I had missed this final paragraph in a Globe and Mail editorial two days ago on the killing of Robert Dziekanski by four RCMP officers last year. Here, concluding an otherwise unexceptionable critique of the over-use of Tasers by the RCMP, is the sting in the tail:
Another irrelevant exercise is under way with an RCMP homicide investigation of the officers who tasered Mr. Dziekanski. It was reported this week that the investigative team has passed on the file to a Crown attorney with no recommendation on whether charges should be laid. It would be wrong to charge those officers. They were doing what they were trained to do. Their use of the taser was horrifyingly wrong, but the policy within which they work said it was right.
A letter-writer today makes the obvious point about this piece of moral imbecility:
You lost all credibility, however, when, writing of the Robert Dziekanski affair, you stated: "It would be wrong to charge those officers. ... Their use of the taser was horrifyingly wrong, but the policy within which they work said it was right."
An officer's action is right or it is wrong. Actions stemming from police policies are either right or wrong. The officers should be charged and brought before a court of law, where they are free to avail themselves of all the mechanisms of our justice system and to be judged by a jury of their peers.
"Only following orders" has become "only following policy." (How Canadian!) We didn't accept this line of argument sixty years ago, and we shouldn't blithely accept it now.
In my opinion, having reviewed the infamous video countless times, there would appear to be a prima facie case for manslaughter charges at the very least. Millions have now watched four officers brutalize a man until he died, and make no effort at resuscitation. They even refused to remove the dead Dziekanski's handcuffs when paramedics finally arrived. And, not knowing that the officers had been caught on camera, an RCMP spokesman brazenly lied about the incident to the media. The four officers are still on active duty.
For too long, the RCMP has killed with impunity. Mere policy changes won't fix the current hyper-macho RCMP culture, but existing policy shouldn't, in any case, be used to excuse the kind of behaviour exhibited by the uniformed goons in the video. What is needed--urgently--is equal application of the law to those who are supposed to enforce it. What we don't need is a national newspaper irresponsibly invoking the Nuremberg Defence on their behalf.