9/30/07

Police accused of race attacks on Africans

"Police in the region are being awarded for multicultural policing while perpetrators of brutality and racism remain in their stations, or in other stations in the region — or are promoted."

Liz Porter
September 30, 2007

A LEAKED police report has questioned the future of a senior sergeant accused by lawyers of running a regime of "racially motivated police violence" against local African youths at Flemington police station.

The confidential Ethical Standards Department report, part of which has been obtained by The Sunday Age, recommended that Victoria Police call in "external agencies" to discuss whether the officer should stay at the station.

The officer was dubbed "Senior Sergeant X" in a recent VCAT judgement, which ruled that the report be kept secret. He was in charge of the station in 2005 and early 2006 but is on temporary secondment to the Victoria Police Centre, the tribunal heard. It was during X's time as the officer in charge of the station that lawyers from the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre received a spate of complaints about police brutality, harassment and racism directed at young refugees from the Horn of Africa.

A secret "ethical health" review was conducted for the ESD last year by Inspector Mark Doney after the centre reported 13 complaints to the Office of Police Integrity.

Summaries of the complaints were presented to a VCAT hearing of the community legal centre's appeal against the police's refusal to release the report.

They included allegations of young people being "punched and kneed", punched while handcuffed, slapped and choked by police officers. One youth alleged he was forced to strip naked below the waist, in public and again at the police station, in the course of an unlawful search by police. There were also allegations of repeated racial abuse.

One youth alleged that he was punched twice in the head while his face was on the ground. His head was stood on while an officer told him he was a "black c---" and smoked. Another youth alleged that police hit him repeatedly on the head while he was seated and handcuffed, causing him to fall to the ground.

Tamar Hopkins of the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre said she was appalled that the officer's possible return to the station was even being considered.

Although lawyers from the centre made a lengthy submission to the ESD review, police have so far fought successfully to keep its contents secret. First Victoria Police blocked the lawyers' Freedom of Information request for the report. Then, when the centre applied to VCAT for a review of that decision, the police fought them and won.

The lawyers have been told they have grounds for a Supreme Court appeal, but are reluctant to risk up to $30,000 of the centre's tiny budget to pay police legal costs should they lose.

The VCAT hearing about the report was told that two officers were moved from the station after the complaints were made to the OPI and before Inspector Doney began questioning police at the station.

One officer, referred to in the VCAT judgement, as "acting sergeant Z", featured in a number of the complaints and was transferred to another station afterwards. The other, "senior sergeant X", was not mentioned specifically in the complaints but was in charge of the station at the time of the complaints. But Inspector Nigel Howard, manager of the Moonee Valley Police Service Area, told VCAT that the move was at X's inititative, who was seeking promotion.

The hearing was also told that it was the redeployment of senior sergeant X and then acting sergeant Z that had enabled other officers to speak with greater candour to Inspector Doney. In ruling that the report be kept secret, the deputy president of VCAT, Mr M. F. Macnamara, noted Inspector Howard had said in evidence there was a culture of retribution against "those who ratted" to investigators about colleagues or superiors. He quoted Inspector Howard's evidence that publicising the report would enable others to work out "who the rat was".

Ms Hopkins called for the police to release the whole report and said the level of complaints about Flemington police dropped when a new senior sergeant introduced a "zero tolerance for racist comments" policy.

But she said that that senior sergeant had moved and the legal centre continued to receive complaints about racial harrassment and aggression by police from other stations, including Moonee Ponds.

She said that the centre now had 18 complaints awaiting investigation by OPI.

"Police in the region are being awarded for multicultural policing while perpetrators of brutality and racism remain in their stations, or in other stations in the region — or are promoted."

Complaints to the Office of Police Integrity

■March 2006, Flemington: Young man says he was punched in face by one officer. He was choked and punched in the lower back by another, and called a "black f---".

■March 2006, Flemington: A young man claims he was racially harassed and assaulted during a raid on his home. He was told: "I don't like you black guys around here. Go back to your country." At the police station, he was slapped on the face and threatened with serious injury.

SINCE THE DONEY REPORT

■February 2007, Moonee Ponds: One young man says he was bashed in the face with a torch while handcuffed. Another says he was repeatedly beaten with a torch and sprayed with capsicum spray while lying on his stomach on the ground.

■April 2007: A young man says he was punched repeatedly in the head, choked and kicked while being stood on and handcuffed by Footscray police

3 comments:

Ridwan said...

Ana I was not aware of this. Ohhhh my. I am a regular reader of your blog and follow its cross listing at Indigina too.

For some reason I missed this post.

Wow!

And the government wants to make as if the problem is simply a matter of Africans and their inability to integrate.

Now why is this so typical?

Ana thank you for writing and keeping us informed on this side of the struggle.

I wish you strength. We are one in struggle!

Peace,
Ridwan

Debate blog - Julio said...

The truth is an extremely serious if it is found that of these officers.

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