Judge finds yet another
sordid Mountie coverup

Abuse, poor record-keeping and
ignored court disclosure requests
further tarnish RCMP image

Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, Sept. 21, 2009

A B.C. Supreme Court justice has revealed another sordid example of what appears to be a culture of coverup rampant within the RCMP as the Braidwood Commission prepares to resume its inquiry into Mountie conduct.

Sitting in Smithers last week, Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg concluded members of the Burns Lake detachment roughed up a handcuffed prisoner, failed to keep notes, didn’t file proper reports, erased key videotapes and ignored court disclosure requests.

The officers physically abused andrew fidler (who spells his name using only lowercase letters) after arresting him at his home Oct. 19, 2006 under suspicion he had committed an assault earlier in the evening.

Not only the manhandling of a handcuffed suspect should concern us but also the manner in which the officers (including an acting supervisor) responded to their obligation to document and preserve evidence.

The behaviour by the three constables is nearly identical to that of the four RCMP officers who Tasered Robert Dziekanski at Vancouver Airport in October 2007.

They used the same excuse for assaulting fidler that they gave for zapping Dziekanski — fidler was described as “agitated, violent and combative.”

When police arrived at his home, however, he was inside, talking on the telephone and willingly complied with their requests to come out and kneel on the ground.

The handcuffs were put on fidler in such a way that they not only restrained him, but if he struggled, they tightened.

His requests that the officers identify themselves and for relief were ignored. At the detachment, fiddler was beaten in a technique the RCMP called “pain compliance.”

He was taken to hospital the next day and when doctors asked for his handcuffs to be removed so they could treat him, the police refused. Same thing happened to Dziekanski, who was lying unconscious on the airport floor.

When it came time to review what happened at Burns Lake, just as in the Dziekanski case, there is scant documentation and everyone’s memory is faulty.

The only documentation of fidler’s stay in the detachment and his hospital visit were cryptic RCMP logs and a form that contained no dates and inaccurate information.

Although an Incident or Occurrence Report should have been completed, there was none in this case.

Although on Oct. 19, the cameras that covered the detachment booking-counter, the cellblock area, as well as inside the cells were operating, the tapes were erased — erased in spite of the supposed RCMP policy to make a disk copy of any video surveillance capturing “violent incidents.”

“Throughout the trial, which took place over two weeks with a break of several weeks between the two weeks, difficulties were encountered with disclosure of documentation from the Burns Lake Detachment,” Justice Koenigsberg wrote.

“Not only was there late disclosure, the disclosure was piecemeal and necessitated the court, in exasperation the last few days of the trial, to order the entire file of Mr. fidler’s encounters with the Burns Lake Detachment on Oct. 19-20, 2006 to be brought to Court.”

Among documents then disclosed was an RCMP Continuation Report that completely contradicted Mountie testimony.

Given “the late disclosure, lack of disclosure, lack of record keeping and what can only be described as a somewhat cavalier attitude toward documentation of violent incidents and the taking of prisoners to the hospital,” Koenigsberg concluded the accused was a more honest witness than the cops.

She acquitted fidler of the charges he was facing, but said the criminal law didn’t provide her with a remedy for the breach of his constitutional rights.

All of this is germane, as former Justice Thomas Braidwood gets ready to recall witnesses and reopen his inquiry Tuesday.

Braidwood is facing exactly the same situation: late in the game the Mounties have discovered documentation that should have been disclosed much earlier suggesting the testimony of the four officers in the Dziekanski case is perjured.

Senior Mounties will be recalled to testify about what happened and I expect them to say they can’t remember exactly, that the documents were badly written and don’t mean what they say.

But don’t expect them to acknowledge that what happened at YVR, like what happened at Burns Lake, was a travesty of policing.

Like Koenigsberg, Braidwood will be able to complain and in his final report perhaps even give the officers a tongue-lashing for any misconduct.

But, as with Koenigsberg, he hasn’t got the power to do anything about it: The force is with them.

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