You who philosophize disgrace and criticize all fears
Bury the rag deep in your face
For now's the time for your tears
Bob Dylan, "The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll"
The cops who brutally attacked newly-arrived immigrant Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007, tragically causing his death, will face absolutely no criminal charges. That's right, none.
A year ago, when I wrote my sad and angry piece, "Kill, Duck and Cover: The RCMP Rant", I was outraged and sickened but at least I knew that, with the video evidence the whole world had just seen, there would eventually be some sort of justice for Dziekanski and his heartbroken mother, Sofia Cisowski. Sadly, I was wrong. There will be no justice. None whatsoever.
As in just about every other case of police brutality here in Canada, the system has done almost everything possible to protect the cops from prosecution. As is generally the case with police forces around the world, the RCMP almost always tries to protect its own, even if that means keeping its most violent members out on the streets, "protecting" the public.
It's been asked by so many people so many times before, but it really needs to be asked once more here: What the fuck is up with the RCMP investigating itself anyway?! Because that's what happened, once again, in this case. Is it some sort of sick joke? Because I don't get the punch line. And, in case you couldn't guess, they almost never find anything criminal in any of their own actions. Does anyone really think they want to?
A Job Well Done
As for the prosecutors, it's hard not to see them as completely aligned with the cops who they work with day in and day out, rather than with the public who they are supposed to serve. To any regular follower of the news, it would appear that what matters to your typical prosecutor is protecting cops from justice, not protecting the public from brutality, or even death.
"Insufficient evidence to bring charges", they say, even if, in this case, the whole assault is right there on video for all to see.
But it's not just that there's insufficient evidence to press charges. No, it would seem that, in the minds of the prosecutors, this Robert Dziekanski case simply involved standard police procedure. Nothing criminal here at all. And that's not just my opinion, that's what was said Friday by the spokesman for the prosecutor's office.
Not only was there nothing wrong with the actions of these four cops, but, it seems, they did an outstanding job in the way they handled the situation. Seriously!
According to Stan Lowe, spokesman for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch, "the officers in question were lawfully engaged in their duties when they encountered Mr. Dziekanski and the force they used to subdue and restrain him was reasonable and necessary in all the circumstances”.
The scariest thing is that Lowe went on to say that the officers followed RCMP policy on the use of force. That is to say, the way they violently took the unarmed, non-resisting Dziekanski down is exactly the way they should act in such situations. What is this, fucking North Korea?!
I'd love to see how Mr. Lowe would react if that had been one of his loved ones being taken out in such a "reasonable and necessary" manner.
And just so we all got this right, going in and talking calmly to the man and then handcuffing him and leading him away peacefully would not have been the right course of action. Violently taking him down, now that was the right thing to do.
Apology? Hell no, give these guys medals! He was holding a stapler, after all, and that's pretty scary for four big, muscular, fully-trained-in-hand-to-hand-combat professionals. Hey man, they could have been stapled!
Good Cops/Bad Cops
Obviously, society needs the police and clearly they do put their lives on the line at times. But that in no way excuses brutality in any form. They're simply civil servants paid to do a job for the public. But that's certainly not how some of them act.
Similarly, we need teachers, but I don't hear anyone saying we've got to tolerate any teachers who molest students.
And let's not forget that there are other people out there who risk their lives in the course of their work, most notably firefighters and search and rescue personnel. But we wouldn't tolerate any brutality on their part. So why is it tolerated when the police engage in it?
What we need in this country are good, decent cops who would be sickened by the type of brutal force that was used against Dziekanski. And I believe there are many of them out there who were. We do know that many retired cops have spoken out about their dismay and even disgust at how quickly many police resort to violence and, particularly, the use of the taser these days.
The apologists for police brutality will say that it's a tough job and that they're risking their lives, so all is excused. To which I say, what a load of bullshit! Again, firefighters have much more dangerous jobs and risk their lives constantly, but they don't go around killing people who refuse to obey an order now do they?
Those who say that these guys were "just doing their jobs" must seriously think the job of a cop is to use brutal violence against unarmed civilians. But who would think such a thing?
If unprovoked, unnecessary brutality leading to death was just part of the job of the police then their jobs would involve inherently criminal behaviour. And society would need protecting from them. But, of course, their real job involves no such license to rough up such utterly harmless people as Robert Dziekanski.
As a number of retired police officers have said in interviews, these four reckless cops were completely out of control. What was needed here was a calm response to a man in distress. Instead, they barged in and immediately–within 30 seconds–violently tasered him five times.
Excessive Use of Force
If tasering a passive, 40-year-old, unarmed man five times and then jumping on him so he can no longer breathe isn't excessive use of force, what is?
Yeah, ok, if someone's shooting at you, shoot back. But all these other cases–cases of people being shot dead when either armed with just a knife or, in many other cases, tasered or shot to death when completely unarmed–are just ridiculous.
Not As Accepting of Brutality
Last week, a cop killed a teenager in Greece (the first killing of a teenager by police there in over 20 years) and the whole nation erupted into a week-long fit of rage, riots, and repulsion. And the cop was immediately charged with voluntary homicide.
Contrast that with Canada, where three teenagers were shot dead by the police in a one-month period across the country this past summer–and everyone shrugged.
The thing that really gets me is that they don't shoot for the legs, they actually shoot to kill–15-year-olds!
Can you imagine shooting to kill a 15-year-old because he wouldn't drop a knife? Not because he lunged at you, just because he refused repeated orders to drop the knife. That's what happened to a kid in Winnipeg this past summer. There's got to be a more professional–and less lethal–way of dealing with such situations. Perhaps such as trying to talk the person down.
Not Such A Funny Joke
The more cases one reads, the more apparent it becomes that the whole "justice" system is a joke in this country.
Even in the rarest of cases where one cop testifies in court that a shooting by a colleague was unprovoked, such as the horrific case in Vanderhoof, B.C., the judge still let's the killer go free...and back to work.
The only time cops seem to get charged and convicted is when they get caught stealing and/or dealing drugs. That's right, drugs are bad, brutalizing and even killing members of the public is okay.
Hit-and-run drunk driving causing death (with your own kids in the car!), as one of the four cops who killed Dziekanski is now accused of, is pretty unacceptable too. Though I can almost guarantee he'll get a light sentence because he's a cop. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Throw the book at him because he's a cop and should know better than anyone else. Either way, what a guy–killing two innocent people in just one short year.
Embarrassing... To Say The Least
Really now, think about it: Shouldn't the RCMP be extremely embarrassed by the fact that four of their highly-trained officers couldn't handle a 40-year-old man, armed with nothing more than a stapler, in any other way than by tasering him five times and then jumping on him, causing his death?
Far from embarrassment, however, the RCMP seem to have little regret. In fact, it's totally mind-boggling to read RCMP statements about the case and see how incredibly arrogant they are in their belief that they are faultless and that their officers performed to absolute perfection. As always, it seems that it was the victim's own fault (and, man, you can't get much more pathetic than actually trying to blame Dziekanski for his own death - but that's exactly what they, along with the prosecutors, seem to be doing).
A Clear Message
The prosecutors say that the tasers contributed to, but didn't cause Dziekanski's death. But that's hardly the point here. It's not whether the tasers killed him or not. What's certain is that the actions of the cops did. If they hadn't handled the situation in such a violent way, today Dziekanski would still be alive and enjoying his new life in Canada.
Finally, just let me say what a great message I think this sends to all the other cops out there. If you approach an unarmed man with his hands raised who isn't resisting arrest in any way, you can brutally take him down. And if he dies in the process, so be it, you'll face no repercussions whatsoever.
One thing is absolutely clear, though, and that's that the RCMP and the entire "justice" system is set up to protect the police and not the public. Anyone who follows the news on a regular basis and could still argue with that statement is either willingly ignorant or staggeringly blind.
One other thing that no one can argue with is that three of those four cops who used "reasonable and necessary" force against Dziekanski are out there "protecting" us right at this very moment. Almost makes you want to move to Greece.
Mike Cowie is a writer currently embarked on a book about his three-year trip across Asia with his wife, Sonoko. Read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.