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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Federal government upset with Dziekanski 'apology'

June 17, 2010
By Chad Skelton and Neal Hall, Vancouver Sun

One day before RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass publicly apologized to Robert Dziekanski's mother for the Mounties' role in her son's death after being Tasered, Bass e-mailed an RCMP member assuring him the apology did not mean the force was sorry for anything specific its officers did.

"Even though the word 'apology' worries some, we are not apologizing for the actions of specific members or saying anything about specific actions," Bass wrote in a March 31 e-mail to RCMP staff relations representative Brian Roach. "I am apologizing for the loss of her son and where the [RCMP commissioner] says we could have done better, from my perspective, that relates to the fact we had to revise our policy and training."

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said the government is troubled by Bass's e-mail.

"We're disappointed," said Sara MacIntyre, who contacted The Sun after a story about the e-mail appeared on vancouversun.com."The apology was obviously very important to his family and his mother. And we find the e-mail troubling."

Asked if Harper would be taking any direct steps with the RCMP to follow up on the e-mail, MacIntyre said: "We'll be looking at that."

Bass closes his e-mail to Roach with: "Let me know if I can explain any further as it is important the membership gets the right message as to what we are trying to do [here]."

The day after the e-mail was written, Bass appeared at a news conference to announce the RCMP had reached an out-of-court settlement with Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski of Kamloops.

"Your son's death is a tragedy and for the role the force played in this tragedy, we offer our sincere apology," Bass read from his prepared statement.

"There are no words to express how sorry the RCMP is about your son's death and the pain this has brought."

RCMP spokesman Insp. Tim Shields said Wednesday that Bass's apology at the news conference was genuine.

"The apology from ... Bass was heartfelt and sincere and reflected his sentiments as the commanding officer for all RCMP members in B.C.," Shields wrote in an e-mail. "To suggest the apology was not heartfelt is wrong. Period."

Bass's internal e-mail was released by the RCMP on Wednesday in response to an Access to Information Act request.

Another e-mail released Wednesday, from Assistant Commissioner Al MacIntyre to Bass, encouraged him to give his apology in front of Dziekanski's mother.

"I think hearing you say it in front of her will demonstrate the compassion/ caring/acceptance of responsibility and to seal it with a handshake/ respectful embrace would be appropriate," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the Braidwood commission of inquiry's final report on the death of Dziekanski will be publicly released on Friday at 10 a.m.

The report was completed last month and submitted to the attorney-general.

Copies have been printed and will be released during a news conference at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver.

The first report was released last year and examined the use of Tasers -- known as conducted energy weapons -- by police, sheriffs and corrections staff in B.C.

The second phase of the inquiry focused on the events surrounding the tragic death of Dziekanski, 40, at Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007.

Dziekanski, who spoke no English and had never been on a plane before, was unable to find his mother after arriving at the airport. He remained in a secure customs area for about 10 hours and then, appearing dazed and delirious, began throwing around furniture, prompting a 911 call reporting a violent drunk (no drugs or alcohol were found in his system).

Seconds after four RCMP officers arrived on the scene, Dziekanski was jolted five times with a Taser.

He died minutes after he was restrained and handcuffed face-down on the airport floor.

The incident was captured on amateur video, which resulted in an international public outcry.

Since his death, the RCMP has made a number of changes to its Taser policies, including restricting the weapon's use to incidents threatening officer or public safety, annual recertification for trained users and enhanced reporting on all use-of-force incidents by RCMP officers.

The most recent change was in May when it was determined Tasers should only be fired when a suspect is causing "bodily harm" or is about to do so.

The RCMP also changed their rules in June 2009 so that police could no longer use the weapon on suspects merely for their failure to cooperate. Their revised policy -- dictating that there must be a threat to the public or the police -- was widely criticized as being too vague.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank You for blogging about tasers. want to add this:
Amnesty International - Taser Abuse in the United States
Since June 2001, more than 351 individuals in the United States have died after being shocked by police Tasers. Most of those individuals were not carrying a weapon. Amnesty International is concerned that Tasers are being used as tools of routine force -- rather than as an alternative to firearms.