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.