Many years ago when I joined the RCMP, it was a proud organization, albeit one rife with tradition and more than a little out of step with the times. In those days, I referred to the Mounties as “100 years of tradition unhampered by progress.” To a degree that remains the same. And, at the same time, the RCMP has struggled to reinvent itself to be more relevant in a changing world.
In my early days in the RCMP training academy in Regina I began to learn about that tradition and proud history. I became part of a family that I will never quite be separated from no matter how much water passes under the bridge. Indeed, I had dinner last summer with Terry David Mulligan, the ageless DJ who has made a career for himself in rock ‘n roll presenting and promotion. Mulligan, as a young man was also a Mountie and during dinner we didn’t so much talk of music, past, current and future, but of our like experiences in the Mounted Police.
And it is that bond, born of running all over Hell’s half-acre until you earned your marching orders and swimming with bricks and drill hall abuse that allows two people with disparate backgrounds to share a laugh and story about a challenge accepted and passed that will never go away.
But part of that is the angst felt watching the media devour the RCMP over the Taser incident at Vancouver International Airport that resulted in the death of Polish traveler Robert Dziekanski and feeling that it is all grossly unfair.
Media spin and obfuscation of the facts are old hat and to be expected when looking at any story where the “heavy-handed” police are involved. Or, rather as a friend refers to the police as the “jack-booted enforcers.”
The media coverage of the Braidwood Inquiry into the actions of the RCMP on that fateful night is little more of that confirmation of their bias and attempt to pillory what was once a great Canadian institution.
Dziekanski was a ne’er do well at best. He was a drunk and a chain smoker who had done without both for more than 20 hours on his travels from Poland to YVR. After that many hours in the air without a drink or a smoke, I can imagine he was a little on edge. But while on the ground at YVR, he didn’t seem to possess the mental acumen to get himself some help in the form of directions for hours on end. Equally the Customs and Immigration folks and the YVR security folks seemed to have ignored him in a high security area for those same hours, yet it is the RCMP that are the bad guys in this movie.
So, when he started tossing around desks and computers it is only natural that the police were called. And in strolled four members of our once-proud national police force just trying to do their job. Their reward has been to be metaphorically hung, drawn and quartered by a media convinced they are covering up murder.
Those four members of the RCMP were just trying to do their job in the manner they were trained. Nothing more and nothing less.
Yet it is the little details that have lawyers turning summersaults. Quibble about the details all you want, but the bottom line is that four police officers were dispatched to a call of a violent, possibly drunk male who was on a rampage. They attended, approached the suspect carefully and in the face of apparent dismissal and potential violence they responded in the manner they were trained. And the reality is that every nickel – or perhaps I should say every millions of dollars of taxpayer money – spent on the Braidwood inquiry is an absolute waste of money.
There’s no mystery here. If you don’t like the way the Mounties handled their response, lobby to change the policy, don’t shoot the messenger. Well, actually, that is already too late. The professional bureaucrat named by the Prime Minister to take control of the once proud Force, William Elliot, has already altered Force policy on the use of Tasers without knowing thing one about reality on the mean streets.
But piling on the RCMP has almost become de rigeur for the mainstream media. Today, for example, I did an interview with a CBC reporter about a situation involving a municipal police force and she kept referring to the RCMP so conditioned is she.
But that is what it is. The RCMP is a big, scarlet clad target and that is fair enough. But, I would much prefer a debate surrounded with facts not ideologically driven bovine scatology. But, unfortunately, that is all the mainstream media seems to be capable of producing when the RCMP is under the microscope in this country.
The Mounties have many foibles and in my opinion need to be reconstituted as our National Police Force not municipal cops. But that is my opinion and perhaps the subject of another discussion. But they also do not deserve to be pilloried for trying to do their job.
And Robert Dziekanski was waste of a man even if the police haters are trying to elevate him to sainthood. He had not amounted to anything in his life and he wasn’t smart enough to recognize that responding police officers were trying to intervene with his dilemma.
Too bad, so sad. But his death was not the fault of those four police officers.