RCMP to implement all watchdog recommendations on Robert Dziekanski case

OTTAWA, Feb. 10 /CNW/ - All but one* of the 23 findings made by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) into the tragic October 2007 in-custody death of Robert Dziekanski have been accepted by the RCMP.

In addition, the RCMP is in the process of addressing all 16 CPC recommendations* contained in the October 15, 2009, report.  Of the 16 recommendations, many of which address TASER® use policies and training, 11 have already been implemented by the RCMP. Two have been partially implemented and three others have been addressed as a result of separate initiatives.

The CPC normally waits for the RCMP to respond to its reports before publicly releasing the findings. However, with more than 100 public complaints received about the incident, along with indications from the RCMP that it intended to wait at least an additional six months for the Braidwood Inquiry findings, the previous chair of the Commission deemed it in the public interest to release the report in December 2009.

Key Findings of 2009 Report

  • While they were in the lawful execution of their duties as police officers, the four RCMP officers failed to adopt a measured, coordinated and appropriate response to Mr. Dziekanski's reported behaviour.
  • The senior on-scene RCMP member failed to take charge of the RCMP's response.
  • No meaningful attempt was made to de-escalate the situation.
  • No warning—visual or otherwise—was given to Mr. Dziekanski prior to him being tasered by the Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW).
  • Use of the CEW against Mr. Dziekanski was premature and inappropriate.
  • The CEW was used multiple times on Mr. Dziekanski without any significant effort made to determine the need for further use.
  • The RCMP members present should have more actively provided first aid and monitored Mr. Dziekanski's condition.
  • The four RCMP members inappropriately met alone after the death of Mr. Dziekanski—prior to giving their statements.
  • The versions of events given to investigators by the four RCMP officers involved in the Vancouver International Airport in-custody death of Robert Dziekanski are not deemed credible by the CPC.
  • The senior on-scene RCMP member should not have been present at the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) briefing held at the Richmond Detachment on October 14, 2007.
  • No bias or partiality toward the involved RCMP members was present in the IHIT investigation of the death of Mr. Dziekanski, but the Pritchard video should have been shown to the members before taking statements from them.
  • The RCMP should have released certain information to the media which would have served to clarify information pertaining to the death of Mr. Dziekanski and corrected erroneous information previously provided without compromising the IHIT investigation.

The CPC deployed an independent observer to the RCMP's criminal investigation into events surrounding the death of Mr. Dziekanski one day after the incident (October 15, 2007). The CPC Chair-initiated complaint and subsequent investigation was launched by former CPC Chair Paul E. Kennedy on November 8, 2007.

The CPC is distinct and independent of the RCMP and has jurisdiction over public complaints regarding all members of the RCMP.

http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca/prr/rep/rev/chair-pre/dziekanski/appy-eng.aspx

*The CPC determined that the use of force expert used by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team was not provided with adequate direction in terms of the questions to be considered, the scope of his work or the terms of reference he was to consider.  The RCMP Commissioner disagreed and referenced the use of force expert's qualifications and the evidence available to him. The CPC stands by its finding, as it believes the issues raised by the Commissioner are not relevant to this finding.

Status of RCMP's Implementation of CPC Recommendations

Dziekanski Investigation

Recommendation Status
1. Review CEW quality assessment program: The RCMP should review the CEW quality assessment program as currently in effect and consider whether it should be enhanced to ensure that a high degree of confidence may be placed in the performance of in-service CEWs. Implemented. The RCMP has had its CEWs tested independently, and has implemented an ongoing testing regime.
Recommendation Status
2. Continue CEW research: The RCMP should continue to be involved in and stay abreast of current independent research on the use and effects of the CEW. Implemented. The RCMP has committed to reviewing research and developments relating to CEWs on an ongoing basis and working with other stakeholders to ensure the policy and training are up to date.
Recommendation Status
3. Clarify threshold for CEW use: Notwithstanding the fact that the RCMP has (as of January 2009) amended its policy such that the use of the CEW is to be used in response to a threat to officer or public safety as determined by a member's assessment of the totality of the circumstances being encountered, the RCMP should clarify for its members and the public what the appropriate circumstances for using the CEW are and what threat threshold will be utilized to assess the appropriateness of such use. Implemented. The April 2010 CEW policy states that the use of the CEW is limited to situations where a subject is causing bodily harm or when it is reasonably believed the subject will cause bodily harm imminently.
Recommendation Status
4. Review CEW training: The RCMP should consider a review of its training to ensure that its members are well versed in the potentially dangerous nature of the weapon and to ensure that training provided to members assists them in appropriately assessing the circumstances in which deployment of the CEW is justified, bearing in mind the degree of pain inflicted on the subject during the CEW deployment and the potential outcome of such deployment. Implemented. The RCMP has updated the IM/IM to increasingly emphasize de-escalation. The RCMP has also rewritten and updated the CEW user course and, as above, has clarified the threshold for CEW use; such use is now limited to situations where a subject is causing bodily harm or when it is reasonably believed the subject will cause bodily harm imminently.
Recommendation Status
5. Implement training to deal with persons who cannot meaningfully communicate: The RCMP should consider designing and implementing training for its members in techniques to communicate with persons who cannot meaningfully communicate with them. Implemented in part. The RCMP has updated the IM/IM to increasingly emphasize de-escalation and the goal of resolving incidents through officer presence and communication. Communication with persons who cannot themselves meaningfully communicate has not been specifically addressed.
Recommendation Status
6. Amend CEW usage form and policy to require spark tests:
The RCMP should:
1. Amend its Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) Usage Reporting Form (Form 3996), to require that information concerning a spark test be captured as part of the CEW usage reporting process (or include such requirement in the forthcoming Subject Behaviour/Officer Response data base); and
2. Edit its Operational policy to emphasize the importance of the spark test and clearly indicate that the spark test is mandatory to confirm proper functioning of the CEW.
Implemented in part. The RCMP has strengthened reporting requirements and processes. Spark tests, while not specifically mentioned in the RCMP's response, are now required pursuant to national operational policy, and the conduct of the test must be recorded on the CEW sign-out form (Conducted Energy Weapon Log).
Recommendation Status
7. Detachment familiarization procedures should include a review of medical facilities/equipment: RCMP detachment familiarization procedures should include a detailed review of available medical facilities and equipment. Addressed. All detachments have emergency operational plans which contain the medical facilities and resources within the detachment area. Detachment familiarization is conducted to ensure that personnel are aware of these resources.
Recommendation Status
8. Review processes respecting initiation of internal investigations: The RCMP should review its processes and criteria with respect to the initiation of an internal investigation into the conduct of its members to ensure consistency of application across the country. Implemented. An October 15, 2010, directive from the Senior Deputy Commissioner confirmed that investigations must be initiated once there is an appearance of a contravention of the Code of Conduct.
Recommendation Status
9. External investigation in serious cases: I reiterate my recommendation from my report on the Police Investigating Police (August 2009) that all RCMP member investigations involving death, serious injury or sexual assault should be referred to an external police force or provincial criminal investigation body for investigation. There should be no RCMP involvement in the investigation. If, however, the RCMP continues to investigate such matters, then I recommend that the RCMP implement clear policy directives that all investigations in which death or serious bodily injury are involved and which involve RCMP members investigating other police officers will be considered criminal in nature until demonstrated not to be. Implemented. RCMP has developed and implemented a new External Investigation or Review Policy. The policy mandates a combination of external investigation, review and observation in cases where an RCMP member is being investigated. Notably, investigations involving serious injury or death, criminal offences or of a serious or sensitive nature are to be conducted by provincial investigative agencies where such agencies exist, by external police forces or, where neither of the former are available, by another RCMP division. In the extenuating circumstance where an investigation must be conducted within the division in which the incident arose, the new policy puts in place a regime of independent review and observation.
Recommendation Status
10. Formalize role of Staff Relations Representative (SRR) within the process: If the protocol of SRR attendance is to continue, the RCMP should formalize the role of the SRR to provide clear policy and guidance to ensure that the SRR knows the bounds of his or her involvement and the required protocols with respect to such attendance, and that in all such cases the SRR not meet alone with a subject member in advance of being interviewed by an investigator. Implemented in part. RCMP national administrative policy provides that a member subject to a statutory (criminal) investigation possesses the same rights as any other individual, and also provides that members may have SRRs present when being interviewed during a Code of Conduct investigation. However, the RCMP's new Responsibility to Report Policy partially addresses this concern in that it advises subject witness members that they may wish to contact the SRR, but may first be required to provide a preliminary report. The categorical prohibition recommended by the Commission was not implemented.
Recommendation Status
11. Development of duty to account policy: I reiterate my recommendation in the Ian Bush decision (November 2007) that [t]he RCMP develop a policy that dictates the requirement, timeliness and use of the duty to account that members are obliged to provide. Implemented. The RCMP has developed and implemented a new Responsibility to Report Policy addressing this recommendation. The policy sets out members' duties and responsibilities with respect to accounting for their actions during and following a major police incident, including the need for timely reporting.
Recommendation Status
12. Review of policies and procedures regarding proper interviews: The RCMP should review its operational policies and procedures to ensure that, particularly in serious cases in which members investigate the actions of other members, processes are available to enable investigator awareness of the nature and depth of detail required during interviews. Implemented. The RCMP has developed and implemented a new External Investigation or Review Policy (see recommendation 9). Pursuant to that policy, members will, in general terms, no longer be conducting such investigations.
Recommendation Status
13. Note taking: In light of the continuing nature of this issue, the RCMP should take steps to ensure that members are aware of the importance of note taking, and that supervisors should be encouraged to regularly review the notes taken by their subordinates to ensure the quality of such documentation. Implemented. The RCMP is currently re-writing and updating its note taking policy, which will include increased supervisory monitoring of notes to verify quality and compliance. The Commissioner commented extensively on the importance of note taking. Internal interim divisional measures to strengthen note taking practices pending policy amendments have been taken.
Recommendation Status
14. Clarify guidelines for obtaining A/V recordings: Given the proliferation of recording devices, it is anticipated that incidents in which RCMP members will seek to obtain private video or audio recordings will potentially occur more frequently in the future. Whether the police seize a video or audio recording of an event or obtain it on consent from a member of the public, the police must know and advise the public of the authority under which the video or audio recording is obtained. I recommend that the RCMP provide clarification for members with respect to obtaining video or audio recordings of an event. Addressed. The RCMP's national operational policy currently outlines the authorities under which such items may be seized. Related learning modules emphasize the fact that video and audio contained on a device is considered "evidence," and specifically cite the relevant statutes under which such items are to be seized. 
Recommendation Status
15. Develop a media and communications strategy involving regular and meaningful updates: I reiterate my recommendation in the Ian Bush decision that [t]he RCMP develop a media and communications strategy specifically for police-involved shooting investigations that recognizes the need for regular, meaningful and timely updates to the media and to the public. In addition, the media and communications strategy should include a publicly available general investigative outline of the steps to be taken and the anticipated timeline for each step. I also expand my recommendation to cover all in-custody death investigations. Addressed. The RCMP has a national media relations policy and standard operating procedures in place which are intended to foster productive media and community relationships and to ensure that accurate, impartial and timely information is provided to the media while protecting the integrity of investigations and respecting the rights of individuals. The policy requires specific assessment of the circumstances when determining the communications approach to be taken. As well, the RCMP has developed a national communication strategy which provides a more consistent and standardized approach to communication across the country. Nonetheless, the December 2010 Final Report of the RCMP Reform Implementation Council cited continuing concerns regarding the RCMP's capacity for strategic communications.
Recommendation Status
16. Review policy to ensure that risks of positional asphyxia are addressed: The RCMP should immediately conduct a review of its policies and training regimen to ensure that members are adequately trained with respect to recognizing the risks inherent in, and signs of, positional asphyxia and in taking steps to mitigate those risks. Implemented. Review of the content of the current training program relating to positional asphyxia has been completed. Also, assessment of existing policy guidance regarding restraint devices and methods has been conducted. The policy guidance outlines the requirement for assessing responsiveness and seeking medical assistance and also details the risks relating to methods of restraint and includes medical cautions in such circumstances.

SOURCE Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP

For further information:

Jamie Robertson
613-952-3738
jamie.robertson@cpc-cpp.gc.ca

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