Saturday, February 28, 2009

But For a Couple of Minutes of Bystander Video

If it wasn't for a couple of minutes of bystander video, Robert Dziekanksi's killing would have been reduced to a few lines in the local papers and quickly forgotten.

I wonder if the cops involved even imagined such video existed when they gave their statements after their victim's lifeless body had been hauled away to the morgue.

The "RCMP story" (curious how those two words have become a term of art here in B.C.) was that the four mounties were acting in self-defence when they Tasered Dziekanski five times, wrestled him into cuffs and left him on the floor, unattended, to die.

In the immediate wake of the killing one of the officers, constable Bentley, gave a statement in which he claimed, "right away [Mr. Dziekanski] started backing up, looking for something to grab. He uses an object and putting that in front of him he kind of swung it at us."

Unfortunately for the officers, the government of Poland is represented at the hearings by a highly-skilled criminal lawyer, Don Rosenbloom. In cross-examination, Rosenbloom confronted Bentley with the video, frame by frame, and dismantled his statement:

Mr. Rosenbloom reviewed for the inquiry the video footage recorded at the scene by passerby Paul Pritchard. Run at slow speed, the video shows one of the four RCMP officers directing Mr. Dziekanski away from the spot where they were all gathered, and in the direction of a counter inside the secured area.

Identified Corporal Benjamin Monty Robinson, the officer had his arm extended. He pointed a gloved index finger.

Mr. Dziekanski is seen throwing his hands up in air, as if in resignation, and walking in the direction as commanded. The four officers then surrounded him.

Const. Bentley's reading of the events: "I interpret [Robinson] as giving him an order. For using body language or pointing to direct him somewhere."

"Precisely," said Mr. Rosenbloom. "He's giving him an order. And the order is for him to move to the counter. Do you not agree?"

Not quite: "I perceive it as him ordering him over to the counter, after he's thrown up his arms and walked away from us... [But] I'm uncertain whether he's complied with that order because his behaviour to me changed before Cpl. Robinson directed his arm to the counter," Const. Bentley said. "So, from what I'm seeing, Cpl. Robinson is reacting to Dziekanski's behaviour."

On it went: Mr. Rosenbloom proposed what seemed obvious; Const. Bentley demurred or deflected. He would not admit that Mr. Dziekanski had correctly complied with the order to move to the counter.

On which sat the stapler. No one had directed Mr. Dziekanski to pick that up, of course. His bad decision was fatal.

But why had Const. Bentley claimed in his initial police statement that, at the moment of first contact with the RCMP, "right away [Mr. Dziekanski] started backing up, looking for something to grab. He uses an object and putting that in front of him he kind of swung it at us."

He conceded that he had not "articulated it the best." He hadn't meant to mislead police homicide investigators in explaining the RCMP's role in the Dziekanski incident.

This simply doesn't wash. They're cops. They've been trained to carefully observe in order to be able to give evidence at trial. We send people to prison every day on the strength of what cops say in court. Yet this cop isn't intending to mislead when he claims it was Dziekanski who chose to move to the counter, who grabbed the stapler and who then swung it at the officers when, as shown on video, he was told to move to the counter and didn't "swing" the stapler at all?

This thing smells like week-old fish guts sitting on the dock. It's no wonder Poland wants to bring proceedings against these cops. They're called "Mounted Police." That doesn't mean they're supposed to be cowboys.


Jim Parrett said...

Don Cherry was on the TV tonight amassing praise for the Mounties. Shame on him and that organization's display of incompetence. Harper be fucked. This is not the way to run a country.

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