RCMP watchdog slams officers in Dziekanski case
Four RCMP officers who came upon an agitated Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport failed to respond appropriately and their use of a Taser against him was "premature and inappropriate," says the head of the RCMP's independent watchdog.
Paul Kennedy, chairman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, issued his report today into what happened in October 2007 when Dziekanski died after being subdued several times by a Taser.
"While they were in lawful execution of their duties as police officers, the four officers failed to adopt a measured, co-ordinated and appropriate response to Mr. Dziekanski's reported behaviour," Kennedy told a news conference on Tuesday.
"No meaningful attempt was made to de-escalate the situation. No warning, visual or otherwise, was given to Mr. Dziekanski prior to him being Tasered by the conducted energy weapon. Use of the conducted energy weapon against Mr. Dziekanski was premature and inappropriate."
The report contains 23 findings and 16 recommendations, including more stringent regulations for the use of Tasers and a review of training programs to help officers better handle situations when they may be used.
Four officers were called to the airport on Oct. 14 after Dziekanski became increasingly agitated following his arrival from Poland.
He spent 10 hours at the airport, apparently stuck in the arrivals area and unable to find his mother, who was waiting to pick him up.
Dziekanski was reportedly yelling and throwing furniture before one of the officers stunned him with a Taser, firing five times.
Kennedy found fault with nearly every element of the RCMP's actions during the incident. According to Kennedy:
- The senior RCMP officer on the scene failed to take charge of the situation
- Officers failed to determine whether it was necessary to Taser Dziekanski multiple times in order to subdue him
- The officers should have done more to provide first aid to Dziekanski and monitor his condition
- The officers inappropriately met alone to discuss the incident before giving their official statements about the event
"The versions of events given to investigators by the four RCMP officers involved in the Vancouver International Airport in-custody death of Robert Dziekanski are not deemed credible by my commission," Kennedy said.
The findings and recommendations in Kennedy's report are not binding on either the RCMP or government.
Reports from the commission customarily include a response from the RCMP. However, Tuesday's report was issued without its input.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliot expressed his displeasure at the report's release, and wrote a letter to Kennedy saying his force would prefer to wait for a report from the public inquiry into the case under Thomas Braidwood. That report is due early next year.
"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," Elliot wrote.
The officers told the Braidwood inquiry that they Tasered Dziekanski because they felt threatened by his behaviour.
However, video taken by a witness at the airport contradicted the officers' version of events, sparking widespread public outrage.
The four officers were not criminally charged in the case after Crown prosecutors decided their actions were justified.
Dziekanski's mother has criticized the official investigation into the man's death, which was conducted by an integrated homicide unit that includes members of the RCMP.
Kennedy said Tuesday that while he did have concerns about the investigation, he did not find evidence of bias.
With files from The Canadian Press