Canadian police apologize, compensate for taser death of Polish man

09:21, April 02, 2010      

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Canada's national police force on Thursday offered an apology and an undisclosed settlement to the mother of Robert Dzienkanski, the Polish man who died at the Vancouver airport after being tasered several times by officers to subdue him in an October 2007 incident.

Dzienkanski, who spoke no English and was on his way to visit his mother, Zofia Cisowski, in the city of Kamloops, about 350 kilometers away from Vancouver, appeared to be disoriented at the airport when he was confronted by four Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

As captured on video that was later seen around the world, the footage showed a handcuffed Dzienkanski on the ground being jolted by the Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs), more commonly known as tasers. His heart stopped and he died 15 minutes later as paramedics tried to revive him.

"The RCMP could have done things better and we want to do things better," Gary Bass, RCMP deputy commissioner for the Pacific Region, said at a press conference where he was seated next to Cisowski at the Vancouver airport's south terminal.

"Your son arrived from Poland eager to begin a new life here in Canada. We are deeply sorry he did not have that opportunity."

He added the apology did not acknowledge that police killed Dziekanski, but their actions may have played a part in his death.

In an emotional speech, a tearful Cisowski said the past 2 years had been extremely difficult as she couldn't sleep and was very tired. She now wanted "to close this chapter" in her life.

"There was not a single day that I did not cry and analyze what could be done to avoid this tragedy," she said.

"I think I will sleep (now). (I'm not angry), I know this process takes time. But now it is over I feel much better from today."

A civil suit filed earlier by Cisowski against the RCMP was withdrawn in an exchange for apology and compensation.

Cisowski said she had also received apologies from the British Columbia solicitor general and the Canada Border Service Agency, but only from one of the four officers involved in the incident.

She said she hoped today would be "an important step to restore the confidence of public opinion (in the RCMP) and hoped the RCMP can better perform their duties." In addition she was looking forward to policy changes and testing in regard to tasers.

"Specifically I am looking forward to what can be found about the effects of tasers on the human body. We have to make sure that what happened to my son Robert can't be repeated."

Cisowski said a memorial scholarship had now been set up at Kamloops university with the RCMP making a 20,000 Canadian dollar donation. The scholarship will benefit geography students, a particular interest of Dziekanski.

"This is my son's legacy by which others may benefit."

Bass said the RCMP had learned from the incident and in its aftermath had made several changes to strengthen policies, practices, training and reporting requirements in relations to tasers.

The changes includes restricting the use of CEWs to " incidents involving threats to officers or public safety," requiring officers to be re-certified annually on the use of the devices, and enhanced reporting on their use by officers.

Awareness on the risks associated with tasers would also be increased.

In addition, a new policy was introduced within the force around independent investigation which states that "wherever possible, an external independent agency will conduct investigations into any RCMP in-custody deaths and allegations that are serious or sensitive in nature to ensure impartiality and thoroughness."

"While none of our organization's changes, apologies and civil settlement can bring Robert back, it is our sincere hope that what we've learned from his death will help prevent future tragedies from occurring," Bass said.



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