These are troubling times for the RCMP.
However, they are more troubling for the Canadian public.
After a two-year investigation, a report into the Tasering of Robert Dziekanski was released in Vancouver by Paul Kennedy, the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
The report is damning.
Kennedy, who has been commission chair for four years, ruled he could not trust the sworn testimony of the officers, which often contradicted a video of the lethal arrest taken by Paul Pritchard, a passerby.
“I do not accept as accurate any of the versions of events as presented by the involved members because I find considerable and significant discrepancies in the detail and accuracy of the recollections of the members when compared against the otherwise uncontroverted video evidence,” said Kennedy.
Within 25 seconds of the officers arrival on the scene, Dziekanski was Tasered. Eventually he was hit by the energy weapon five times and was wrestled to the ground by the four officers.
Dziekanski died during the arrest.
In total, Kennedy made 23 findings, including:
The officers made no significant attempt to talk to the man. There was no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the situation and there was no measured or co-ordinated response, said Kennedy.
The use of the Taser was premature and inappropriate.
The RCMP’s investigation into the affair was confused and failed to present accurate information to the public.
The four officers met together in the Vancouver International Airport right after Dziekanski’s death, prior to giving their statements. That was highly inappropriate and should never have happened, said Kennedy.
The senior officer on the scene should never have attended at the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team briefing following Dziekanski’s death.
And, while that team showed no bias or partiality, it should have been shown the Pritchard video prior to taking statements from the RCMP officers.
This is disturbing stuff. But it gets worse.
Kennedy, the fellow who launched this investigation, asked the RCMP to comment on his findings.
To restore public confidence, the RCMP must recognize the event was not acceptable and take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again, said Kennedy.
Instead, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott is objecting to the release of the report and is refusing to respond to its findings and 16 recommendations.
It would be inappropriate to do so before the Braidwood Inquiry into the affair wraps up, he said in a letter to Kennedy.
That’s not expected to happen until March at the earliest. It looks like RCMP stalling tactics. Kennedy agrees.
This intentional disregard for the report is “bizarre to the extreme,” Kennedy is quoted as saying in the National Post. “It has not impressed me at all.”
It has been a fairly common occurrence.
Kennedy has criticized previous police investigations. Elliott’s responses to other reports have been similarly tardy. Over the past four years, he’s had to wait 429 days, 734 days and 805 days for responses to three previous reports critical of the force.
That suggests a contempt for any objective oversight of the force. That type of intransigence is unsettling for a national police force under investigation for wrongdoing.
Kennedy has asked for more oversight powers. He hasn’t been granted any.
In fact, the Harper government has sacked Kennedy. They won’t renew his contract in the new year.
The Dziekanski report is Kennedy’s last. There is currently no second in command at the commission to carry the ball. And the federal government has named no successor.
That, too, is troubling.
As well, as a sideshow to the whole affair, Cpl. Benjamin Monty Robinson, who ordered the Tasering of Dziekanski, was involved in a motor vehicle accident that killed a 21-year-old motorcyclist.
He left the scene to drink some vodka shots, he claims.
He arrived back 10 minutes later, reeking of booze and well over the legal limit, according to Delta police on the scene. The police recommended charging the Mountie for impaired driving causing death. It also recommended a charge of dangerous driving causing death.
But the BC Crown decided not to do so. Too difficult to prove, a spokesman for BC’s Ministry of Attorney-General told the National Post.
Instead, more than a year later, it will charge Robinson with a lesser charge of obstruction of justice.
It’s possible he could return to active duty with the RCMP.
It’s not easy to sack police officers, Elliott told the Edmonton Journal in November.
“It should be easier for us to fire members of the RCMP where that’s appropriate,” he said. “It doesn’t happen very often, but right now it takes a very long time to fire an officer for gross misconduct.”
Indeed, it seems very hard to manage and rein in the RCMP on every level.
Without Kennedy, or his successor, it will be even harder.
The federal government should appoint one quickly.
Canada’s recalcitrant RCMP is looking a lot like a runaway train.
The national police are the public face of Canadian justice.
These days, the public can be excused for wondering what, exactly, that means. (Richard Mostyn)