Tuesday, November 27, 2007

RCMP


I listened to VOCM's Nightline (a local radio station's open line program) last evening and was sickened to hear one caller call the four RCMP officers who tasered the Polish Immigrant in Vancouver Airport "murderers". While it is unfortunate that this man died after being tasered, the RCMP were called to the scene because the man was acting illegally. I, along with millions of travellers, have been stuck in airports for extended periods. The language barrier added to his frustration, but there are Police in Poland, and he probably knew that they were there because of his behaviour, especially since he had a criminal record in Poland and has dealt with police there.

Since 9-11, every traveller on this planet has experienced first-hand the tightened security in airports and KNOW that suspicious behaviour will NOT be tolerated. In fact, I heard a news story that an 80 year-old man was arrested because he made a joking comment about a "bomb". Just last spring I was taken out of line in security in the US because I had forgotten I had a bottle of Vaseline an a small penknife in my camera bag. I, like 99.99 percent of travellers, was totally cooperative and handed over the items without argument.

However, Mr. Dziekansk was so out of control that the RCMP were called to deal with the situation.

They had four choices:

  • Talk to the man to calm him down
    Airport officials had been dealing with him for 6-8 hours already, including a person with limited knowledge of Polish, and using Internet translation tools, This was not an option
  • Tackle him physically
    Had that been captured on tape, the media would have had a circus with that as well.
  • Shoot him
    Not an option at that point in time
  • Taser him with a weapon they were permitted to use

This was NOT murder, but an unfortunate outcome of a situation that was caused by Mr. Dziekansk. It was he who decided to act illegally. If he had acted like the millions of other frustrated travellers in the world, the police would not have been called. The police were doing their jobs!

Two RCMP offers were murdered in the last month or so; which brought the total number of RCMP officers murdered to 9 since 2003. Where is the public outcry against murdering police officers? Where is the support for the men and women who serve and protect the citizens of this country?

My wife has written a letter that has been circulated to the media across Canada. Thus far she has received one response; a request to cut the letter in half because it was too long to print. I am attaching the letter in it's entirety.


_____________________________________________________

RE: Tasering Incident


I’ve been following the media’s reporting of the death of Mr. Dziekansk after being tasered at Vancouver International Airport. Many are questioning, even condemning, the RCMP for their decision to use a taser rather than physical restraint to subdue him. I believe such questions come from the public’s lack of understanding as to what the job of law enforcement officers entails and how extremely stressful and dangerous that job is in Canada in 2007.

Experts have identified law enforcement as “one of the most stressful occupations in the world”, second only to soldiers in combat. Recently I read a report on the stress and trauma experienced by those who police our country. Written prior to the murder of the four RCMP members in Alberta, it reported 117 Canadian police officers murdered between 1962-2001 (this does not include those others killed on duty-related accidents). The report also stated that assaults on police officers in Canada are high and escalating at an alarming rate. Since the writing of that report, nine RCMP members have been murdered by criminals with long records who were released by an overly lenient legal system to do what they did.

Violent crime is on the rise from St. John’s to Vancouver and in every small town in between. We no longer live in a country where it’s safe to walk our streets at night and police forces everywhere are struggling to keep up. But they can’t keep up unless the government admits this country has a serious problem and provides the necessary man/woman power and tools vital to do the job.
Few, if any, detachments across this country have a full slate of officers and some do not even have enough cruisers for the members they do have. This is due solely to severe government cutbacks in the 90s.

RCMP members often are forced to work 12-18 hour shifts due to the increase in crime and the insufficient number of staff and, unfortunately, they generally work alone due to lack of federal funding. Every time a police officer stops a car in a routine traffic stop, he/she is stepping into an unknown situation that could turn dangerous – even deadly as evidenced recently in Nunavut. If and when a situation turns dangerous, an officer has a split second to decide on a course of action. In that time, he/she has to evaluate the situation, keeping in mind the safety of innocent bystanders, his/her own physical safety, and even that of suspects. Do we really want them to also have to consider how the media will interpret their actions?

The incident at Vancouver Airport was an unfortunate tragedy and we all feel sympathy for the dead man and his family. But let’s take an objective, not emotional, look at what happened.
We live in a post 9-11 world and the safety and security we were so proud of prior to that day no longer exist and major airports are constantly on alert for anyone acting in an erratic or suspicious manner.

Have we forgotten that we are a country at war - with thousands of Canadian troops fighting in Afghanistan? At home, our law enforcement agencies are also on constant alert for anyone who would enter our country and perpetrate crimes against our citizens. Have we become so politically correct that the safety of a man engaging in threatening and illegal behaviour in our airports is more important than that of our protectors?

If this man were so easy to subdue, airport security would have handled it themselves. But officers were called and they made a decision to use a taser. Given the times we live in and the venue in which this occurred, should those officers have put themselves and innocent bystander at risk. They didn’t have time to find an interpreter or do a psychiatric evaluation. They were called because airport security judged the situation too dangerous to handle alone and they needed backup. The police officers were concerned only with the safety of the civilians (Canadian and foreign) who were in that airport at that time.

Every police force across Canada needs 3 very important supports to do their job efficiently and effectively: financial support from Ottawa; a legal system that backs them up; and the respect, and cooperation of the people they protect. Unfortunately, they have none of these. Our government has made cutbacks that leave police officers overworked and understaffed; our legal system is continually releasing criminals back unto our streets to reoffend; and the people are quick to judge and condemn police whether they kill someone or are killed themselves.

We now have law enforcement organizations across Canada making decisions such as whether or not to equip their members with tasers based on pressure from an overzealous media that is quick to condemn without all the facts and a public that has little understanding of what the job of law enforcement officer entails.

For those of us who find law enforcement officers easy targets for our criticism and contempt, perhaps we should become more informed about the dangers they face, the hours they work, the supports they lack, the disrespect they encounter daily. Do some research into our legal system, the light sentences for repeat offenders, the plea bargaining by hardened criminals, the release of violent offenders for good behaviour. Then research the increase of violent crimes in our towns and cities.

Shame on Canada that those four officers, who did nothing but their jobs, have already been judged and convicted by the public they protect and a media that is becoming increasingly sensational. If that man had killed one of those four officers, he would have been at least considered innocent until convicted by a court of law.

Sadly, those four officers have already been reassigned – guilty of nothing more than doing what they swore to do to protect Canada and its people. But I suggest that before the public and the media condemn their actions, they remember this. In a post 9-11 world, everyone (no matter their nationality or language) knows that such behaviour as exhibited by this man is suspicious, threatening and illegal and absolutely would not be tolerated in any airport in any country on this planet! Zero tolerance of such behaviour is the worldwide rule of thumb!

I still believe in the democratic process, something our troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world, are fighting and dying for. Before I condemn the RCMP for protecting my country and its people, I will wait until all the facts are in. It is far too easy to respond to the tasering incident from an emotional viewpoint only. I refuse to crucify those four officers based on a few minutes of a money making video or by a media concerned primarily with sensationalism and ratings.
Respectfully,

Barbara Lane

1 comment:

bearkat said...

hi bruce..kudos to your wife in writing this letter....i haven't followed this all that closely...but am aware of this incident and many others like this......i am reminded of michael ferguson who was "spanked" badly for an incident which involved shooting a rough and tumble drunk kid in pincher creek...and he is still paying the price for that to this day....the family cried foul....not long ago here in calgary...the city police were chastised for being too rough on a person know to the police...just because someone showed a short video clip where the police were trying to subdue the man.....what we didn't see or hear about was the rest of the story....the police have since been reinstated...but i have to agree with everything that was written here.....have a good day