An inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski has found RCMP officers were not justified in using a Taser on the Polish immigrant during an incident at Vancouver International Airport in October 2007.
Thomas Braidwood, a retired B.C. Court of Appeal justice, delivered a stern reprimand to the officers with the release of his final report today (June 18) in Vancouver. But he stopped short of describing their actions as misconduct.
“Despite their training, the officers approached the incident as though responding to a barroom brawl, and failed to shift gears when they realized that they were dealing with an obviously distraught traveller,” Braidwood said during a press conference.
“Mr. Dziekanski in no way brought this on himself,” the commissioner added.
Following the release of Braidwood's report, B.C. Attorney General Michael de Jong announced that a new civilian-led body would be created in the province over the next 12 months that could conduct criminal investigations into police-involved deaths and other allegations of wrongdoing.
"Both independent municipal police departments and the RCMP will be subject to investigations by the independent investigation office," he said.
De Jong also said that an independent special prosecutor will be appointed immediately to re-examine the earlier decision to not pursue criminal charges in connection with the 40-year-old Dziekanski's death.
He said he expects the special prosecutor's review "will be conducted in as expedient a manner as possible".
Dziekanski's mother, Zofia Cisowski, was also present for the release of the report and thanked Braidwood and his staff for their work, saying she is satisfied his commission undertook a full review of the tragic incident at Vancouver International Airport.
"I will always be thinking of my son and the moment of his death," Cisowski said.
In examining the events at the Richmond airport, Braidwood concluded the RCMP officers' initially appropriate response soon turned aggressive, while describing Dziekanski's behaviour as compliant.
The commissioner said when the Mounties later spoke of wrestling Dziekanski down they provided "deliberate misrepresentations, made for the purpose of justifying their actions".
Braidwood further explained that while it has never been determined exactly what caused Dziekanski to die, the multiple zaps from the Taser conducted-energy weapon "contributed substantially" to the death.
The RCMP responded to the report today, noting changes have been made on the force that include introduction of a new policy on the use of conducted-energy weapons.
In a statement, RCMP Commissioner William Elliott said the national police agency apologizes "unconditionally" for the role of officers in Dziekanski's death.
"It is clear that our policies and training in place at the time were deficient," Elliott states.