Up, Down, In This Thread.
Maintiens le droit / Uphold the law
(yeah right ... whatever ... like, when it suits you ...)
"The public has tipped. It did not jump nor did it stumble."
Catherine Mitchell, Winnipeg Free Press.
He came on the scene after we finally got rid of the outright liar and manager of thieves, Giuliano Zaccardelli. His job was to fix the "horribly broken" RCMP. But he has clearly not fixed anything, is not fixing anything ... will not fix anything(?). All you can say I guess is that he seems to smile less and less in his pictures. Why should he care? He's making a good buck; somewhere between $190,600 & $224,300 plus perks, chauffeur and what not, call it 200 grand - he can retire with a nice pension after a while, or anytime he likes, and watch the girls on some pretty beach somewhere.
Back around the middle of February, the Taser news was all around the RCMP restricting Taser use: 1. RCMP revamps rules for taser use, Daniel LeBlanc, February 12, 2009; 2. The RCMP rethinks the risks of tasers, Globe Editorial, February 12, 2009; 3. RCMP policy says Tasers can kill, restricts use, Sue Bailey, February 13, 2009; 4. RCMP restrict Taser use, Andrew Mayeda, February 12, 2009.
Done a year beforehand yet! And not bragging about it once in all that time!
The 'dastardly media' outright complimenting the RCMP? It seemed like a new day.
The fact that they had to be threatened with supoenas before they would appear at the Braidwood Inquiry was temporarily forgotten, or maybe forgiven - in any event, they were coming to the inquiry in the end ... so, all good.
Then yesterday (I am a bit slow y'unnerstan) I read a news release by the Liberal Party: 5. RCMP Commissioner misled Canadians on Taser use policy, Liberal Party Media Release, March 26, 2009.
And I thought ... well, must be political trash ... but I took the time to find Mark Holland, Liberal member for Ajax—Pickering, Ontario, and I tried (unsuccessfully) to find the minutes of the February 12 meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU - one has to ask how they arrive at these acronyms? must be from the French version, we all know that French-Canadians own the Federal Public Service eh? :-). In an email, the very next day, Holland's assistant kindly pointed it out to me: 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Evidence, Contents, Thursday, February 12, 2009, and sure enough, there is William Elliott speaking smooth words, "On June 18, 2008, all members of the RCMP were instructed that the CEW [Conducted Emergy Weapon, aka Taser] must only be used where it is necessary to do so in circumstances of threats to officer or public safety. This requirement has subsequently been written into our formal policy. ... The RCMP revised CEW policy restricts the use of CEWs and specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployments or continuous cycling of the CEW."
But, if you look into the minutes a little farther (this is boring, they depend on you not reading all the way through, and they depend on you not understanding, and just in case you might understand, they phrase it all in bafflegab and 'official stupidity') it is not quite so clear.
The Liberal terrier, Mark Holland, lashes into him right away. Doh! What's going on here? And Elliott seems to be trying to make a fool of him, and more-or-less succeeding.
So, bad blood between the committee and the Commissioner. Lots of, "No, you didn't!" and "Yes, we did!" ... blah blah blah ... If it's good enough for the Globe and Mail editorial board, it's good enough for me, enough said. Go on believing; that it is some political thing; that surely the RCMP would not lie again, at a time like this; silly me.
Because ... the CBC does an excellent piece on the issue which I found today: 6. RCMP softened Taser-use restrictions, CBC, Wednesday, March 25, 2009, complete with links to every aspect of the story, inccluding before-and-after looks at the RCMP Taser Operations Manual.
A-and they ask William Elliott for an interview, I guess he doesn't like them very much but hey ... and he does not have time of course; you can read his letter: 7. Letter from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott to the CBC, CBC, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
If he is not outright lying, he is dissembling, he is spinning; one way or the other he is deceiving Canadians.
So it turns out that Mark Holland, and Robert Oliphant, Liberal for Don Valley West, and Ujjal Dosanjh Liberal for Vancouver South are simply right.
Liberals have got such a bad rep ... and the CBC for that matter. Who can help but rejoice when they are trashed?
But it looks like we may have to thank them.
I think it is helpful and necessary to learn a bit about the Taser. Who wanted to know? But it is simply unavoidable. You can start at Taser International, see the X26 Brochure, and a comparison between the M26 and the X26. A new X26 is $800US, say, $1,000CDN (991 at today's rate of 1.24059). The RCMP Inventory stands at 2,600 Taser weapons; at a grand a pop that's almost 3 million; but this is not counting training, re-training every year, administrative seat warming, whatever - total is probably closer to 10 million.
A million for me and they would never have to worry about Tasering me again cuz I would be in beautiful Brasil :-) where the cops just shoot you.
The absolute refusal of the RCMP to simply play it straight, tell it straight. Their lies, the brutality of (at least some of) their members ... makes me tired ... I am going out somewhere for a single malt.
On a lighter note, maybe it was all just a simple mistake in terminology. Pictured to the right you can see Tim Shields holding what is referred to in RCMP-speak as a 'stapler'.
1. RCMP revamps rules for taser use, Daniel LeBlanc, February 12, 2009.
2. The RCMP rethinks the risks of tasers, Globe Editorial, February 12, 2009.
3. RCMP policy says Tasers can kill, restricts use, Sue Bailey, February 13, 2009.
4. RCMP restrict Taser use, Andrew Mayeda, February 12, 2009.
5. RCMP Commissioner misled Canadians on Taser use policy, Liberal Party Media Release, March 26, 2009.
6. RCMP softened Taser-use restrictions, CBC, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
7. Letter from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott to the CBC, CBC, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
8. The Nine Principles of Policing, Sir Robert Peel, Charles Rowan, Richard Mayne, 1829.
9. Police have lost public's trust and confidence, Catherine Mitchell, Saturday March 28, 2009.
10. RCMP shamed by testimony, Lee Prokaska, March 28, 2009.
11. Broken RCMP needs overhaul, Calgary Herald, March 28, 2009.
12. Taser inquiry batters RCMP credibility, Linda Diebel, Mar 28, 2009.
13. Speaking ill of the dead, Editorial, April 2, 2009.
RCMP revamps rules for taser use, Daniel LeBlanc, February 12, 2009.
OTTAWA — Given the "high risk of death" in some cases, RCMP officers are now limited in their use of tasers to individuals who pose a clear threat to the public or police, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott„© said yesterday.
Mr. Elliott used two public appearances to provide new details on the RCMP's taser policy, which has come under fire after the death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski„© at Vancouver's airport in 2007.
The new restrictions have been in place since last June, but were laid out in full only yesterday, two months after the announcement that four Mounties who used a taser to subdue Mr. Dziekanski would not face criminal charges.
Speaking to reporters in Ottawa, Mr. Elliott said the weapons can no longer be used against people who are simply refusing to co-operate with Mounties.
"Prior to June of last year, the RCMP's policies would have permitted the use of tasers in dealing, for example, with people who were actively resistant," he said. "We've now made it very clear that the only time the use of a taser can be justified is where there is a threat, either to our officers or to members of the public."
There have been more than a dozen deaths related to the use of tasers in Canada. Still, Mr. Elliott insisted that while the weapons "hurt like hell," they are much safer than firearms and are not lethal per se.
"I do not think there is evidence that tasers kill, but certainly, we have had some incidents where shortly after a taser was deployed, individuals died," he told reporters.
Mr. Elliott acknowledged that in circumstances involving agitated individuals, the risks associated with tasers can increase dramatically.
"All members must recognize that any use of force entails risk. Acutely agitated or delirious persons may be at a high risk of death," Mr. Elliott said.
He first informed Parliament of the new policy in a morning appearance at the public safety committee of the House. He said he could not brief MPs on the changes beforehand, given the House hasn't sat much since last summer.
Still, some MPs were unsatisfied with the RCMP's new approach to tasers. Ontario Liberal MP Mark Holland said he wants a clearer definition of a "threatening individual" who can be tasered.
"Where are they drawing the lines?" Mr. Holland asked. "I have no level of comfort at this point that the lines are firmly drawn where they need to, given that in the commissioner's own words, these weapons cause death."
Mr. Holland added that he is disappointed that the RCMP is relying on U.S. studies to justify its use of tasers. He said that there should be limits on the weapon's use against children and teenagers.
Mr. Elliott, however, said the RCMP is not prepared to go in that direction.
"Unfortunately, our officers, from time to time, encounter 14-year-olds who are extremely threatening," he said.
Sergeant Scott Warren, chairman of the RCMP's officer safety committee, said the matter is more complicated in real-life situations.
"The commissioner, with all due respect, is incorrect to say we wouldn't use them again for actively resistant people," he told CTV News.
There is an ongoing public inquiry into the Dziekanski case in British Columbia. The province's Solicitor-General, John van Dongen, said the new RCMP policy is a step in the right direction, but that the government will wait until the end of the inquiry to form a provincial set of standards.
The RCMP rethinks the risks of tasers, Globe Editorial, February 12, 2009.
The RCMP has taken a brave step by acknowledging that taser use presents a “risk of death” to agitated individuals. Its new taser policy, apparently adopted last June but made public only yesterday by Commissioner William Elliott, is a sharp break with the force's previous thinking, and indeed that of the vast majority of police forces that use the 50,000-volt electric stun gun in North America.
No Canadian police force had ever publicly acknowledged that tasers pose a fatal risk. The admission changes everything, or should. Police have always insisted the taser is low-risk; it followed that it could be used in low-risk situations, justified by the specious argument that sometimes low-risk confrontations escalate to high-risk ones. With the admission of fatal risks, there will have to be a certain threshold of danger before the RCMP can use the weapon.
There is some lack of clarity about where that threshold is set. The RCMP rejected a recommendation from the House of Commons Public Safety Committee that the taser be classed as an “impact weapon” authorized for use only when someone displays “assaultive behaviour” or poses a threat of death or grievous bodily harm. But Mr. Elliott told the committee that the new policy, explained to all RCMP members on June 18, is that the taser “must only be used where it is necessary to do so in circumstances of threats to officer or public safety.” This is strange, contradictory wording. “Threats” is a soft word; “necessary” is a strong word. “Necessary” implies that all alternatives need to be considered first; it means, essentially, that there must be no other choice. If the weapon poses what Mr. Elliott called a “high risk of death” on an acutely agitated individual, then it should be used only when that individual presents a severe threat.
The proof of what the RCMP means by its new policy will be found in how it uses the taser. The force's latest statistics, from Jan. 1 to March 31 of last year, show 304 uses, but no reporting on threat levels except for the most extreme category, risk of death or grievous bodily harm, which accounted for just 17.4 per cent of cases. That is the time to use lethal force, not a taser, the report explicitly says. (Mr. Elliott was being disingenuous when he cited an incident where police tasered a man swinging an axe at his father, to explain to the committee how tasers save lives. Used inappropriately, he was saying, it works.)
The policy change is welcome evidence that the Mounties are not impervious to change. Yes, it took the needless taser death of a distressed, unarmed Polish immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, on Oct. 14, 2007, at the Vancouver International Airport; it took a judicial inquiry, still in progress, into that death; it took critical reports from an independent RCMP watchdog; it took pressure from the Commons committee; and it took innumerable editorials across the country and other forms of public protest. But the RCMP deserves credit for making the change.
This is a considerable step forward that is bound, eventually, to be felt at other police forces. It reduces the likelihood that there will be another incident like the one in which Robert Dziekanski was killed.
RCMP policy says Tasers can kill, restricts use, Sue Bailey, February 13, 2009.
OTTAWA - RCMP policy changes acknowledge that Taser stun guns can kill - especially “acutely agitated” suspects - and will now restrict their use to cases involving threats to officers or public safety.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott says the new rules clearly set out that Mounties can’t zap suspects for simple resistance or refusing to co-operate.
Tasers “hurt like hell,” he said Thursday of his own reaction to a trial firing. And their use must be justified as a necessary and reasonable use of force, he told MPs on the Commons public safety committee.
“The RCMP’s revised (Taser) policy underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for agitated individuals.”
RCMP restrict Taser use, Andrew Mayeda, February 12, 2009.
Taser must be only used in "reasonable" circumstances: New policy
OTTAWA — The RCMP have reined in their use of Tasers, instructing their officers to employ the devices only when they or the public find themselves in danger, says RCMP commissioner William Elliott.
Moreover, in their most explicit acknowledgment yet of the Taser’s deadly potential, the Mounties are now training their officers to recognize that using the devices carries the “risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals,” Elliott told the House of Commons public safety committee on Thursday.
Under previous use-of-force guidelines, RCMP officers could use Tasers on “actively resistant” individuals, such as suspects refusing to be handcuffed.
“We’ve now made it very clear that the only time the use of a Taser can be justified is where there is a threat, either to our officers or to members of the public,” Elliott told reporters later in a news conference at RCMP national headquarters.
The RCMP’s use of conducted-energy weapons, as Tasers are formally known, has been under intense scrutiny since October 2007, when Robert Dziekanski died at the Vancouver International Airport after being tasered by RCMP.
In June, the RCMP’s public complaints watchdog, Paul Kennedy, called on the Mounties to implement stricter rules requiring officers to use Tasers only when a suspect poses a “significant” threat to police, himself or herself, or the public.
At the time, the RCMP said they were examining their "use-of-force regime.” On Thursday, Elliott outlined several changes to the force’s formal Taser policies:
• Officers will now be warned of the hazards of subjecting individual to multiple Taser charges or applying the device on a “continuous cycle”;
• The new training policy “underscores that there are risks associated with the deployment of the device and emphasizes that those risks include the risk of death, particularly for acutely agitated individuals”;
• Commanding officers have been advised to improve protocols for getting emergency medical assistance for individuals hit with a Taser;
• The Mounties have committed to detailed quarterly and annual reporting on Taser usage by their officers.
Despite the changes, Elliott said he continued to view the Taser as a “useful tool” when used “appropriately” by well-trained officers. And following his committee testimony, he stopped short of identifying Tasers as the direct cause of any deaths.
“I do not think there is evidence that Tasers kill, but certainly we have had some incidents where shortly after a Taser was deployed, individuals died, and certainly there is a distinct possibility that the deployment of the Taser . . . contributed to the individual’s death,” Elliott said.
However, Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said the commissioner appeared to be contradicting himself.
“He’s sending out mixed signals to the members and really creating a situation where, if I were an RCMP officer, I’m wondering, ‘When should I use this weapon? What exactly is going on here?’” Holland told reporters.
Holland called on the Mounties to agree to “third-party independent testing of these weapons to be able to determine exactly how dangerous they are.”
He also said the force needs to clarify its policy on the use of Tasers against minors.
Meanwhile, New Democrat MP Jack Harris said he was concerned with the vague wording of the policy change. “The term ‘public safety’ is subject to interpretation and discretion, so I’m not totally satisfied that the rules have changed, but in terms of specifics for no longer allowing the use of a Taser for mere resisting . . . we’re satisfied there’s some movement.”
Kennedy, the public complaints commissioner, echoed that concern, noting that the previous guidelines appeared to offer more specifics on how officers should ramp up the use of force. Kennedy said the impact of the policy changes will depend on how well officers are trained.
“I think he’s taken a step forward, but whether or not the changes they’ve made are adequate, we’ll have to look at the usage that is occurring,” he said Thursday.
RCMP Commissioner misled Canadians on Taser use policy, Liberal Party Media Release, March 26, 2009.
OTTAWA – The Commissioner of the RCMP must explain why he misled Canadians on the RCMP’s Taser use policy, said Liberal Public Safety Critic Mark Holland today.
“The Commissioner misled Canadians when he told them that the RCMP had changed their policy to make Taser use more restrictive,” said Mr. Holland. “In fact, the RCMP’s policy has been weakened.”
On February 12th, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told the Public Safety and National Security Committee that the RCMP had followed recommendations laid out in the committee’s June 2008 report on Tasers, which called for their restricted use.
But in a CBC report last night, it was learned that far from restricting the use of Tasers, the RCMP actually removed specific provisions that prohibit officers from discharging their Tasers more than once on an individual. In addition, a provision was also removed that required officers to issue a warning to suspects before they fire their Tasers.
In the CBC report, the RCMP claims that this revised policy reflects new studies that have shown that it is safe to use Tasers multiple times. However, of the two studies upon which they base their new policy, one did not look into the effects of multiple deployments and the other was commissioned by Taser International, the company that makes the stun guns.
The RCMP chose to ignore a comprehensive report published by the United States Department of Justice revealing that many deaths are associated with repeated discharges of Tasers, the medical risks are unknown, and that caution is urged in using multiple activations, according to the CBC.
Mr. Holland said he will be bringing a motion before the House of Commons to immediately recall Commissioner Elliott before the committee to explain himself.
“We have some disconcerting contradictions of fact here,” he said. “The Commissioner owes it to Canadians to come back to the committee and clear this up immediately. It is a matter of public safety and trust and we deserve the truth.”
RCMP softened Taser-use restrictions, CBC, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
New research suggests more shots raise likelihood of causing death.
In response to national anger at the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver airport, the RCMP was urged to curb multiple Taser use by its officers — but instead deleted an existing restriction from its stun-gun policy.
CBC News has learned that on Feb. 3, 2009, two sentences were erased from the main document that guides officers' actions — the first limiting Taser usage to one shot and no more than 20 seconds at a time, and the second requiring officers to warn suspects before deploying a stun gun.
"They have in fact not placed stricter guidelines on the multiple usage of the Taser; they've in fact removed the ban on multiple use in their new guidelines," said Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who was a member of a parliamentary committee that reviewed RCMP Taser use.
"And that is absolutely reprehensible, it's unacceptable, it's retrogressive — it's actually moving backwards."
The RCMP's policy change comes at a time when new independent research has emerged suggesting that chance of death from stun guns rises with each exposure, contrary to claims by the largest stun-gun manufacturer and police forces using the devices.
"It is a linear relationship: the more you are exposed — if you double the exposure, you double the risk of death," Pierre Savard, a biomedical engineer at Montreal's École Polytechnique who specializes in effects of electricity on the heart, told CBC News.
Savard studied statistics on more than 300 Taser-related deaths compiled by Amnesty International and results from 3,200 RCMP Taser deployments amassed by CBC/Radio-Canada and the Canadian Press.
That electrical current, says Savard, increases the heart rate and can directly affect the cardiac rhythm. "There are plausible mechanisms that can relate the Taser itself to death," said Savard.
A direct link between Tasers and death cannot yet be established, says Savard, until there are enough deaths for such analysis. He notes as an example that it wasn't immediately possible to link lung cancer to smoking when mass cigarette use first began.
Dziekanski hit by stun gun for 31 seconds
The Arizona-based Taser International maintains that its stun guns don't affect the heart and several zaps have no more effect on your health than one.
It points out that thousands of people have survived stun guns and compares the weapon's cycles to hollow ping pong balls: "If one ping-pong ball hit to the head does not kill you, 1,000 probably cannot either."
Based on his findings, however, Savard believes police forces should limit exposure to one or two shocks and not more than 20 seconds in total.
RCMP Corp. Gregg Gillis, a use-of-force trainer in B.C., denies the sentences were removed due to legal concerns.
He says the force never had an outright ban on using the weapon more than once and instead allowed the situation dictate the use.
The restriction written in the 2005 policy was based on older research, since proven wrong, about electrical weapons impairing breathing, said Gillis.
"We said be cautious about the use of multiple exposures, because we're not sure what the outcome might be from that, because there wasn't clear medical research that spoke to that issue."
Use of Tasers by the RCMP and other police forces has come under intense scrutiny since Dziekanski's death on Oct. 14, 2007, in the arrivals area of the Vancouver International Airport.
A bystander's amateur video captured Dziekanski's final moments, allowing officials and people around the world to witness the encounter between him and the four RCMP officers.
Committee pushed for restrictions
The video reveals that RCMP Const. Kwesi Millington deployed the Taser on Dziekanski five times, for a total of 31 seconds in the span of a minute. At the Braidwood inquiry, Millington testified he feared for the officers' safety after Dziekanski grabbed a stapler.
Dziekanski clearly falls to the floor in the video, taped by Paul Pritchard, but the constable uses the stun gun four more times.
After learning that her son had been shocked five times with a Taser, Zofia Cisowski told CBC News that she wondered why police use Tasers at all.
"They say they are human being[s] but who was my son? Also a human being," she said.
The House of Commons public safety and national security committee was among a handful of groups to investigate in the months that followed. In a report released in mid-June of 2008, the group, representing politicians of all stripes, called the RCMP's policy too permissive and pointed out weaknesses in officer training.
Most importantly, the committee called for the force to put "clear restrictions" on officers discharging stun guns multiple times and recommended they limit use to cases where the suspect is combative or poses a "risk of death and grievous bodily harm."
And if the Mounties weren't willing to do so by mid-December, the committee threatened to seek a moratorium on their use of the weapons. Eight months after the committee's report, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott told the committee that the force had introduced a revised Taser policy back in June 2008.
"I believe the facts are we have made significant changes in response to the committee's report and to respond to the recommendations," Elliott told the parliamentary committee on Feb. 12, 2009. "We have taken steps to restrict its use."
Elliott declined to be interviewed by the CBC but said in a letter sent Wednesday afternoon that he stands by his earlier assertion that the new policy restricts Taser use and "specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling" of Tasers.
The policy added recognition that a stun gun could cause death, especially for "acutely agitated" individuals, and still informed officers that multiple or continuous shocks may be hazardous.
But the RCMP eliminated a line prohibiting officers from shocking someone more than once.
The old policy, in place since 2005, had stated: "Multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the [Conducted Energy Weapons] may be hazardous to a subject. Unless situational factors dictate otherwise … do not cycle the CEW repeatedly, nor more than 15-20 seconds at a time against a subject."
RCMP out of touch: Dosanjh
In another section, the policy instructed officers to issue a warning before using a Taser. "Police, stop or you will be hit with 50,000 volts of electricity!"
Dosanjh, the Liberal MP who was a member of the parliamentary committee, was outraged by the removal of the two sentences.
"The public safety minister has an obligation to call Mr. Elliott into his office and say, 'What are you doing? Why are you not levelling with Canadians?' " said Dosanjh. " 'Why are you not levelling with the House of Commons committee that made recommendations?' "
He said the RCMP's upper echelons appear to be out of touch with Canadians' views on Taser use and the force is in need of an overhaul.
"They don't understand the depth of the anger that Canadians feel about the Taser."
Some also fear such policy changes could serve to protect the RCMP in future cases of Taser-related deaths.
"It could weaken the case of a victim if indeed the policies of the RCMP are more permissible than they were at the time of Robert Dziekanski's death," said Don Rosenbloom, the lawyer representing the Polish government at the Braidwood inquiry.
RCMP trainer Gillis cited two studies for making the force's policy change: one examining police officers who received one five-second shock; and another paid for by Taser International on the effects of repeated stuns on breathing.
And Gillis insists that officers are hearing the message on how dangerous multiple stun-gun use can be during training.
In fact, three of the officers involved in the Dziekanski case were trained by Gillis three months before the death, but appeared unclear on the policy during testimony at the Braidwood inquiry.
Two of the officers, Millington and Const. Bill Bentley, couldn't recall why the policy on multiple Taser use was adopted.
And in fact, the study cited by Elliott to the parliamentary committee to defend the safety of Tasers, done by a U.S. government agency, the National Institute of Justice, questions multiple stun-gun use.
While it found stun-gun exposure is safe in most cases, it clearly stated that the risk of death following repeated or continuous Taser exposure is still unknown.
"Law enforcement should be aware that the associated risks are unknown. Therefore, caution is urged in using multiple activations of CED as a mean to accomplish subdual."
An analysis of RCMP stun gun reports by CBC and the Canadian Press found that 45 per cent of cases involved an officer firing the stun gun more than once.
As for deleting the verbal warning officers are to give suspects, Gillis said it was taken out due to accuracy.
Tasers don't conduct 50,000 volts of electricity, he says, noting that the weapon's electrical impact is measured in current, the rate of the flow of electrons, rather than voltage, the amount of force driving the flow.
Gillis said officers are generally trained to use appropriate warnings to de-escalate situations, even though the policy no longer requires it.
In Dziekanski's case, no warning was issued by Const. Kwesi Millington before the first of five stun-gun deployments.
Letter from RCMP Commissioner William Elliott to the CBC, CBC, Wednesday, March 25, 2009.
This is to follow up on your request for an interview today with me and your subsequent telephone conversation with Supt. Tim Cogan. We understand you wanted to ask about your perception that there is a discrepancy between the RCMP’s revised policy on Conducted Energy Weapons and statements I made to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) on February 12, 2009. Unfortunately I am not available to be interviewed.
In your conversation with Supt. Cogan, you referenced my opening remarks to SECU where I addressed the second recommendation of the Standing Committee’s June 2008 Report and indicated “The RCMP’s revised CEW policy restricts the use of CEWs and specifically warns of the hazards of multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW.”
I stand by this statement. It refers to the two aspects of the recommendation in question, relating to usage guidelines more broadly and multiple discharges.
The revised RCMP policy does restrict the use of CEWs. Section 3. 1. 1 of the revised Operational Manual (O.M.) states: “The CEW must only be used in accordance with CEW training, the principles of the Incident Management/Intervention Model (IM/IM) and in response to a threat to officer or public safety as determined by a member’s assessment of the totality of the circumstances being encountered. NOTE: Member’s actions must be reasonable and the force used must be necessary in the circumstances.”
With respect to the second aspect of the recommendation, RCMP policy includes a warning to Members that: “Multiple deployment or continuous cycling of the CEW may be hazardous to a subject.” (O.M. 3. 1. 3).
The new policy further provides that: “Acutely agitated or delirious persons may be at a high risk of death. If an individual is in an acutely agitated or delirious state, and whenever possible when responding to reports of violent individuals, request the assistance of emergency medical services. If possible bring medical assistance to the scene.” (O.M. 3. 1. 4)
The policy also directs members to make every effort to “take control of the subject as soon as possible following deployment of a CEW, and if possible during the CEW deployment”. The new policy also clearly states that “the CEW is not intended as a restraint device” (O.M. 3. 1. 5).
The statements I made to the Standing Committee are completely consistent with the policy.
I trust this clarifies any misunderstanding you may have had about the RCMP’s revised CEW policy and my statements to the Standing Committee.
The Nine Principles of Policing, Sir Robert Peel, Charles Rowan, Richard Mayne, 1829.
1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.
2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.
4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.
5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.
6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.
7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.
9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.
Police have lost public's trust and confidence, Catherine Mitchell, Saturday March 28, 2009.
A year ago, at a gala dinner that attracted a lot of big names, a senior officer told me he felt that the Winnipeg police department was getting very close to a tipping point -- the point at which the public loses faith in the force's integrity and its ability to protect the streets and the people who walk them.
That was three months before the storm erupted at the Taman inquiry, but some of the details of how badly the investigation of Derek Harvey-Zenk's action was botched were known. It was widely known that Harvey-Zenk, then an officer, had been at an all-night drinking party with co-workers before he drove without braking into the back of a woman's car, stopped at a red light, and killed her.
I doubt that even the top cop, with his inside information, could have fathomed at the time the outrage that would hit as the inquiry heard officer after officer repeat the infamous "I do not recall" chorus about how much drinking went on, how much Harvey-Zenk consumed at the shifter at Branigan's restaurant and then at an East St. Paul house party that lasted until 7 a.m. the next day.
Compounding the outrage, though, was a deeper betrayal. The Winnipeg police force was asked to help out the East St. Paul force by questioning Harvey-Zenk's drinking buddies about the party at the restaurant -- how long were they there, how much alcohol and food was purchased. They did a slapdash, no-problem-here kind of job. The Winnipeg Police Service's professional standards unit was excoriated by the inquiry, which found it tossed aside professional standards out of deference to fellow cops.
In the midst of the Taman inquiry, the senior officer's sentiments returned to me, more as an understatement than prophecy. Peel's Nine Principles of Policing were written by Robert Peel, founder of modern policing in Britain and future British prime minister in 1822. The statement places special emphasis on the importance of public support for police: "The ability of police to perform their duties is dependent on public approval of police action."
Winnipeggers are still recovering from the beating their faith in police took out of the Taman scandal. It is difficult to get past the fact those entrusted to investigate took out the kid gloves when it came to one of their own, thereby contributing to a miscarriage of justice.
That same sense of betrayal has returned like a bad headache, in the form of yet another inquiry, looking into the Tasering death of Robert Dziekanski.
The Vancouver inquiry has watched the four responding RCMP constables take the stand, forced to admit they got it all wrong, that the "facts" of the encounter as recorded in their notes and statements were pretty close to fiction.
They described Dziekanski was threatening and aggressive, even as he was walking away from them. The amateur video taken by a bystander at the Vancouver airport disproved those claims, showed the man was repeatedly Tasered for holding a stapler in his hand, no questions asked, no real attempt at defusing tension as four constables surrounded a bewildered traveller who had been wandering in the airport for 10 hours. This week, one of those constables refused to admit he had his leg pinned on the back of the man's neck as he lay on his stomach, despite the video evidence.
In the curious post-reconstruction of events, those trained to observe and to record "just the facts," and trained in necessary use of force, a stapler morphed into a dangerous weapon held by a combative subject. A man writhing and screaming in pain as he is Tasered five times is regarded as resisting compliance with police orders.
I returned to Peel's principles, wherein he reminds the constabulary of its duty to walk softly: "Police use force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient" to gain compliance of the public with the law and use "only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective."
Compounding the problem of the RCMP notes that bore little resemblance to the events at the airport is the fact that those officers, too, were investigated by an internal affairs unit and found to have done nothing wrong. There was reliable videotape evidence that said otherwise, but it apparently mattered little against the notes of those who stopped an anxious traveller dead in his tracks.
It is too glib to conclude that the RCMP need better training, just as it was simply naive to believe that none among 24 officers at a drinking party would have noticed anything useful about how much or what Harvey-Zenk had to drink before he plowed his truck into the rear end of a car sitting at a stop light on the highway.
The public has tipped. It did not jump nor did it stumble. It has been shoved past the point of keeping faith with those who take on the tough job of keeping peace and order.
Two inquiries, six months apart, put police integrity to the test and it failed miserably. The Taman inquiry revealed municipal police to be appallingly bad at policing their own; the Dziekanski inquiry has shaken the public's faith in the ability of police to accurately record the facts of events in notes that lead to the conviction of people on criminal charges.
It fell to luck that amateur video laid bare the truth of what happened when the RCMP met a distraught traveller seeking assistance in a foreign land.
Canada needs a Robert Peel, which is to say it needs a sweeping reform to the institutional culture that prepares those who are entrusted to follow the law to keep the law.
RCMP shamed by testimony, Lee Prokaska, March 28, 2009.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott has urged Canadians not to condemn our national police force before we know all the facts and circumstances in the Robert Dziekanski affair.
That is indeed a tall order for the average Canadian following the public inquiry into the Polish immigrant's death at the Vancouver airport in October 2007. It is all the more difficult to hold off on judging the Mounties given the force's scandal-ridden recent history.
It surely must have been difficult for rank-and-file officers to watch public trust crumble, particularly under what has been termed the "autocratic" leadership of former commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli. An investigation into the management of the force's $12-billion pension fund did not help; neither did the gross mishandling of the case of Maher Arar, an Ottawa computer engineer who was arrested by U.S. authorities in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was tortured into false confessions of links to al-Qaeda. Arar's name was cleared by an inquiry and he has since received more than $10 million in compensation from Ottawa.
The Dziekanski inquiry has so far cast yet another shameful pall over the Mounties involved in the incident in which Dziekanski, who spoke no English, died after being Tasered and subdued. That shame rests solely with the individual officers. It has nothing to do with members of the public unfairly rushing to judgment. These officers shamed themselves with their own testimony.
All four officers who have testified at the inquiry have changed key elements of earlier statements about the events that led to Dziekanski's death. Some explanations to the inquiry of what transpired that night were inconsistent with video taken of the events. Dan Rosenbloom, a lawyer acting for the Polish republic, has suggested to the inquiry that the four Mounties "collaborated to fabricate" their story to justify their actions after the fact.
Have these police officers lied to the public inquiry? Were they confused in the aftermath of what must certainly have been a highly charged chain of events? These are completely legitimate questions.
Those who choose to become police officers deserve both our respect and our thanks. There is no doubt policing is a stressful and dangerous job. It requires courage, quick-thinking, self-confidence and a strong sense of right and wrong.
But to maintain the confidence of the public it serves, a police force -- local, provincial or national -- and its individual officers must also demonstrate in everything they do that they take their responsibilities seriously, and that they do not play fast and loose with the truth to protect themselves. To do otherwise seriously undermines their moral authority and the public perception of their trustworthiness.
Right from the start, the events surrounding Dziekanski's death have made Canadians feel queasy, particularly because the video of the incident streamed into our homes repeatedly. We do not want to judge the RCMP prematurely, but it is becoming more and more difficult to avoid doing so.
Broken RCMP needs overhaul, Calgary Herald, March 28, 2009.
When William Elliott was appointed RCMP commissioner in 2007, the challenges ahead were monumental.It fell to Elliott, a career civil servant, to rebuild the tattered remains of our once-proud national police force, and restore public trust in an institution that had badly fallen into disrepute. The 24,000-member force was "horribly broken," according to an independent review at the time.
Less than two years later, the force is even worse off, and Elliott has failed to deliver. He needs to step aside -- or be fired -- so someone more effective and trustworthy can again try to restore accountability, transparency and integrity to our damaged Mounties.
Elliott has proven he's as much out of touch as was his predecessor, Giuliano Zaccardelli. Canadians are rightly outraged by the persistent culture of arrogance, overzealous policing and coverups that have for too long been the norm.
As the public responds with shock and horror to the testimony of four officers involved in the fatal Tasering of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, Elliott is crying for understanding. The head Mountie had the nerve to suggest Canadians not "jump to conclusions" or engage in "knee jerk" reactions and instead recognize the pressures of policing.
The public understands full well when it hears testimony that's riddled with untruths. Thanks to an amateur video of Dziekanski's confrontation with police at the Vancouver International Airport, the public knows what happened.
The video contradicts all four officers' earlier statements and clearly shows Dziekanski did not need to be Tasered five times to be brought under control.He was being Tasered even while already on the floor, moaning in pain. He was no threat to anyone, never mind to the four healthy RCMP officers who carried guns and wore body armour.
Elliott's defence of his officers at all costs is evidence of the "knee jerk" conclusion he warned against. Between the disgraceful revelations at the judicial inquiry, and a CBC News report this week showing that RCMP Taser standards have in fact weakened under Elliott's watch even though he told a parliamentary committee he would toughen them, it's clear a number of outcomes must occur if the force is to regain its former stature.
- A moratorium on the use of Tasers. A parliamentary committee threatened to do just that if the RCMP didn't bring in "clear restrictions"on officers discharging the stun guns multiple times.
A CBC investigation contradicts Elliott's testimony before the committee last month, when the commissioner said steps had been taken to restrict the use of Tasers.
However, as the CBC report shows, the RCMP has done the opposite--removing two key lines from its use-of-force policy that actually weakens the guidelines.The first guide-line limited use of the Taser to one shot, and no more than 20 seconds at a time.The second required officers to warn their suspects before deploying the electrical current.
The safety of stun guns is much disputed, with police and the main manufacturer arguing no direct link between Tasers and death has been established.
But until there are enough deaths by Tasers to be studied, that link can't be made. New independent research, though, has already shown the chance of death rises each additional time the weapon is deployed.
- The homicide investigation into the four officers' actions must be reopened. Clearly, the four manufactured a version of events that bears no resemblance to reality.
Dziekanski was lost and confused at the airport. No one tried to help him. The officers shot first and asked questions later. They need to be held accountable before the law for their reckless actions that clearly fall well below the accepted standard of practice for RCMP, never mind human beings.
- An independent body of civilians is needed to investigate homicides involving police. It's obvious that police investigating themselves isn't working. There have been too many coverups, and the public has lost trust.
- A new commissioner is needed. Elliott has to go. He has lost credibility and can no longer lead this troubled organization back to health.
The iconic tradition of Canada's Mounties dates back to May 23, 1873.The red serge of their uniforms has come to represent honour, order and a proud past. But red is also the colour of shame. Without drastic change, that will be the sad legacy of this once meaningful organization.
Taser inquiry batters RCMP credibility, Linda Diebel, Mar 28, 2009.
VANCOUVER – An office stapler. Nothing special, right?
But since Robert Dziekanski picked one up at the Vancouver airport when confronted by four Mounties on a fateful morning in 2007, it has become a symbol of growing public outrage with the RCMP over the Polish immigrant's death.
Week after week, the Braidwood Commission of Inquiry looking into the death has heard the four Mounties massage earlier statements about Dziekanski's actions – including with the stapler – as well as their own.
Or, as senior officer Cpl. Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, the final Mountie to testify this week, explained: "I was mistaken, but I was telling the truth."
It's not true, insisted Robinson, that he took Dziekanski's pulse with his work glove on. Or that he put the weight of his knee on the man's neck, rather than on his shoulders. He discounts scenes from an amateur video shot by bystander Paul Pritchard that seem to show otherwise, with the comment: "I don't know how you're interpreting it, but I'm telling you what I did."
It's clear the public grasps inconsistencies in RCMP testimony about what happened early on Oct. 14, 2007, when Dziekanski, 40, was pronounced dead at the scene. He'd been zapped five times by an RCMP Taser, including after he lay writhing on the ground, screaming in pain. "You're assuming he was screaming in pain," Robinson corrected.
Faith in the Mounties appears to be nose-diving. A recent Harris-Decima poll for The Canadian Press shows 60 per cent of respondents feel the officers used excessive force on Dziekanski. Polish Canadians recently started an online petition against the officers through Facebook, and readers routinely fire off critical emails to the Star.
Wrote Lynne Earle from Slave Lake, Alta.: "A sad day for the Force and Joe Public's faith in the system."
This week, RCMP Cpl. Peter Thiessen, a senior media relations officer, told inquiry reporters: "This is a lose-lose situation for everybody ... We are certainly sensitive to the fact the public trust is at a level we would rather not see it at."
Opposition parliamentarians describe a "crisis of confidence" and fear damage to the national force could be permanent. Says NDP public safety critic Jack Harris (St. John's East): "We're very concerned because we're seeing a loss of respect for the RCMP in the minds of Canadians."
Critics urge RCMP Commissioner William Elliott to enforce stricter guidelines for Taser use and, failing that, for Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government to introduce an amendment to the Criminal Code to severely restrict use of Tasers by police.
Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh (Vancouver South), a former B.C. attorney general, urges a moratorium on the use of Tasers. Of the RCMP's Elliott, Dosanjh says: "He has utterly failed; he has shown no guidance, no leadership."
Meanwhile, the world is watching.
"It's the cover-up that's the worst," says Marcin Wrona, covering the hearings for TVN Poland. Last week, two of his broadcasts pulled in close to 4 million viewers. "Incidents happen everywhere, but it's how you handle it."
Before the inquiry, Robinson appeared calm and, at times, aggrieved by questions. In a March 2 letter from his lawyer, he changed key facts about the event, saying he hadn't "articulated well" before. Lawyer Don Rosenbloom, acting for the Polish republic, suggested the four officers cooked up their stories and collaborated to mislead an internal RCMP investigation.
Shortly after Dziekanski's death, RCMP officials described a man who "continued to throw things around and yell and scream" after police arrived. On the basis of the RCMP investigation, plus the amateur video, the Criminal Justice Board of B.C. announced last December that the four officers applied reasonable and necessary force, and that no charges would be recommended.
Thiessen says if additional evidence is brought forward by Commissioner Thomas Braidwood in his report, it "could potentially be forwarded to (RCMP) counsel for their decision." He won't comment when asked whether the altered versions present such evidence.
Certainly, a different image has emerged of Dziekanski, who spoke no English and arrived to live with his mother, Zofia Cisowski, in Kamloops, B.C.; his luggage was filled mostly with geography books.
It now appears he didn't stack his luggage against the door of the secure arrivals area, as officers originally said, nor did he appear in an "agitated state ... angry ... pissed off ... just wired up."
He didn't ignore RCMP commands, nor "wildly swing the stapler" while advancing on the Mounties. He didn't have to be "wrestled" to the ground, as they'd originally stated. Rather, said Robinson: "The Taser took him to the ground."
Still, Robinson insisted Dziekanski was a threat, as he held his stapler to face four Mounties armed with guns, metal batons, pepper spray and the Taser. The amateur video shows what appears to be a confused man who throws up his hands in what Rosenbloom describes as "resignation."
Dziekanski's last words before he was Tasered the first time were (as translated): "So you are not going to let me out of here? Leave me alone! Leave me alone! Are you crazy?"
Then the inquiry heard the sound of the multiple Taser zappings, amplified for viewing by Braidwood, witnesses and spectators, including Dziekanski's mother.
Even on the ground, handcuffed, Dziekanski remained a threat, Robinson claimed. Const. Bill Bentley called in a "Code 3" emergency after seeing a blue discoloration, but Robinson said this week only Dziekanski's ears were blue.
Robinson, whose first-aid training and Taser certification were expired at the time, stuck to his view Dziekanski might be alive if he hadn't picked up the stapler. If he hadn't done so, Const. Kwesi Millington might not have jolted him five times with his Taser, beginning 24 seconds after the Mounties encountered him in arrivals.
"On a personal level, it's so painful to watch (that video)," says Liberal MP and public safety critic Mark Holland (Ajax-Pickering), who says oversight is badly needed for the RCMP. "What a cruel and terrible way to die ... It is so tragic."
Speaking ill of the dead, Editorial, April 2, 2009.
The RCMP can't seem to pass up an opportunity to drag its own name through the mud. As if it were not bad enough to kill an unarmed and distressed man by tasering him five times and kneeling on the back of his neck, a lawyer representing the Mountie who wielded the taser involved is now trying to probe the dead man's past. The allegedly disturbing revelations about Robert Dziekanski that they uncovered at taxpayers' expense in Poland are worse than irrelevant. They're ridiculous.
He had an unspecified run-in with the law at 17! He may have had a toxic relationship with a woman! He drank (though not on the fateful day)! Honest, judge, he brought it on himself!
This is on a par with “the stapler made us do it,” the supposed reason for tasering Mr. Dziekanski, a 40-year-old Polish immigrant waiting 10 hours for his mother at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007. One wonders who is overseeing the Mounties' strategy at the Braidwood inquiry. As in the tasering itself, the RCMP seems unable to stand back and see itself as others see it – as if attack were the only mode it knows.