Thursday, November 15, 2007

He Was Polish

Lots of news coverage of the deadly police brutality at the Vancouver International Airport last month. Thanks to the release of of the video the RCMP attempted to suppress. It shows four, count em four, big burley cops jumping and tasering a Polish man who was confused and lost. Because he was speaking gibberish and was 'visibly upset'. That is he was speaking Polish and he was lost and not getting any help from airport staff.

Officers calm as they fired tasers, man who shot video says

Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski is seen detained by police in the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport in this video grab on October 14, 2007. A video shot and released to media by Victoria resident Paul Pritchard shows that Dziekanski did not resist or confront police before officers tasered him. Poland criticized Canadian police on Thursday for using stun guns to shoot an unarmed Dziekanski who then collapsed and died.

The decision by the police to subdue Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver International Airport with a Taser was "inappropriate" because the four officers present should have been able to physically control him, says an American policing expert.

After watching the video of Dziekanski's death, Michael Lyman said that the police should have been able to restrain the Polish visitor using their hands.

"I don't even think batons or mace would have been necessary given that there were four officers on the scene."

And it appears no-one could help him because well he spoke a foreign language; Polish. Which is a Slavic derivative not unlike umm say Russian or Ukrainian. In Vancouver. Home to many Russians, Ukrainians and Poles.In B.C. Home of the Russian speaking Doukhabours. The Doukhabours have been subjected to being called terrorists and attack by the RCMP. In Western Canada, we have the Ukrainian Diaspora as well as all the Polish/Berman speaking Displaced Persons who arrived after WWII. In a Western Canadian International airport no one could speak Polish.

When airport security officials first appear
, passengers can be heard shouting to them that Mr. Dziekanski did not understand English. One woman, who the tape shows attempting to calm Mr. Dziekanski at one point, suggests that a Russian interpreter be summoned to help the confused man.

What's wrong with this picture? Airport security indeed. In all the sturm and drang about security whatever happened to Customer Relations.
Indeed it would seem that to serve an international clientèle one should have interpreters. Of course they probably have them for Asian customers. No one expects Polish immigrants to arrive in Vancouver.

This reminds me of a case in Alberta many years ago when it was discovered that a poor Polish man had spent years in Alberta Hospital, the provincial mental hospital, because he was, well Polish. And none of the doctors or nurses could speak Polish. In Alberta. Home of many Polish and Ukrainians. None of the staff could speak Polish. So they locked him away as a schizophrenic supposedly speaking gibberish. Until one day a visitor came to see a relative and began a conversation with the poor man, in Polish. Much to the hospital and governments embarrassment they had confined someone who was perfectly sane but happened to be Polish. He was released. In Vancouver the poor Polish man is dead.

And we could wait years for a medical inquiry because when it comes to police brutality B.C. backs the cops. Like in this poor mans case.

Frank Paul spent the last night of his life crawling on his hands and knees at the police station, from where he was dragged to a police wagon and then dumped, drunk and soaking wet, in a back alley where he died.

But Paul's family heard a starkly different explanation from police when they were finally called about his death on the night of Dec. 6, 1998.

"They said he died in a hit-and-run and that he was found in a ditch,'' Paul's cousin, Peggy Clement, said from the New Brunswick community of Elsipogtog, formerly known as Big Cove.

"And he died in early December but it was the middle of January by the time we received word he had died,'' she said.

On Tuesday, almost a decade after the family found out about Paul's death, Clement will be the first witness to testify in Vancouver at a long-awaited inquiry into what happened the night he died.

The B.C. government ordered the inquiry after years of questions about why police dumped the heavily intoxicated aboriginal man in an alley.

That was only after several aboriginal groups, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the provincial Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner pushed relentlessly to have Paul's death examined at a public inquiry.

Unfortunately for him no one was around with a digital cam to document the police brutality and abuse. In this case someone was and since it made the news we can hope that justice will be not only be seen to be done but done faster.

With the release of the video of this out and out police brutality Canadians are shaken up. Again.

Last time it was the famous RCMP pepper spraying incident also in Vancouver during the Anti-APEC demonstrations. Once again the ugly face of police excess was shown on the news.

This time though the revulsion is even turning up on the right wing blogs. And on the right wing talk shows. Usually the bastion of the law and order types who are unquestioning defenders of the cops.

Mike Duffy Live: Radio talk show hosts discuss police conduct after the Taser incident

Canadians universally are questioning this incident and the use of tasers by the cops. And it's about time.

Canada orders Taser review after video of death


Policing Mental Illness

Cops and Tasers

Ban Tasers

Death by Taser

Take Tasers Away from Cops

The Market Fazers Taser

State Security Is A Secure State

Policing the Police

A Tale Of Two Whyte Avenues

Ban Handguns From Cops

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Erik said...

Good post!

The Alberta story is hilarious! (although I hope it's not true).

All other accounts suggest there is systemically something wrong with the police in Canada.

I do have some hope that things will have to change for the better. Especially the right-wing that seems to be divided on the issue is a (welcome) surprise to me; most people in Canada seem to be appalled by the actions of the RCMP.

Technology (video/blogs etc) has helped us realize what many knew all along; the RCMP needs to change its rotten ways or else it needs to go.

eugene plawiuk said...

Unfortunately the story is true it occurred in the late seventies. I tried to goggle it but to no avail.