Saturday, 17 November 2007

Thoughts about Vancouver's "Murderous Mounties"

I had something else in mind to continue the blog, but I'm going to write down some thoughts about the killing of Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport four weeks ago.

We're now witnessing the attempts, already becoming apparent, to whitewash the behaviour of the airport staff who couldn't be bothered to help a mother locate her arriving son (was that because she has an accent and is obviously not Anglo-Saxon?). Then there's the refusal of Stockwell ("Doris") Day's Border Security Services Agency to explain why their employees didn't notice Robert Dziekanski wandering about the secure arrivals area for ten hours (what were they doing during all that time - sleeping, playing cards, drinking, watching TV, or what?). And, worst of all, we're now being subjected to ongoing attempts by all levels of the RCMP to explain away what happened as an "unfortunate incident".

Most people would believe the RCMP's version of events if it weren't for the video that shows clearly what the four Mounties did and didn't do, as well as several eye witness accounts that corroborate what is apparent in the video.

I know many people, even within my immediate surroundings, who think that "the police" are our friends. It's an ignorant and naive assumption. Many policemen/women are friendly and helpful, of course, but that's not their function. Police forces exist to exercise the state's control over its citizens, in other words, to exercise power. Unfortunately, the chance to exercise power attracts a certain type of personality to join the police force. I know that from many of the military policemen I knew during my time in the Canadian Army (and many ex-military policemen find a home in the civilian police after they leave the military).

So, are the four Mounties who are responsible for Mr. Dziekanski's death irresponsible cowboys? Hopefully, we'll soon find out, but I'm not holding my breath. Canadian authorities have a long history of evading responsibility for their misdeeds that goes back to before Confederation.

Why are the four Mounties still on the job (though apparently re-assigned as though they'd bungled a traffic accident investigation)? I suppose we should be grateful that they haven't been promoted, as has happened to a number of misbehaving Mounties during the past few years.

Police forces claim tasers are safe and are a weapon of last resort. In the present case, the last resort took all of 25 seconds to occur! If tasers are so safe, why have the police who use them in this country killed 18 people with them in the four years they've been in service here? It would be interesting to know how many people have been killed by guns by the police during the same time period.

In fact, if they're so safe, why not taser each of the four Mounties the same number of times they tasered Robert Dziekanski?

This incident proves once again that police forces (or any other state agency) must never be allowed to investigate their own actions. And, of course, any "independent" investigative agency should not be composed of ex-police.

Now, I suppose you think this is an anti-police rant. You couldn't be more wrong! A densely populated modern society needs to be regulated, and for that, police forces are a required element. But, to be protectors of the state and of its citizens, the police (like other government agencies) must be respected by society. The police cannot be above the law; rather, they must be held to a much higher standard of behaviour to retain the respect they need, in order to be effective.

If tasers are not inherently dangerous, then all too often they're obviously being improperly used - either because individual police personnel aren't sufficiently trained, or they're not following their own force's rules of engagement (in other words, they're acting like cowboys). And that behaviour must be stopped!

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