The Dziekanski payout...
What now?

Although the Mounties sound conciliatory
they’re determined to keep their people
in control of the police complaint process

April 7, 2010

The RCMP has tried to close an ugly chapter in its history by paying an undisclosed amount of taxpayers’ money to Robert Dziekanski’s mother. Dziekanski’s death also brought about restrictions in Taser use. And that’s about it. Any changes to the police complaint process remain superficial.

Paying blood money for one death doesn’t fix the RCMP’s problems. While a dramatic video made Dziekanski an internationally known martyr to police brutality, he was just one of several people unnecessarily killed by B.C. police.

Ian Bush was another. When I saw his mother Linda Bush on TV, I thought she bore her grief with dignity and addressed the issues with quiet understatement. It’s heartening to know that she continues to press for police accountability.

Unfortunately, I see no reason for optimism. Every proposal for RCMP reform (there have been several since last summer) turns out to be a variation on the same theme: police will continue to investigate police, with a review by people friendly to the police.

In B.C., the most recent talk involves putting the Mounties under provincial oversight by 2012, when the RCMP contract is renewed. That would probably mean putting them under the very friendly oversight of B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner. Even if, by some miracle, B.C. were to achieve “civilian” investigation of police, Stan Lowe and his crew of ex-cops would be exactly the wrong people to take on that responsibility.

I think the RCMP and B.C.’s municipal police do a clever job of co-opting public concern. Meanwhile, none of Canada’s federal or B.C.’s provincial political parties advocates real change. That being the case, I wish the media would take a closer look at the cops’ bogus, self-serving proposals for reform.

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