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Rights group calls for removal of RCMP's top cop

VANCOUVER - The federal government should fire RCMP Commissioner William Elliott for his role in the Dziekanski affair, says a group supporting the mother of the Polish immigrant who died in 2007 after being stunned by police Tasers.

Canadian Civil Rights Movement founder Zygmundt Riddle told the Tyee he thinks Elliott is responsible for the mistakes made by his RCMP officers and for what he calls a “cover up” that followed in RCMP press releases and officer testimony before the Braidwood Inquiry.

The inquiry has heard testimony and viewed bystander videotape of Robert Dziekanski’s death that conflict with RCMP testimony. While the Mounties have testified the distraught Polish immigrant was combative and advanced toward officers brandishing a stapler, a number of observers say video and witness evidence suggest Dziekanski was not a serious threat to the officers.

Riddle’s candidate to succeed Elliott as RCMP Commissioner is Dr. Mike Webster, a veteran police psychologist with 30 years experience who testified at the inquiry.

Webster called the death a tragedy and told the inquiry the four officers “panicked” and used “excessive force” in dealing with Dziekanski.

In an exclusive interview with The Tyee, the psychologist commented publicly for the first time on the RCMP officers’ testimony.

“What you saw when the members testified was a well-rehearsed attempt to preserve the image of the RCMP,” Webster said. “Anyone who is familiar with eye-witness testimony knows that different observers of the same incident have differing memories. The four members all presented the same version, which I see as evidence of coaching.”

Webster said he thought his own appointment as commissioner was unlikely, but did have ideas of what he would do with the police force if the opportunity came available.

“I would end contract policing and make the RCMP a non-uniformed federal force like the FBI,” he said.

There would also need to be a significant turnover of current RCMP upper management, he said, in order to bring about the transformational change of the institution called for by some experts.

“I would create a team of young managers with proven track records and officers removed from the top levels of current RCMP management,” Webster said.

“I would only take the job for six months, and I wouldn’t take a dime in pay. The RCMP would never look the same afterwards.”

Tom Sandborn is a Tyee contributing editor and a regular on The Hook. He welcomes your feedback and story tips at tos@infinet.net.


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