That’s quite the string of “honest mistakes”

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre was “simply relaying information provided by another officer”—which included viewing a portion of the cellphone video shot by a bystander—and yet came up with these whoppers in front of the national media:

But many details subsequently released by Sgt. Lemaitre were wrong, and the spokesman did a string of interviews in the next couple of days that repeated the errors. For example, in one CTV interview shown to the inquiry, Sgt. Lemaitre is shown telling interviewers that Mr. Dziekanski did not respond to the first police taser, and that he struggled and fought, even while on the ground.

However, the bystander’s videotape, which was later made public, shows that Mr. Dziekanski screamed and fell to the ground after the first taser.

Sgt. Lemaitre also told reporters in October 2007 that police tasered Mr. Dziekasnki twice, when in fact four electronic shocks were delivered. And in another news briefing that October, Sgt. Lemaitre was asked point blank by a reporter if there was video of the taser struggle.

Sgt. Lemaitre told the reporter there was no video, even though he himself had already viewed it.

When asked Tuesday on the witness stand why he told reporters there was no video of the incident, Sgt. Lemaitre replied that he meant there was no airport security video of the incident.

On the witness stand, Sgt. Lemaitre insisted these erroneous statements were honest mistakes on his part. He was handed this information from a fellow Mountie, Corporal Dale Carr, the media spokesman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, which handles serious crime.

Later, when he found out the information was wrong, he was upset and said he took the matter to his boss. But by then Sgt. Lemaitre was taken off the Dziekanski file and the record wasn’t set straight.

But reporters Tuesday questioned the RCMP line that Sgt. Lemaitre was simply a messenger who was handed the wrong facts. If Sgt. Lemaitre watched the amateur video, he would have seen Mr. Dziekanski drop to the ground after the first taser hit.

“Wasn’t that a flat-out lie?” one reporter asked Sgt. Shields.

“No,” the officer said. “Sgt. Lemaitre gave the information that he had, that he had been briefed with. A police media relations officer is only as good as the information that he or she has been given. And in this case Sgt. Lemaitre made public the information had been given.

— Jane Armstrong.  “RCMP ‘sorry’ for inaccurate remarks on Dziekanski incident“, Globe & Mail, April 21st, 2009.

Even if that information contradicted the video evidence he had eyeballed himself.  So let’s see.  Sgt. Lemaitre viewed the video footage, but then went on to tell reporters no such footage existed, and contradicted it multiple times in favour of the account as reported by his fellow officer.  Then his superiors, blind to the damaging effects of having appeared to deliberately mislead the media, refused to allow him to set the record straight?  What were they thinking?  No one will notice; it’s not like tasering the fellow was an international incident or anything.

I like to believe the best of our men and women in red serge, as I know they do an exceedingly difficult job at the best of times.  But this just stinks on so many levels.  It strains credulity, to say the least.

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