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RCMP Commissioner Gets It Wrong, Just Like His Officers

March 30, 2009

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott should heed his own advice about the death at the hands of his officers of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver airport.

Contrary to what the head Mountie suggested Sunday in Kandahar, no one is making “knee-jerk” criticisms of police conduct in the Tasering of the 41-year-old Polish immigrant that ended with his death.

Canadians are losing faith in the force because evidence at the public inquiry continues to expose the four Mounties involved in this tragedy to be woefully trained, semi-competent officers or bald-faced liars.

That’s what makes Elliott’s comments so puzzling.

He acknowledges Dziekanski’s death has damaged the credibility of the iconic national agency but he doesn’t seem to get it.

He claimed most of us do not understand the pressures of policing.

“I think the expression, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes comes to mind,'” Elliott said.

Former B.C. Justice Thomas Braidwood, however, is doing exactly that — trying to understand the stress the RCMP officers faced.

And, if he hasn’t already, Elliott should watch some of the inquiry proceedings on the Internet and catch the embarrassing performance of his officers.

The slap-head testimony continued Monday.

Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, the senior officer, was as chippy in his demeanour as the three constables who responded with him that fateful night and who testified a few weeks ago.

They were interrupted Oct. 14, 2007 on their lunch break at about 1:15 a.m. by a routine dispatch that a probably intoxicated man was throwing luggage at the international arrivals area.

Robinson said that without speaking to each other or drawing up a plan, the four got into separate cars and headed out.

The 38-year-old wasn’t certified to use a Taser but was apparently authorized to tell subordinate Const. Kwesi Millington to deploy it on Dziekanski moments after they arrived — twice, no wait, maybe three times. He can’t remember.

Const. Millington told the inquiry previously he fired on his own and only heard Robinson order a second discharge.

They insist there has been no collusion, but in their notes and statements, all of the Mounties have now painted the same glaringly wrong picture of what happened, using startlingly similar language. Each has repudiated those accounts on the stand.

They had no choice: An amateur video of the fatal confrontation recorded a dramatically different event.

“I was mistaken but I was telling the truth,” Robinson conceded when confronted by the obvious contradictions between his version and the tape.

He said he “didn’t articulate it well” when he described things that didn’t happen.

“Just because I was mistaken doesn’t mean I was lying,” Robinson insisted.

The continuing portrayal by police and Elliott of this confrontation as a split-second, danger-filled encounter is misleading.

This was not a deranged gunman in a dark alley.

Dziekanski was threatening no one in a vacant, well-lighted secure area of the airport surrounded by four police officers. The Taser was deployed five times for a total of 31 seconds.

This was no momentary “split-second” bad decision — this was a series of terrible misjudgments capped by what appears to be an attempted cover-up.

Elliott wants Canadians to walk in his officers’ shoes; he should walk in the shoes of Dziekanski’s mom, Zofia Cisowski.

She tried to confront Cpl. Robinson outside the hearing room.

“Nice to meet you,” she called out twice.

He ignored her.

“I wanted him to look at me,” a trembling Cisowski said afterwards. “To see my face. My sorrow. This officer gave orders to them to Taser my son. My heart is broken for that. This officer is just like the rest. He’s not telling the truth.”

Walk in her shoes, Commissioner Elliott.

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