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Thursday, April 01, 2010

RCMP apologizes for death of Robert Dziekanski in Taser incident

April 1, 2010
CHAD SKELTON, Vancouver Sun

The head of the B.C. RCMP apologized today to Zofia Cisowski, the mother of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, part of an out-of-court settlement of Cisowski's lawsuit against the force.

"Ms. Cisowski, on behalf of the RCMP I want to apologize for our role in the tragic death of your son, Robert Dziekanski," Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass said at a packed news conference this morning.

"Your son arrived from Poland eager to begin a new life here in Canada. We are deeply sorry he did not get that opportunity."

Cisowski accepted Bass' apology at the news conference, held near the airport, and noted she has also received apologies from the Canada Border Services Agency and B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed.

"I believe the settlement and the apologies ... will help begin the healing process and clear the path towards my future," she said. "We all have to make sure that what happened to my son Robert cannot be repeated."

Dziekanski, 40, died on Oct. 14, 2007, after being Tasered five times by four RCMP officers responding to a 911 call at the airport.

His death prompted a public inquiry and a nationwide debate around the controversial stun gun.

The amount of the settlement is subject to a non-disclosure agreement and was not released today.

However Cisowski said it includes a $20,000 donation from the force to start up a scholarship in Dziekanski's name at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.

Bass said the settlement also commits the RCMP to participating in independent research on the effects of Tasers.

Taser critics have complained that much of the existing research on the impact of Tasers has been conducted by Taser International, the company that sells the weapons.

"We want to see more independent testing in Canada," said Bass.

Asked by reporters if the RCMP's apology means the force accepts blame for Dziekanski's death, Bass said no.

"It's an acknowledgement that the RCMP, along with many other people, had a part to play in the sequence of events that went on for many hours that night," he said.

Bass said the RCMP has taken a number of steps since Dziekanski's death to reduce the risk of such an event occurring again. Those measures include:

- Restricting the use of Tasers to incidents involving a threat to officer or public safety.

- Requiring RCMP officers to be certified annually on the Taser.

- Enhanced reporting for all uses of force, including the Taser.

- Increased emphasis within the RCMP on the risks posed by Tasers.

Bass said the RCMP has also adopted new policies to ensure that, wherever possible, in-custody deaths are investigated by an outside agency and not the RCMP itself.

Cisowski filed a lawsuit last October for damages against the RCMP, the four officers involved, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Vancouver Airport Authority.

The lawsuit sought damages for psychological injury, the loss of her son, Dziekanski, and her inability to work since the incident. The suit also sought punitive damages.

Cisowski's lawyer Walter Kosteckyj said the settlement with the RCMP brings the entire lawsuit to a close.

"The case has been settled in full," he said. "The case is at an end against all the parties."

Cisowski said the settlement puts her mind at ease.

"I have to close this chapter," she said. "I think I will sleep better."

Dziekanski, who was immigrating to Canada to live with his mother, became frustrated after a 20-hour flight from Poland, then spent about 11 hours in the international arrivals area of the airport. He was unable to contact his mother, who was waiting for him in another area.


B.C. - Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass Issues Statement
File # 2010-04-01 2010-04-01 10:00 PDT
The following statement was issued by Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass at a news conference held on April 01, 2010.


I am pleased to be here this morning to participate in this press conference with Mrs. Cisowski and to talk about this important issue.

Mrs. Cisowski, on behalf of the RCMP, I want to apologize for our role in the tragic death of your son, Mr. Robert Dziekanski, at the Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007. Your son arrived from Poland eager to begin a new life here in Canada. We are deeply sorry he did not have that opportunity.

The RCMP has learned much from this tragic incident and since it happened, numerous changes have been made to strengthen our policies, practices, training, and reporting requirements in relation to the use of Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs) - which are commonly known as tasers.
These changes include:

•restricting the use of CEWs to incidents involving threats to officer or public safety,

•the requirement that RCMP officers be re-certified annually on the use of CEWS,

•enhanced reporting on all use of force by members of the RCMP including the deployment of CEWs, and

•an increased emphasis on the risks associated with CEWs.

I have assured Mrs. Cisowski that the RCMP encourages and will continue to cooperate with independent research being done on the effects of the CEW’s use on the human body.

I have also assured her that the RCMP is committed to independent testing of the RCMP’s Conducted Energy Weapons.

Another important change has occurred within this organization since Mr. Dziekanski’s death. We have introduced a new RCMP policy around independent investigation which states that where ever possible, an external independent agency will conduct investigations into any RCMP in-custody deaths and allegations that are serious or sensitive in nature to ensure impartiality and thoroughness. In addition, it is our hope that BC will soon establish its own regime responsible for these independent investigations, oversight and review of police actions.

We believe that the changes we’ve made to our policies and training are positive steps in strengthening our ability to ensure public safety while providing effective policing.

We hope that the actions we’ve taken to date, along with the civil suit settlement announced today marks the beginning of the healing process for Mrs. Cisowski, the RCMP and the public. It is critically important that the public has confidence in the police if they are to be able to work collaboratively to ensure public safety. We hope that the steps announced today will work towards this goal.

While none of our organization’s changes, apologies and civil settlement can bring Robert back - it is our sincere hope that what we’ve learned from his death will help prevent future tragedies from occurring.

I know that many of you will have a number of questions for the RCMP today and I will do my best to answer those questions. However, because we are still awaiting Justice Braidwood's final report, there are a number of matters that I will not be in a position to address today. We look forward to that final report as it will inform our ongoing review of our policies and practices. I anticipate further changes will be made.

Gary D. Bass, O.O.M.
Deputy Commissioner – Pacific Region &
Commanding Officer, “E” Division

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