Tuesday, June 23, 2020

In Australia Too

A Western Australian police officer who dragged a handcuffed Indigenous boy on to the ground, causing his head to hit the pavement, escaped any sanction over the incident after an internal investigation found the level of force used was “necessary and not excessive.” The internal police investigation into the incident found the officers involved had no case to answer. 

Amid a spate of incidents raising concerns about heavy-handed policing against Indigenous people in Australia, footage obtained by the Guardian highlights what critics say is the flawed process by which investigations into alleged misconduct made against officers are handled internally.

A witness to the incident, who heard the boy cry out in pain, was also arrested for obstructing police. The charges were later dropped after the CCTV footage seemed to contradict statements filed by police. Perth solicitor Nick Terry obtained the CCTV footage, which he said was “difficult to reconcile” with the statements made by the officers.
The footage shows the officer then using his forearm to press the boy’s face into the pavement for about a minute. A second officer then pulls the boy’s leg up behind his body and also leans on him. The boy remains pinned to the ground while handcuffed for about five minutes.
“It’s excessive force,” Nicholas van Hattem, the president of the WA Law Society, told the Guardian.
The case highlights what critics say is a lack of transparency and accountability in the way police in Australia investigate alleged excessive force by officers, and reveals concerning details about the way some police treat bystanders who speak out against what they see as unnecessary force.
Neither the CCTV footage nor the internal investigation which followed would have come to light were it not for the fact that police also arrested the witness to the incident, Tanya De Souza-Meally.
Prof Thalia Anthony, an expert on Indigenous criminalisation at the University of Technology, Sydney, said many Aboriginal people felt it was pointless to make complaints about excessive use of force.
“Overall the problem with internal investigations is that even if complaints are lodged through an ombudsman or third party, they ultimately go back to the police to undertake the investigation so there’s no outside body to conduct the process and then no outside body to see how the investigation is conducted,” she said. “What this means is that Aboriginal people, who are disproportionately affected by the police force, are further alienated from any investigation process because it is both intimidating and unlikely to achieve an outcome in their favour.

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