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Thursday, December 10, 2009

EDITORIAL: A tarnished icon

December 10, 2009
Robert Howard, The Hamilton Spectator

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is so tarnished that it is almost unrecognizable as the celebrated force that for more than 100 years has been recognized globally as an icon -- the icon -- of this country.

The fault, as is almost always the case when an organization is shamed, lies not with the majority but with a small, dishonourable cadre who have shamed the traditions and history of the Mounties.

The blistering report this week from Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, makes it abundantly clear no one believes the stories or testimony of the four RCMP members who tasered and subdued -- and, arguably, killed -- Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

Kennedy's comments on Taser use are almost beside the point. His most scathing indictment was for the officers who responded to Dziekanski. He said he "does not accept" the version of events presented by Corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson and constables Kwesi Millington, Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel. Translation: They lied.

Within 30 seconds of the four Mounties confronting him, Dziekanski was hit five times with a Taser. He died in the airport. A bystander filmed the encounter, although the Mounties didn't know it at the time. The video contradicted key points of their statements -- which they made after being allowed to meet, as a group, alone.

The RCMP says it won't respond until the report, expected in the spring, from the broad inquiry headed by Justice Thomas Braidwood. Not good enough. Based on Kennedy's report, the four officers should be, at the very least, suspended. They do not belong on active service.

The hard work of restoring public confidence in the RCMP is yet to come. Removing deep tarnish takes abrasive, a lot of elbow grease and attention to detail. And some will say you can never remove the stain.

Editorials are written by members of the editorial board. They represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the individual author.

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