So much for “unbiased and respectful treatment of all people”

November 23, 2007 § Leave a comment

The saddest aspect of the who Robert Dziekanski debacle is not his violent death, but his desperate final hours. Dziekanski was kept in a room at the Vancouver airport for more than ten hours. He had planned to meet his mother at baggage claim, not knowing it was a secure area, so she didn’t show up (in fact, airport officials told her that her son had missed his connection, so she left the airport.)

But because of apathetic, unhelpful airport employees (who didn’t even use the telephone translation service available to them for just this type of situation). Dziekanski had no news of his elderly mother and no idea what had become of her in a large city four hours from her home in Kamloops.

So ten hours after his plane arrived, about 1:30 in the morning, Dziekanski began taking the actions he felt were necessary to receive assistance. He yelled, threw a small table, and broke a computer. But he didn’t stay violent for long— although security was called as soon his outburst began, another passenger had approached him, trying to calm him down. And he did. He waited for the help he was sure would arrive.

Enter four RCMP officers. Dziekanski was had calmed down even before they arrived, and he addressed them calmly, with his hands at his sides. He complied with their order to stand against a wall, then four armed, well-trained Royal Canadian Mounted Police attacked an unarmed foreign man who was having difficulty communicating.

Twenty-five seconds after arriving on the scene, The RCMP shocked Robert Dziekanski with a TASER, and when he went into convulsions and fell to the floor, they restrained him further, with one officer kneeling on his neck.

“Hit him again,” one ordered. And they did. Within a minute, Dziekanski’s heart had stopped.

Then the RCMP officers, who claim compassion and respect among their core values, chose to demonstrate leadership in the pursuit of excellence by not administering CPR. They called the Vancouver city paramedics, who didn’t arrive on the scene till 15 minutes later, when Robert Dziekanski was pronounced dead.

Since Dziekanski’s death on October 14, two more men have died hours after being TASEd by RCMP. This brings the total of electroshock weapon-related deaths in Canada to eighteen. TASER International and the RCMP consider these deaths regrettable coincidences.

But my problem isn’t with TASER, per se. They manufacture a weapon with no guidelines to use or limitations, because they believe it’s law enforcement’s job to determine such limits. And while I find their rhetoric abhorrent, they’re a corporation whose goal is to move product.

I blame the officers in question and their superiors who defend their actions. If those four officers had pulled guns and shot an unarmed man in full view of the public, there would be no question as to whether the weapons should be recalibrated or the guidelines more specific. The officers would be blamed for not doing their jobs, not bothering to deescalate or diffuse a situation.

And whether they were negligent, lazy, or just poorly-trained, the result is the same. They killed a man.

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