Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Justice for Robert Dziekanski

It is not every day you get to watch on television the last minutes of a young person's life.

I almost don't want to write this post, because it is about the loss of an innocent life, because it is real and emotional, and because such a tragedy should never be exploited for political or ideological gain of any kind. That said, I feel compelled to, because of the uniqueness of the circumstance, and because of the evidence of which we have available to us.

I am of course referring to the case of Robert Dziekanski being tasered, we now know twice, losing consciousness, and dying soon after, at the Vancouver International Airport.

For what it's worth, my heart goes out to his mother.

We now know, as a result of a video released by Paul Pritchard, that while restless earlier, he had calmed down by the time the RCMP arrived, and was calm when he was tasered. We also know he was tasered a second time after he was on the ground, writhing in pain. We furthermore know that when he lost consciousness, the police made no attempts to revive him.

Overall, as the former victim of a mugging, I am grateful for the presence of police. I believe that the vast majority of police are well intentioned and well trained. However, we can be pretty confident that the police were either negligent or malicious in the performance of their duties at this event.

There can be no dancing around this one, if you are the RCMP. I've already seen a statement from an RCMP spokesperson saying that the video doesn't tell the whole story. Really? Well what party of the story doesn't it tell? It certainly carries far more weight than other other piece of eyewitness evidence could. I can't imagine that line will continue for long.

Of course, the police aren't the only ones at fault here. Why didn't the airport let Mr. Dziekanski know his mother was waiting for him only yards away?

Here's what has to happen, and those of us who are concerned about this will be watching carefully. There will be a coroner's inquest. We don't know for certain what the direct cause of death will be, but there has to determination that the police didn't have to taser him once, let along twice. There also has to be a determination that the police should have tried to resuscitate Mr. Dziekanski. There has to be an independent investigation into the incident. Those officers found responsible, whether those who attended the incident, or those who trained them, must be held accountable. The policy of taser use must be reviewed independently.

No one can bring back Robert Dziekanski. He is lost to his mother forever. However, we can prevent the loss of more innocent people to more loved ones due to poor enforcement policy and practice.