Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Taser scandal destroying public trust in police, government

The decision to call a public inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's Taser death might not have come quickly enough for my young friend Spencer.
Solicitor General John Les flip-flopped Monday. Five weeks after Dziekanski's death - and after repeatedly rejecting calls for an independent review - Les caved and announced a public inquiry.
But it might to be too late. Spencer is almost 11, quite smart and aware. On the way to watch a weekend hockey game, he was talking about the video showing four RCMP officers approaching the immigrant, Tasering him, kneeling on him. And Dziekanski dying.
And for Spencer, it was clear. They killed the guy and it didn't have to happen.
That's a bad thing for kids to think about the police.
It must be tough for all the other officers, who are just trying to make things better, I offered. Trying to be positive and all, and because it's true.
By his silence, I knew Spencer wasn't convinced.
And I can't blame him. At that point not a single question about Dziekanksi's death had been raised by anyone in the police or government. The four officers were on the job. Premier Gordon Campbell and Les said they were ready to wait for the RCMP internal investigation and an inquest.
They had no concerns about Taser use in the province.
In fact, the RCMP presented a false story about what happened. A spokesman said the officers had used gestures in an effort to calm Dziekansi. They tried to talk to him, but he was throwing chairs in a crowded area, the spokesman said. The first jolt from the Taser barely had an effect, the spokesman said.
And the RCMP attempted to withhold the video a young Victoria man, Paul Pritchard, had made of the whole affair. Only after Pritchard went to court was the evidence revealed.
It showed the officers making no effort to defuse the situation before repeatedly zapping Dziekanski and jumping on him
The RCMP denies any effort to mislead. "We were giving the information we knew at the time," said spokesman Cpl. Dale Carr, "That's not a lie."
Who cares where the false information came from? The RCMP story about what happened was untrue and covered up damaging facts.
And except for the video, and Pritchard's determination to see it released, that would likely have been the end of the affair.
Les didn't see any need for action. Campbell said he wasn't forming any judgments until all the investigations were concluded - a matter of years. There were no worries about Taser use, although six British Columbians have died after being shot.
For Spencer, and the kids at his elementary school, it looked pretty clear. The police could do what they wanted. Watch the video.
On Monday, Les reversed himself and announced a public inquiry. It will look at Taser use, the actions of the RCMP and the Canadian Border Services and the way people are treated at Vancouver International Airport. (On Tuesday, Campbell refused repeatedly to express confidence in Les.)
The inquiry was overdue. The RCMP is investigating itself, but the force's credibility is gone. There will be an inquest, but those are slow and limited. The federal government promised a review, but really, who expects anything there.
The official police position is that Tasers have never killed anyone. But 18 Canadians have died minutes after being Tasered in the last five years.
In 2005, the Police Complaints Commissioner ordered a review of Taser use. The result was a package of useful recommendations around training, protocols and monitoring.
But the provincial response was largely token. The RCMP, for example, still isn't providing basic information on Taser use to the province's use of force co-ordinator, despite the 2005 recommendation. The government can't see how many officers have received the recommended training in Taser use and excited delirium.
Spencer will be watching what happens next.
Footnote: What did happen with the Police Complaints Commissioner report? Not much. There is a provincial use of force co-ordinator and the government sent out a letter in 2005 telling police about the new guidelines. But there was no follow-up or monitoring. Some forces used the Taser much more frequently after the report; others, like Victoria's, cut back. The government checked out.


Anonymous said...

I read elsehwere this evening the chap Tazered in Chilliwack is quite ill. Being tazered, pepper sprayed, hit a few time with a night stick as well. Another internal investigation. There was only three or four cops there, wonder why they can't simply overpowere a person. I guess its easier to just keep hitting them .

Anonymous said...

Something must be done immediately about the law enforcement entities in this country. They are completely out of hand and feel they are "above the law" with the legal right to inflict torture, pain and take a human being's life.

I have lost all respect for the Government, the RCMP and our judicial system. They are all corrupt!

We have the nerve to call ourselves a democratic country with a regard for the rights of humanity! What a joke!

I am haunted daily by Paul Pritchard's video of the sadistic and horrific death of Robert Dziekanski by the hands of the infamous RCMP. Those 4 thugs must be charged with murder and suffer the consequences just like any other person who commits a crime.

We condemn the activities of the Russian KGB and the German Gestapo. What would you call the callous and heinous crimes the RCMP are committing every day here?

Anonymous said...

IN the last decade the CANADA POLICE FORCES change completely the training provided to their officers. They start to use the "2 minutes of hate" each day find in G. Orwell books, the training has an extensive part of wash brain and they do not make the distinguish beteween a good guy having or being in a difficult situation and a real threat for civil society, they act like everybody is an enemy, the lady who is begging for the money on the corner street, the kid of 13 because he wears XXL clothes at his age and so far ... .

So the problem is not in the officers which they really do what they was learned to do like a well trained dog, the problem is at a much higher level and finally in us.