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Friday, June 18, 2010

RCMP wrong to use Taser on Dziekanski: report

June 18, 2010
CBC News

The final inquiry report on the death of Robert Dziekanski has concluded the RCMP were not justified in using a Taser against the Polish immigrant.

The long-awaited report, by retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice Thomas Braidwood, was released Friday in Vancouver.

Braidwood was commissioned by the B.C. government to determine whether there was misconduct on the part of the four RCMP officers who confronted and subdued Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007, at Vancouver International Airport.

Braidwood said the four officers involved initially acted appropriately, but the senior officer intervened in an inappropriately aggressive manner.

Braidwood concluded Dziekanski was being compliant with the officers, and neither Const. Kwesi Millington, who fired the Taser, nor the senior corporal in charge, honestly perceived an attack was coming.

Braidwood concluded the officers later deliberately misrepresented what happened at the airport to justify their actions, and he called on the B.C. government to establish a civilian-led body to investigate police incidents in the future.

"From this review I drew two final conclusions," he said. "Despite their training, the officers approached the incident as though responding to a barroom brawl and failed to shift gears when they realized that they were dealing with an obviously distraught traveller.

"This tragic case is at its heart a story of shameful conduct by a few officers. It ought not to reflect unfairly on the many thousands of RCMP and other police officers who have, through years of public service, protected our communities and earned a well-deserved reputation for doing so."

But Braidwood stopped short of saying the officers had committed misconduct in the incident, saying he would leave that question for the Crown to decide.

Confronted in arrivals lounge

Dziekanski died after being stunned multiple times by RCMP officers using a Taser. The 40-year-old Polish immigrant, who spoke no English, had been wandering in the international arrival area for several hours, unable to communicate with anyone, while he waited for his mother to drive from the B.C. Interior to meet him.

He became distraught and angry, prompting airport staff to call police. Within 30 seconds of arriving at the lounge, the four RCMP officers surrounded him and knocked him to the ground with one Taser stun, then pulled the trigger four more times.

By the time medical help arrived, Dziekanski was dead.

Initially, police said Dziekanski had attacked the officers, but a cellphone video taken by a bystander raised questions about the RCMP account and became the key piece of evidence in the inquiry.

No officers were ever charged in the death and the RCMP defended the handling of the incident, saying Dziekanski was advancing at the officers when he was stunned with the Taser.

Before the report was released, Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, said she believes there was no doubt about the role the Mounties played in her son's death.

"That was torture. That was execution, because nobody help him. He shouldn't died on the floor, but I see that," Cisowski told CBC News Thursday.

Braidwood also released a previous report last July that was critical of police guidelines on their use of Tasers and other conducted energy weapons.

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