Thursday, November 22, 2007

Death of an Innocent Man - Canada's Shame

This picture shows Robert Dziekanski in Poland where he worked as a construction worker. I realize he died over a week ago, but I wanted to wait till the furor had eased off so that my blog on this tragedy wasn't overridden by the thousands of other bloggers who've already commented on his death.

Regular readers know that I'm pro-police (having been one) and pro-military. I told myself I wouldn't watch that terrible video showing his death - "the original Canadian snuff film", as someone called it. Being human, I finally watched it on the Globe and Mail main page and was sickened by it.

Back in the dinosaur age when I was a police officer, we were taught certain strategies in a) self-defense, b) defusing situations with mentally/emotionally/distraught people, and c) using *real* police techniques like "talking a person down" and entering into a situation in a way that safeguarded us and the person in question.

RE: a) self-defense. If someone came at you with fists, or hit you in any way, you pulled your baton. I became quite good with my baton, as I only weighed a measly 120 lbs. at the time and let's face it - when you're a cute but skinny woman in uniform, it's every rednecks dream to take you on in front of his drunken buddies. But, I digress. If someone came at you with a tire iron, plank, or other large weapon, you pulled your revolver. (yes, back then we carried .357 Magnums) IF you pulled your revolver, you had to be prepared to use it. And no, we weren't taught to shoot someone's knee out or hit their shoulder, we were taught to aim at center mass and shoot to kill. Most people don't realize that alot of people who're shot will still come at you - it can take several shots, even emptying your weapon, to put down a suspect who's drunk or high. Their adrenaline's flowing and they don't feel pain.

RE: b)defusing situations with mentally/emotionally/distraught people. Unless there was immediate danger to someone's life, or the person was about to jump off a bridge, you took your TIME. You ASSESSED the situation, and you sure as heck TALKED to the person(s). You gave them SPACE so they didn't feel cornered; you called them by name (if they gave it to you, or someone supplied it) so you could connect with them. Your *best* weapon was your mouth and how you used it: no macho talk, no threats, and you told them whatever was necessary to calm them down. Sometimes you might tell a white lie, but if it defused the situation, who cared?

These skills required THINKING on the part of the officer. Also, being able to think quickly on your feet - both in connecting with the person and engaging them in eye contact and emotion. My best weapon was my mouth - I was a good talker, had been great in theatre arts and various stage plays, so I could *act* and put myself into whatever role was necessary. It was something that boggled the guys I worked with, and sometimes ticked them off too, as I was very good at defusions.

RE: c)I think I've already covered the main points in "talking a person down". The main thing is: you WAITED. No pressure - get the wife there - we took off our hats so we weren't an authority threat, we took the bullets out of our guns before getting out of the car so if the person managed to get our gun off us, no one would get shot. Does this seem foolhardy? No, it was common practice back then, and even if we were scared, we STILL dealt with the person humanely. If they eventually (or suddenly) needed to be jumped on and subdued, that's where four guys and a baton came into play. And usually me, being the smallest of the pack, on top of the persons' back putting handcuffs on him/her. (seriously though, I never lost a fight -even one on one - and I *always* got the arrest. I got injured plenty of times - broke my wrist twice for eg. - but I always used a) and b) and got the job done.)

Now, contrast the good ole days with the RCMP debacle committed at the Vancouver BC airport in regards to Robert Dziekanski.

If you saw the video, you saw several people try to calm him down. God bless the woman who came up to him, gesturing with her hand, and putting her hand out to him. She deserves a medal for her compassion.

The security guards were useless and obviously had no training to do any of the above. THEN, we have four RCMP cowboys on the scene, and we hear a male ask them as they go by, "are you going to taser him?"

We can't hear the answer, but hello, in they go, force Dziekanski up against the counter with his back to the glass and immediately zap him with 50,000 volts of electricity. Then, because he's screaming and rolling around on the ground, the guy zaps him again for good measure. THEN, the four of them jump on top of him, hit him with a baton (once or twice) and when he finally stops moving and screaming, get up and decide - hey, maybe we should check his pulse!

Dziekanski was a) obviously agitated and emotional so he falls under the category of a mentally/emotionally/distraught person. Did they do b) above? or c)? No, too trigger-happy with the latest technical toy, they figured zapping a grown man at point-blank range would solve the situation when all the guy had done was put a few chairs in front of the door, and throw a computer (not even a harddrive) on the ground. He was sweating, speaking a foreign language, and trembling. Did even ONE of the four officers (they looked quite young, so I'm guessing they might've been inexperienced) do a), b), or c)? Obviously, they weren't looking at him for clues as to his emotional state, they didn't listen to what the people looking on were telling them ("he speaks Russian" and "can somebody get an interpreter down here?") - they didn't give him space or time.

They just Tasered him. In my day, they would never have lasted on the street. Someone would've chucked one of them under the nose and then sucker-punched him. And he would've deserved it. Why? Because he didn't have the skills necessary to survive on the street - no common sense, no ability to connect with people, no ability to *listen* and *learn* about what was happening before he decided to take action. Sometimes you only had a split-second - but more often, you had plenty of time - 2-3minutes would get you all the info you needed to deal with a situation.

If you saw TV reports, or read reports about journalists who "volunteered" to get Tasered in order to "prove" how safe they are, remember this - NONE of them were Tasered without being held UP by two officers. They didn't feel the full effect of 50,000 volts hurling them backward to the ground, and once hitting the ground, it would have the same effect as a lightening bolt hitting a metal pole. It would be nothing like what Robert Dziekanski experienced in his last four minutes of life.

He wasn't screaming because he was afraid, or at the cops to scare them. He was screaming because of the pain. Anyone feel like volunteering to get zapped with 50,000 volts of electricity, just for the heck of it? I didn't think so.

Too bad no one took those four losers back to the detachment garage and Tasered them.
I'm not always pro-police. When a travesty occurs such as this, and innocent people are killed/hurt, the police should be held to a higher standard then the general public. If they were under my command, these four would be suspended without pay, and about to face a police tribunal. At least Stockwell Day, our Public Security Minister, called for a complete inquiry. How could he not? The rest of Canada and the world saw every mistake those four cowboys made, and we're ashamed of them.

May Robert Dziekanski rest in peace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Keeping Your Brain Fit - Keeping Your Creativity Alive

I've been bugging my dh for a Nintendo DS Lite for Christmas - I mean really bugging him! There are lots of games for adults on this system - which is a compact-put-it-in-your-purse harddrive for video games, and comes in white, black, red, and pink. You use a stylus to maneouver through the games. (I'm probably not telling you anything new if you have kids - this is one of the best-sellers out this Christmas)

There're three "Train Your Brain" type games for the DS Lite: Brain Age I, Brain Age II, and Brain Academy. These games are based on the research of a Japanese neuroscientist, Professor Ryuta Kawashima, who's work in neuroscience has proven that the more we exercise our brains via puzzles for memory, concentration, spatial awareness, and math, the "lower" our "brain's age" will be and the higher our mental acuity.

So, this is what I wanted for Christmas and have been ceaselessly mentioning the pink version to my dh, , as a way to help get back some of my creativity and concentration.

Always the enterprising fellow, my dh found an online version of the DS Lite game, which you can download for $20.55 Canadian to your PC, as opposed to paying $139.99 for the DS Lite, plus $17.98 per game. (The other games are higher prices and vary considerably, but I'm only dealing with the Brain Age games here).

I've been doing the 14 day free trial of the PC version, and I must say it's fun, clever, and does challenge you considerably as you move into the higher levels. You get 30 free sessions of five different games to work on math, language, perception, attention, and cognitive reasoning. You can play these games as many times as you want to in the 30 days. Frankly, it's a real bargain. (so much for my dh's research abilities!)

The link is:
Brain Train Age, which is a slightly different title to get away from copyright issues with Nintendo. However, Professor Kawashima designed both versions.

I highly recommend trying the 14 day trial as a "wake-up" to your daily writing regime. It's already helped me tremendously and I'm only on Day Three. It's fun, addictive, and challenging. And let's face it, the price is right. If you have a laptop, you can take it with you the same as carrying that cute pink/red/white/black compact computer in your purse. But if you want to splurge and get yourself one of those Nintendo DS Lites, you may have to share it with your kids, as they'll find out quickly enough how many fantastic games you can play on it, besides Brain Age!

P.S. If you lose your stylus, you can buy them three for $5.88 at WalMart, plus the DS Lite comes with two already. So, don't let anyone talk you out of it if you want to splurge on something fun and different for yourself this Christmas. We can all use a mental work-out that's more fun than banging our heads against the wall over plot points and descriptive narrative.

Have fun!

P.P.S. I have no idea why half of this post is under-lined. I couldn't fix it, and apologize for making it look like I've been writing for half-wits! If anyone knows how to fix this problem, plse put instructions in the Comments Section.

Again, have fun, and let me know if this works for you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Veteran's Week and Not Writing

Yes, I missed blogging on Remembrance Day - I know, unheard of for me to let a military highlight go by. I claim innocence by the fact that I actually had 3 days off work, one of them being Remembrance Day, and that was my last weekend off till after Christmas.

However, this is "Veteran's Week", so I thought I could throw something against the wall and hope it sticks. We attended the city-wide Remembrance Day ceremony at Winnipeg Convention Centre, with my dh in full dress blues, as was everyone else - army and air force. Funny, only Sea Cadets in attendance out here on the Prairies - no Navy.

It's actually a good thing I'm blogging about this late. I was offended and irritated at the same time by the hour-and-a-half long ceremony that was obviously put on for political purposes to satisfy every special interest group in the city, and NOT our vets. It was put on by some "Joint Veterans Committee", so maybe that's where the problem started.

It took an actual twenty minutes to lay the wreathes; every Nurses Association, Kiwanis, whoever, had to lay a wreath. Ridiculous. The speaker's remarks were cut to almost nil, but there were so many people "participating" that it strung out the service to the breaking point. The final insult was the traditional "March Past". Normally, it's made up of a Colour Party (military personnel carrying flags), veterans, and military people serving now. This travesty included not only the Air and Sea Cadets (okay, maybe if you stretched it, they're "serving" members), to Girl Guides, Brownies, Sparks (5 yrs old), Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts. These children "marched past" the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, supposedly to pay tribute to his office and the solemnity of the day.

It was an insult to everyone there wearing a proper uniform, and serving in the Canadian Forces. I've never seen anything like it. Perhaps the idea was to teach the kids about what Remembrance Day stands for, but seeing parents take pictures of their kids as they marched by left a bad taste in my mouth.

It was bad enough that no acknowledgement of our current war in Afghanistan was made, nor the names of our dead veterans of this war read out, but the whole thing smacked of everybody fighting to get in their little bit. Contrast this to the ceremony held in Ottawa on Capitol Hill, where the crowd chanted "We support our troops! We support our troops!" at the end.

That is the sentiment of Remembrance Day - remembering what came before and the sacrifices made for all of us, and remembering the current soldiers fighting in the cold of Afghanistan (it's winter over there - people I know are sending mittens for the local kids) and facing IED's every day.

Off my soapbox now.

Re not writing - I have no idea what's wrong with me. I know I'm curdled by my wicked hours at this job that started out part-time and has grown two heads. I know we've had two cross-country moves in two years, and the stress is starting to show. But, I also know of other authors who've been able to write through tragedy, illness, and divorce. So, what's my problem?

I have to refocus. Start remembering when I found joy in writing, and wasn't just churning out yuck. (well, it's yuck to me anyway) With having to work up to and including Christmas Eve I doubt the "Christmas spirit" will inspire me very much. I'm lucky to have good friends around me, who still encourage me, and believe in me. I'm going to focus on that, and write down the many, many stories that could come out of this job experience.

The other day I confronted two identified "cruisers" from a professional theft-ring and made sure they left my store without stealing anything. It gave me great personal satisfaction, and the thrill I used to feel back when I wore a uniform and gun to work. And it felt good indeed. One for the good guys!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

We Mourn Another Slain Mountie

Two of our RCMP officers have been murdered this month in our remote Northwest Territories. For those of you who haven't been in touch with the news yesterday, Constable Douglas Scott was shot in the head at approximately 11 p.m. Monday night, while answering a possible impaired driving call. He had been in the village of Kimmirut, on Baffin Island in the Arctic, for only six months and had just graduated from RCMP Depot in Regina, Saskatchewan. His picture above is his graduation photo from Depot. He was only twenty years old.

The RCMP have announced that they were intending to put "through" a policy next month that would make it essential for two officers to answer nighttime calls in remote regions. Kimmirit is only a village of four hundred people. It proves again that it only takes one person with a gun to undue all the great work Cst. Scott had done with the village youth, at the school, and in his daily contact with friends and villagers alike.

This new policy comes too little, too late, for Constable's Worden and Scott. It's another example of the government's actions well after the fact of a tragedy. I'm sure it'll be little consolation to Cst. Scott's family and friends.

They announced that he worked in this tiny village with an "experienced Sergeant". Two officers to two hundred people, so it was deemed appropriate staffing. When I began policing in 1984, there were forty-four officers on our municipal force, with a ratio of one officer to one thousand people. However, although we were one-man cars, we could count on back-up from anybody else on our shift, and we were obviously in a smaller area.

An inexperienced officer - with only six months service - shouldn't have been stopping an impaired driver without back-up. We don't know yet whether this man was impaired, mentally ill, on drugs not alcohol, or why he felt compelled to shoot this officer while he had his child in the car. So far, he's in custody but not charged, which raises a number of questions I won't go into here.

The fact remains - another young Mountie's life has been cut short. A young man who'd dreamt of being a police officer since he was ten years old, and who comes from a family of police officers - a long, and proud, tradition.

If you want to send Cst. Scott's family your condolences, you can go to, find his name, and sign the guest book. I'm sure his parents, siblings, and extended family will appreciate it.

Rest in Peace.

Monday, November 05, 2007

New World, Different Time

I'm supposed to be doing a 50K word novel this month during National Novel Writing Month. I've joined up, and am reading and responding to alot of threads on historical fiction. I haven't gotten much writing done, due to the new job and my inability to concentrate as I try and pull the family into another "Mommy's working" routine. I likely will get something written, as I'm an over-achiever and don't want to admit I've missed this golden opportunity. But, having a day job (which really means working till 11 p.m.)sure is a kicker for your Muse! Only having half an hour for lunch doesn't allow for any creative scrawlings, even on a napkin.

My big interest today is the revealing of King Tut's full mummified body. Now we know the poor King had buck teeth and an underbite. That he was nineteen and probably not murdered, although the anthropologists haven't figured out yet how he died. (If they have, plse point me in the way of an article, because Egyptology truly fascinates me.)

What struck me is that the body didn't look any different than the creations of such bodies on shows like BONES. My husband and I never miss a show, and I've read all her books, including Bones to Ashes. Obviously, their special effects team on that show have done their homework! King Tut could just as well be a corpse on Tempe's autopsy table.

The ancient Egyptian obsession with life after death, and preparing for life after death, has no equivalent in history. You were "wealthy" if you could prepare a reasonable family tomb for yourself and your extended family. The treasures in King Tut's tomb have been eulogized for the past 85 years. Whatever he died of, his family and immediate people around him loved him very much to have ensured he would show up in the land of Seth (right god?) with such an extravagant face mask, gold, and treasure even our modern world has trouble calculating. The beauty of his tomb lends a beauty to his mummified face, if I can put that idea forward. Most mummies are horrible charicatures of the people they once were - how can they not be?

King Tut, on the other hand, has lost none of his majesty because his Egyptian guardians have removed his death mask and robes. A boy of 19 years, not a fabulous King, but likely destined to rule quietly and justly. A peek into a 3000 year old past, brought to life again with modern day technology.

This is why I love time travel novels so much. We get the joy of a look at the past, along with a good story in the present. Hmmm, maybe there's something there for NaNoWriMo!

At any rate, I hope his mummified body survives in that air-controlled glass case, and we can learn more from him about his culture and his life.