Canada's national police force is facing a collapse of public confidence, a loss of trust that deepened with an inquiry's finding that there was no justification for the death of a Polish immigrant at the hands of four RCMP officers.
Mr. Justice Thomas Braidwood issued his final report Friday on the death of Robert Dziekanski in 2007 at Vancouver International Airport, calling for far-reaching reforms to policing in British Columbia in an effort to restore public faith in the RCMP.
"Mr. Dziekanski's death appears to have galvanized public antipathy for the Force and its members," he wrote. "That is regrettable, because the most important weapon in the arsenal of the police is public support. This tragic case is, at its heart, the story of shameful conduct by a few officers."
That body blow comes just one day after damning findings from the Air India report, which found deep systemic flaws in Canada's national-security apparatus, including the RCMP.
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Mr. Braidwood's report - whose title Why? was drawn from Mr. Dziekanski's final words - set off a chain reaction, triggering the appointment of a special prosecutor that could end in criminal charges against the four Mounties who tasered the Polish immigrant, and prompting an unqualified apology from the RCMP.
William Elliott, the RCMP Commissioner, said he recognizes what is at stake for the national police force. "Canadians will not support us if they don't trust us," he said, as he issued an unqualified apology to Mr. Dziekanski's mother for the death of her son.
But Mr. Braidwood said he believes the recommendations in his report for far-reaching changes in the policing structure in British Columbia - and their immediate embrace by the RCMP and the B.C. government - indicate that the Mounties can rebuild their battered reputation.
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"Restoring public confidence is the name of the game here and I think this is the way to do it," he said.
His recommendations include creating a civilian-led Independent Investigation Office to probe cases involving all police, including the RCMP, in British Columbia. He also called for a new look by a special prosecutor at the decision not to charge the four officers involved in the fatal confrontation.
Mike de Jong, B.C.'s attorney general and solicitor general, embraced both of Mr. Braidwood's main recommendations. By day's end, prominent Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck was named the special prosecutor.
Mr. de Jong said at a news conference that the review was "not just warranted but essential," and he hoped it would be concluded as quickly as possible.
Zofia Cisowski, Mr. Dziekanski's mother who has publicly stated that she wants the four officers involved charged , said she appreciated the apology from Mr. Elliott, but was confused about why the four officers are still members of the force.
"They still have no consequences," she said, noting that the media asked Mr. Elliott many times why the officers are still employed. "You have no answer. I need an answer, too."
One of the officers has been suspended because of another criminal matter involving a traffic accident that killed a motorcyclist. The three others are on administrative duties and not involved in front-line policing.
Poland's embassy in Ottawa issued a statement in which it urged the B.C. Crown to reassess its decision not to lay charges.
Mr. Braidwood, ending his leadership of the two-year inquiry, said in an interview that he was "absolutely delighted" with all of the developments that followed a morning briefing in which he discussed his 460-page report.
"They adopted it all."
He said he cannot get into the question of whether the four officers should face criminal charges. "I cannot get into that, cannot at all. That's just outside of my bailiwick," he told The Globe and Mail.
The reputation of the RCMP "will begin to ascend to [the]height it used to be," he said, as work continues on enacting the recommendations that came out of his marathon inquiry.
Mr. Braidwood offered a new description on the death of Mr. Dziekanski, based on the views of 14 experts. Lost for at least five hours in the customs hall of the international arrivals area of the airport, an exhausted and confused Mr. Dziekanski began acting erratically, drawing the attention of the police who responded to a 911 call.
"The officers approached the incident as though responding to a bar-room brawl, and failed to shift gears when they realized they were dealing with an obviously distraught traveler," he concluded.
Mr. Braidwood concluded that while Mr. Dziekanski was zapped five times and struggled while being cuffed, he suffered a surge of adrenaline amplified by the effects of the taser and a struggle with the officers that caused a cardiac arrest.
He found that Mr. Dziekanski was neither compliant, defiant or resistant upon approach by the officers, and that he did not present a threat when he brandished a stapler in frustration.
Mr. Braidwood said RCMP Constable Kwesi Millington, who used his taser on Mr. Dziekanski, was not justified in using the weapon because neither Constable Millington nor his supervising officer, Corporal Benjamin Robinson, "honestly perceived" an imminent attack.
He also said all four officers' claims that they wrestled Mr. Dziekanski to the ground were "deliberate misrepresentations" to justify their actions. He doubted their claims that there was no discussion among the officers about the incident before being questioned by investigators - a key point of debate at the inquiry - but did not conclude they "colluded to fabricate a story."