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December 13, 2008

24 seconds

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24: 24 seconds.
That's how long it took before the RCMP first set eyes on Robert Dziekanski, a Polish Immigrant who flew into Vancouver International Airport before they reacted and tasered him five times (not two as they had originally stated) for a total of 31 seconds at which point he died on October 14, 2007.

He'd been travelling for 14 hours prior to that. He had never previously been on a plane. He couldn't speak English and apparently couldn't figure out where to go because his mother who was coming by bus from Kamloops had told him to just stay put.

The airport staff didn't seem to notice that a person had been standing in the airport for 10 hours which makes me think it wouldn't be that hard to be a terrorist, hanging out, at YVR if a very tall and very large Polish-speaking guy is able to just hang out for 10 hours, even when visibly agitated.

So, the blame has to jointly fall on both YVR procedure and security and the RCMP members who this weekend had no charges layed against them when The Braidwood Commission revealed their decision. But, it also most prominently comes back to the question and controversy of whether the use of Tasers is actually a reasonable, necessary and safe means to subdue individuals.

The question I always have when I hear about stun gun deaths is why other means are not used by police prior to them resorting to what seems from the outside to be a very lazy form of policing. There were four mounties. We all saw what happened on the video and clearly they didn't use any kind of conflict resolution. They didn't have time to think about what else they could do besides using a Tazer even though it was clear the person didn't speak English and therefore would not know what they were requesting. His hands went up in the "I'm not going to do anything crazier than I've already done so don't hurt me" mode.

They didn't use any kind of take down methods that existed prior to Tazers being part of their arsenal which they must have been trained to use as part of their training. Having worked for a year at the Justice Institute of BC which trains police and has a world class program in conflict resolution, whenever I hear about these incidents I want to know why it is that tasers are not really being used as a last resort when training must present it as such.

Yesterday, December 11th, no charges were layed against the four officers because apparently there was not enough "evidence" to lay criminal charges. But, anyone who saw the video has to think that there must have been another way for four large RCMP officers to subdue this guy. And let's not forget that it was a private citizen who actually showed the world the truth when the RCMP tried to downplay how many times they tazered him and why.

I can't imagine what it must be like to be his mother, first in hearing about his death and now in hearing that criminally, the four RCMP officers are not responsible. People often try to create meaning from some senseless act and this is yet another case in which it's just not possible to do that.

Read the BC Civil Liberties submission to the Inquiry.

Read what Amnesty International says about "conducted energy devices" a.k.a. Tasers.

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