Of Tasers and Immigrants

The story of Robert Dziekanski’s death is all over the local media (perhaps beyond local as well). If you weren’t aware of it, this guy is immigrating to Canada, flies into Vancouver where his mom is going to pick him up at the airport, and ends up stuck in the airport for several hours. All this culminates with an obviously frustrated man having a bit of a freakout, to which the police come to subdue him and end up causing his death with a Taser shot. All this is incredibly sad, especially as the media has completely humanized this man for us, and really brought it close to home for everyone. Everyone can feel his frustration and his mother’s sadness and wonder at the uselessness of his death.

Now, generally I’m not opposed to the Taser. Sure, I’ve heard all the statistics: 270 people in the US killed by police officers using Tasers, 17 in Canada. To me, that’s a miniscule amount. If I’m out of my head and need to be subdued and an officer is fearing for his life, I think I’d much rather take the one in 200,000 chance of the Taser killing me than a bullet to the gut, thank you very much. At the end of the day, any tool that assists our police force in saving lives and keeping themselves and the surrounding citizens safe is a good thing. If the occasional tragedy happens because of that, I guess it’s better an occasional tragedy than a large number of them that include more casualties than one. Not a perfect solution, but until there is such a thing we’re kinda stuck with what we have. My understanding is that officers are trained in the safe use of the Taser, and don’t just run off and fire shots with it randomly.

I also generally support the police when the media gets on them. I believe they have an extremely difficult and more and more dangerous job. We live in a city where kids don’t seem to have any fear of pulling a gun out and shooting someone; for a police officer any situation where someone is out of control must be fraught with danger and stress. Add to that the frustration of knowing that if you actually catch a bad guy, our lame duck justice system will slap him or her on the wrist and send them back out to cause more shit. So, yeah…when the cops in downtown vancouver were pummelling granville str pondscum and leaving them to wander home from stanley park, my first thought was “yay!”…harsh and shitty, but frustration at the impotence of justice has me saying “yay”. I’m not necessarily proud of feeling that way, but as a generally law abiding citizen, i’m sick up to my eyeballs of having to live in a certain amount of fear cuz the bad guys get away with it. Unfortunately our justice system’s mandate of protecting the innocent from wrongful conviction seems to have lost it’s way over the decades. Add to that the fact that we can’t afford to incarcerate people, and you’ve got an environment that is “growth friendly” for a criminal element. There is no simple answer to it, but what can we do? Good on the cops for trying.

So, I don’t think the taser is the devil and I support the police. BUT…this one is different. By now most of us have seen the amateur video of the situation, and I’ve gotta say, it disgusts me that the guy even got tasered. My interpretation of the video is that the guy threw up his arms in frustration and turned away from the cops, seemingly not a danger to anyone. And THEN they tasered him. As he’s down on the ground screaming in pain, one of the cops has another one shoot him again. Seriously, WTF? Then it turns out it took 14 minutes for paramedics to arrive, and they didn’t arrive cuz the police called but because a bystander called them on his cell phone.

Ok, so now I’m wondering what happened here? There’s a bunch of things that went wrong, a symphony of errors, that resulted in an innocent man hoping to start a new life in a new country dying needlessly. I don’t put all the blame on the police here…I have a few questions for YVR (vancouver airport). First off…in this post 911 era, how in the living fuck does an obviously irate and panicking individual end up able to stay in a secure area of an airport for 10 hours without any intervention?? If nothing else, security concerns should be raised by that. Secondly, how can a city like Vancouver which has approximately a billion polish people in it NOT have an interpreter available at the airport? And other languages too. I’m willing to bet that there are at least fifty employees at YVR who are of polish decent, second generation canadians or first even. I work in a 80 person office and we have 3 ffs (or 4?). Why doesn’t the airport have some kind of system in place so that nobody is ever without the ability to communicate? We live in the most multicultural city in the world…this should be thought of. Thirdly, where was airport security in all this??? Off having a coffee? Reading “rent-a-cop” monthly and the latest bullying tactics? Fourth, where was the airport medical personel for 15 minutes as Mr Dziekanski lay dying? Could they have helped matters? I dunno. But where were they?

I dunno, I don’t want to jump to quickly on the bandwagon of accusing the police of being trigger happy bullies, but this whole situation leaves a sour taste in my mouth. And through it all, the human tragedy here is astounding; my heart goes out to the man’s mother who must be having a difficult time right now. One can only hope that the airport, the RCMP, and everyone else involved can learn something from this to limit the chances of a similar thing happening. Did the lesson justify the cost, tho?

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