RCMP accepts report on Dziekanski death

The federal RCMP watchdog says the national police force is addressing all 16 recommendations on Taser use that flowed from the Robert Dziekanski case.

The federal RCMP watchdog says the national police force is addressing all 16 recommendations on Taser use that flowed from the Robert Dziekanski case.

The issues range from officer training and note-taking, to regular testing of the Tasers and a stricter protocol on when to fire them.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP also said Thursday the force has accepted almost all of its 23 findings in an investigation of the tragic incident.

Dziekanski died in October 2007 after he was stunned repeatedly with an RCMP Taser at the Vancouver airport. He was en route from Poland to join his mother in Kamloops, B.C., where he hoped to begin a new life.

A video of the confrontation recorded by a passerby in the aiport, showing an agitated and sweaty Dziekanski being zapped repeatedly, was seen by millions of people — stirring public outrage and sparking widespread re-examination of stun-gun use.

The Mounties issued new a new Taser policy last May, saying they would fire stun guns at people only when they're hurting someone or clearly about to do so.

The commission for public complaints released its interim findings on the Dziekanski case in December 2009. It concluded the conduct of the four members who responded to the airport call fell far short of expectations.

The Mounties made no meaningful attempt to de-escalate the tense situation, nor did they take measured, appropriate action, the complaints body found. It said use of the Taser by Const. Kwesi Millington was premature and that Dziekanski was jolted multiple times without a significant effort to determine whether that was necessary.

The complaints commission also said the versions of events related by the four officers were not credible.

All but one finding accepted

Last December, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott formally responded to the complaints commission, accepting all but one of its 23 findings.

Elliott disagreed with the finding that the use of force expert used by the Lower Mainland Integrated Homicide Investigation Team probing the Dzienkanski incident was not provided with adequate direction in his investigation.

In regard to the 22 accepted findings, the force followed up in January with an outline of steps taken to address the 16 recommendations. Those responses were made public Thursday.

In his letter to complaints chairman Ian McPhail, Elliott said he "regrets the length of time" it has taken to respond but notes the force wanted time to review the findings of a B.C. inquiry into the Dziekanski case before doing so. The B.C. probe, led by Thomas Braidwood, also found use of a Taser against Dziekanski was unjustified.

Elliott said he agrees with the complaints commission's conclusions about the airport incident, including the key finding that use of the stun gun was premature "and that Const. Millington should have issued a warning as provided for in the applicable RCMP policy in effect at the time."

"The RCMP is committed to doing all we can to learn from the tragic death of Mr. Dziekanski and to continue to work to achieve our vision for change for the RCMP to be an adaptive, accountable, trusted organization," Elliott said in the letter.

Among the changes implemented, or being put in place, by the RCMP:

  •  A new policy that clarifies the threshold for Taser use.
  • More emphasis on de-escalation of standoffs with suspects.
  • A "responsibility to report" policy to ensure officers provide timely accounts of major incidents.
  • An updated note-taking policy that includes more supervision.
  • A new review policy to generally end the practice of RCMP investigating serious incidents involving other Mounties.
  • A review of policy guidance on restraint devices used on suspects with the aim of avoiding asphyxiating them.

The RCMP has also revamped its communication policy to better deal with the media and public. However, the force acknowledges in the response to the commission that there are "continuing concerns" about its public relations efforts.

The commission said it "hopes that progress in this area continues."