Canadian police settle suit launched by the mother of unruly Polish traveler

By Jeremy Hainsworth, AP
Thursday, April 1, 2010

Police apologize for Polish man’s death

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canada’s national police force apologized and settled a lawsuit involving the case of an unruly Polish traveler who died after being repeatedly zapped with a Taser at Vancouver’s airport.

The death of Robert Dziekanski was widely seen around the world after a bystander filmed it.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass apologized Thursday to Dziekanski’s mother, who lives in Canada, and said they could have done things much better.

“Your son arrived from Poland eager to begin a new life in Canada,” Bass said to Zofia Cisowski. “We are deeply sorry he did not have that opportunity.”

Cisowski thanked the RCMP for the settlement. The details were not disclosed.

Officers in the case were responding to calls about a man throwing furniture in the airport’s international arrivals lounge. Dziekanski, who spoke only Polish, apparently had become upset after waiting 10 hours at the airport for his mother.

Two of the officers told a recent inquiry into the death they felt threatened by Dziekanski. He was holding a stapler when the first Taser shot was fired.

The four officers involved in the incident were cleared of any criminal charges in December 2008, with a prosecutor saying their use of force was reasonable.

The incident has been the subject of an inquiry, which is expected to issue a report later this month.

Bass would not comment on any issues before that inquiry prior to the report’s release.

The inquiry commissioner can make findings of misconduct against the officers and make recommendations to avoid similar deaths.

A scholarship has also been established in Dziekanski’s name using $20,000 Canadian (US$19,842) from the RCMP.

Cisowski said she has experienced much stress and many sleepless nights since her son’s death.

“There was not a single day I did not cry and wonder what could have been done to avoid this tragedy,” she said, her voice choking with emotion.

“I have to close this chapter.”

Her lawyer, Walter Kosteckj, said the bystander’s video was critical in finding a resolution to the case.

Intense criticism of the death helped lead the RCMP to announce last year they will no longer use stun guns against suspects who are merely resisting arrest.

Both Bass and Cisowski said they hoped the apology, the settlement and changes in Taser-use policy would help restore flagging public faith in Canada’s national police force.

Dziekanski’s autopsy showed signs of chronic alcoholism, and prosecutors said he may have been in the grip of withdrawal.

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