Dziekanski – much is clear now

Facts, while not officially reported, have been firmly established at the Braidwood Inquiry into Robert Dziekanski’s 2007 death. Clearly, as an organization, the RCMP failed to act with care and probity from the beginning of the incident. In fact, the police force’s failure of integrity continues today.

RCMP senior managers, overly tolerant of wrongdoing and falsehood, have broken public trust. Additionally, we learned that prosecutors, relying on the flawed RCMP investigation of itself, erred naively when they excluded charges in the homicide. Criminal negligence causing death and obstruction of justice likely occurred.

The Braidwood Inquiry listened as independent medical experts described mechanisms of death from conducted energy weapons. Vancouver cardiology specialist Dr. Charles Kerr stated “there is a very high probability that the multiple Taser applications were instrumental in the development of malignant ventricular arrhythmias and death.”

VGH researcher and epidemiologist Dr. Keith Chambers said two factors contributed to death and he found the five Taser shots more responsible than physical restraint by four Mounties.

Dr. Zian Tseng, a San Francisco cardiologist and electrophysiologist, testified that conducted energy weapons pose potentially fatal heart risks by inducing cardiac arrhythmia. He said any normal, healthy person could die if the shock was given in the right area of the chest and during the vulnerable point in the beating of the heart. He said the number of jolts a person receives increases the likelihood of serious health consequences.

Dr. Tseng told the Inquiry he began investigating Tasers in 2005 and after making his research public, he was approached by Taser International. The company asked him to reconsider his public comments and offered to support research by giving him grant funding. Tseng refused. However, the Braidwood Inquiry did hear from a number of witnesses more closely associated with Taser. Oddly, they generally disagreed with the independent experts.

Three junior police constables were led to YVR by a member who a previous commanding officer had recommended for termination. Instead, the force’s senior staff promoted and transferred Monty Robinson from Merritt to Richmond, apparently disregarding his personal and professional issues. Less than 12 months after Dziekanski’s death, the Merritt Staff Sergeant who favored dismissal was proven correct again when Robinson, in a DUI related collision, killed young motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson.

Police actions at the airport were indefensible from the beginning. Arriving without a plan, four officers behaved like cowboys, jumping over the handrail, rushing to confront the subject within seconds. Maybe they were trying to impress the dozen or so airport operations and security staff who stood watching nearby. The first RCMP efforts could have been quiet and calming but instead, they applied severe force almost immediately, with no effort to evaluate, de escalate or give warning beforehand. Outrageously, after injuring the man, they provided no first aid and refused to remove handcuffs so firefighters could put the comatose body in proper recovery position for emergency treatment.

The Taser was activated for 31 seconds, fired 5 times at a man downed by the first shot. Perhaps the weapon toting constable panicked during this, his first operational use of the device. The victim’s involuntary muscle spasms were considered aggressive response by his attackers, justifying even more forceful treatment. Almost a year and a half later, each policeman testified he would do nothing different today. Sadly, each of these characters remains in the RCMP although Robinson is suspended with pay following last year’s DUI incident.

One arguably could blame Dziekanski’s death on poor training and bad judgment in a stressful time. But, the RCMP’s action during the past 20 months has been a calculated effort to evade responsibility and harm the victim’s memory and his survivors. For that we can blame the entire hierarchy, from the media spokesmen who gave out false information, to the use of force instructors and other trainers who, despite contrary evidence, defended death-causing violence and to the Commissioner who telephoned the killers to assure them of complete support. We must also condemn IHIT investigators who made no serious effort to uncover truth. Most of all, Superintendent Wayne Rideout and his superiors earn disapprobation for managing this long, failed cover-up.

Police psychologist Mike Webster had his lengthy relationship with the RCMP terminated after he publicly blamed Mounties for using excessive force, even saying that he was embarrassed by the force’s willingness to use Tasers with so little regard for the risks. In an effort to further punish Webster for his opinions, RCMP lawyer Ravi Hira tried to attack him personally and professionally at the Braidwood Inquiry, suggesting that Webster’s status as a behavioral expert should be discounted.

RCMP misdeeds continued to the last days of the Braidwood Inquiry public hearings. Police brass approved extra funding to hire video specialist Grant Fredericks for one last gasp of evasion. Fredericks was promptly eviscerated by lawyer Donald Rosenbloom and more qualified responding witnesses. Hiring Fredericks at the last minute came at the same time a FOI action by CBC disclosed RCMP spent almost $60,000 traveling to Poland to seek information they hoped would discredit the dead man.

Remember too that the top Mountie, Commissioner William Elliott in Ottawa, told Parliament that rules for Taser use had been tightened. When the public got to read the revised written instructions, the force instead had eased rules by removing warnings to avoid multiple applications of conducted energy weapons.

When tested, the RCMP lied at the lowest levels and lied at the highest levels. This is unacceptable to ethical Canadians who expect honorable behavior from the national police force. About four hundred deaths have been associated with Taser use in North America. How many more will die before the rules of use are severely restricted?

Lawyers Walter Kosteckyj and Donald Rosenbloom deserve thanks for their persistence and willingness to act in this case on behalf of the mother and the Government of Poland. Apparently, Kosteckyj started even with no assurance of payment. Each of these men showed dogged determination and I believe they made truth available to the Commissioner and the observing public.

4 replies »

  1. Well, my firend, you are not totally wrong nor are you totally right. You were not therre to see the story unravel, and neither was I. You see I would rather be safe than sorry in a situation such as you described. I am on the side of the police and this, at at any cost.

    The only way a taser will kill is in the following ways: a- If you have a health problem, and b- If you are on illicit drugs.

    This may be short and sweet, but you know, you obviously do not know what cops have to face every day. That’s all from me.

    From Florida
    former Canadian ( and former RCMP member BTW)


  2. To Mr. Anonymous:

    Thanks, but in civilized nations, what cops need more than anything is trust and respect of the citizenry. That demands real transparency and genuine accountability.

    I invite you to read the extensive transcripts available on the Braidwood Inquiry website. Pay particular attention to the experts who have not taken funding from Taser International. Independent professionals such as Chambers, Kerr, Tseng, Hird-Rutter, MacInnes, etc.

    Stay tuned because this will be a tide changing event for CEW users.


  3. Our Floridian friend tries to insinuate that only those present can know what happened, which of course means we should believe the officers and discount our own eyes, ears and common sense judgment, not to mention the voices of so many who were there and who ALL said they saw things very differently than the LEOs. The evidence is overwhelming that these men, as well as their defenders, are pathological liars with no integrity whatsoever. Their allegiance is to themselves and as such, should immediately disqualify their presence as a public servant.
    It is also that the force has become infested by those whom social psychologists have come to call SDOs (Social Dominance Oriented) who are, ironically, the very same people whose testimony at Nuremberg first attracted so much interest. Their willingness to do violence to whomever they felt the state gave permission to due some non-conventional behavior that conservatives would deem immoral. “Doing their job” or “following orders” is all it takes to convince themselves of their own righteousness, no matter what 'lesser citizens' thought of it. Their profile is that of the worst criminals, and is driven by exaggerated fears, aggression, tendency toward tunnel vision, and who will justify even rape by blaming the victims for placing themselves there!

    No. Overwhelming evidence now exists that points to personality deficits arising from having failed to make the transition from the highly authoritarian child/parent relationship where one is dependent for virtually everything on an authority figure, and on to the more mature, socialized adult with fully developed empathy and intellect. Their fondness for seeing things in black and white terms is a symptom of this cognitive retardation and lack of complex intellectual ability. Okla. corrections bureau released a paper that virtually equates authoritarianism with criminality. “It appears that conservative authoritarians have pathological dimensions manifested in violence and distorted psycho-sexual development” (Boshier, p. 159). This is supported by a study conducted by Walker, Rowe, and Quincey in which there was a direct correlation between authoritarianism and sexually aggressive behavior. An investigation done by Muehlenhard (1988) revealed that rape justification and aggression toward subordinate individuals was much higher in traditional (conservative personality) than non-traditional personalities. It is postulated in this paper that the offender has an RWA-SDO personality and, therefore, manifests that violence.”


    In short, these are the people we want in our prisons, definitely not the ones we should ever give the power of life and death over anyone else. The top brass knows how many are hiding within law-enforcement and is the primary reason for the extreme resistance to civilian oversight. I strongly urge that it MUST take place before they kill more of us.


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