Report says police persecute poor and Indigenous

when I find a copy of the report I'll post it up

Friday, 15 June 2007 8:35:23 AM

By Drew Cratchley

BRISBANE, June 145, 2007: Queensland's Indigenous people and the homeless suffer high levels of police harassment, according to a report by legal and community groups.

Commissioned by a coalition of legal organisations including the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) and community groups such as the Red Cross, the No Vagrancy report calls for a number of investigations into allegations police persecute the socially vulnerable.

Report chairpersons Bob Weatherall, an Aboriginal elder, and chair of Legal Aid Queensland Marg O'Donnell interviewed 131 people from Brisbane and Townsville living in poverty and surveyed 54 criminal justice professionals.

They found people experiencing poverty endure high levels of police interference in their lives, with approximately 75 per cent of interviewees making allegations of police harassment.

At least 20 people said they were frequently searched by police for no apparent reason, and some reported they had been strip-searched in public or by an officer of the opposite sex.

Many Indigenous interviewees said they believe police target them on the streets simply because of their skin colour.

"They think that anyone that's dark is Aboriginal, so they immediately think you're a crim or a drunk," one respondent said of police.

Launching the report in Brisbane yesterday, Magistrate Christine Roney, who runs a Special Circumstances Court in Brisbane to deal specifically with offenders from underprivileged backgrounds, described it as a "thought provoking and uncomfortable report".

She defended her involvement with the report, saying everyone needed to work together to solve ongoing social problems.

"It's very important to stimulate debate, and to continue talking to the community," Ms Roney said.

"There's a great deal of the report that is hard-hitting and controversial, and I've deliberately not commented about the role of other agencies."

Among the report's 20 recommendations is a call for an independent inquiry into policing the poor and the Indigenous community, as well as a Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) investigation into police powers related to search and seizure procedures.

Comment was being sought from Police Minister Judy Spence. - AAP


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