Video footage from the Broome Police Station apparently caught out a 31 year old police constable allegedly bashing an Aboriginal man. Thirteen police officers from the Broome Police Station have been summonsed by the Corruption and Crimes Commission (CCC) to testify in an inquiry after the footage was viewed by the CCC.
The incident is somewhat reminiscent of the CCTV footage furore over Kevin Spratt being tasered in the Perth Police Watch House – in that it takes confronting evidence such as video footage to secure an inquiry into a complaint by a prisoner.
Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan viewed the footage and immediately stood down two police officers and issued a No Confidence Notice to the officers. The Notice demands that an officer demonstrate cause as to why they should not be dismissed from the Police Service.
Last week the police constable at the centre of the storm tendered his resignation to Commissioner O’Callaghan.
The CCC has limited to the inquiry to the Broome incident and does not believe a broader investigation into the WA Police is warranted, despite calls from rights advocates for a wide ranging inquiry.
Noongar rights champion and third-year law student Marianne Mackay said the inquiry should have been seen as an opportunity to build trust between Aboriginal peoples and the WA Police by “cleaning out rogue cultures from the police that just think they can do what they want.”
Noongar rights advocate Rex Bellotti Sr said the CCC should have wielded terms of reference looking at Police State-wide and not just in Broome.
“We all know it goes on, the bashing and abuse of our people. We all know that there are good and bad cops and that the good cops too just don’t report what the bad cops do. In the end police cover each other’s back. The CCC missed a golden opportunity for a little bit of change,” said Mr Bellotti.
Some of the thirteen Broome police officers will fly to Perth for the June component of the inquiry while others will attend the public hearing by video-link.
The WA Police has backed the police officers with the Union’s Jon Groves saying that the Broome lock-up can be dangerous.
“I have worked in that lock-up at Broome. It can be a very dangerous place. I have been hurt there myself.”
“What I would like to see is questions asked. Do we have enough staff there to provide custodial care?” said Mr Groves.
“If that question is asked, then some good things can come out of this.”
He said the number of Broome police officers, thirteen, disrupted from their duties “has a knock-on effect with their workmates, and indeed other police stations who have got to provide some sort of relief as well.”
“It is not good for morale (but) hopefully on June 10 at the hearing this matter will be fully explored, and we can all get back to the job of policing.”
The CCC has not finalised its list of witnesses. The inquiry’s terms of reference will soon be made public.
This incident has not come at a good time for WA Police with Noongar Kevin Spratt’s lawyers now pursuing compensation for the August 2008 tasering incidents, and with charges recently laid against two of the nine police officers involved in the tasering incident at the Perth Watch House.
Only weeks ago the Australian Institute of Criminology annual report on Deaths in Custody found that there had been little improvement for Aboriginal peoples since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody – that instead incarceration rates of Aboriginal peoples had sky rocketed and that deaths in custody are still sky high.
The Aboriginal man allegedly assaulted at the Broome lock-up was apparently arrested on a minor offence.