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Friday, November 16, 2007

Robert Dziekanski and the RCMP

Once again, of course, we see in the case of the RCMP and Robert Dziekanski an example of how, when taken out of context, a short video can have a galvanizing effect upon public opinion.  I’m not a law enforcement officers – nor have I received law enforcement training.  But I do have common sense and, unlike many people, I believe that I have the ability to separate logic from emotion.

Is it a tragedy that Robert Dziekanski died?  Of course it is.  Should we blame the RCMP members in question for what happened?  I believe that we should not.

Watch the whole YouTube video – not the short bits that have been played elsewhere.  In this case, a clip without context – and without careful viewing – is meaningless.

In this case, the facts are these: the RCMP was called to respond to a case of a man who appeared to be dangerously out of control.  Again, watch the whole video.   The man is behaving in an extremely erratic fashion, waving what appears to be a table around and throwing items – presumably other people’s property, I might add – to the ground.

Airport security is called to respond.  They quickly conclude that the situation is beyond their pay grade and call for further help.

The RCMP members arrive at the scene.  They are confronted by a violent and obviously out-of-control man.  When confronted by them, he remains confrontational.  According to the RCMP – and there seems to be no reason to disbelieve them on this point – he initially responded and the grabbed a stapler.  That’s consistent with what is seen on the video.

At that point – in that split second – the police officers made the decision to use their Tasers.  Some question that decision, which is their right.  But I think that, frankly, it is simply beyond dispute that – at the point the RCMP arrived and confronted the man – that the use of force to subdue him was necessary.

Now, of course, some might ask why actual physical force was not used.  And, within the context of this discussion, two words should obviously be called to mind: Rodney King.  The police are, quite understandably, hesitant to use their batons to administer beatings to people – even abundantly necessary beatings – for the obvious reason that someone may be filming and that fifteen out-of-context seconds might then be endlessly replayed on the news.   Of course, the risk to the members involved might also be added to that mix – but I personally have little doubt that the move towards the extensive use of Tasers, pepper spray, and so forth by law enforcement is directly related to the desire to avoid the highly unphotogenic results of the traditional beating.

And anyways, based upon his actions, there is little reason to believe that a single blow would have been enough to subdue this man.  Based on what I’ve seen, the only way to subdue him through the route described would have been either to wrestle him to the ground and hold him there – something which could have been equally fatal and potentially injurious to the RCMP members – or to beat him unconscious.  Or perhaps both.

I’m no shill for the police.  Anyone who knows me knows that.  I’m not blind.  I know that those who enforce the laws are merely human.  As it happens, I disagree with a great number of the laws of the land and, in general, feel that the police would be better off finding other things to do than much of what they do on a day-to-day basis (I’m talking, mostly, about various forms of annoying traffic enforcement here and the like). 

But, at the same time I believe that it is vitally necessary for us to defend the guardians of society when they require it.  These RCMP members responded appropriately to a split-second problem that confronted them.  They did their jobs.  To demand that they be punished now, to salve the public conscience, is frankly obscene.

No, what blame there is to be laid here must be apportioned elsewhere.

Perhaps some rests with Customs.  Maybe some with the airport.  Though, I might add, that those whose knees might jerk at the airport for not being able to instantly translate this fellow’s words ought to contemplate the cost of keeping translators for every conceivable language on staff.

While we’re at it, we might also ask some other hard questions.  For example – I would be curious to know why, exactly, a forty year-old man who didn’t speak a single word of English was immigrating to Canada to live with his mother.  While Mr. Dziekanski may well have been a kind and good man, he doesn’t exactly seem to fit the profile of someone who would be high up the list of people this country’s economy required.  Perhaps it might be that some special circumstances underlay his arrival here.   But I have no knowledge of any.

I would also add that, as hard as it is for some to hear, a great deal of the blame for what happened must fall upon Mr. Dziekanski.  It is taking multicultural naiveté to the absolute extreme to argue that, simply because this man found himself in a foreign airport in a frustrating situation, he was thereby excused from all norms of civilized behaviour. 

We have reason to be sad when someone dies in circumstances such as these.  But we should not rush to judgement against the police nor should we take leave of our own senses in an orgy of compassion.

Posted by Adam T. Yoshida on November 16, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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I agree Customs and YVR are at question.
an obvious lack of PR, but at least they didn't kill him.

I understand they were so docile they had to call rcmp, but they didn't kill him.

That took 4 proud members of our finest.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 10:36:16 AM

Another taser death this week:


Posted by: obc | 2007-11-22 10:38:28 AM

The Halifax deputy police chief says he is ' SHOCKED ' that the mans` death could be attributed to a taser 30 hours after the tasing. Pretty ' shocking ' alright.

Posted by: daveh | 2007-11-22 12:10:47 PM


Burbridge said he believes Tasers are safe for use by police.

"It is premature to draw any conclusions that the Taser contributed to this man's death," he told a news conference

I am relieved most of us refuse to put any confidence into a police chiefs professional medical knowledge

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 12:51:00 PM


OoooKay . Fine . Different press conference , I suppose .

Re a doctors` opinion - that isn`t worth too much these days either . Charles Smith would rule it a suicide.

Posted by: daveh | 2007-11-22 2:19:45 PM


With the "Robert Dziekanski" murder in the spot light, perhaps the rcmp should put their toys back into their packages.

Consedering there doesn't seem to be any expert proof these toys don't kill.

If they do kill, what can we say? Death by execution- No questions asked?

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 2:26:22 PM


It said best by Tomax7 earlier in the posts;

...somehow, I think the point of the discussion was the gross error on the YVR RCMP resulting in a death.

Whether by taser or by knee/choke the point MADE was they screwed up SERIOUS. It results in a death when they make mistakes.

Big responsibility. It takes courage and no lawyers to own up to this gross miscarriage of justice.

THAT is the point of the discussion, not whether or not we need cops or don't appreciate them.

Stay focused. Someone died because of this.

Posted by: tomax7 | 21-Nov-07 8:01:10 PM

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 2:35:22 PM

It depends if the cameras are rolling or not .

As posted , my original thought on the Dziekznanzky take - down was that the police find themselves hampered by the unthinking and squeemish do - gooders who demand that old fashioned billy club to the leg law enforcement be replaced by the Star Wars solution of tasing . After all , it`s all so neat and tidy , don`t you know . Most cops know a bit about judo holds and the like . Again too much testosterone there. Not compatible to the open hiring practices so beloved of Human Rights boards. .

Posted by: daveh | 2007-11-22 2:44:58 PM

I supect those 4 thugs could learn that a dash of Common Sense mixed with a pinch of compassion could save lives.

As foreign as it may be to them.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 3:01:28 PM

I agree . They looked like a bunch of autonotons going through the motions. In addition to whatever training they go through , they have to have a base of human compassion and understanding . I saw none of that .
You know ; time to take out the trash and hit the road ; it`s getting late here.

Posted by: daveh | 2007-11-22 3:22:44 PM

...just wondering, just wondering, where there any pretty ladies in the waiting area?

That may have played into this fiasco also.

Come to think of it, they must have thought they hit a gold mine with this one - he wasn't a visible ethnic minority gay/handicap/native type and nothing on his head - he was single, white, and a bit pudgy.

Warp factor 10 boys - we got the PC public on our side this time!

Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-11-22 4:29:18 PM

tomax7 & daveh

The 2 of you are like a breath of fresh air - after dealing for so long with a couple psycho's in here with their lame support of these goons.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 5:42:51 PM

Could it be, the Gangs are emerging without fear...because they have not a lot too fear. As our police seem to be entertaining themselves with 4 to 1 murders? All the while, testing the true strength of their new toys on innocent people?

Two men were shot late last night in Vancouver in a gangland style shooting." The Vancouver Sun reports:

"Both men -- in their 20s -- died at the scene of the gangland-style shooting and their bodies remained inside a four-door silver Mercedes for hours while police continued their investigation.

The men were not the only recent victims of gang violence.

On Saturday, a man was gunned down outside of his house in Vancouver's upscale Shaugnessy neighbourhood. The man was later identified as Hong Chao [Raymond] Huang, who authorities say has links with Asian organized crime.

Police have not linked both crimes but the Lower Mainland has seen a particularly bloody year for gang violence. Last month in Surrey, B.C. six people were found dead in an apartment. Four of the men were alleged to have ties to gangs and drug dealing. Two were innocent by-standers.

In August, two men were killed in a Chinese restaurant. The case had police worried about the possibility of reprisals.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 5:52:13 PM

R.I.P Robert
We'll take it from here.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-22 6:01:00 PM

Did all 17 taser victims in recent history suffer from nicotine withdrawal or did they all have a heart condition?

Everything that could have been done wrong at this airport was done wrong. Everything.

Posted by: Cynic | 2007-11-22 8:15:39 PM

you are a bunch of long winded nuts. a man died among many others from tasers so lets reconsider their use. Sure, sure tasers avoid unphotogenic force so next time just offer the poor guy a dozen Tim Horton donuts or smoke him up and then everyone will be happy again.

Posted by: Jesse Stacey | 2007-11-22 11:55:02 PM

Jesse Stacey

Interesting concept to say the least.

The problem?

The majority are in vote of not having a "next time"

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-23 11:01:12 AM

"...so next time just offer the poor guy a dozen Tim Horton donuts"

You know Jessie, you might have a point there.

Cops used to be reasonable people.

Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-11-23 11:13:29 AM

...btw I know you didn't mean it that way.

Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-11-23 11:13:57 AM

Sure, lets consider the idea that tasers were deployed into the active police inventory WITHOUT being properly tested and researched in regards to their lethality.

What does that say, hmmmm?

Seriously, tasers are going to be reconfirmed to be safe, even if they aren't cause nobodies going to get it in the neck for that I can tell you, and what should have been an inquiry about whether the RCMP should have used any force at all in this specific instance will have effectively been sidetracked down a blind alley.

Posted by: Speller | 2007-11-23 11:29:06 AM

...one 'good thing' that 'might' come out of this is when people see tasers being pulled out, they will comply more quickly.

"Alright men, set to stun"

Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-11-23 12:06:05 PM

..."the constables on scene that fateful night have been reassigned other duties."

Reminds me of the RC church and how it handled certain priests...

Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-11-23 12:08:03 PM

Yes, tomax7, I was reminded of that too when I'd read they were reassigned.

Posted by: Speller | 2007-11-23 12:27:34 PM

This incident happened on Monday Nov,19th
Chilliwack times: reported

hillowack man pepper sprayed, beaten with baton, and tasered - remains in critical condition in hospital.

The incident remains under investigation by the

Chilliwack RCMP serious crime section.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-23 4:51:58 PM

Chilliwack man died Friday just after midnight.

The cause of death has yet to be determined.

I suppose there are 3 scenario's to consider;
- Taser
- Baton beatings to the head
- Combination of both (the confusing one)

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-25 9:56:07 AM

...where's those four RCMP's get reassigned too again?


Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-11-25 10:43:25 AM

Wow! interesting tomax7. Never considered that.

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-25 11:45:19 AM

After sheer brutality, I cannot comprehend

"The cause of death has yet to be determined."

What is that?

Posted by: ds | 2007-11-25 11:52:37 AM

I am confounded. RCMP officer "Koester" was cleared of any wrong-doing in the Ian Bush shooting.

Posted by: A.C.E | 2007-11-30 11:04:04 AM


Two people are ina struggle, and one person has legal authority to possess a gun. The other person is fighting to get the gun to kill the officer. So, in the struggle--from what I gather from reading about the subject, the weapon goes off and fires into the guy trying to kill the police officer.

Sounds like self-defence to me--or would you prefer it that any person, in a struggle, not have a right to self-defence? Or would you prefer only non-police have that right?

Posted by: Lady | 2007-11-30 1:12:58 PM

People who become police officers tend to be control seekers. The ones who aren't are still at risk of becoming power trippers. It's a part of human nature that will never change. When I see a slobbering drunk I sometimes wish I could put him down and out of his misery. Luckily I don't carry a gun or tazer.

In my opinion we should be focusing on the hardware, not the guys using it. Just because the tazer manufacturer says it's safe doesn't make it so. They probably weren't tested on enough animals before going into production. Any electrician will tell you that low-amp currents are the most dangerous for causing heart attacks.
You can bet there's been some serious kick-back money involved in selling so many of these devices. That doesn't really help assure a safe product.

Posted by: dh | 2007-11-30 4:06:16 PM

In my opinion we should be focusing on the hardware, not the guys using it. Just because the tazer manufacturer says it's safe doesn't make it so. They probably weren't tested on enough animals before going into production. Any electrician will tell you that low-amp currents are the most dangerous for causing heart attacks.
You can bet there's been some serious kick-back money involved in selling so many of these devices. That doesn't really help assure a safe product.

Posted by: dh | 30-Nov-07 4:06:16 PM

The appeal of the Taser is that it is less lethal than a gun, the problem lies in the part that it is still lethal (so is a baton if used the "right" way).

The general "consensus" is that Tasers are "harmless" and "non-lethal" which clearly isn't the case. The taser CAN provide an additional tool for police to overpower someone, but it should always seen as a last resort, just before they would shoot someone with a gun:


- De-escalation
- Overpowerment
- Shooting

Posted by: snowrunner | 2007-11-30 4:45:42 PM

...you know in one sense I can side with Taser usage.

Cops are pressed for time. They have to get things done right away. No time for dialogue.

I mean, who can waste 6-8 hours a day chasing cars down Interstate highways or guys holed up in a house?

Send in the Demolition man.

Posted by: tomax7 | 2007-12-08 10:20:18 AM

Egads. I know you're joking Tomax. Or, at least, I hope you are.

Getting things done quickly and cheaply is way over-rated. It happens because of society's sick fascination with little virtual green pieces of paper. Money is the lubricant, it's not the feast; but we tend to forget that. We've become a penny-wise pound-foolish quick-fix culture.

If you take the extra time and effort to figure out a clever way to save someone's life, then you are the real hero.

Long term consideration into real ways to make this land better for us all ... that ought to be the ultimate "pound-wise" efficiency in maximizing the joy and satisfaction of the human condition.

Posted by: Harph | 2007-12-08 11:11:31 AM

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