sábado, maio 17, 2008

more shit around the RCMP

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It just goes on and on with the RCMP. Disfunctional in every category of management and personal morality. That there are excellent officers in this organization is also true - I know this from personal experience.

But being embarrassed does not go far enough. The situation is shameful, the political masters must be brought to task - won't likely be of course, more maggoty bureaucrats will be brought in to spin and spin.

1. Police psychologist equates RCMP with Putin's Russia.
2. Editorial: A psychologist speaks out.
3. Editorial: Compounding disgrace, 21/05/08.

Police psychologist equates RCMP with Putin's Russia, Taser Inquiry, Gary Mason, May 15, 2008.

VANCOUVER -- Someone else might have resisted the temptation, especially knowing he might be blackballed as a result. But Mike Webster has never operated that way.

And so, when the respected police psychologist testified this week at the B.C. public inquiry into the use of tasers, he didn't parse his words when asked about the Mounties' decision to zap an unarmed Robert Dziekanski last October, and more recently, a penknife-wielding 82-year-old man lying in a hospital bed in Kamloops.

"I'm embarrassed to be associated with organizations that taser sick old men in hospital beds and confused immigrants who are arriving in the country," said Mr. Webster, considered one of the top police psychologists in the world.

Even as the words spilled from his mouth, Mr. Webster knew they had the potential to cause him more trouble with the RCMP. He knew because of a chilling incident late last year that still hangs over his association with Canada's national police force.

Mr. Webster is a registered psychologist who deals exclusively with law enforcement agencies. His expertise in conflict resolution has been sought to help resolve some of the most volatile situations in recent years, including the showdown with Branch Davidian followers in Waco, Tex., in 1993. He was widely credited with helping avert a bloodbath during the RCMP standoff with native protesters at Gustafson Lake, B.C., in 1995.

He has worked on a contract and fee-for-service basis with the RCMP for more than 30 years. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, much of his work with the Mounties has been in the area of intelligence gathering. After Mr. Dziekanski died at the Vancouver International Airport last October, media outlets in B.C. sought Mr. Webster's opinion on the incident. He was honest: he thought it was a disgraceful display of policing. The officers had blasted the troubled Polish immigrant without making any attempt to resolve the matter peacefully.

In early December, Mr. Webster says he received a call from Richard Bent, chief superintendent of the RCMP E Division in Vancouver. The senior Mountie asked Mr. Webster, who lives on Denman Island, B.C., if the two could have a meeting. Mr. Webster knew something was amiss.

He wanted to know immediately what it was about.

"That's when he said it was about the nature of my comments to the media about the Dziekanski incident," Mr. Webster revealed in an interview yesterday. "He said: 'You've upset some of the members here and they're saying things.' I said, 'Like what?' And he said: 'Well, they're saying that maybe you shouldn't be getting any more work with the RCMP.' "

Mike Webster nearly dropped the phone.

"There was only one way to interpret that comment," Mr. Webster said. "It was a clear threat."

Mr. Webster said he told Chief Supt. Bent that he didn't respond well to threats. And that they wouldn't change his mind in any event. After stewing about the incident over Christmas, Mr. Webster articulated his anger in a letter to Chief Supt. Bent, which he copied to Gary Bass, the RCMP's top man in B.C. In it, he reiterated how offended he was by Chief Supt. Bent's comments, which he considered a blatant form of intimidation.

He said he heard nothing back. But he did begin hearing from his friends inside the force. He said one relayed to him that Mr. Webster's outspokenness cost the psychologist a small fee-for-service job. One of Mr. Webster's friends was told: "Don't be hiring Mike Webster. He's in shit with us for being disloyal." Another told him to expect a call from a top RCMP official in Ottawa who was going to fly out to talk to him.

Sure enough, the call came. Two weeks later, Mr. Webster said he was having lunch with an RCMP inspector from headquarters who scolded him for his Dziekanski comments. He suggested the psychologist was being disloyal to an organization that had been good to him over the years. He said Mr. Webster should have waited until the RCMP had concluded its investigation into the incident before giving any kind of opinion on it.

"I told him I didn't need anything more than the 25 seconds of video that we've all seen over and over again to offer my analysis," Mr. Webster said. "I really gave him a blast. It was just more of the same. The expectation is that if you work for the Mounties you align your values with the corporate culture and if you don't that's being disloyal and is unhealthy."

Chief Supt. Bent said in an e-mail yesterday that he did phone Mr. Webster because of concerns that Mr. Webster was making statements to the media about the RCMP's guidelines for handling potentially violent situations that he felt weren't accurate.

He confirmed that he told Mr. Webster that other RCMP members were upset and didn't want the Mounties to give the renowned intervention specialist any more work. He said it wasn't intended to be a threat.

To Mr. Webster, his run-in with the Mounties reflects a more serious and systemic problem inside the organization, one recognized in the report into the RCMP pension-fund scandal. That report suggested the force was a troubled organization that did not abide dissent of any kind. And those who did offer opposing views were often shunted off to dead-end jobs and forced to wave promotions goodbye.

"As a psychologist, I know it's not healthy for people to live in such an oppressive climate," Mr. Webster said. "Being a member of the RCMP today is like being part of Putin's Russia; they don't tolerate any opinion that doesn't reflect the party line."

A devastating charge. Mr. Webster currently has a one-year contract with the Mounties. After it expires next April, he has no idea if more work will be offered to him.

"I find it offensive that I'm expected to park my morals at the door if I'm going to be part of the organization," Mr. Webster said. "If that's what it means, I won't do it. I just won't."

Mike Webster has never operated that way.

Editorial: A psychologist speaks out, Taser Inquiry, May 16, 2008.

Someone had to state the obvious, and the police psychologist Mike Webster was the right man at the right time. "I'm embarrassed to be associated with organizations that taser sick old men in hospital beds and confused immigrants who are arriving in the country," the adviser to the RCMP told a judicial inquiry into police taser use in British Columbia.

The whole country is embarrassed. In one case that Mr. Webster referred to, an 82-year-old in a hospital bed refused to let go of a penknife, and was tasered three times by the RCMP. In the other case, four Mounties approached a Polish immigrant who was agitated after waiting 10 hours to meet his mother at the Vancouver airport last October. The immigrant, Robert Dziekanski, made no threat to the officers, and offered no resistance. Yet within 30 seconds of their approach, the Mounties tasered the 40-year-old twice, and he died minutes later. Each of these was a national disgrace, an embarrassment.

Could anything be more obvious? The mismatch between the strong and the weak, the lack of any serious threat of harm, the reliance on heavy weaponry, the seeming lack of any thought given to alternatives - it's all a little ridiculous, as if the polite and helpful Mounties were under the illusion they work for a police state. But they do not see it that way. And so the need to point out the obvious.

Why was Mr. Webster the right man? Because his job is to teach police how to deal with conflicts. He has been hired by the FBI, Europol and other police forces around the world to instruct them on how to handle confrontations. If he thinks the police use of tasers is embarrassing, it gives the entire country licence to be embarrassed.

But the RCMP and other Canadian police forces do not accept the obvious. The Mounties have sent a delegation to Poland at who knows what cost to dig into Mr. Dziekanski's mental health, behaviour and personal life. Presumably they are looking for ex post facto justifications of their tasering. All the more reason for people like Mr. Webster to state the obvious.

That he did so at some financial risk to himself underlines his credibility. While the RCMP is understandably anxious at having a respected figure bite the hand that feeds him (he says the Mounties threatened to cut off his work, the Mounties deny it), it's clear that Mr. Webster felt he had to speak his mind as a matter of principle.

A moratorium on taser use is the obvious answer to this national embarrassment.

Editorial: Compounding disgrace, Taser Inquiry, May 21, 2008.

The RCMP is adding to the disgrace of the Vancouver airport tasering by pursuing background checks that appear to serve little purpose other than to blame the victim. It is willing to spend large amounts of money - sending four officers and a translator to Poland - for information that is likely to be superfluous.

Why so much effort and expense? Perhaps because no taser-related death has shown more clearly all that is wrong with how the Mounties and other police forces in Canada use the electric stun gun. That death prompted a judicial inquiry now under way in British Columbia on taser use, with a separate inquiry to follow on the tasering of the 40-year-old Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski on Oct. 14, 2007. Mr. Dziekanski's death may serve to discredit this weapon of choice.

The original disgrace was that four officers confronted an unarmed, distressed man who offered no resistance or threat and within 30 seconds tasered him. Mr. Dziekanski died a few minutes later.

The next disgrace was that the RCMP asserted that Mr. Dziekanski had been increasing his violence. A bystander's video released later shows no resistance. He appeared confused as the officers approached. When a taser was drawn, he backed away a few metres. Then he was shot.

And now the third disgrace: In investigating the officers who tasered Mr. Dziekanski, police flew to Poland to probe the victim's background. It is hard to imagine what they hoped to find. Evidence of drug use? Medical examiners after his death had the best evidence possible. They found no drugs or alcohol in his blood. Evidence of dangerousness? The officers who tasered him did so because of what they thought they knew about him.

What Canadians know about taser use is the bizarre, unjustifiable spectacle recorded by the videotape. Or the ridiculous tasering of an 82-year-old man in a hospital bed in B.C. Lu Shaohua, an expert in delirium, told the B.C. taser inquiry last week that people in a delirious state (while he didn't say so, Mr. Dziekanski appeared to be in that state, as did the 82-year-old, Frank Lasser) experience rapid breathing, sweating, unstable blood pressure and an increased heart rate and are so highly vulnerable that an "additional insult" can kill them.

He didn't know whether a taser could do so, because he hasn't studied it. But neither do the police across Canada know, yet they continue using the weapon where public safety is not seriously at risk. The real answer to the dangerous and needless use of police tasers is not to be found in Poland.