Up, Down, In This Thread.
"I've said it in the hearing room and I am saying it again. You have these inconsistencies spoken by all four officers and they claim they never spoke to each other and yet these professionally trained observers, who are supposed to accurately record the events of any incident, all make the same mistakes."
Don Rosenbloom, lawyer representing Poland.
“Hit him again! Hit him again!”
“There’s nothing we could have done differently.”
“I was mistaken, but I was telling the truth. Just because I was mistaken doesn't mean I was lying.”
Benjamin Monty Robinson, RCMP.
Not a lie Monty? What is a lie then? Just how 'mistaken' do you have to be before you call it a lie?
“The public trust is at a level we would rather not see. We’re going to work extremely hard to get it back.”
"I can understand why the public feels frustrated at the evidence coming out. I have put that information forward, about what's come out at the inquiry. A criminal investigation could be re-opened. In this case, it's too soon to make that determination."
Peter Thiessen, RCMP.
Any evidence WHATSOEVER of this in the facile remarks of the head honcho, William Elliott? Nope, not one SINGLE shred!
A-and just why do they need Peter Thiessen there to listen for them and make more milquetoast remarks?
TOO SOON (?!) Man! It is well more than a year TOO LATE!
What planet do the RCMP live on?
Here is about the only optimistic point I have seen yet in Braidwood Inquiry news: The decision last Dec. 12 not to charge the four officers criminally "was based on the evidence available and provided by police at the time to the Criminal Justice Branch. If additional evidence becomes available it's always open to us to have the matter reviewed and resubmitted to Crown. It's not uncommon for us to return a file to police."
Neil Mackenzie, Crown Prosecutor and Crown Counsel Spokesman.
Canadians are outraged. So what?!
The RCMP are proven goons & bullies. So what?!
The RCMP masters are dissemblers and liars. So what?!
I came across the December 2008 article by Lori Culbert (below) just today. Some of the opinions expressed are probably simply true: David Butcher (one of the Mountie's lawyers) has a long client list because these guys get lawyers and get off more-or-less scot-free.
We already know that Thomas Braidwood has relatively little discretion in the case. He can 'recommend' like so many Inquiry Commissioners before him and watch the recommendations go in the trash. William Davies' report on the death of Frank Paul is expected to go there according to Allen Garr, a writer for the Vancouver Courier.
Seems like every rock you turn over has another RCMP bully hiding under it - I didn't know anything about our Sergeant Russell Hannibal (dig the rank man, a sergeant yet!). And there he is tying it up in court for 6 years. The Judge aquits him despite that "the evidence left her with reasonable doubt that Hannibal used excessive force, she still 'completely rejected a lot of his testimony,' adding parts of it were 'obviously self-serving' and 'after-the-fact rationalizations.'"
So it goes (as Kurt Vonnegut might say). Have to work on that Buddhist 'let it all go' attitude I guess ...
Is that it?
People to watch: Zygmunt Riddle, Jurek Baltakis, Mandy Cheema(?).
1. Convictions of police for excessive force rare: experts, Lori Culbert, December 13, 2008.
2. RCMP officer disciplined four times, Chad Skelton, Sunday, March 22, 2009.
3. Commissioner Elliott drinks the RCMP Kool-Aid, Colby Cosh, March 24, 2009.
4. RCMP acknowledges public trust eroded after Dziekanski incident, Neal Hall, March 24, 2009.
5. Tasering officer admits he was wrong, but denies lying, Suzanne Fournier, March 4, 2009.
6. A stimulus for reform, The Province, March 25, 2009.
7. Dziekanski's death 'never should have happened,' supervising officer says, 24 March, 2009.
8. Walking a mile in the wrong shoes, Editorial, March 26, 2009.
9. Just who are these men?, Brian Hutchinson, Thursday, March 26, 2009.
10. Mountie accused of 'cooking' story, Ian Bailey, March 26, 2009.
Gallery of Benjamin Monty Robinson:
Convictions of police for excessive force rare: experts, Lori Culbert, Vancouver Sun, December 13, 2008.
A fuzzy video of four Mounties zapping Robert Dziekanski with a stun gun sparked international outrage, but it is unusual for police officers to be convicted of using excessive force in such cases, experts say.
The reasons are varied. Police are given leeway to use a certain amount of force in their jobs. It's hard to prove the officers intended to kill or badly hurt the victims. And juries are often hesitant to convict officers if the victims had been acting violently.
Among the highest-profile cases of police use of force was that of Rodney King, a black motorist beaten by four Los Angeles police officers in 1991. The police were charged but acquitted in court, sparking massive race riots.
The Taser has made the debate around police use of force more complicated. The "conducted energy weapon" was introduced as a less-lethal alternative to handguns, but its usage has increased dramatically in recent years and it has been used in multiple incidents in Canada that have resulted in a death.
That has sparked controversy internationally about whether the Taser should be considered the equivalent to a gun, or truly a more middle-of-the-road weapon if used appropriately.
On Friday, Crown counsel in B.C. said they had decided not to criminally charge four Mounties who Tasered Robert Dziekanski five times before he died last year at Vancouver airport. Prosecutors concluded the force used to subdue the Polish immigrant "was reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances." The available evidence -- including a videotape of the incident -- "falls markedly short" of what is required for a conviction, reporters were told.
That decision wasn't surprising because, although the officers might have used poor judgment, there was no evidence they intended to kill the victim, said Robert Gordon, head of the criminology department at Simon Fraser University.
Gordon, himself a former police officer, said there didn't appear to be grounds to charge the officers criminally. Their actions likely violated RCMP policies in that they should arguably have tried other interventions before firing the Taser, but that is a matter to be dealt with in a disciplinary review, not a court of law, he said.
Doug King, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, agreed with Gordon that it is unusual to see officers charged with using excessive force, but he thought the Dziekanski incident would have been a good case to challenge police reliance on Tasers.
"Especially when this was in the public so much," King said. "People wanted something to come of this."
Pivot lawyers have repeatedly challenged police policies on issues such as use of force.
Vancouver lawyer David Butcher argued that his client list is proof that a fair number of officers are charged with using too much force, but that the majority of cases do not end with convictions.
One of his clients, Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Russell Hannibal, was charged with two counts of assault with a weapon for allegedly using his Taser on prisoners in custody on Aug. 25 and 26, 2001, but was acquitted.
The courts consider several issues in these cases, Butcher said in an interview. He noted that section 25 of the Criminal Code entitles police officers as well as ordinary citizens to use "as much force as is necessary" to arrest someone on reasonable grounds, although what is necessary will fluctuate with every situation.
Butcher added that the courts have also said they won't "hold the police to a standard of perfection" or assess their use of force with modern-day hindsight, but instead will consider the situation confronting the officer at the time of the incident.
Another issue for the courts to consider is whether officers are properly trained for a particular situation they face, he said.
A search of newspaper archives shows a number of police officers in Canada and the U.S. have been charged with excessive use of the Taser even though most of the victims didn't die.
- RCMP Const. Dan Cameron, of 100 Mile House, was convicted in August of assault with a weapon after using a Taser during an arrest in 2006. He received a conditional discharge.
- In February of this year, Vancouver Police Const. Trevor Lowe was found not guilty of assault with a weapon after using his Taser during a nightclub arrest in 2005.
- Edmonton Police Const. Jeff Resler was acquitted of four assault charges in 2007 in connection with the Tasering of three people, after the judge ruled his behaviour may have been inappropriate but did not amount to assault.
- Chatham, Ontario police Sgt. Edmund MacLean pleaded guilty last year to assault after zapping a handcuffed man with a stun gun in 2006. He was put on probation.
- Edmonton-area RCMP Const. Stephen Shott was convicted in 2006 of assault with a weapon for using his Taser to subdue the wrong man, but was given an absolute discharge after the judge found he made an error in judgment in an unruly situation.
- Two Terrace-area Mounties, Cpl. Brendan McKenna and Const. B.J.T. Hennessey, were found guilty of assault but received conditional discharges after Tasering a man in police custody in 2003.
- In July, a Louisiana grand jury indicted former police officer Scott Nugent on a manslaughter charge in the death of a man who was Tasered nine times while handcuffed.
- Edmonton Const. Todd Hudec was acquitted last year of charges that he assaulted a 15-year-old male by Tasering him during a strip search.
RCMP officer disciplined four times, Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun, Sunday, March 22, 2009.
VANCOUVER - B.C. RCMP Sgt. Russell Hannibal, acquitted last year of excessive force after using his Taser twice in two days, has been disciplined four previous times by the force, The Vancouver Sun has learned.
Hannibal's misconduct ranges from lying to a superior about an expense claim to trying to date a 16-year-old whose phone number he obtained while on duty.
Last year, Hannibal was acquitted of assault with a weapon in connection with his use of a Taser against a handcuffed man.
The judge in the case said that while the evidence left her with reasonable doubt that Hannibal used excessive force, she still "completely rejected a lot of his testimony," adding parts of it were "obviously self-serving" and "after-the-fact rationalizations."
The ruling ended a battle that had been winding its way through the courts for six years.
In February 2002, Hannibal was charged in connection with two separate Taser deployments on Aug. 25 and 26, 2001.
In the first case, at the Foggy Dew pub in Port Coquitlam, Hannibal arrested a man who patted his female partner's behind. Then, after the man was already handcuffed, Hannibal zapped him six times with his Taser in handheld mode.
The next day, Hannibal used his Taser again, this time against a suicidal man being held down by three other officers.
Hannibal was acquitted of the second case in 2003 but the first took years to work its way through the courts because of legal arguments over delays in the case getting to trial.
Despite Hannibal's acquittal, the RCMP still pursued a disciplinary case against him in a hearing last September.
A copy of that hearing's decision, released in response to a request from The Sun, shows Hannibal received a formal reprimand, not for deploying his Taser, but for using "vulgar, inflammatory" language during his arrest at the Foggy Dew pub.
Hannibal was also reprimanded for a separate incident a month earlier in which he told a fellow officer "your ass is mine."
The panel of three senior Mounties hearing Hannibal's case decided to give him a formal reprimand for both incidents.
In coming to its decision, the panel listed Hannibal's four prior disciplinary cases, including:
* Uttering a verbal threat during a confrontation with a member of the public in 1993.
* Using "tactless and oppressive" language during an interaction with a member of the public in 1993.
* Lying to a superior officer in order to get an expense claim approved in 1994.
* Attempting to date a 16-year-old in 2000 whose address and telephone number he obtained during the course of his duties.
Aside from the expense-claim issue - for which Hannibal was formally disciplined and docked three days' pay - the other cases were dealt with informally by the RCMP and did not go to a public hearing.
And in the case of Hannibal's attempt to date a teenager, his only penalty was a reprimand.
RCMP spokesman Sgt. Tim Shields said, because of privacy concerns, he could not provide any details about Hannibal's attempt to date the teen.
Shields also refused to say why the force decided to deal with the matter informally, other than to say Hannibal's commanding officer would have reviewed all the facts in the case before deciding against a formal hearing.
When reached by phone, Hannibal, who is now working in an administrative position at "E" Division headquarters, refused to answer any questions.
Commissioner Elliott drinks the RCMP Kool-Aid, Colby Cosh, March 24, 2009.
When star bureaucrat William Elliott was named the first civilian commissioner of the RCMP in 2006, I was skeptical. The all-but-explicit idea behind the appointment was to bring in someone who was free enough of prejudices, closet skeletons and cronies to be able to whip the force back into shape. Unfortunately, a civilian running a hierarchical, uniformed agency with a history of splendour and renown is likely to be more vulnerable to the romance, not less. How long would it take before Elliott was defending indefensible behaviour on the part of his Mounties to the public, instead of representing the public interest to the force?
Answer: Not too long. In Kandahar on Sunday, while discussing the Taser death of Robert Dziekanski, Elliott pleaded for understanding. Canadians, he said, were mocking the officers’ apparent terror of an office stapler because civilians have "a tendency to want to look at situations as black and white situations [sic]." "I do not believe that most Canadians have an appreciation as to how difficult the situations our officers find themselves in are," he added. "They don’t realize how quickly things happen and they don’t realize how quickly often unfortunately bad things happen … Fortunately we live in a country, unlike [Afghanistan], where most Canadians do not encounter violence or threatening situations up close and personal."
Well, I’ve accidentally stapled my thumb before, and I have to admit, it does hurt like a bastard. But I’d really like Elliott to stand in front of a roomful of taxicab drivers, whose profession traditionally exposes them to a risk of homicide literally an order of magnitude higher than the police, and repeat those words. As it happens, plenty of Canadians are in an equally good position to have gained experience of "threatening situations": truck drivers, private security guards, clerks at liquor stores and gas stations.
The difference is, these people mostly aren’t allowed to protect themselves with handguns, chemical sprays and state-of-the-art body armour. Nor can they carry Tasers — the super-safe miracle weapon that, for some mysterious reason, almost no one in Canada but a peace officer is legally permitted to carry. And if a graveyard-shift 7-Eleven employee should happen to kill or injure someone in self-defence, he is certainly unlikely to have his actions scrutinized with the generosity that B.C. prosecutors exercised in deciding not to charge the Vancouver Four with a crime.
Elliott knows perfectly well — and if he doesn’t, maybe he should be paying closer attention — that retired policemen have participated in criticism of RCMP actions in the Dziekanski case. No one wants to second-guess any first responder, but Elliott is clearly unaware just how unprecedented and disillusioning an exercise the Dziekanski inquiry has been.
He doesn’t want us to judge split-second decisions? How about the decision by the cops not to use their first aid skills on a dying man? Was that some kind of snap judgment deserving our sympathy and deference? How about the positive interference the cops offered to ambulance crews when they finally arrived? Isn’t Richmond, B.C., fire-rescue Captain Kirby Graeme, who described these actions and characterized them as "unprofessional," someone who knows a lot about "how quickly bad things can happen"?
And how does Elliott’s "don’t judge" directive apply to the inaccurate notes made by the officers on the scene before they knew there would be publicly accessible video of the incident? Kwesi Millington, who pulled the electric trigger on Dziekanski five times, wrote that "the male swung the stapler wildly with his arm at the members" and had to be "wrestled to the ground." Bill Bentley wrote, "Subject grabbed stapler and came at members screaming." Gerry Rundel described him as having used "superhuman strength" in fighting off the officers.
All of these misstatements have had to be retracted because of the existence of Paul Pritchard’s footage, which the RCMP, let’s not forget, tried to suppress. (The mysterious destruction of a videotape taken from an RCMP van involved in the Curtis Dagenais shootout suggests that they’ve learned no lessons — or, perhaps, that they’ve learned them only too well.)
One is reluctant to call the Vancouver Four’s fictions "lies," but one also notices the inaccuracies all have a tendency to justify the actions of and exonerate the four. Perhaps exaggerating wildly in official notes on a killing is just another one of those stress-driven decisions we’re not allowed to sit in judgment on, along with the inaccuracies propagated by the RCMP’s publicity arm in the immediate aftermath of the incident. As long as Commissioner Elliott is in Afghanistan, he may wish to ask some of our reconnaissance experts there if they think this really looks like a hill worth dying on — either for him, or the RCMP brand.
RCMP acknowledges public trust eroded after Dziekanski incident, Neal Hall, March 24, 2009.
VANCOUVER - The RCMP realizes the level of public trust in the force has dropped as a result of evidence emerging at the Braidwood inquiry, which is probing the death of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver's airport in 2007.
"The public trust is at a level we would rather not see," RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen told reporters during a lunch break at Monday's inquiry, which heard testimony from RCMP Cpl. Monty Robinson, the senior commanding officer in the early morning hours of Oct. 14, 2007, when Dziekanski was Tasered five times and died minutes later.
"We're going to work extremely hard to get it back to a level we would like to see," Thiessen said.
A reporter raised the fact that all four officers involved in the fatal in-custody death have admitted their police statements were wrong in describing the events that led to Dziekanski's death.
"Why have these officers not been fired?" a reporter asked.
Thiessen asked the public to be patient and await the results of the Braidwood inquiry, which may address "how things can be rectified" if deficiences are found.
He also said Robinson has offered to meet privately with Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, who is attending the inquiry and said loudly as Robinson walked by, "Nice to meet you."
"He is prepared to meet her," he said. "She said, 'Maybe tomorrow.' "
Thiessen added: "This situation is regretable for everybody. It is a lose-losr situation."
He said Robinson "is extremely saddened by the fact there was a loss of life. This was a situation no one wanted to happen."
Robinson testified today that his police statements were inaccurate because he was mistaken about what happened. He said in his police statement that Dziekanski didn't fall after he was Tasered but "had to be wrestled to the ground."
Robinson testified: "I was mistaken but I was telling the truth. I sort of blended the whole interaction with him...I was mistaken."
He also admitted he was wrong when he stated in his police statement that Dziekanski was "swinging the stapler" at police.
"You used swinging 12 times in your statement?" Vertlieb asked.
"Yes," Robinson replied.
He said Dziekanski swung the stapler wildly after he was Tasered.
Tasering officer admits he was wrong, but denies lying, Suzanne Fournier, March 4, 2009.
RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington admitted at the Braidwood inquiry he was “incorrect” and “wrong” about key points of his evidence, but denied a Polish government lawyer’s accusation that he “continued to lie under oath.”
Millington, 32, is the officer who fired a Taser five times in rapid succession at Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, with his first shot hitting the man less than a minute after four RCMP officers arrived at the airport Oct. 14, 2007.
Dziekanski, who spent 30 hours travelling from Poland and lost at the airport, became frustrated and threw a table, but called, “Polizia, polizia” in an apparent desparate bid to get help when the four RCMP officers arrived.
Police Tasered and restrained Dziekanski when they arrived about 1:30 a.m. Within 12 minutes, Dziekanski lay lifeless on the ground, handcuffed facedown, and couldn’t be revived by Richmond first responders or paramedics.
Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer for Poland, challenged Millington: “You and your fellow officers collaborated to fabricate your story with an explanation that would justify your conduct to your superiors. Do you deny that?”
Millington replied, without losing the composure he has maintained during gruelling questioning: “We acted according to our training and we did act in a prudent fashion, and I never intended the result [Dziekanski’s death].”
Rosenbloom charged that the officers’ statements are so similar, yet contradicted by the evidence of bystander Paul Pritchard's video, that it appears “you were fast at work at the scene cooking up your story and it continued back at the detachment . . . You continued to lie under oath at this inquiry.”
Insisted Millington, “That never happened.”
Rosenbloom prepared a “chart” citing the multiple discrepancies between the Pritchard video and the testimony given at the inquiry so far by Millington and his fellow officers Const. Gerry Rundel and Const. Bill Bentley.
Brushing aside objections by RCMP lawyers, commissioner Tom Braidwood told Rosenbloom to be blunt: “You’re asking whether they got together and faked it?”
“You and your officers made some terrible and critical mistakes,” charged Rosenbloom.
Millington denied that, saying, “We acted in accordance to our training and we did act in a prudent fashion.”
Still slated to give evidence is Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, who will appear on March 23 at the inquiry, after a previously scheduled two-week break. Braidwood did not want a break in Robinson’s evidence.
Dziekanski’s mother, Zofia Cisowski, said Wednesday, “They are liars . . . they are not telling the truth, I am so angry.”
But Ravi Hira, Millington’s lawyer, said outside the court, “He was not lying. My client stepped forward on the witness stand . . . where he made mistakes [and] he admitted them readily.
“He is entitled to Taser a person more than once if siutational factors dictate, and that’s what he testified.”
Cisowski’s lawyer Walter Kosteckyj cited a “big gap” in the officers’ evidence and “what the video shows,” saying Dziekanski never raised or swung a stapler “wildly” as a weapon, was not combative and “never advanced a step and was never aggressive toward the officers.”
The stapler that the RCMP claimed Dziekanski brandished as a weapon was shown to reporters yesterday in an evidence bag, as a relatively small black “Apsco 17” stapler, made in Sweden, about 13 inches long when open.
Kosteckyj, a former RCMP officer, said the RCMP should “step forward and admit this was not their finest hour” and should also reopen the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team file based on new evidence at the inquiry.
Neil MacKenzie, Crown counsel spokesman, said the decision last Dec. 12 not to charge the four officers criminally “was based on the evidence available and provided by police at the time to the Criminal Justice Branch.”
“If additional evidence becomes available it’s always open to us to have the matter reviewed and resubmitted to Crown,” said MacKenzie. “It’s not uncommon for us to return a file to police.”
A stimulus for reform, The Province, March 25, 2009.
RCMP Cpl. Benjamin "Monty" Robinson was the officer in charge the night Robert Dziekanski was Tasered five times just before his death.
In his initial statement Robinson said Dziekanski was "swinging wildly" with a stapler and that he had to be wrestled to the ground by all four officers. A video shot by bystander Paul Pritchard suggests otherwise.
At the Braidwood inquiry into Taser use and Dziekanski's death, Cpl. Robinson admitted his initial statement was incorrect, but insisted he did not lie.
"I was mistaken, but I was telling the truth," Robinson said to Braidwood lawyer Art Vertlieb.
"Just because I was mistaken doesn't mean I was lying," he also said.
Ah yes, the George W. Bush weapons-of-mass-destruction defence.
It ultimately matters little whether Cpl. Robinson lied in his initial statement, or was mistaken. Either way, this public inquiry is a public relations disaster for the RCMP.
Every day that this inquiry continues, Canadians lose more faith in our national police force. In the end, let's hope Justice Thomas Braidwood's recommendations go beyond the use of Tasers and attempt to make the obviously dysfunctional RCMP a little more functional.
Dziekanski's death 'never should have happened,' supervising officer says, 24 March, 2009.
VANCOUVER, B.C. — The ranking RCMP officer who says he ordered one of his constables to stun Robert Dziekanski with a Taser told a public inquiry Monday the man's death "never should have happened."
But Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, the fourth officer to testify at the hearings, said he doesn't think he contributed to the tragic outcome. "This is a tragic thing that happened and it saddens me every time I have to look at it," said Robinson, 38, who has been on the force for nearly 13 years.
"No one should have passed away," he said. "This never should have happened."
"Is there anything that you did, from your perspective, that contributed to this event that you can see?" asked his lawyer, Reg Harris.
"No," replied Robinson.
Robinson testified earlier that he gave the order to shock Dziekanski with a Taser, and repeated the command as many as two more times.
That contradicts testimony from the officer who fired the Taser, who said he made the decision on his own, but Robinson insisted he told Const. Kwesi Millington to use the Taser when Dziekanski picked up a stapler and moved toward the officers.
"When he took the step forward, that's when I gave Const. Millington the command to deploy the Taser," said Robinson. "And at that point, the Taser was deployed."
Robinson said when Dziekanski didn't immediately fall down, he asked for a second shock.
The Polish man, who didn't speak English, had been waiting at Vancouver's airport for many hours. Police were called when he began throwing furniture in the airport arrivals area.
A bystander's video played numerous times at the inquiry shows Dziekanski was on the floor for the second stun, and Robinson acknowledged Dziekanski had either already collapsed or was on his way down by the end of the first shock.
Still, he maintained that he gave the command when Dziekanski was still standing.
On the video, one of the officers can be heard shouting, "Hit him again! Hit him again!" after the second stun, long after Dziekanski had fallen. The other officers have said that voice belongs to Robinson.
Robinson said he didn't remember giving a third command, but didn't dispute that it was him.
"I don't rule that out, it was me a third possible time," he said.
Robinson completed Taser training in 2003, but that training expired three years later. He wasn't recertified until a month after Dziekanski's death.
The fact that his certification had lapsed meant only that he wouldn't be able to use a Taser himself, the corporal said, but it wouldn't affect his ability to order his officers to do so.
Robinson said his command to use the Taser was the first instruction he gave any of his constables that night.
The officers were on a dinner break at the RCMP's airport detachment when they received a call about a man throwing furniture, and Robinson said they all walked to their cruisers and headed to the airport without so much as a word from him.
Robinson was the last one to arrive at the airport, and he said there was no discussion before the four of them walked into the international terminal and walked up to Dziekanski.
"Did you have any plan in your mind about what you would do with this call and the three constables attending with you as you entered the airport?" asked Vertlieb.
"No," replied Robinson.
Earlier in the day, Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, approached Robinson outside court.
"Nice to meet you, nice to meet you," said Cisowski as Robinson walked away.
An RCMP spokesman later said he offered to set up a private meeting between Robinson and Cisowski, but she declined.
Crown prosecutors announced in December that the officers wouldn't be charged in connection to the death, saying they acted with reasonable force in the circumstances.
However, the officers' actions are under scrutiny by inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood, who can make findings of misconduct against the officers or anyone else.
After Dziekanski's death, all four officers remained on duty at the airport for several weeks before they were all reassigned, some outside the province.
Robinson was moved to the RCMP's Olympic Integrated Security Unit, which is preparing security for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, but was suspended with pay shortly after he was arrested last October in connection with a fatal collision.
A 21-year-old motorcyclist was killed when he was struck by a Jeep in suburban Delta, south of Vancouver.
In a news release dated Oct. 28, 2008, Delta police said they were recommending the off-duty officer - subsequently identified as Robinson - be charged with impaired driving causing death and driving with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit, but the Crown has not announced any decision on charges.
Walking a mile in the wrong shoes, Editorial, March 26, 2009.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott wants Canadians to “walk a mile in my shoes” – a Mountie's brown boots – before judging the organization or its people in the fatal tasering of the Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver International Airport. But the RCMP is not the victim here, and it will not regain Canadians' confidence by acting like one.
Mr. Elliott's comment is egregious and insulting because he asks for his organization what he does not ask of it – that it walk a mile in the shoes of an unarmed immigrant who did not speak English or French, and who had been waiting for his mother for 10 hours. Never mind a mile. The Mounties never took the first step. They began tasering Mr. Dziekanski, about whom they knew nothing, and never asked, within 30 seconds of approaching him.
Mr. Elliott asks for empathy, but why should Canadians ignore incompetence and unprofessionalism? Everything that has emerged from the four officers involved, in testimony at a judicial inquiry in British Columbia, underscores the organization's failure to train its officers properly. Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson, the most senior of the four, had let his first-aid training lapse five years earlier. No wonder he failed to recognize or address Mr. Dziekanski's distress. Cpl. Robinson's taser training occurred in 2003 and he hadn't had a refresher course. No wonder Mr. Dziekanski was tasered five times, though he never got up after the first one. Why isn't the RCMP training its people properly?
The amateur video of the RCMP's fatal confrontation with Mr. Dziekanski should be used as a teaching tool at every police college in the country: This is what not to do.
Lesson one might be that the police, not the unarmed subject, are in control. The RCMP is on the verge of making itself a laughingstock because the four officers testified about how threatened they felt when Mr. Dziekanski picked up a stapler. (The officers had all said initially that Mr. Dziekanski had swung the stapler. He hadn't.) Canada's finest, having tamed the West quite peacefully, are now a-quiver at being collated. These officers had options. They could have backed off. Mr. Dziekanski was in a secure area. Time was on the officers' side.
But in their view, Mr. Dziekanski was in control. “He didn't afford us the opportunity” to give a warning, said Cpl. Robinson. Yet everything that happened was brought on by those officers. It was their aggressive approach – four armed police moving in as a pack, right up close, and spreading around him – that caused the confused, frightened man to pick up the stapler. Relaxing and backing off a few steps could have worked wonders. What a teachable moment for all police everywhere.
It is clear to nearly everyone in Canada except the RCMP that the tasering was unnecessary, brutal and a national embarrassment. It is equally clear that the RCMP, in its official statements and in the initial statements of the four officers, told rank falsehoods. Their training and judgment were simply not up to the task. On the positive side, Mr. Elliott said last month that his force has changed its taser policy to reflect a risk of death. He seems now to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
Mr. Elliott, a career civil servant, was made commissioner at a low point for the RCMP two years ago. His job was to fix a “horribly broken” agency. Yet it seems from his latest comments the RCMP is determined to learn nothing from the death of Mr. Dziekanski. The impression he leaves is that the organization is still horribly broken.
Just who are these men?, Brian Hutchinson, Thursday, March 26, 2009.
Before slamming his Jeep into a young motorcyclist, the off-duty RCMP corporal had been drinking. Only two beers, consumed at a late-afternoon party, insisted Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, to a Delta, B. C., police officer who attended the fatality.
But his eyes were bloodshot, according to the officer's written report. His speech was slurred. A "strong" smell of liquor emanated from his breath and from his person.
This was in October, 2008, one year after Cpl. Robinson and three other Mounties had confronted an agitated Polish traveller at Vancouver International Airport. Robert Dziekanski died after receiving five jolts from an RCMP-deployed Taser and being man-handled on the ground.
Cpl. Robinson was the senior officer in charge and the most experienced of the four. He came under special scrutiny this week at the inquiry now underway into Mr. Dziekanski's death. His three subordinates testified before inquiry commissioner Thomas Braidwood earlier. All four officers admitted to making erroneous statements about the Taser incident to investigating officers,making Mr. Dziekanskiouttobe an attacking, stapler-swinging adversary. The officers blamed their flawed statements on fatigue, confusion, and an inability to "articulate."
None of the officers have been formally accused of any wrongdoing in connection to the Dziekanski death. The B. C. Crown announced late last year that no charges are forthcoming, much to the dismay of many observers. Public anger rises with every new revelation made at the inquiry.
Just who are these men? They are still Mounties, although none of the four work at the RCMP's Vancouver airport sub-detachment any more. All four have been reassigned, at least three of them to indoor duty.
Still in his twenties, Constable Bill Bentley is the youngest of the four. A former Canadian Border Services officer from Windsor, he arrived at the RCMP's Regina training depot in 2005. After the Dziekanski incident, he was removed to a desk job and works with the RCMP's 2010 Olympic Games detail. Constable Gerry Rundell, 48, is the oldest of the four. A former fish farmer from Vancouver Island, he had only two years of RCMP service the night that Mr. Dziekanski died. He has been reassigned to Vancouver Island.
Constable Kwesi Millington, 32, is physically the largest of the four officers. Holder of a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, he attended depot training from 2004 to 2005, and began working at the YVR sub-detachment in July 2006. Const. Millington is the officer who deployed a Taser five times at Mr. Dziekanski. He has been reassigned to desk duty. Of aboriginal ancestry, Cpl. Robinson is a graduate of Trinity West-ern University in Abbotsford, B. C., and is a 13-year RCMP veteran. He's been in at least one legal tussle before.
In August, 2005, a B. C. man named Greg Garley launched a civil lawsuit naming eight defendants, including Cpl. Robinson. The lawsuit was briefly mentioned during a lawyer's cross-examination of Cpl. Robinson at the Braidwood inquiry on Tuesday.
Mr. Garley is a former pizza parlour operator who claims to have had many unsatisfactory encounters with RCMP officers. In fact, in 2004 he was unlawfully struck with a Taser while detained in an RCMP jail cell, in Princeton, B. C. The Taser was ordered deployed by a Mountie who later pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon. The officer received a conditional discharge in court and was reassigned to a neighbouring detachment. Mr. Garley is suing him.
In an unrelated, 2005 lawsuit, Mr. Garley alleged he was assaulted by other defendants, and that Cpl. Robinson and another officer failed to respond to his medical needs. Mr. Garley later checked himself into a hostpital for treatment. Mr. Garley's lawyer, Robert Levin, says the allegation against Cpl. Robinson was essentially one of "neglect." The matter has been settled. Terms cannot be disclosed, says Mr. Levin: "It was not really a big deal in the grand scale of things."
The death in October of 21-year-old motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson [no relation to this reporter] certainly is. Cpl. Robinson still faces a possible charge of impaired driving causing death.
Allegations and findings of fact contained in a Supreme Court of British Columbia file paint an ugly picture. According to the police report made the night of the accident, Cpl. Robinson claimed that he'd left the fatality immediately, before investigators arrived, and walked home, where he downed two shots of vodka and then walked back. All in 10 minutes.
The attending officer was skeptical. "Police opinion [is] that symptoms far more set than two shots in that time period should indicate," she noted.
Cpl. Robinson was administered two breath tests. He blew well over the legal limit for alcohol both times, according to the police report. His blue, 2002 Jeep was impounded.
One month later, in November, 2008, Cpl. Robinson applied to have his 90-day driving prohibition reviewed. His lawyer argued that the Delta police evidence was unreliable.
An adjudicator from the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles disagreed. He found Cpl. Robinson's story about consuming alcohol after the fatal crash incredible. "I note that there is nothing in the [police] report that the witnesses [at the scene] indicated you left the scene," wrote the adjudicator. "I find it unlikely that after witnessing you having a collision that the witnesses would then allow you to leave the scene."
But Cpl. Robinson didn't accept the decision. Last month, he petitioned the Supreme Court of British Columbia to overturn it. Mr. Justice Mark McEwan refused. The petition was dismissed three weeks ago.
This week, Cpl. Robinson came before the Braidwood inquiry, where he acknowledged his having made statements to police that bore little semblance to the truth. Pending any new development, he will return to his assignment with the RCMP's Vancouver 2010 Olympics detail.
Mountie accused of 'cooking' story, Ian Bailey, March 26, 2009.
Officer denies matching testimony with those of other three officers in Dziekanski case.
VANCOUVER -- Poland's lawyer at the inquiry into Robert Dziekanski's death yesterday accused the senior Mountie of cooking his story with those of other three officers to justify their conduct, which included blasting the immigrant with a taser five times in about 30 seconds.
In a flat, calm voice, Corporal Benjamin Robinson denied it.
"I have been telling the truth," said the 38-year-old officer, the last of the four Mounties to testify to the Braidwood inquiry on the details of the events at Vancouver airport on Oct. 14, 2007.
Early that day, the four officers travelled from the RCMP's airport detachment to the international arrivals terminal, responding to a dispatchers' report that a man was throwing furniture. That man was Mr. Dziekanski, acting erratically after a 21-hour journey from Poland to Canada, and being lost in the airport for more than 10 hours. The 40-year-old Polish labourer died of cardiac arrest after being tasered and wrestled into handcuffs by the officers.
Poland's Vancouver-based lawyer Don Rosenbloom said he had no reservations about his allegations that the officers collaborated on their testimony.
"I've said it in the hearing room and I am saying it again. You have these inconsistencies spoken by all four officers and they claim they never spoke to each other and yet these professionally trained observers, who are supposed to accurately record the events of any incident, all make the same mistakes," Mr. Rosenbloom told reporters outside the hearing room.
His concerns included the officers' suggestions that Mr. Dziekanski was agitated, when he was actually calm when approached; that three officers talked about Mr. Dziekanski's supposed defiance in walking away from officers contrary to their wishes; the erroneous suggestion that Mr. Dziekanski was standing after he was tasered.
"This is just beyond the pale. It is unacceptable. There are too many inconsistencies and they are all giving those same erroneous versions of events," Mr. Rosenbloom said.
In his final day on the stand, Cpl. Robinson also said he felt qualified to provide basic first aid to Mr. Dziekanski although his certification had expired by the night of the confrontation. He also denied placing his knee on Mr. Dziekanski's neck as officers struggled to restrain him.
And he acknowledged errors in his initial statements on the case. Earlier this month, the officer's lawyer asked the commission for permission to change his comments in six areas. "I did the best job I could. I admit there are inaccuracies," Cpl. Robinson said yesterday.
During the hearing, Mr. Rosenbloom opened his last round of questions by saying: "You and your fellow officers collaborated to fabricate your story in the expectation that it would justify your conduct the night Mr. Dziekanski died. Do you deny that?"
"I deny that," Cpl. Robinson replied.
He also offered a soft-spoken "I deny that" to Mr. Rosenbloom's suggestion that the officers "were fast at work at the scene cooking up the story."
With a "No, we did not," Cpl. Robinson rejected Mr. Rosenbloom's suggestion the officers misled the members of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. "And lastly, I am going to suggest to you that you have been lying under oath before this commission. Do you deny that?" Mr. Rosenbloom asked.
"I have been telling the truth," Cpl. Robinson said.
Zofia Cisowski, Mr. Dziekanski's mother, said she did not believe Cpl. Robinson, and accused him of being evasive. "He never says any straight answer - yes or no, just round and round," she said.
She said she was thankful for amateur video shot by a bystander that has been dissected during the hearing. "The truth would never [have] come out if we had no video."
Mr. Rosenbloom's cross-examination of Cpl. Robinson ended the officer's three days of testimony.
As lawyers and staff gathered their materials to leave the hearing room, Mr. Rosenbloom made a point of going over to shake Cpl. Robinson's hand. The embattled officer took the lawyer's hand and returned the shake with a small smile. "There are courtesies in my profession," Mr. Rosenbloom later explained. "When a person is off the stand, I treat them with respect."