Crime & Punishment

Crime and justice comment and analysis

Truth no defence for targetted police force

with 13 comments

Many years ago when I joined the RCMP, it was a proud organization, albeit one rife with tradition and more than a little out of step with the times.  In those days, I referred to the Mounties as “100 years of tradition unhampered by progress.”  To a degree that remains the same.  And, at the same time, the RCMP has struggled to reinvent itself to be more relevant in a changing world.

In my early days in the RCMP training academy in Regina I began to learn about that tradition and proud history.  I became part of a family that I will never quite be separated from no matter how much water passes under the bridge.  Indeed, I had dinner last summer with Terry David Mulligan, the ageless DJ who has made a career for himself in rock ‘n roll presenting and promotion.  Mulligan, as a young man was also a Mountie and during dinner we didn’t so much talk of music, past, current and future, but of our like experiences in the Mounted Police.

And it is that bond, born of running all over Hell’s half-acre until you earned your marching orders and swimming with bricks and drill hall abuse that allows two people with disparate backgrounds to share a laugh and story about a challenge accepted and passed that will never go away.

But part of that is the angst felt watching the media devour the RCMP over the Taser incident at Vancouver International Airport that resulted in the death of Polish traveler Robert Dziekanski and feeling that it is all grossly unfair.

Media spin and obfuscation of the facts are old hat and to be expected when looking at any story where the “heavy-handed” police are involved.  Or, rather as a friend refers to the police as the “jack-booted enforcers.”

The media coverage of the Braidwood Inquiry into the actions of the RCMP on that fateful night is little more of that confirmation of their bias and attempt to pillory what was once a great Canadian institution.

Dziekanski was a ne’er do well at best.  He was a drunk and a chain smoker who had done without both for more than 20 hours on his travels from Poland to YVR.  After that many hours in the air without a drink or a smoke, I can imagine he was a little on edge.  But while on the ground at YVR, he didn’t seem to possess the mental acumen to get himself some help in the form of directions for hours on end.  Equally the Customs and Immigration folks and the YVR security folks seemed to have ignored him in a high security area for those same hours, yet it is the RCMP that are the bad guys in this movie.

So, when he started tossing around desks and computers it is only natural that the police were called.  And in strolled four members of our once-proud national police force just trying to do their job.  Their reward has been to be metaphorically hung, drawn and quartered by a media convinced they are covering up murder.

Those four members of the RCMP were just trying to do their job in the manner they were trained.  Nothing more and nothing less.

Yet it is the little details that have lawyers turning summersaults.  Quibble about the details all you want, but the bottom line is that four police officers were dispatched to a call of a violent, possibly drunk male who was on a rampage.  They attended, approached the suspect carefully and in the face of apparent dismissal and potential violence they responded in the manner they were trained.  And the reality is that every nickel – or perhaps I should say every millions of dollars of taxpayer money – spent on the Braidwood inquiry is an absolute waste of money.

There’s no mystery here.  If you don’t like the way the Mounties handled their response, lobby to change the policy, don’t shoot the messenger.  Well, actually, that is already too late.  The professional bureaucrat named by the Prime Minister to take control of the once proud Force, William Elliot, has already altered Force policy on the use of Tasers without knowing thing one about reality on the mean streets.

But piling on the RCMP has almost become de rigeur for the mainstream media.  Today, for example, I did an interview with a CBC reporter about a situation involving a municipal police force and she kept referring to the RCMP so conditioned is she.

But that is what it is.  The RCMP is a big, scarlet clad target and that is fair enough.  But, I would much prefer a debate surrounded with facts not ideologically driven bovine scatology.  But, unfortunately, that is all the mainstream media seems to be capable of producing when the RCMP is under the microscope in this country.

The Mounties have many foibles and in my opinion need to be reconstituted as our National Police Force not municipal cops.  But that is my opinion and perhaps the subject of another discussion.  But they also do not deserve to be pilloried for trying to do their job. 

And Robert Dziekanski was waste of a man even if the police haters are trying to elevate him to sainthood.  He had not amounted to anything in his life and he wasn’t smart enough to recognize that responding police officers were trying to intervene with his dilemma. 

Too bad, so sad.  But his death was not the fault of those four police officers.

Leo Knight

primetimecrime@gmail.com

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Written by Leo Knight

March 21, 2009 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment

13 Responses

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  1. Leo,

    There are some flaws to your postulation that I find quite irksome, but not unusual in light of your Horseman past.

    The whole world has by now seen the infamous video of the tragic incident and we as the general public have been shocked at the seemingly casual manner that four well trained, well coordinated and seemingly mature police officers took on a sad and pathetic target on home turf.

    From frame one, the video faithfully (and damningly) records the voice of one officer (Millington) asking his supervisor (Robinson) quite clearly “can I taser him?”. The response is immediate and direct “Yes”.

    With all due respect, this is before they had even gotten to the site of the alleged disturbance and had not even begun to assimilate the local requirements…Give me a break!

    25 seconds is all it took from that point to tactially deploy, open and close ‘negotiations’ and finally taser and take down, now let me see……with four cops and one suspect, having no hostages or persons in danger apparent and the public watching, this has got to be one of the most crass examples of poor, nay, abysmal policing that any other officer in the western world(excepting the RCMP) has even seen or dealt with.

    The areas I do agree with you on are the reprehensible manner in which the so-called security of YVR has been managed (or not). The fact that this or any other individual has the potential to remain unnoticed in a security zone for multiple hours without some intervention by CBSA, Immigration, YVR security or heaven forbid, a patrolling RCMP officer escapes me.

    I have watched this sad story unfold and to see these well armed, well trained officers contribute to the man’s demise, (regardless of what his life may have been worth to you or anybody else) is shocking in the extreme.

    While not at liberty to mention names and details in this reply, I am sure that you are as aware as I am that steps have been taken to remove and replace others who have been involved in the investigation of this matter, such as the contract security supervision and within the CBSA.

    I would never wish for punitive action against police officers who try to do their job well, but for these wanton and reckless thugs, I can only hope that the Crown finally grows a large pair and reviews the case for potential criminal prosecution accordingly.

    Anonymous

    March 21, 2009 at 6:43 pm

  2. As a Mountie myself, I questioned the response of my brother officers and the decidedly quick use of the taser in this case. I still don’t know what time restraints these members were under to get this individual dealt with but it appears more could have been done to get an interpreter involved to at least communicate more effectively with this man.
    We are all taking a huge hit for this incident and public confidence in a once proud organization and national icon is at an all time low.

    Truly sad! Couple that with a management group that tries to manage like we are still on the march west and the recipe for disaster is complete.

    Anonymous

    March 22, 2009 at 6:08 pm

  3. Incredible!!!!!!

    The first sign of honesty from a serving member as seen above! Instead of closing ranks and pushing your heads in the sand as has been the norm for the RCMP, it is now well over time for all it’s upstanding, professional and mature officers of all ranks to stand up, speak out and tell your civilian ‘CEO’ that it is time for change.

    I suggest that the change has to begin at grass roots level, with recruits trained at Depot to understand and more importantly comprehend beyond all doubt that they are PUBLIC SERVANTS, not superheroes and that the public in the main is a friend and ally, not the enemy.

    When I was sworn as a police officer many years ago and far…far away, I solemnly swore that I would PRESERVE life, PROTECT property and cause the Queen’s peace to be kept while I held the office of Constable. It was my job to communicate and involve myself with the community I worked with, not to remain detached as I see happening here.

    Even after retirement, this ‘way’ stays with me as a model in which to live my life if it is ever within my power as a member of society.

    The fact that these particular officers entered a public area, did not for the most part appear to engage the public at large and proceeded to confront a lone subject without recourse to any of the ideals that I mentioned above is staggering.

    Curiouser still is fact that the statement by Commissioner Elliott today saying that the public should, quote “walk a mile in my shoes” is too funny for words.

    Most reasonable people will surely understand that he was trying to say that the RCMP should not be judged too hastily and it would be appropriate for others to imagine themselves in situations of danger and stress such as all police officers encounter from time to time before passing judgement.

    And that is just the point, all police officers find themselves placed in these circumstances at times. We who have been there before can say that it is very scary indeed, but normally we can find a better weapon to be faced with than a stapler!!

    Anonymous

    March 22, 2009 at 8:00 pm

  4. Finally an intelligent conversation on this subject. Although there is still a bit of rhetoric showing up. Anon #1’s use of the word “thugs” is disingenuous. The RCMP officers were undoubtedly faced with violent man who was out of control and their job was to control him.

    Could they have taken more time? Absolutely. But that is armchair quarterbacking.

    Could they have tried to take down the Polish man without using a Taser? Absolutely. And that was the way we used to do things. And I can also say that led to more than a few complaints of excessive force because of the “perception” of using four police officers on one suspect.

    The police are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. They are trained to use Tasers and the policy of the Force at the time was to deploy the Conducted Energy Weapon to ensure officer safety. That is exactly what they did.

    Quibbling about whether they conversed about whether the Taser should be used as they approached was merely police officers approaching a potentially dangerous situation and discussing options. I fail to see a problem with that.

    Finally, on the issue of the stapler, I wonder if one of the critics would volunteer to allow someone to smack them across the face with a stapler and see if the hard edge might cut their face open? Or take out an eye? Or break a nose? I’d be happy to document the test.

    Leo

    March 22, 2009 at 8:22 pm

  5. What next? No, I do not refer to the possibilty of who the next potential ‘victim’ might be, but rather the fact that these guys cannot get their story straight even now…what a shambles!

    I have to believe that they were all of the mis-guided opinion that the now condemning videotape would have been confiscated by officers on scene and never returned, hence they could invent a story and have no real fear of contradiction.

    The Police service in the province is taking hits from each way right now, with stories of erased witness video on the 500 block of Homer to Sgt Hannibal (the cannibal) who is making a successful career at being disciplined but keeping his job.

    Time for a provincial police service with new, effective leadership I think!

    Anonymous

    March 24, 2009 at 5:17 am

  6. Well Leo,

    It seems today that we have no plan, conflicting instructions to the suspect and admissions of failure to follow procedures. The question most on my mind was if all four were ‘lunching’ at the detachment, who was minding the YVR ‘store’??

    Stay tuned, next enlightening episode of the tragic death of an innocent man comes tomorrow.

    Anonymous

    March 25, 2009 at 1:59 am

  7. My name is Cpl. Robinson…..oh, hang on a minute, can I change that please??

    A bad three days for the RCMP, of that there is no doubt. I have reviewed as much of the media coverage that I can and from as many sources as possible in order to reduce the possibility of writer bias (a forlorn hope perhaps) but I cannot find a single comment from the press or public that supports the actions that have been discovered during this enquiry.

    It is time for the Commissioner and senior members to ask, repeat ask, for a review of the criminal file in light of this now public mess. This will likely mean some if not all of the four concerned either facing sentences or at the very least, being fired, but it is now the ONLY way that the force can put a really bad incident behind them and get to restoring some public confidence.

    So, Cpl. Robinson…..you will one day go to jail.

    Anonymous

    March 27, 2009 at 1:56 am

  8. Anon, If you think that Cpl Robinson should go to jail, then can they also send the following as well. Someone from the CBSA as they dropped the ball big time, the twit at the airport who overuled calling the airport’s Emergency medical unit, maybe a firefighter as well seeing they arrived 1st and neglected to get oxygen going. This event was a series of fubars from the beginning to the end. No the Mounties weren’t perfect either but I don’t think charges will be forthcoming in this incident. Oh wait, I have a better idea, instead of Prosecutors laying charges here, maybe we can just throw it out to public opinion. Yes you read everything in the media etc etc. Have you sat in on each and every day and listened to each witness’s testimony as well as cross examination? Please don’t trust the oragnised big “media” to give you all the facts….

    Anonymous

    March 27, 2009 at 9:47 pm

  9. The “evidence” we have of the event came from camera phones and other personal cameras, which were not confiscated. Despite the tragedy of errors which accumulated on that day, I don’t believe the RCMP was to blame in his death. The product known as Taser would probably kill someone like me, who has a heart condition. I would not be surprised to see a class-action suit against Taser in the near future. Why don’t we just shoot people with tranquilizers? The arguments against that are virtually identical to the arguments against Taser. And, you probably would get more follow-up shots, if they were necessary.

    But back to the camera-confiscation topic I mentioned, I have a few questions I would like to raise in your minds. Would the public have even known, or would the public have reached such a state, had all the recordings been confiscated? That is, nobody would have been able to make youtube videos, would they just go home and complain to their families like the rest of us do? Perhaps lobby a complaint? Would it have ever been in the news? Many people that day felt a distrust of the police to hand-over their cameras and phones, where they either face never seeing their device again for months if not years (or ever), perhaps they didn’t want to be inconvenienced, or maybe a fear of having their device damaged or erased, or worse yet, a general paranoia that we’re in a police state and any evidence will be destroyed or buried to protect the jobs of federal employees at any cost.

    So what do you think they had in their minds when they decided to keep their video? Should the owners of said-leaked recordings be put in jail for obstruction? Or perhaps the practice of taking personal devices should be reexamined. This is the future, and not only is somebody always watching, somebody is probably recording. And you can’t take that away from us. If 1000 people were recording, should they confiscate 1000+ devices? 10 seems like enough, 100 would be ridiculous, but to try to take all video would be tantamount to the Canadian public as lining up all the witnesses and shooting them all in the head.

    Anonymous

    March 28, 2009 at 4:31 am

  10. Fubars…..interesting choice of words. I would have said more likely a total ‘cluster’ to be precise.

    There are many who will bear the guilt of inaction on that particular occasion, but only the four officers can be held accountable for the takedown and subsequent custodial treatment of this fellow. To defer blame to others does not change the core issue.

    Anonymous

    March 28, 2009 at 8:32 am

  11. Hey Folks,

    I came across this blog by accident and now I’m hooked. I find it very interesting to guess at the thought process of individuals such as the officers involved in this truly unfortunate incident. I for one, thank my lucky stars that I’m not in their boots.

    The uncalled for spearing of the officers is very remarkable.

    Let’s review the facts….oh forget it, facts are too confusing.

    When I flew to Egypt I couldn’t speak the local lingo. Did I smash up some computers and windows? Nope. Did I threaten the local cops…not on your life. Millions of people make it through airports where they don’t speak the local language, all with no problems. Why does this guy end up smashing everything in sight?

    I don’t have a clue, and nor do you. There is one thing I do know for sure…actions do have consequences. And some consequences are unintended.

    I’m thankful for the guys who protect my butt.

    Anonymous

    April 27, 2009 at 4:11 am

  12. To the last correspondent!

    Glad to have you along for the ride. I suspect that from the tenor of your remarks that you have a LE background or connection somewhere as do I (now retired).

    The simple ‘fact’ remains that the facts have to be understood and not just simply put aside. I think that this primary factor was the undoing of the ‘incident’ in many ways. But for the video, those not at the scene would never know what really happened.

    The officers on scene that night were left unaware of this damning piece of evidence and so I submit that they simply put aside gathering the full facts and instead developed a simple, easily remembered storyline for the various reports.

    These officers are not being ‘speared’ as you say, but instead are now being called to account for their actions. If these actions are deemed appropriate by the enquiry and those in authority so be it, but if not…..they need to know without doubt that laws are there for all to observe and it should be transparent that the RCMP are NOT, repeat NOT exempt from the law.

    Anonymous

    May 8, 2009 at 7:55 pm

  13. Leo I came across your blog and really couldnt help but to comment on a few particular articles you have written and posted. First of all I do need to sling some mud as you are a real piece of work. You not only make he said she said comments in most of your articles you then have the nerve (in particular about Robert Dziekanski) to more or less call him a waste of a human being. You make comments that he ammounted to nothing and more or less deserve what he got. As far as I am concerned you are the one who is the piece of trash. You call yourself a crime reporter (self acclaimed I might add), I would think any reporter out there would take exception to you giving yourself that title. If your such an expert on security and the law why did you retire and not stay active to try and change things. If I had the time I am sure I could dig up so much dirt on you your head would spin or I could make comments like you got your position with Paladin security because you created enough media hype around your name (which was because of controversaly comments)and not in fact because of your intelligence. But I will tell you something if it were my child that something like this happened to and you decided to slag him or her like you have in this case I would hunt you down and stick a batton so far up your ass you would never sit down again (maybe you could write a blog on how it feels to walk around with a batton sticking out of your ass). I guess that would make you an expert on things not to get shoved up your ass. Anytime you want a piece of me Leo I welcome you to bring it on.

    Anonymous

    May 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm


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