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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Officers used Taser prematurely at Vancouver airport

December 8, 2009
Petti Fong, Toronto Star

The four RCMP officers involved in the Tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski failed to de-escalate the situation and used the Taser weapon prematurely and inappropriately, the office for public complaints against the force has found.

Following a two-year investigation, Commissioner Paul Kennedy made some harsh criticisms of the RCMP in its handling of the case. Dziekanski was fired upon, within 24 seconds of four RCMP officers arriving at the scene, five times with the Taser weapon. He died minutes later on the floor of the international arrivals area at the Vancouver International Airport Oct. 14, 2007.

The shooting has dodged the RCMP since, especially following the release of a video shot by a bystander which clearly showed that Dziekanski was not combative and no warning was given before the weapon was deployed.

"Overall I found that the conduct of the responding members fell short of that expected of members of the RCMP," wrote Kennedy in his report. Earlier this month, Kennedy's contract as head of the commission, an oversight body, was not renewed.

"The members demonstrated no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the situation, nor did they approach the situation with a measured, coordinated and appropriate response," he wrote.

The failure of the senior member to take control of the scene and communicate with the junior members negatively manifested itself, according to the commission's findings.

In total, the commission made 23 findings and 16 recommendations. Among those findings were that the RCMP members involved had "considerable and significant discrepancies in the detail and accuracy of the recollection of the event." One recommendation by the commission was a broad review of the effectiveness of the conducted-energy weapon's quality assessment.

In a written response, RCMP commissioner William Elliott said that the RCMP have already taken "concrete action in relation to the death of Mr. Dziekanski and the events leading up to and following that terrible event."

Those improvements, wrote Elliott, included changing the RCMP's policies and training in relation to the use of the Tasers.

An RCMP investigation into the action of the four members led to a report to the provincial crown counsel, which had considered charges of manslaughter and assault. But the crown decided not to charge the RCMP officers because convictions were unlikely.

The senior officer in charge that night Dziekanski died made his own court appearance in a Vancouver suburb Tuesday morning after he was charged last week in an unrelated car accident, which led to the death of a motorcyclist. Corporal Monty Robinson was charged with obstructing justice after a decision was made there was not evidence to charge him with impaired driving causing death.

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