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Thursday, December 31, 2009


Which came first: the fractured skull or the taser?

Coroner: Man hit with Taser died from skull fracture

And so, I ask you this: If you're run over by a Greyhound Bus and you die, did you die because of "internal injuries" or did you die because you were RUN OVER BY A GREYHOUND BUS???

A comment received here this evening:

To be fair, Taser International does warn that individuals can be injured if they are tasered and thus fall from a height. Of course, in this case the subject died after falling from the "height" of perhaps 5-foot-10-inches (a guess). Even when tasers work exactly as intended (hey, it happens), they can still kill. As the Maryland Attorney General recently determined, Taser International has "significantly" understated the risks associated with taser use. And these clear facts perfectly justify the recent 9th Circuit Court decision as an excellent first step with immediate effect.

And another comment:

I used the same analogy about drunk drivers... If you were hit by a drunk driver and died then would you have died from the injuries or from the drunk driver. I like the greyhound bus analogy too. How rediculous to think that if someone is TAZED resulting in a fatality, that the cause of death would be the injuries sustained during the fall??? Is anybody really buying that explanation? YES. Do you know who is buying it? Police Officers and Taser International. Thank you for all the work you have done on this website and have a Happy New Year! Peace

Happy New Year!


Put on your dancing shoes - don't forget your noisemakers and your party hats - and head on over to the "2009-was-a-much-better-year-for-the-people-than-it-was-for-TASER-INTERNATIONAL" party now on in full swing over at www.excited-delirium.com.

Connecticut man dies after he is tasered

December 30, 2009: Stephen Palmer, 47, Stamford, Connecticut

Update at 11:22 PM:

STAMFORD -- The autopsy on the 47-year-old city man who died Wednesday in police custody after being shocked with a Taser was inconclusive, the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said Thursday. See Inconclusive autopsy on Stamford man who died after police Tasering

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Court's limits on Taser use could affect police use of less-than-lethal device

December 30, 2009
By Kirk Mitchell, The Denver Post

A federal appeals court ruling restricting the lawful use of Tasers may also persuade local police to limit their deployment of the devices, attorneys and police say.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling Monday limiting police use of Tasers against people who are posing no immediate threat and may be mentally ill.

The ruling will have a limited advisory effect on Colorado, which is within the jurisdiction of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But, when combined with a previous warning from the maker of Tasers about the potential for the devices to cause what the company called "adverse cardiac events," some police departments are now rethinking their widespread use.

"How effective are Tasers going to be if they are so restricted in their use?" Boulder Police Chief Mark Beckner said Tuesday. "That's what we're grappling with around the country."

The court, which handles appeals in nine Western states and Guam, ruled in the case of a man named Carl Bryan, who was hit with a Taser by Coronado, Calif., police Officer Brian McPherson while Bryan was having what the court called "a tantrum" after a traffic stop. But, the court noted, Bryan did not threaten the officer or advance toward him, making use of the Taser excessive force under the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," the court wrote. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force."

Civil-liberties advocates seized on the ruling as a milestone in the debate over "less-than-lethal" police tactics such as batons, pepper spray and Tasers.

"I think police departments should take a significant note," said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Denver. "The decision takes into account the serious potential threat of injury (of using Tasers)."

Boulder ACLU chairman Judd Golden agreed.

"It's getting national attention," Golden said. "We hope this will be another signal for police to re-evaluate their policies."

In a statement released by Taser International, which manufactures the Taser, spokesman Steve Tuttle said the California ruling applies only to that case.

"The court's holding does not establish any new law for use of a TASER device," Tuttle said in an e-mail message.

Tasers deliver an electric charge in order to subdue a person as an alternative to gunfire. They have been controversial, connected to at least six deaths in Colorado and hundreds of deaths across the country.

The ACLU took Boulder police to task in the summer after an officer allegedly fired a Taser in the back of the arm and the face of a mentally disabled man, who had walked away from a caretaker.

Like the California case, the officer could have called for backup to subdue the nonthreatening man, Golden said.

"This was a person who was clearly mentally impaired," he said.

But the officer had several warnings that the man was a physical threat to her and the community and he had to be subdued immediately, Beckner said. "Would you rather the person be struck by a metal baton?" he asked.

A factor that had a more immediate impact on Boulder policy than the out-of-state court decision was an Oct. 15 training bulletin by Taser International, Beckner said. The company advised police agencies not to shoot its stun guns at a suspect's chest in order to manage risk. Now, Boulder officers aim elsewhere on the body.

"The problem is, it's not always easy to hit people where you want when they are moving," he said.

Police in Denver and Aurora did not return calls for comment.

Mounties should just take their punishment

December 30, 2009
Ethan Baron, The Province

When it comes to evading responsibility for an innocent man's death, some of our guardians of law and order are leaving no legal loophole unexplored.

Officers involved in the killing of Robert Dziekanski have been desperately seeking a way to avoid being found to have acted with misconduct before, during and after the death of the Polish immigrant at the Vancouver airport in October 2007.

Thomas Braidwood, who heads the inquiry into Dziekanski's death, in April issued an advisory that his final report -- expected early next year--may include findings of misconduct against the four officers.

Braidwood noted that such a result wouldn't constitute disciplinary action against the officers.

Misconduct findings could include: failure to properly assess and respond to Dziekanski's situation in the airport; unjustified use of a Taser, repeatedly; misrepresentation of facts in notes, statements and commission testimony; and providing misleading information about witness notes and statements to the commission.

In their first try to weasel through a loophole, the four Mounties, Cpl. Benjamin Robinson and constables Gerry Rundel, Kwesi Millington and William Bentley, argued in B.C. Supreme Court that the misconduct notice wasn't specific enough. And they contended that because the Braidwood inquiry was enabled by the provincial Public Inquiry Act, it didn't have jurisdiction over federal police. They wanted the court to prohibit Braidwood from issuing findings of misconduct.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Arne Silverman shut them down, ruling in June that Braidwood was correct in stating that while RCMP management and supervision fall under federal jurisdiction, it is not an intrusion into that jurisdiction for provincial authorities to allege misconduct by individual officers.

But like zombies in a bad horror movie, these Mounties keep getting knocked down only to rise again, mumbling gibberish. Rundel, Millington and Bentley took their case to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

The trio claimed that misconduct findings require analyzing their conduct against criminal law standards and RCMP training and policy, thus falling within federal jurisdiction. They also tried the specifics angle again. The three appeal court justices agreed with Silverman's ruling and on Tuesday snapped the loopholes shut.

Braidwood has no authority to recommend criminal charges, which must be laid by Crown counsel. The Crown reviewed evidence in the case and decided not to lay criminal charges. I asked Crown counsel spokesman Neil MacKenzie whether findings by Braidwood of misconduct could lead the Crown to reverse that decision, but he said he didn't want to speculate.

The RCMP have never contested Braidwood's authority to find misconduct-- the officers themselves brought their cases through the courts. But the actions of the federal force during the fallout from Dziekanski's death have eroded public confidence in the RCMP.

These pitiful attempts by officers involved to clear themselves in the face of overwhelming evidence of wrongdoing is causing further damage. They may take their cases to the Supreme Court of Canada, bringing further disgrace to the Mounties. Or they could do what all good zombies should, in the end -- just stay down.

Taser inquiry can rule on RCMP misconduct

December 30, 2009
ROBERT MATAS, Globe and Mail

RCMP officers at the centre of the Robert Dziekanski tasering affair have lost another round in their effort to stop a provincial inquiry from reaching any decision about allegations of misconduct.

A three-member panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal has rejected an appeal of a lower court decision that ruled inquiry Commissioner Thomas Braidwood has jurisdiction to reach conclusions on the allegations. The appeal court decided that the provincially appointed commissioner was neither infringing on federal powers over the RCMP nor deciding on criminal activities by delving into the allegations against the Mounties.

The ruling allows Mr. Braidwood to continue working on his much-anticipated report concerning the high-profile incident. Commission lawyer Art Vertlieb said yesterday that the commissioner continued to work on his report while the court case was proceeding and intends to complete it by early next year.

Lawyer Ravi Hira, who represented one of three RCMP officers involved in the appeal, said in an interview that his advice to his client will be to wait for Mr. Braidwood's report before deciding whether to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. He has not had a chance to receive instructions from his client but his view is that the RCMP should see what Mr. Braidwood says, he said.

"The court has instructed the commissioner not to transgress into matters of criminal law or RCMP management," Mr. Hira said. "All we ask for is that the boundaries are clear and people act within the boundaries."

Mr. Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007, shortly after he was repeatedly tasered at Vancouver airport. He had just arrived from Poland and spoke no English. He became increasingly agitated and confused after several hours at the airport.

Mr. Braidwood, who was appointed to inquire into the man's death, heard evidence from 87 witnesses earlier this year, including from four officers - Constable William Bentley, Constable Kwesi Millington, Constable Gerry Rundel and Corporal Benjamin Robinson - who responded to a call from the airport.

Mr. Braidwood notified the RCMP officers in April that he may make findings against them that could amount to misconduct based on the allegations. The RCMP challenged his authority to consider the allegations. After the B.C. Supreme Court dismissed those claims, Constables Bentley, Rundel and Millington asked the appeal court to overturn the decision.

Madam Justice Mary Saunders, who wrote the 19-page ruling on behalf of the panel, said that Mr. Braidwood was entitled to comment, if comment was warranted, on the response of public officials to events.

"The Public Inquiry Act under which the Commission is established expressly permits a commissioner to report on misconduct," she stated "The larger view of the administration of justice permits a provincially appointed commission to reflect on matters that bear upon public confidence in the administration of justice, of which the response of the police officers in this situation is a significant consideration."

The commission's terms of reference involve more than an inquiry into the validity of actions taken by four officers, she added. Although the officers' actions are a critical component to understanding the events, "the inquiry is neither a discipline investigation nor an inquiry into RCMP policies or training," she said.

The allegations include failing to properly assess and respond to the circumstances faced in relation to Mr. Dziekanski, tasering Mr. Dziekanski initially in circumstances that did not justify it, and tasering him again without reassessing the situation and in circumstances that were also not justified.

The officers also allegedly misrepresented facts in notes and statements, including in evidence given before the commission, and provided misleading information of witnesses' notes and statements in evidence before the commission. They allegedly misrepresented Mr. Dziekanski's behaviours and the manner in which events unfolded at the airport in order to justify their actions, Judge Saunders recounted in her ruling.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A landmark decision

December 29, 2009
Hudson Sangree, Modesto Bee

A federal appeals court on Monday issued one of the most comprehensive rulings yet limiting police use of Tasers against low-level offenders who seem to pose little threat and may be mentally ill.

In a case out of San Diego County, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals criticized an officer who, without warning, shot an emotionally troubled man with a Taser when he was unarmed, yards away, and neither fleeing nor advancing on the officer.

Sold as a nonlethal alternative to guns, Tasers deliver an electrical jolt meant to subdue a subject. The stun guns have become a common and increasingly controversial tool used by law enforcement.

Three men died in the Stanislaus County men's jail this year after they were shot with Tasers, though coroner's reports have suggested other factors caused their deaths. Earlier this month, there was the death of Paul Martinez Jr., an inmate shot with a stun gun while officers said he was resisting them at the Roseville City Jail.

As lawsuits have been filed against police and Taser International, the nation's appellate courts have been trying to define what constitutes appropriate Taser use.

The San Diego case is the latest ruling to address the issue.

The court recounted the facts of the case: In the summer of 2005, Carl Bryan, 21, was pulled over for a seat belt violation and did not follow an officer's order to stay in the car.

Earlier, he had received a speeding ticket and had taken off his T-shirt to wipe away tears. He was wearing only the underwear he'd slept in because a woman had taken his keys, the court said.

During his second traffic stop in Coronado, he got out of the car. He was "agitated and yelling gibberish and hitting his thighs, clad only in his boxer shorts and tennis shoes" but did not threaten the officer verbally or physically, the judges wrote.

That's when Coronado officer Brian McPherson, who was standing about 20 feet away watching Bryan's "bizarre tantrum," fired his Taser, the court said.

Without a word of warning, he hit Bryan in the arm with two metal darts, delivering a 1,200-volt jolt.

Temporarily paralyzed and in intense pain, Bryan fell face-first on the pavement. The fall shattered four of his front teeth and left him with facial abrasions and swelling. Later, a doctor had to use a scalpel to remove one of the darts.

Bryan sued McPherson, the Coronado Police Department and the city of Coronado for excessive force in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.

The officer moved to dismiss the claim, but a federal trial judge ruled in Bryan's favor.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit affirmed the trial judge's ruling Monday, concluding that the level of force used by the officer was excessive.

McPherson could have waited for backup or tried to talk the man down, the judges said. If Bryan were mentally ill, as the officer contended, then there was even more reason to use "less intrusive means," the judges said.

"Officer McPherson's desire to quickly and decisively end an unusual and tense situation is understandable," Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the court. "His chosen method for doing so violated Bryan's constitutional right to be free from excessive force."

Some lawyers called it a landmark decision.

Eugene Iredale, a San Diego lawyer who argued the case, said it was one of the clearest and most complete statements yet from an appellate court about the limits of Taser use.

He said after Monday's decision that the courts will consider all circumstances, including whether someone poses a threat, has committed a serious crime or is mentally troubled.

"In an era where everybody understands 'don't Tase me bro,' courts are going to look more closely at the use of Tasers, and they're going to try to deter the promiscuous overuse of that tool," he said.

That's especially true in the context of those who appear to be emotionally disturbed or mentally ill, said Johnny Griffin III, a Sacramento plaintiffs lawyer.

Griffin represented a troubled Woodland man who died under police restraint after being struck multiple times with Tasers. The case settled against the city and its officers in June for $300,000.

Law enforcement authorities said they don't expect Monday's ruling to prompt much change.

"We're satisfied with the deployment policy we have in place," Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson said.

His department's Taser policy advises deputies not to shock suspects who are standing in such a way that a fall would hurt them further, and it tells deputies to warn a subject before firing if possible, both steps the officer in the Coronado case did not take.

Cincinnati officer fired over traffic stop Taser use

December 29, 2009
WFMJ

CINCINNATI (AP) - A Cincinnati police officer has been fired for using a Taser stun gun on a city councilman's daughter.

A police investigator found Officer Anthony Plummer used excessive force and poses "a huge liability risk" to the department and the city.

Celeste Thomas, the 27-year-old daughter of Councilman Cecil Thomas, was zapped during an Aug. 23 traffic stop. An internal police investigation found she was sitting in the vehicle with her feet on the sidewalk and posed no immediate threat to the officer.

Police union president Kathy Harrell says Plummer is appealing his termination, which took effect earlier this month.

The officer also was fired in 2006 following another incident with a Taser. An arbitrator later forced the city to give Plummer his job back.

Monday, December 28, 2009

See also www.excited-delirium.com (don't forget the -dash-).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

RCMP support in B.C. plunges after Tasering, death: report

The Tasering and death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in 2007 has led more British Columbians to lose confidence in the RCMP than residents of any other province, a new national public opinion poll suggests.

“This is something that we haven’t seen before,” said Angus Reid pollster Mario Canseco of the “dramatic” results.

The online poll, conducted Dec. 17 and 18, found confidence in police internal operations and leadership has dropped by 61 per cent among B.C. respondents over the past two years.

Albertans recorded the second-largest decline in confidence at 36 per cent, while, nationally, 32 per cent of respondents said their opinion of police had worsened since 2007.

The survey involved 1,002 randomly selected adult Canadians who are Angus Reid forum panelists. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Dziekanski, 40, died in the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2007 after being Tasered five times by RCMP officers following a brief confrontation at the Vancouver International Airport.

A videotape of the incident taken by an airport bystander prompted public outrage. The footage shows Dziekanski screaming in pain and writhing on the airport carpet, facedown as he is handcuffed, restrained and repeatedly Tasered by police.

RCMP spokesman Insp. Tim Shields said the Angus Reid poll numbers are not surprising given public reaction to the incident and the subsequent inquiry.

“There is no question there has been a significant public outcry regarding the [Dziekanski] incident,” Shields said, adding, “We get the message loud and clear.”

Earlier this month, Canada’s independent RCMP watchdog criticized the four Mounties involved in the incident for “falling short of the expectations” of the law enforcement agency.

Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said the officers did not attempt to de-escalate the situation when they confronted Dziekanski, who did not speak English, nor did they approach the case “with a measured, coordinated and appropriate response.”

Instead, without any warning, they used a Taser on Dziekanski within 25 seconds of responding to a 911 call.

Meanwhile, inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood is writing his final report on the death and is expected to deliver it early next year.

The criminal justice branch decided last December not to charge any of the four Mounties in connection with Dziekanski’s death, though testimony this year at the public inquiry into the incident raised serious questions about the integrity of the RCMP investigation and the veracity of the officers, including Const. Gerry Rundel, Const. Bill Bentley, Const. Kwesi Millington, and Cpl. Benjamin Robinson.

Robinson also faces an unrelated charge of attempting to obstruct justice in connection with the Oct. 25, 2008 vehicle crash in Delta that killed 21-year-old Orion Hutchinson. Robinson was driving a Jeep that collided with Hutchinson's motorcycle at Gilchrist Drive and Sixth Avenue in Tsawwassen. It took more than a year for the charge to be approved.

Shields said police in B.C., and across the country, are working hard to regain public trust, and are making “significant” changes around use-of-force policy and Taser use.

“We police through the consent of the public. If we lose that consent, we can’t do our jobs,” he said.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Outside police agency to investigate Taser allegations against Manitoba RCMP

December 21, 2009
The Canadian Press

WINNIPEG — An outside police force is going to investigate a Manitoba man's allegations that RCMP officers used excessive force in firing a stun gun at him.

Matthew Gray of Portage la Prairie says he was beaten and hit with a Taser while he was handcuffed in an ambulance in 2003. Gray filed a private prosecution against several RCMP officers, and Manitoba Justice has appointed a special prosecutor to take over the case.

That prosecutor, Marty Minuk, told court an outside police agency will investigate the allegations and report back in the new year.

Gray, who is 47, is a former soldier who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and called a hospital psychiatric ward for help in June 2003.

RCMP court documents say Gray was handcuffed at his own request and became extremely aggressive in the ambulance.

Missouri man dies

Michael D. Hawkins, 39, Springfield, Missouri

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Florida man dies after being tasered

Preston Bussey III, 41, Rockledge, Florida

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A disturbing view of RCMP oversight

December 19, 2009
Gary Mason, Globe and Mail

As he prepares to leave office, Paul Kennedy wishes he could tell Canadians that the job of being head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP will be in good hands. But he can't.

Unless the federal government announces a successor by year's end - which is unlikely - no one will be in charge of civilian oversight of our troubled national police force.

"When I'm gone, there will be nobody to sign any decisions or reports," said Mr. Kennedy, who was commissioner of the CPC for four years. "There will be no one to authorize further investigations, to initiate complaints against the RCMP, nothing. Civilian oversight will be dead in the water."

In a wide-ranging interview with The Globe and Mail, Mr. Kennedy painted a disturbing picture of the state of civilian oversight of the RCMP. Although the federal government has hinted at plans to enhance the CPC's powers, including independent investigations, Mr. Kennedy isn't convinced.

The Conservative government promised him the same thing and never delivered, he said. Mr. Kennedy urged the public to be vigilant for signs of the "politicians' moonwalk" - a phenomenon in which elected leaders introduce legislation that gives the illusion of giant steps forward, but "really what they're doing is sliding backwards."

"I've seen it before," said Mr. Kennedy, who was a federal prosecutor before becoming one of the most respected civil servants in Ottawa.

At the CPC, Mr. Kennedy frequently clashed with the RCMP over issues including taser use and police investigating themselves. He was never reluctant to put heat on the federal government to give the CPC the power to conduct thorough and competent investigations.

He declined to discuss speculation that he was let go because the Mounties and the Conservatives had had enough of his public criticisms. The federal government did not tell him why it did not extend his contract.

Mr. Kennedy never hid his frustration over many aspects of the relationship between his commission and the RCMP. And as he prepares to depart, it is evident many of the problems he identified early in his mandate still exist. Such as:

Powers: The CPC needs to be able to subpoena RCMP records and compel officers to testify under oath. Without that authority, it will never truly get to the bottom of any investigation. "If you don't have access to all the information you have a credibility problem," Mr. Kennedy said.

Funding: Some of the CPC's best work was in 2008, when it took in-depth looks at taser use and police investigating police. These broader reviews that allowed the CPC to see if systemic issues were behind individual complaints led to some of the most important recommendations of Mr. Kennedy's commission. But Ottawa took away the funding that allowed this after one year.

"If I can't do that work then I don't know there's a problem," Mr. Kennedy said. "And if I can't identify a problem then everything's perfect, isn't it?"

Complaints: All complaints against the RCMP should go to the CPC first. Many don't, including serious allegations. The RCMP often handle these "informally." This shouldn't happen, Mr. Kennedy said. "The police have an interest ... in suppressing the actual complaints themselves or the number of complaints," he said.

Funding II: The CPC's base budget is $5.1-million. For the past few years, it has received an extra $3.1-million to do outreach work that the commission used to make itself known, to aboriginal communities in particular. It is in danger of losing this money. Mr. Kennedy estimates the CPC needs $15-million to $17-million annually to carry out its functions. That is a fraction of what similar agencies around the world get. "If the CPC's budget goes back to $5.1-million, then you're effectively putting it on life support," Mr. Kennedy said.

Delays: When Mr. Kennedy finishes looking into a civilian complaint, his report goes to the RCMP. Often the force takes ages to respond. In one case it was 805 days, in another 734. This is a problem for many reasons. In some cases the conduct of an officer constitutes grounds for criminal charges, such as common assault. But there is a limitation period under the criminal code of six months to a year for that charge to be laid. Hanging on to a report ensures the RCMP that its officers can't be criminally charged or even internally disciplined.

Mr. Kennedy said the Mounties carry out many activities under the guise of national security that get no public scrutiny.

"If you're a national security target being looked at by the RCMP, you don't know you're being looked at, so you're not in a position to complain that you're under surveillance or being wiretapped or whatever may be going on," Mr. Kennedy said. After four years of trying to shed light into the dark corners of our national police force, he says the time has long since past for the government and the RCMP to agree on a oversight formula in which the public can have faith.

"There is a great deal riding on it," he said. "The government and RCMP need to produce meaningful change. It needs to show that they understand the force has a major problem that needs to be fixed."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR?


I feel guilty. While I've been busy trolling the mall for dumb stuff no one really needs, my comrade (that's a good one!) over at Excited-Delirium (don't forget the dash) has been busy decking the halls with shiny baubles of another kind. For us, it's Christmas every day over at www.excited-delirium.com.

Letter to the Editor: 'Excited delirium’ ridiculous

December 16, 2009
bclocalnews

Does anyone else find the RCMP/police-created term “excited delirium” for cause of death, as ridiculous as I do?

We, the public, cannot accept this created phrase from our Taser trigger-happy men/women in blue.

What’s next? “Yes, your Honour I shot the victim several times but he actually died from loss of blood. My actions certainly had little to do with his death, he must have been a hemophiliac or something.”

Or perhaps, “Sure, I stabbed the victim repeatedly, but he actually died from heart failure. He must have had an underlying heart condition, so how could my actions be accountable for his death?”

Repeated shocks of several thousand volts (sometimes over and over again) is the foremost and primary reason our fellow Canadians continue to be killed by the people in society we appoint to “serve and protect.”

Is there some sort of critical failure in the training of our police forces that these brave men and women feel the need to rely so quickly on such a dangerous weapon when faced with persons in distress or conflict? Have our police given up on communication skills, de-escalation techniques and other non-lethal alternatives?

The medical community doesn’t even accept “excited delirium” as a real term.

Jeff Leggat, Burnaby

Calgary man sues police

December 16, 2009
ctvcalgary.ca

A Calgary man is suing the Calgary Police Service two years after he was Tasered.

In December of 2007, police were called to a disturbance at Shanks Sports Grill.

Nicholas Ashe was attending a staff Christmas party and went outside for a cigarette.

Ashe saw police arrive and says he was approached by a group of people asking him for a light.

Ashe says that's when one officer grabbed him and put him in a headlock. "The other officer grabbed my right arm and tried to twist it around my back. As he was doing that, that's when the Taser went off and I felt a sharp pain in my chest. I went down to the ground."

Ashe tried to communicate that there was some misunderstanding but he says nobody would listen.

Ashe says he was Tasered twice and taken to hospital by ambulance.

Police did lay criminal charges against Nicholas Ashe for assaulting a police officer and obstructing justice but those charges were dismissed in court.

In his ruling, the judge said he believed Ashe's version of events. The judge was also sharply critical of police.

Ashe and his lawyer have now filed a lawsuit seeking $100,000 in damages plus unspecified special damages.

"There's really two main parts to the claim. The first being that a number of things were done that were negligent by police and they didn't carry out the duties that they ought to have done. Beyond that though there's a specific claim that the criminal prosecution that was brought against Mr. Ashe was done maliciously," says Michael Bates, the lawyer for Ashe.

Chief Rick Hanson is also named in the lawsuit. "At the end of the day we'll defend our actions in court. And, as I say, it's a job that requires officers to make a split second decision on the use of force and in the vast, vast majority of circumstances they make the right decision."

The Calgary Police Service has yet to file a statement of defence in the case.

Expert says Oklahoma County inmate’s death listed wrong

December 16, 2009
BY NOLAN CLAY The Oklahoman

An expert who has done more than 8,000 autopsies testified Tuesday an Oklahoma County jail inmate did not die from head injuries.

The expert, Dr. Thomas Bennett, was the first defense witness at the federal trial of a fired jail guard accused of killing the inmate. Bennett said the cause of death should have been recorded as unknown.

The former guard, Gavin Douglas Littlejohn, 26, of Oklahoma City, is accused in a criminal charge of violating the inmate’s civil rights by using so much excessive force against the inmate that the inmate died. He has admitted striking the handcuffed inmate three times inside the jail’s 13th floor clinic but said he "didn’t even hit that dude hard.”

The inmate, Christopher Beckman, 34, of Choctaw, died in a hospital May 28, 2007, two days after struggling with jail guards. The concrete worker had been jailed for driving under the influence and other minor complaints.

The final prosecution witness, Dr. Eric Duval, testified he did the autopsy on Beckman and found head injuries, brain surface bleeding and brain swelling. He concluded Beckman died from blunt force head trauma. He testified homicide was the manner of death.

"My opinion is the totality of all the injuries to his head led to his death,” said Duval, the deputy chief at Oklahoma’s medical examiner’s office. "His death is due to the blows to his head.”

Duval acknowledged under defense questioning that he had experience doing only about 250 autopsies at the time he did Beckman’s autopsy.

The defense expert told jurors the inmate’s head injuries "cosmetically … look very bad” but did not damage the brain enough to cause death. Bennett, who charges $400 an hour for his testimony in court, pointed out the brain was not bruised.

Bennett, who is from Montana, reviewed autopsy reports, autopsy photos, hospital records, FBI reports and other documents to make his conclusion.

Bennett testified the inmate suffered a hypoxic event, meaning the body did not get enough oxygen. The expert said one explanation could be excited delirium, where a person exhibits psychotic behavior then stops breathing. He said excited delirium could be brought on by drug withdrawal.

Prosecutors suggested excited delirium is a theory that is not officially accepted by the medical community.

The second defense witness, former guard Jeff Eggleston, said he saw other guards hurt the inmate on the jail’s second floor before Littlejohn became involved. Eggleston said two guards hit the inmate’s face into a steel jail door and then into the door frame. Eggleston said he and two jail orderlies had to clean up the blood.

More defense witnesses are to testify today.

Littlejohn will testify Thursday, his defense attorney said. The trial is in federal court in Oklahoma City.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ontario police services see no change in use of Tasers

December 14, 2009
Will Senn, Toronto Observer

In response to the recent findings of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, spokesmen for both the OPP and Toronto Police Services, do not see use of Tasers changing in their forces.

In a report released Dec. 8, Commissioner for Public Complaints against the RCMP, Paul Kennedy, found the four Mounties who fired a Conducted Energy Weapon (Taser) at Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski acted inappropriately. The RCMP have since announced they’re reviewing the use and effectiveness of Tasers on the force.

Other police forces in Ontario, however, see no reason to alter their practices when it comes to the deployment and use of CEWs.

Sgt. Pierre Chamberland, media relations co-ordinator for the OPP, said most OPP officers aren’t even issued with Tasers; only those who are are highly trained in the use of the weapon are allowed to carry them.

“Basically, in order to be eligible to even carry a Taser as a police officer in Ontario, you have to meet certain criteria: You have to be either a member of a tactics and rescue unit, or a front-line supervisor. The first-line officers are not authorized to carry them,” he said.

Mark Pugash is a spokesperson for Toronto Police Services. He said the independent inquiry conducted by B.C. Appeal Court Justice Thomas Braidwood which issued 19 recommendations on CEWs in July, holds up the Toronto Police Service as an example to other services about the proper deployment and use CEWs.

Pugash says TPS will review the RCMP commission’s findings, but that currently, the service sees no reason to remove CEWs from deployment.

“We look at every decision carefully, but our record shows we use them (Tasers) properly. They’ve saved many lives, both officers and civilians,” Pugash said.

Chamberland says the OPP commissioner would actually like to see front-line officers equipped with Tasers, but because of current regulations, that may not be possible.

“The government actually controls the use of Tasers in Ontario through legislation under the Police Services Act,” he said. “You have to be trained and meet certain standards, and you have to maintain those standards by re-qualifying on a yearly basis.”

According to Chamberland, the OPP is interested in the report issued by Commissioner Kennedy, but he doesn’t see the removal of CEWs on the horizon.

“We’re going to review (the report) because we’re always interested in being able to do our job more effectively,” he said. “But ultimately, it isn’t going to change how we operate on a daily basis.”

RCMP watchdog, N.W.T. clash on public complaints handling

December 14, 2009
CBC News

An independent police watchdog says RCMP in Inuvik, N.W.T., should not have tried to informally resolve a serious public complaint that police used a Taser on a girl.

However, the territory's justice minister says that's how complaints about the Mounties should be handled.

The clash of opinion comes after the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP identified a number of problems with police handling of the 2007 incident, in which an officer jolted the teenage girl with a Taser at a youth correctional facility in Inuvik.

In a report released Friday, commission chairman Paul Kennedy concluded the officer was not justified in using the stun gun on the girl, then a 15-year-old inmate at the Arctic Tern Young Offenders Facility. The girl cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Among the problems Kennedy highlighted in his report was that RCMP failed to properly investigate a complaint about the incident filed by the girl's mother, instead attempting to resolve her complaint informally.

Not appropriate to 'talk it out'
Kennedy said there are cases when a public complaint against RCMP can be dealt with simply by talking it over, but the Taser incident in Inuvik was not one of those cases.

"If it's a minor matter — rudeness and things like that — of course, please go and talk it out. But there are also limits. This was beyond the limit," Kennedy told reporters Friday in Yellowknife.

Kennedy's commission has maintained that serious complaints against police, such as allegations of improper use of force, should not be resolved informally. Instead, he said, a formal investigation should take place.

In his report, Kennedy noted RCMP in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut most often tried to resolve "use of force" allegations informally.

Government has own approach
But N.W.T. Justice Minister Jackson Lafferty believes otherwise, saying in a letter to MLAs that complaints against police should only be brought to the attention of Kennedy's commission if all else fails.

In the letter, obtained by CBC News, Lafferty talks about a protocol the territorial government and RCMP have developed for handling public complaints.

Lafferty's approach suggests three stages for handling such complaints:

1.Try to resolve it by talking to the RCMP detachment or district commander.
2.If that fails, bring the complaint to Lafferty's office, where it would be assessed based on information provided by the RCMP.
3.Start an investigation if needed. RCMP would brief Lafferty and the complainant's MLA on the outcome.
If all else fails, Lafferty says the complaint can then be brought to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

"So we're the final resort, which means that you're having a system which is outside of the normal system," Kennedy said. "That, for me, merely compounds the problem I'm talking about."

A major part of the problem with RCMP resolving complaints informally is that there's often no record of how that complaint is handled, he added.

In his response to Kennedy's findings, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott agreed that the Inuvik complaint should not have been dealt with informally.

Editorial: Lawyer leaves public service on a high note

December 14, 2009
Law Times
By Glenn Kauth

At the end of the year, Canada will lose yet another valuable and outspoken civil servant when lawyer Paul Kennedy leaves his post as chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

After finishing his law degree in 1972, Kennedy spent 25 years with the Justice Department that included stints as a criminal prosecutor and later senior general counsel for the federal prosecution service. Then, after rising to become a senior assistant deputy minister with two different ministries, the government appointed him to the RCMP watchdog role in 2005.

Since then, Kennedy has established a reputation for pulling no punches against a federal police force that in recent years has come to define government secrecy. He’s been particularly forthright about the need for the RCMP to stop investigating itself in cases of serious allegations against its officers, an issue the 2005 in-custody death of Ian Bush at a B.C. police detachment helped bring to public attention.

This week, we saw Kennedy come out swinging again in his report on the infamous Taser incident involving Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport in 2007. The events that led to the Polish man’s death “represent a defining moment in the history of the RCMP,” Kennedy said.

In what amounts to an official validation of what most people have likely been thinking, Kennedy said police claims about the threat they felt from the stapler Dziekanski was brandishing didn’t justify using a Taser on him.
“The members demonstrated no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the situation nor did they approach the situation with a measured, co-ordinated, and appropriate response,” he wrote in his report.

Kennedy, in making his 16 recommendations, also criticized the officers involved for inappropriately meeting after the incident before giving their statements. In addition, he deemed that their version of what happened lacked credibility. “Overall, I found that the conduct of the responding members fell short of that expected of members of the RCMP,” he concluded.

In coming out so strongly in one of his final acts as head of the public complaints commission, Kennedy has demonstrated his value to our federal bureaucracy. But the government’s decision last month not to reappoint him raises questions about whether it’s merely pushing aside someone who has been a thorn for highly ranked public officials in recent years.

In fact, while Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan has so far declined to provide details on the reasons for the move, it was only last December that he praised Kennedy for his commitment “to achieving excellence in policing” in announcing a one-year extension of his term.

So far, it’s unclear whether the decision to end Kennedy’s posting has anything to do with his outspokenness. But we’ve seen such scenarios play out already, including in the firing of former Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission president Linda Keen after the agency ordered the shutdown of the Chalk River reactor.

Similar issues arose in the case of Military Police Complaints Commission chairman Peter Tinsley, who also clashed with the government and isn’t getting reappointed.

So, whatever the official reasons the government gives for its moves, they do raise concerns. Given the important role people like Kennedy and Tinsley play in upholding the rule of law, we need to keep them in our public service. Just this week, Kennedy proved his worth once again.

Ohio man dies after he is tasered

December 13, 2009: Douglas Boucher, 39, Mason, Ohio

Sunday, December 13, 2009

California man dies after being tasered

December 11, 2009: Paul Martin Martinez Jr., 36, Roseville, California

Saturday, December 12, 2009

EDITORIAL: A final jolt for RCMP reform

December 12, 2009
The Toronto Star

The Mounties got their man, all right, when they subdued Robert Dziekanski in a fatal melee at Vancouver airport on Oct. 14, 2007. But not in a way that reflects credit on the once-proud police force.

The four Mounties didn't approach the agitated Polish traveller with a "measured, coordinated and appropriate response," says Paul Kennedy, the outgoing head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police public complaints commission, who released a deeply troubling report on the Dziekanski case this week. They made "no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the situation." They issued no warning. Their use of a stun gun was "premature" and "not appropriate." So were the multiple jolts they gave him. They didn't give adequate medical care. He died.

Disturbingly, Kennedy also found the officers' accounts of the event to be unreliable, full of "considerable and significant discrepancies" when compared to a bystander's video record.

And he faulted the RCMP for feeding the media incorrect information on the case, then failing to correct "known errors" (that put the Mounties in a good light and Dziekanski in a poor light) while improperly holding onto the video that would have disclosed the truth.

In short, Kennedy's report is a blistering indictment of RCMP blundering, lack of credibility and media manipulation.

And RCMP Commissioner William Elliott's response was as predictable as it was inadequate. He complained that Kennedy's decision to release his report was not "appropriate," and he won't comment until Justice Thomas Braidwood's broader British Columbia provincial inquiry issues its findings next year. Meanwhile, three of the four officers are in court trying to prevent Braidwood from making findings of misconduct against them.

This is just the latest bad press for an iconic institution. The RCMP has been flailed for bungling the Air India investigation, putting Maher Arar's life at risk, misusing stun guns, punishing whistleblowers, feuding with security services, and mismanaging its pension fund.

Bottom line? Kennedy's findings should spur Prime Minister Stephen Harper to bring in long-promised but never-delivered reforms.

There's no shortage of proposals for bolstering oversight. Justice Dennis O'Connor, of Arar fame, called for an Independent Complaints and National Security Review Agency. David Brown, who headed a task force for Harper, called for an Independent Commission for Complaints and Oversight. Either would be an improvement.

For his part, Kennedy wants Dziekanski-type cases – deaths, serious injuries or sex assaults – referred to an independent civilian agency such as Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, or to other police forces.

Whatever course Harper adopts, he ought to ensure that the Mounties no longer investigate themselves. That should be a given. Anything less would betray Robert Dziekanski, and the public trust.

RCMP watchdog spends final weeks in public feud with force's commissioner

December 12, 2009
Canadian Press

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The head of the RCMP is bidding the force's complaints commissioner farewell by accusing him of creating an "inaccurate" picture of the Mounties.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott reacted to two damning reports in the past week from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP by releasing letters objecting to the timing of their release. Elliott also takes issue with the suggestion the force wants to control when reports from its independent watchdog are made public.

Complaints commission chair Paul Kennedy, who leaves the job at the end of the month, used last week's reports to chastise the RCMP for being slow to accept his recommendations.

Kennedy said the RCMP often takes months - in some cases a year or two - to respond to his reports, and the force can't expect him to simply wait.

He also said that if the complaints commission required the RCMP's approval to release critical reports, it would undercut the commission's ability to properly monitor the force.

Lawyer tells inquiry he wanted Taser victim released

December 12, 2009
The Canadian Press

HALIFAX — The lawyer representing a mentally ill man who died in police custody says he didn't ask for a psychiatric evaluation of his client, Howard Hyde, because he was trying to get him released.

Speaking through his lawyer Mark Knox, Peter Planetta says he runs into people with mental health issues on a daily basis and rarely asks for an assessment because it's not a therapeutic endeavour.

He says it also means a client will spend up to 30 days in jail.

Knox says Planetta, who testified Friday at the Hyde inquiry in Halifax, was also concerned that his client would have run the risk of giving incriminating evidence to a doctor, who wouldn't have legal privilege.

Knox says Planetta knew too that in Hyde's case, the Crown had agreed to release him, asking only that someone act as a surety for him.

Planetta was assigned as Hyde's counsel on Nov. 21, 2007, after the musician had been arrested on a complaint of domestic assault.

The inquiry is looking into how Hyde was treated by the health and justice systems after he was arrested and then Tasered while trying to break free from police at Halifax police headquarters.

Hyde, who had schizophrenia, died on Nov. 22, 2007, at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, one day after he was Tasered by police.

Mountie wrong to taser girl, 15, watchdog says

December 12, 2009
Tu Thanh Ha, Globe and Mail

Just months before Robert Dziekanski died in a 2007 confrontation with taser-wielding RCMP officers in Vancouver, at a juvenile centre in the Northwest Territories, a Mountie tasered a 15-year-old girl while she was handcuffed and lying face down.

Yesterday, in a scathing report about the incident in Inuvik, NWT, the RCMP civilian watchdog concluded that the officer was wrong to stun the girl, and that the Mounties improperly tried to brush off a complaint from her mother and conducted a biased internal probe.

Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said that many deficiencies he found in the case "paralleled the systemic concerns" he has previously raised about the force's use of stun guns.

"This incident is a compelling case which ought to cause the RCMP itself to be concerned and take action," he said.

A steady critic of the RCMP's taser policy and its internal investigation system, Mr. Kennedy is in his last month on the job.

Ottawa is not reappointing him.

Yesterday's findings came three days after his report on the Dziekanski case, in which he said four Mounties used substandard policing when they tasered the Polish immigrant.

The Inuvik report also came on the day relatives of Clayton Willey were shown security-camera footage of the 2003 tasering of the 33-year-old aboriginal man from Prince George, B.C.

Mr. Willey died hours after the RCMP zapped him while he was handcuffed and face down at the local detachment.

His family has to decide whether the video will be made public.

In the Inuvik incident, Constable Noella Cockney was called to a youth facility on March 13, 2007, after a girl refused to take her prescribed antidepressant and became agitated.

She was handcuffed and three youth workers held down her arms and legs.

Constable Cockney told the girl several times to co-operate.

When she refused, the officer pressed the taser against her back and stunned her for five seconds.

Constable Cockney didn't keep proper notes and didn't mention in her report that the girl was tied and held down, Mr. Kennedy said.

His investigation concluded that the girl didn't pose a threat at the time she was tasered. Also, the constable's taser certification was expired.

The watchdog also found that detachment officers improperly tried to dispose informally of a complaint by the girl's mother.

It was only nine months later that the force acted on the complaint.

But the staff sergeant who reviewed the complaint was Constable Cockney's taser instructor, and he urged her to add more details to her notes, the report said.

Mr. Kennedy said the staff sergeant's probe was biased and speculative.

"The RCMP's approach to internal investigations is flawed and inconsistent ... those types of investigations do not engender confidence," Mr. Kennedy said.

His recommendations aren't binding on the RCMP.

"Obviously, your report identifies a number of significant failures on the part of the RCMP and members involved in this matter," RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said in a letter replying to Mr. Kennedy's findings.

He said the force has changed some of its policies dealing with public complaints and taser use.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Virginia man dead after being tasered by police

December 10, 2009 - Hatchel Pate Adams III, 36, Hampton, Virginia

RCMP had no grounds to use Taser on N.W.T. girl: report - Police force also accused of protecting officer

December 11, 2009
CBC News

An RCMP officer in Inuvik, N.W.T., was not justified in jolting a teenage girl with a Taser stun gun in 2007, a federal police watchdog agency has concluded.

Furthermore, the Inuvik RCMP detachment appears to have tried to cover up what happened, according to a final report released Friday by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

"The manner in which the RCMP handled this matter was at best negligent and at worst biased," commission chairman Paul Kennedy wrote in his report, which was in response to a complaint filed by the girl's mother.

It's Kennedy's second damning report this week on the RCMP's use of Tasers. On Tuesday, he reported on the October 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport. making 16 recommendations that were highly critical of the actions of the four officers involved and the RCMP's followup investigation.

In Inuvik, two RCMP probes cleared the officer of any wrongdoing. A similar investigation by the N.W.T. Justice Department also cleared corrections officials who were involved in the incident.

Handcuffed, held down
The girl, whom Kennedy identified as "Miss X" in his report, was a 15-year-old inmate at the Arctic Tern Young Offenders Facility in Inuvik when on March 13, 2007, she was subdued with an RCMP Taser while she was handcuffed and held face-down on the floor by jail staff.

Miss X cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as she was a minor at the time.

Kennedy said the officer who used the 50,000-volt stun gun, Const. Noella Cockney, had been called to the youth facility by staff who said the girl was not co-operating with their orders to go into a segregated area.

After Cockney gave Miss X several warnings, the girl swore at her and told her to go ahead and use the weapon. The officer "deployed the Taser for a full five-second cycle, causing Miss X to co-operate," Kennedy wrote.

2 versions of report
Cockney filed a report afterward, but it was undated and printed nine months later. Kennedy said that report did not provide any detail on what Miss X was doing to justify using the Taser.

Cockney was not certified to use a Taser at the time, as her qualifications had expired, Kennedy found.

In November 2008 — as Kennedy was launching his own investigation of the Arctic Tern incident — a second version of Cockney's report was produced with "substantive amendments" portraying the girl as "combative."

That RCMP report stated the girl "was pulling and kicking, trying to get up or away from the workers" and she "became more aggitated [sic] and was swearing and pulling harder at the workers to let go."

Kennedy said that portrayal of Miss X's behaviour was quite different from what he had heard from the youth workers who were there.

Inuvik RCMP officials told Kennedy they told Cockney her original report had "insufficient detail" and asked her to articulate better what happened.

Kennedy concluded that the girl was in no position to harm anyone.

Resolved complaint improperly
He also ruled that the Inuvik RCMP detachment tried to resolve the girl's mother's complaint informally, which Kennedy said is an improper practice in response to allegations of improper use of force.

"The RCMP's handling of Miss X's mother's complaint was deficient in its management, timeliness and the adequacy of the investigation, such that it leads to a strong perception of bias," Kennedy stated.

"Moreover, attempts to informally resolve the complaint, and the failure to properly document it, were contrary to RCMP policy."

Kennedy's report makes 14 recommendations, ranging from additional procedural training for the Inuvik RCMP officers to broader policy changes for the national police force.

"This public interest investigation revealed that many of the identified deficiencies paralleled the systemic concerns addressed in broad-scale analyses of RCMP processes, policies and conduct," Kennedy said in a release Friday.

"In fact, this incident is a compelling case which ought to cause the RCMP itself to be concerned and take action."

The RCMP has had Kennedy's report for almost three months, but it has yet to respond.

The commission is an independent, civilian-run agency created by Parliament to make sure complaints made by the public about RCMP members' conduct are examined fairly and impartially.

Kennedy's term at the commission ends on Dec. 31 and the Conservative government has said he will not be reappointed.

Fire them already

December 11, 2009
Lorne Gunter, National Post

If I were RCMP Commissioner William Elliott, here is what I would do in light of the report by the commission for public complaints against the RCMP on the death of Robert Dziekanski: I would fire the four Mounties who overreacted that night in October 2007 when the Polish immigrant died at Vancouver International Airport.

At the very least, I would fire the officer in charge, Corporal Benjamin "Monty" Robinson and harshly discipline the other three. It is the only way to begin restoring public confidence in the force and to send a message to the RCMP's other members that unthinking, overreactive policing will not be tolerated.

Three weeks ago, the Commissioner insisted, in a roundabout way, that he lacked the authority to discipline members so severely. Perhaps. But just who is going to stop him?

Paul Kennedy, the outgoing chairman of the complaints commission, said on Tuesday that the four Mounties had been right to respond quickly, ready to use force if necessary, based on what they had been told by dispatchers about the situation and Mr. Dziekanski's emotional state.

After that, from what Mr. Kennedy tells us, nearly everything they did was wrong. They went from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye, made no effort to determine what was bothering Mr. Dziekanski nor to calm him before jumping right to the use of a Taser --five times!

What appeared in an amateur video of the incident to be a gross overreaction was just that. More importantly, a man died as a result of this quartet's failure to follow standard procedures and to exercise their full professional training.

The way forward for Mr. Elliott would, therefore, seem clear: Discipline now and discipline forcefully.

But the Commissioner hasn't even bothered to respond to Mr. Kennedy's conclusions and recommendations. He insists this is because he is waiting on the outcome of an inquiry currently being conducted by retired judge Thomas Braidwood.

So what, then, would be the point of giving the Commissioner new disciplinary powers if every time an incident such as Mr. Dziekanski's death occurs he resorts to that old bureaucratic dodge of hiding behind the ongoing legal process?

He should say, "I know that the inquiries and court cases are not yet concluded, but this is not about criminal culpability or civil liability. In the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, we hold ourselves to a higher standard than the courts. If you violate those standards, you will be held to account no matter what punishments or not may be meted out by federal or provincial judges.

"I have reviewed the video of this incident and read the witness reports. Since I am not a judge, I cannot even speculate what criminal or civil actions you may face. But no matter, I am satisfied that your behaviour has dishonoured this force.

"This is intolerable.

"Our ability to enforce the law in a professional manner without fear or favouritism is the foundation of the public's trust in us and the justification for our moral authority to use force when needed. You have undermined the confidence we need to do our very difficult job and, for that reason, I am dismissing you.

"I do not do this lightly or out of a desire to save our political skins. You are not being made scapegoats. If others higher up the chain of command are also culpable, they will, in due course, be disciplined, too.

"It is too easy to blame police officers when a difficult situation goes awry. That is not what I am doing. This is not an ordinary example of an incident in which the actions of officers is misunderstood by critics in the public and press. What you did was wrong and unbecoming of a Mountie, and therefore I want you off the force.

"If you believe I am wrong, sue or grieve. But for the preservation of our proud institution, you are no longer a member."

Even if the fired Mounties won a lawsuit against the Commissioner and the force, I think civilians would agree he had done the right thing by trying to dismiss them.

Mr. Elliott, though, is doing the last thing he should do: nothing. His silence and inaction make it look as if he is covering something up.

It is better for the force's reputation to take bold action, than no action at all.

EDITORIAL: Meting out Mountie punishment

December 11, 2009
The National Post

Three weeks ago, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott announced he would be asking Parliament for amendments to the RCMP Act that would permit him to punish rotten-apple officers faster -- even to drum them out of the force. Now, based on the findings of Paul Kennedy, the outgoing chairman of the commission for public complaints for the RCMP, Mr. Elliott has a glaring example of just the sort of officers who need swift discipline, perhaps even dismissal: the quartet of Mounties whose mishandling of Polish visitor Robert Dziekanski led to his death at Vancouver International airport two years ago. Yet the Commissioner is remaining stonily silent. If he wants new powers, he should show that he will be prepared to use them by exercising all the tools he currently has to punish these four.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kennedy released a scathing attack on the officers and their chaotic, unprofessional conduct. Mr. Kennedy agreed that based on what they had been told by dispatchers, the four Mounties called out to Vancouver International on Oct. 14, 2007, were correct to approach Mr. Dziekanski urgently. Beyond that decision, though, Mr. Kennedy found they did nearly everything wrong.

They had devised no plan in advance for dealing with the highly agitated traveller. No one officer took charge; each acted independently and in ways that conflicted with the others' actions. No Mountie sought to defuse the situation verbally before aggressively and physically confronting Mr. Dziekanski. No effort was made to determine what language he was shouting nor to find a translator. No warning was issued before the first Taser discharge.

In other words, according to Mr. Kennedy's findings, no efforts were made to defuse the situation.

Then Mounties Tasered Mr. Dziekanski not once or twice, but five times. They compounded this by failing to follow proper procedure that dictates they remove a suspect's handcuffs should he lose consciousness and require medical attention.

Then after the incident, Mr. Kennedy found, the four tried to cover up their misconduct by concocting reports about how they feared for their lives when Mr. Dziekanski lunged at them with a stapler.

There will be plenty more blame to go around, we suspect, once Justice Thomas Braidwood concludes his official inquiry into the incident sometime next year. For instance, Mr. Kennedy writes that senior officers gave false information to the media in the days following the incident, information they knew to be untrue, in a possible effort to help cover up what had gone on.

Instead of acting where the need for discipline seems obvious, though, Mr. Elliott is hiding behind the ongoing legal process to avoid meting out punishment. As columnist Lorne Gunter says elsewhere on this page, if Mr. Elliott were serious about restoring the Mounties' image, he would fire or suspend the four immediately and let them sue or grieve if they don't like it.

If Mr. Elliott is unwilling to take bold action based on the unambiguous findings of Mr. Kennedy, we're not sure what good it will do to have Parliament give him more disciplinary powers.

EDITORIAL: RCMP needs overhaul

December 11, 2009
Calgary Herald

Paul Kennedy, the outgoing head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, believes his scathing report into the videotaped death of a Polish immigrant will change the way Canadians view the Mounties. He's being generous. The RCMP can blame their damaged reputation on nothing more than the actions of some of their own members, aided by a long culture of coverup.

More denials won't restore credibility to Canada's Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are at a pivotal moment in their long and storied history. Truth and responsibility, however, might prove the right mix of stain remover. The symbolic red surge has been sullied by the force's dirty laundry, with one scandal after another and a series of inquiries and reports, some of which have never been acted upon.

The latest indictment came this week from Kennedy, who documented a litany of mistakes made by the four officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski, at the Vancouver airport. They deployed their Tasers too quickly, seconds after arriving, five times over a 31-second period, he reported. They also made no attempt to resolve the situation without violence.

The whole thing smells of a big coverup. (The Crown will not be laying criminal charges against the officers, one of whom, Monty Robinson, was recently charged with attempting to obstruct justice.)

The report confirms what most Canadians already knew, thanks to a citizen video tape of Dziekanski's final moments.

Witness Paul Pritchard, 27, is the real hero in this tragedy. Without his video, it's likely the truth would never have surfaced, or the official record corrected. The public received "erroneous information" that was fed to the media at the time of Dziekanski's death, and deliberately not corrected for another 14 months.

It's an understatement when Kennedy says the way the force responded to its mishandling of Dziekanski's death will "represent a defining moment in the history of the RCMP.

"The manner in which the RCMP responds to my report and that of Justice (Thomas) Braidwood to follow will have a profound impact on how the iconic institution is viewed by Canadians," wrote Kennedy.

So far, the response has been more of the same, with RCMP Commissioner William Elliott writing a letter saying he will respond later. His silence, quite frankly, is stunning. Dziekanski died on Oct. 14, 2007. You'd think he could have worked out a statement by now.

The federal government responded no better, telling Kennedy his term is up, and he will not be reappointed after four years in the job. During that time, Kennedy has persistently pushed the federal government to create an independent watchdog with real teeth, and for Mounties to stop investigating themselves, two steps this paper has long advocated.

Dziekanski's death is a tragedy, but if it leads to real reform of the RCMP, he will not have died in vain. Change is needed at the highest level before Canadians can forgive or forget the recent history of the RCMP. Accountability, truth and transparency are the only hope of restoring honour to this once-great institution.

Tasers should be banned: STU prof

Criminology professor Michael Boudreau says recent events should set off alarm bells for law enforcement

FREDERICTON - The writing may be on the wall for taser use in Canada, says a criminology professor at St. Thomas University.

Michael Boudreau said if the findings of The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which examined the use of an RCMP taser against Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in 2007, doesn't lead to the abandonment of the weapon, then it's here to stay.

"It (the writing) should have been on the wall a long time ago," Boudreau said yesterday. "If these two incidents don't lead to the abolition of tasers then, unfortunately, nothing will."

Earlier this week, chairman Paul Kennedy released the commission's report into the circumstances of Dziekanski's death.

The findings criticized practically all aspects of the RCMP officers' response to Dziekanski, who was extremely agitated at the time, as well as their actions afterwards.

The report found that the force's use of a taser against the Polish immigrant was "inappropriate" and the explanations of the four officers involved were not credible.

RCMP were called to the airport after the non-English speaking Dziekanski, who had arrived from Poland nearly 10 hours earlier, began throwing furniture in the international arrivals area. He died after being stunned five times with the taser weapon.

Boudreau said Kennedy's report, combined with another from taser International, which warned police not to fire the weapon at the chest area, should set off the alarm bells needed for final action.

"It highlights that tasers are not an effective weapon for defusing a situation," he said. "I think he made that quite plain and quite clear in his report. Even though he did not necessarily call for it -- (but) if you read between the lines -- it's time to stop using the tasers across the board, whether it's RCMP or local forces. They have just proved to be a very unreliable and dangerous weapon."

But Tim Quigley, a former assistant commissioner with J Division RCMP in Fredericton, disagrees.

He believes tasers can still be an effective tool when it comes to police work.

"It is clearly something that has to be heavily regulated and there has got to be strict policies," Quigley said. "When used properly they can be an alternative to lethal force, like firearms."

The former assistant commissioner said there is always a possibility of overreacting, such as doing too much or going too far, but that does not mean there is no place for tasers in police work.

"There have been some terrible incidents, some tragedies but they've been used successfully and appropriately used and, I think, to a positive end, in thousands and thousands of cases," Quigley said. "I think it is important to focus on that, as well."

Roy Berlinquette, another former assistant commissioner at J Division said he believes there is still room for the taser in a police officer's tool kit.

But, he cautioned, there has to be controls and proper training for those who use it.

"You give someone a loaded revolver, you got to make sure that they're trained to use it and they have to be accountable for its use," he said. "It's got to be used responsibly."

* With files from Canadian Press.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

RCMP Complaints Commission to release investigation findings on RCMP use of Taser at Inuvik Arctic Tern Young Offender Facility

YELLOWKNIFE, Dec. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - Paul E. Kennedy, Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) will release findings from his Public Interest Investigation into the conduct of RCMP members involved in the use of a Taser (Conducted Energy Weapon) against a handcuffed 15-year-old female at the Arctic Tern Young Offenders Facility in Inuvik, Northwest Territories on March 13, 2007.

The investigation also looked into the conduct of RCMP members involved in the internal investigation which followed as a result of a complaint by the 15-year-old's mother.

Media representatives are invited to attend a news conference at 10:00 a.m. (Mountain time) on Friday, December 11, 2009 at the Yellowknife Inn (Gold Room), Yellowknife, N.W.T. Media can also participate via conference call.

When:
Friday, December 11, 2009
10 a.m. MST

Where:
Gold Room, Yellowknife Inn
5010 49th Street
Yellowknife, N.W.T.

For information on the Commission's investigation, please visit the CPC website at: www.complaintscommission.ca.

Media representatives who wish to listen to the press conference should contact the Commission representatives listed below for call-in instructions.

For further information: Jamie Robertson, Manager, Outreach, (613) 219-4595, Jamierobertson@post.com

The man who confirmed what we all suspected about the RCMP

December 10, 2009
Gary Mason, Globe and Mail

When the federal government announced it wouldn't be renewing Paul Kennedy's term as head of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, the soon-to-be-jobless civil servant chose not to say anything.

Well, now he's spoken.

Mr. Kennedy's report into the RCMP's conduct in the Robert Dziekanski affair is as devastating a critique of our national police force as you'll find. And the same federal government that told Mr. Kennedy he's done at the end of the year must share some of the blame.

Many of the RCMP's well-documented failings – ones the federal government has steadfastly refused to address – are at the root of the case in which Mr. Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant, died after being tasered at Vancouver airport two years ago.

This is not a report Mr. Kennedy would have felt comfortable writing when he first started his job. After four years, though, he's learned a lot. He better understands, too, how increasingly tenuous support for the RCMP is in our country. As such, Mr. Kennedy said the death of Mr. Dziekanski represents a “defining moment in the history of the force.” He didn't say why. But it's likely obvious.

The Dziekanski case is the denouement of a pernicious period for the RCMP in which its reputation and credibility have been bloodied and battered. How the force (and the federal government) responds to this challenge will determine its future.

If nothing else, the Kennedy report is a clarion call for change, especially when it comes to the contentious matter of police investigating themselves. The public needs to have complete faith in any investigative process that centres around the conduct of a police officer. When that investigation is handled by fellow police officers – as it was in the Dziekanski case – and is found to be terribly flawed – as it was in the Dziekanski case – then the public loses trust in the very institution it needs to trust most.

Many of the investigative deficiencies have already been revealed. Still, no matter how many times you hear about the screw-ups, it makes you shudder with rage.

Like the four officers involved in the Dziekanski encounter giving virtually identical statements to investigators. How is that possible? Perhaps it's because they were allowed to compare notes ahead of time. They also didn't seem to take into account that there was a video of the incident – one they hadn't seen but knew existed. Surprise, surprise then, when the video version was decidedly different from the self-serving explanations offered by the officers in their statements. Yet, they were never asked to justify the discrepancies.

As outlined in the Kennedy report, the RCMP's head investigator said he didn't want to show the officers the video because it might have been too “traumatic for them.” Right. Better to sweep the inconsistencies under the carpet. Mr. Kennedy said he did not accept any version of events given by the four officers. Yet, the RCMP accepted their every word.

Recall the Mounties' investigation of the Ian Bush case. Four years ago, Mr. Bush, a 22-year-old logger, was shot in the back of the head by an RCMP officer in the Houston, B.C., detachment after being arrested for holding an open bottle of beer outside a hockey arena. The officer who shot Mr. Bush was never charged, even though there were serious questions about the credibility of his story.

A year later, the RCMP announced a proposal designed to alleviate the public's concerns about the quality and impartiality of the Mounties' investigations. Under the Independent Observer program, someone from Mr. Kennedy's office would have a front-row seat in the investigative process when the Mounties were probing one of their own. The observer couldn't make any real-time suggestions if he saw something he didn't like; he was there only to observe. It was a pointless public-relations exercise.

Never was that more evident than in the Dziekanski case. The independent observer reported to Mr. Kennedy that there were no outward signs of bias on the part of the investigators. In other words, everything about the probe was fine. But bias isn't always on open display or manifestly evident in what people do. More often, it's a product of what they don't do.

The RCMP investigation into the death of Mr. Dziekanski was a travesty of justice. Paul Kennedy's report simply confirmed what we all suspected.

EDITORIAL: The RCMP's 'defining moment'

December 10, 2009
Edmonton Journal

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are dismissing the man who headed their complaints commission.

Now there's a thankless job.

Paul Kennedy, whose four-year contract as the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP expires at the end of the year, wanted more oversight powers. What he got was a pink slip.

Fortunately for all Canadians, he opted not to go quietly into the night.

His scathing report on the Taser death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport criticized not just the police officers, but the culture of the once revered Mounties.

He used a press conference in Vancouver Tuesday to blast the RCMP for its notoriously self-destructive refusal to change, calling it a "massively inert" organization. He said how it responds to his report and the pending report of a provincial inquiry into the Tasering incident will have a profound impact on how the iconic institution is viewed by Canadians.

He suggested its once pristine reputation has been sullied internationally since the actions of the four Mounties on Oct. 14, 2007, caught on video by another passenger, went "viral" on the Internet and have now been witnessed around the world.

Kennedy says this is a defining moment in RCMP history.

It certainly could be in light of the timing, with the world coming to Vancouver's door through the portal of the airport where the tragedy occurred.

He criticized the Mounties for not attempting to communicate with the 40-year-old Dziekanski when he was confronted after throwing around luggage at the airport, for not trying to calm him down, or even warn him that he would be Tasered. Kennedy said the four officers, three of whom had two years or less experience on the force, "failed to adopt a measured, co-ordinated and appropriate response." He rejected the notion that a man armed with a stapler required the level of force that was used.

Dziekanski was Tasered five times in 31 seconds. He suffered a heart attack and died while lying handcuffed on the airport terminal floor.

Kennedy also slammed the credibility of the officers, saying their version of events was not credible when compared to the video. He complained that the officers never should have been permitted to meet alone at the airport RCMP office following the incident.

But the complaints commission chairman saved a few salvos for his boss, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott.

Kennedy rejected Elliott's decision not to respond to his report until after former judge Thomas Braidwood delivers his final report from the provincial inquiry. He says there is no excuse for delay and not addressing the issue now may allow the officers to escape discipline.

It is D-Day for the Mounties. It's time to act decisively. And other police services had better be paying attention as well.

Canadians are running out of patience. Just ask any member of the public if they think police are abusing the use of Tasers. And consider this: If, instead of firing their Tasers when they have, police officers used their batons to whack a suspect, wouldn't they soon be up on charges of excessive use of force?

The Taser is touted as a device that can save lives by providing an option to the use of deadly force, but instead it has been employed too often as a cattle prod.

That has to stop now.

The RCMP must lead the way with significant reforms that save lives and restore public confidence.

EDITORIAL: Mounties do, indeed, face a 'defining moment'

December 10, 2009
The Montreal Gazette

Canadians want to love the Mounties. The force is a national symbol, after all, combining a hint of our history, a sense of the country's scope, and even a flash of colour with their scarlet tunics.

But the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's musical ride and proud history have been eclipsed by a short amateur video. Aired countless times on news broadcasts, the clip shows Robert Dziekanski's last living moments, at Vancouver Airport in 2007.

For anyone who has seen the video, the two inquiries into the Polish man's tasering and death are almost superfluous. The inquiry under retired judge Thomas Braidwood seems certain to result in harsh words for the Mounties involved, and for the force's hierarchy. And this week a separate report from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP had just such criticism.

Paul Kennedy, chairman of the complaints body, fired both barrels at the force and at Commissioner William Elliott. Kennedy and Elliott have clashed before, and Kennedy's mandate, expiring at year's end, will not be renewed by the federal government. Artfully, he left behind a time bomb for Elliott: How the force responds to his inquiry and Justice Braidwood's will "represent a defining moment in the history of the RCMP," he said.

Given Kennedy's employment status, this prediction would seem malicious, except that it is so obviously correct. The Dziekanski tragedy, and the ensuing attempt at cover-up, were so obviously shameful that they can't be glossed over or brushed aside.

Kennedy did go undiplomatically too far, we suspect, in attacking Elliott. The RCMP commissioner had Kennedy's report six weeks ago; that he has not yet commented on it is "bizarre to the extreme," Kennedy said. That's unfair. Elliott has a responsibility to the members of the force, and decorum: there's no reason he should not wait until the Braidwood report comes out to speak up about all this.

However, the "defining moment" warning was fair - and serious. Remember that Elliott, a civilian outsider, was appointed to the position two years ago next week after a string of scandals and errors in the force, including the Maher Arar affair and some dodgy pension-fund dealings. His mandate then was to shake up senior management, end the stultifying internal culture which put a premium on cover-up, and generally restore public pride in the institution.

So far Canadians have seen little of that. True, reforming an institution with the size and duties of a national police force is not a matter for any short period of time. But the Dziekanski case, and that video, have punched Canadians in the gut about the RCMP's problems in a way pension-fund irregularities never could. Kennedy's "defining moment" prediction is just about impossible to deny.

Around the world, too many peoples live in disdain, contempt, or fear of their national police forces. Canadians have usually been proud of the Mounties - and want to be proud of them again. Commissioner Elliott has got a lot of work to do.

EDITORIAL: A tarnished icon

December 10, 2009
Robert Howard, The Hamilton Spectator

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is so tarnished that it is almost unrecognizable as the celebrated force that for more than 100 years has been recognized globally as an icon -- the icon -- of this country.

The fault, as is almost always the case when an organization is shamed, lies not with the majority but with a small, dishonourable cadre who have shamed the traditions and history of the Mounties.

The blistering report this week from Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP, makes it abundantly clear no one believes the stories or testimony of the four RCMP members who tasered and subdued -- and, arguably, killed -- Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.

Kennedy's comments on Taser use are almost beside the point. His most scathing indictment was for the officers who responded to Dziekanski. He said he "does not accept" the version of events presented by Corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson and constables Kwesi Millington, Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel. Translation: They lied.

Within 30 seconds of the four Mounties confronting him, Dziekanski was hit five times with a Taser. He died in the airport. A bystander filmed the encounter, although the Mounties didn't know it at the time. The video contradicted key points of their statements -- which they made after being allowed to meet, as a group, alone.

The RCMP says it won't respond until the report, expected in the spring, from the broad inquiry headed by Justice Thomas Braidwood. Not good enough. Based on Kennedy's report, the four officers should be, at the very least, suspended. They do not belong on active service.

The hard work of restoring public confidence in the RCMP is yet to come. Removing deep tarnish takes abrasive, a lot of elbow grease and attention to detail. And some will say you can never remove the stain.

Editorials are written by members of the editorial board. They represent the position of the newspaper, not necessarily the individual author.

EDITORIAL: Official reaction further tarnishes RCMP reputation

December 10, 2009
The Star Phoenix

From the standpoint of citizens whose interests ostensibly are served by the RCMP and the federal government, the response by both agencies to public complaints commission chair Paul Kennedy's scathing report into Robert Dziekanski's death is as dismaying as it is infuriating.

For his part, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott's response to the report, which characterized police conduct in the case and the Mounties' subsequent actions as a "defining moment in the history of the RCMP," was to suggest that Mr. Kennedy had no business telling Canadians of its findings until Mr. Elliott was ready with an explanation.

The government's response was to tell Mr. Kennedy, after he had forwarded his report to Mr. Elliott in mid-October but before it was made public this week, that his appointment as chair of the RCMP public complaints commission wouldn't be renewed.

For many Canadians, this certainly will the defining moment in the history of the RCMP. It tells them the national police force and its political minders are less interested in restoring credibility to the tattered image of the once-iconic institution than they are in short-term butt-covering.

Mr. Elliott's suggestion that he wants to await the release of the provincially constituted public inquiry by Justice Thomas Braidwood into Mr. Dziekanski's death at the Vancouver airport appears nothing short of an attempt to delay accountability. Depending on Justice Braidwood's findings, another challenge by the officers involved in the Taser-related death of Mr. Dziekanski over the inquiry's jurisdiction cannot be ruled out and might further preclude a timely response.

As Mr. Kennedy noted in a CBC interview Tuesday, this attempt by senior RCMP officials to put off responding to critical findings by the public complaints commission is nothing new. A response to a report in 2006-07 took 429 days, he said. In 2007-08 it took 734 days and 805 days before the RCMP responded to a couple of subsequent findings .

Given the issues Mr. Kennedy raises in the Dziekanski case, it's unconscionable that the RCMP commissioner would resort to dragging out procedural hurdles to delay responding in a forthright manner to assure Canadians that the problems are being rectified quickly, or that Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan would dump Mr. Kennedy and acquiesce to Mr. Elliott's timetable.

As Mr. Kennedy bluntly points out, were it not for the video images of the incident captured by witness Paul Pritchard, Canadians never would have learned about what actually transpired at the airport that day, for the only account would have been supplied by the four responding officers who got together after the fact to get their stories straight.

From his finding that the officers who responded to a call about Mr. Dziekanski causing a disturbance at the airport "demonstrated no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the situation" but deployed the Taser within 25 seconds of arrival and four more times in rapid succession subsequently, to his questioning of the accuracy of the officers' version of events to Mr. Kennedy's finding that RCMP public relations officers knowingly gave misinformation to reporters, the report offers many reasons why Mr. Elliott should respond quickly.

As Mr. Kennedy wrote, the failure to acknowledge and correct errors "perpetuates concerns that the police are not conducting a transparent and impartial investigation into its members."

It also doesn't help to learn that Cpl. Monty Robinson, the senior responding officer in the Dziekanski case who was singled out by Mr. Kennedy as having failed to exercise any leadership over his three junior subordinates, recently was charged with attempting to obstruct justice in a case involving the death of a motorcyclist, but not with impaired driving even though his blood alcohol readings were 0.12 and 0.10 about 90 minutes after the accident.

Senior prosecutors concluded the available evidence didn't support the criminal charge. Cpl. Robinson claimed he'd left the scene of the accident about 10:30 p.m., walked home and returned 10 minutes later after downing two shots of vodka on top of a couple of beers he'd had at a party earlier.

This even though B.C. Supreme Court Judge Mark McEwen had flatly rejected Cpl. Robinson's two-vodka explanation for the high blood alcohol reading as not credible in refusing to lift his 90-day licence suspension after the accident, and witnesses at the scene didn't recall him leaving and returning.

Cpl. Robinson's case joins a list of others involving highly questionable conduct of Mounties that have brought discredit upon the force. The longer commissioner Elliott takes to respond and the longer the government tolerates it, the worse the tarnish grows on the RCMP.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Letter to the Chair,Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, from RCMP Commissioner of December 7, 2009

December 7, 2009

Mr. Paul E. Kennedy
Chair
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP
P.O. Box 1722, Station "B"
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 0B3

Dear Mr. Kennedy:

This is further to our telephone conversation on December 3, 2009, and your subsequent letter to me of the same date.

As I indicated, the RCMP is in the process of reviewing your interim report respecting the death of Mr. Robert Dziekanski. As I also noted, we are awaiting the final report of the Braidwood Inquiry in British Columbia which is also examining the circumstances respecting Mr. Dziekanski's death. We are therefore not in a position to provide you with the results of our review of the interim report as provided for in section 45.46(2) of the RCMP Act.

As you are well aware, and as has long been the practice, the Act provides that our notice to you will be considered by you in the preparation of your final report. Such final reports are provided to me as Commissioner of the RCMP and to the Minister of Public Safety and are also made public.

It has not been the practice for interim reports to be made public and we do not believe that it is appropriate for you to do so in this case or more broadly. We believe that the normal process and the sequence of events set out in the legislation should be followed.

Even if we had completed our review of your interim report and the large volume of documentation accompanying that report, it would not be appropriate, in our view, to provide you with our response prior to receiving the final report of the Inquiry. It is fully expected that Justice Braidwood will make findings and recommendations on the very matters dealt with in your report.

The RCMP has been fully supportive and actively engaged in the conduct of the Braidwood Inquiry which has heard from many witnesses and conducted extensive public hearing. We expect the final report from the Inquiry will futher inform our actions and our response to you.

We acknowledge your expressed view that the Commission for Public Complaints takes precedence over a provincially constituted public inquiry and you are therefore not bound to wait for the Inquiry's report. I note, however, that you yourself testified before Justice Braidwood during Part I of the Inquiry and that your interim report refers extensively to evidence led during the public hearings during Part II.

The current situation and multiplicity of processes suggests that there should be improvements in how the actions of the RCMP are investigated and reviewed and that streamlining and coordination of existing processes is required. The RCMP fully supports improvements being made in these important areas.

Although we are not yet in a position to respond to your interim report and this letter is not to be considered as notice to you pursuant to the RCMP Act, I would like to underscore that the RCMP has already taken concrete action in relation to a number of the issues, concerns and shortcomings identified in relation to the death of Mr. Dziekanski and the events leading up to and following that terrible event.

Given that we have worked extensively with you and your staff, you are aware of many of the improvements that have already been made. In fact, you refer to some of these in your interim report.

Those improvements include changes to our policies and training in relation to the use of conducted energy weapons. Among other things, we have emphasized the risks associated with the use of the weapon, including the risk of death. We have restricted the situations in which a "Taser" is authorized to be used to situations involving risk to public or officer safety. We have placed further emphasis on de-escalation and introduced additional requirements for arranging for medical assistance.

We have also strengthened our reporting requirements and we provide you with copies of all Incident Reports where a conducted energy weapon has been deployed. As we have publically reported and as you have noted there has been a significant decrease in the number of such incidents. You may also be interested to know that the RCMP has initiated a pilot project on body-worn video devices and Tasers equipped with video cameras.

We anticipate that as a result of your findings and recommendations and those of the Braidwood Inquiry, as well as our ongoing work with provinces and territories, policing partners, academics, medical professionals and others, the RCMP will be making further changes to our policies and training related to conducted energy weapons.

In closing, I would like to thank you for all of your efforts as Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. I understand you will be leaving your position at the end of December. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Yours sincerely,

William J.S. Elliott