closing submissions later this week.

Mr. Dziekanski drew the attention of police when he began acting erratically after a long flight from Canada to Poland and an hours-long wait to hook up with his mother, a Kamloops resident waiting to meet him so he could begin a new life in Canada.

When the 40-year-old labourer, who did not speak any English, picked up a stapler in a manner police deemed threatening, he was stunned five times and cuffed. He died of a cardiac arrest that was not officially linked to the taser.

Walter Kosteckyj, a lawyer for Mr. Dziekanski’s mother Zofia Cisowski, said the case needs to be reopened by the B.C. Attorney-General. Mike de Jong has ruled out such action until he has a chance to review Mr. Braidwood’s eventual report.

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