OTTAWA – The top Mountie says the RCMP is very sorry for the death of a Polish immigrant who was Tasered by officers.
Robert Dziekanski died after four Mounties confronted him at Vancouver airport in October 2007, stunned him repeatedly with a Taser and pinned him to the floor.
RCMP Commissioner William Elliott expressed regret at a Senate committee Monday.
“We are very sorry for Mr. Dziekanski’s death, and are committed to learning as much as possible from this terrible event,” he told the upper chamber’s committee on defence and national security.
“We must continuously strive to learn and to improve.”
Elliott acknowledged the force “will be making some further changes to our policy” on Tasers.
But he stopped short of accepting blame on behalf of the RCMP for Dziekanski’s death.
His words echoed those of his deputy Bill Sweeney, who appeared before the senators last month.
The RCMP says it has changed the way it uses the electronic guns since the high-profile event, which was caught on amateur videotape and beamed around the world.
A British Columbia inquiry led by Thomas Braidwood is probing the incident.
The B.C. hearings have revealed some sharp differences between the video of Dziekanski’s death and statements by RCMP officers.
The tape shows that an officer continued to zap the confused, agitated traveller even after he crumpled to the floor.
Liberal Senator Wilfred Moore noted Dziekanski, who was to join his mother in Kamloops, had come to Canada from Poland to make a life for himself.
“I was embarrassed, I was ashamed about what happened as a Canadian.”
Elliott said the RCMP’s new Taser policy restricts use of the weapon to situations involving risk to officer or public safety, and he stressed that the force must be reasonable and necessary in the circumstances.
The force is putting new emphasis on how to peacefully defuse tense situations when training fresh recruits, he added.
Moore questioned whether the RCMP’s new stun gun policy actually tightens use, noting that some specific wording about multiple Taser use had been deleted.
“I don’t know if I accept that, that the new policy is more restrictive.”
Elliott said the intent certainly was not to suggest to officers that they should be more liberal in using their Tasers – “quite the opposite.”
“So that probably is an area where we should further refine our policy.”
Elliott declined to spell out how the changes would have helped Dziekanski, and said he could not get into the specifics of the man’s case.
“We’ll see where the inquiry takes us.”
His testimony came as the force announced plans to conduct widespread testing of its older, M-26 Tasers to see if they are performing properly.
The Mounties began lab-testing their Tasers after a CBC/Radio-Canada investigation found some stun guns deliver a stronger jolt than they should.