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

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

RCMP support in B.C. plunges after Tasering, death: report

The Tasering and death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in 2007 has led more British Columbians to lose confidence in the RCMP than residents of any other province, a new national public opinion poll suggests.

“This is something that we haven’t seen before,” said Angus Reid pollster Mario Canseco of the “dramatic” results.

The online poll, conducted Dec. 17 and 18, found confidence in police internal operations and leadership has dropped by 61 per cent among B.C. respondents over the past two years.

Albertans recorded the second-largest decline in confidence at 36 per cent, while, nationally, 32 per cent of respondents said their opinion of police had worsened since 2007.

The survey involved 1,002 randomly selected adult Canadians who are Angus Reid forum panelists. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Dziekanski, 40, died in the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2007 after being Tasered five times by RCMP officers following a brief confrontation at the Vancouver International Airport.

A videotape of the incident taken by an airport bystander prompted public outrage. The footage shows Dziekanski screaming in pain and writhing on the airport carpet, facedown as he is handcuffed, restrained and repeatedly Tasered by police.

RCMP spokesman Insp. Tim Shields said the Angus Reid poll numbers are not surprising given public reaction to the incident and the subsequent inquiry.

“There is no question there has been a significant public outcry regarding the [Dziekanski] incident,” Shields said, adding, “We get the message loud and clear.”

Earlier this month, Canada’s independent RCMP watchdog criticized the four Mounties involved in the incident for “falling short of the expectations” of the law enforcement agency.

Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said the officers did not attempt to de-escalate the situation when they confronted Dziekanski, who did not speak English, nor did they approach the case “with a measured, coordinated and appropriate response.”

Instead, without any warning, they used a Taser on Dziekanski within 25 seconds of responding to a 911 call.

Meanwhile, inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood is writing his final report on the death and is expected to deliver it early next year.

The criminal justice branch decided last December not to charge any of the four Mounties in connection with Dziekanski’s death, though testimony this year at the public inquiry into the incident raised serious questions about the integrity of the RCMP investigation and the veracity of the officers, including Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Kwesi Millington, and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson.

Robinson also faces an unrelated charge of attempting to obstruct justice in connection with the Oct. 25, 2008 vehicle crash in Delta that killed 21-year-old Orion Hutchinson. Robinson was driving a Jeep that collided with Hutchinson's motorcycle at Gilchrist Drive and Sixth Avenue in Tsawwassen. It took more than a year for the charge to be approved.

Shields said police in B.C., and across the country, are working hard to regain public trust, and are making “significant” changes around use-of-force policy and Taser use.

“We police through the consent of the public. If we lose that consent, we can’t do our jobs,” he said.

No comments: