Monday, March 21, 2011


The events surrounding the suppression by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) of official footage of the Tasering of a highly-disturbed 17 year old girl in a Toowoomba fish and chip shop last week amounts to a propaganda-like distortion of public information, says former Queensland MP and QPS Academy law lecturer and training sergeant Peter Pyke.

Pyke says the Bligh government is attempting every trick in the book to positively spin the Tasering incident, evidenced by the initial coverup of the incident, the later selective management of who might see the vision of the incident, the quick rush to commend the conduct of the police involved and the continued concealment from public scrutiny of the video footage which he says cannot be supported legally.

“This attempt to put a positive spin on behaviour most might regard as inhumane would make the Former Nazi Information Minister Herman Goebels, who coined the term “propaganda” proud,” Pyke says.

Pyke says that he shares the concerns of former Queensland Corruption Commissioner and Federal Court Judge Tony Fitzgerald QC who found fault with the political process last year in the introduction to a book “The Fitzgerald Legacy: Reforming Public Life in Australia and Beyond”, saying voters are only called on to participate at elections every three years. "Beyond that, the electorate is little more than an audience to a substantially rule-free political contest. "The rights of citizens are largely unprotected by legal constraints on official power which elsewhere are considered a hallmark of democracy."

For a democracy to function, Pyke says, the Media and Civil Society both play an essential and vital function which is to ‘monitor’ the other three branches of government namely; the parliament, the executive and the judiciary. Pyke suggests this monitory function is so important that it should be labelled and elevated to another branch of government namely: ‘The Fourth Branch’.

“The health of a democracy can be measured by how well a government assists or prevents the media and civil society to function,” says Pyke. “Under ‘Weather Girl’ Premier Anna Bligh in Queensland, I say we are witnessing a disturbing control of information about police and other state government agencies far worse than anything I saw during the dark days of the Joh era,” he says.

Pyke says the Toowoomba Taser incident has caught the Bligh Queensland government and top cops out attempting through the Police Service’s Media Unit to suppress and manipulate information about a matter of considerable community disquiet where a highly-agitated 17 year old Toowoomba girl could have been Tasered to death but instead suffered a substantial head injury.

In a communication to selected media last Friday, at 1.00 PM some Brisbane journalists were invited by Police Media to a carefully controlled screening at Police HQ of the video footage shot by one of the three police who initially attended Bernie’s Fish and Chip Shop in Herries Street, Toowoomba CBD on Wednesday night.

The Police Media Unit advised:

“Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett will brief media this afternoon about a Taser deployment in Toowoomba on Wednesday night. At this briefing, media will be shown body worn camera footage of this incident.

Note: Media will be shown this footage for background purposes. For legal reasons, it cannot be broadcast or released to media at this time.

Pyke says although he has not seen the vision himself, senior Queensland journalists who have spoken to him since the Media Unit showed the vision to them on Friday say the footage is highly confronting and appears to be prima facie evidence that the three male police officers who attended the incident involving the highly-agitated girl attempting ‘suicide-by-cop’ over-reacted.

Pyke says he believes the video footage records that the girl was shot in the chest with the Taser electrodes, which is a direct contravention of manufacturer Taser International’s guidelines.

As reported by Sky News (Source AAP) the vision shows:

“From the moment the three officers arrived, the tension was high and police instantly began shouting at the girl to drop the knife. She was warned more than 10 times and was told she would be shot with a Taser stun gun if she did not do as told. The girl kept on shouting: 'Real gun, real gun. Shoot me with a real gun'. Less than 40 seconds after police arrived, the girl was Tasered. She fell to the floor with a thud and a pool of blood formed around her head. She was later treated by ambulance officers for a head injury. Even when on the ground, the girl kept on pleading to be shot, the footage showed.

[Newly-appointed Deputy Commissioner Ross] Barnett defended the officers and said they followed protocol. Although the girl only appeared to be within a few metres of the officers, Mr Barnett said she was out of pepper-spray range. [Barnett] did not answer questions as to why a baton was not used. He said the officers were acting within police guidelines to use the Taser.”

Pyke says it is his understanding that although the Queensland Police Service Media Unit has refused to release the vision filmed by police at the scene of the Tasering incident to the media and the community - claiming ‘legal reasons’ - he has been told by police the footage has already ‘gone viral’ within police networks and has been available since Friday internally for QPS employees and Police Union members to access and download.

“It is my belief that cops and their networks all over Australia have been selectively granted access to the restricted video footage, while such access to public information is being denied to our most senior academics, citizens, journalists, jurists and legal people,” Pyke says. “That’s clearly wrong.”

As a former police on-street training officer and police academy law lecturer, Pyke says he believes the girl who was Tasered could not possibly be charged with any offence. He says the police video evidence confirms she was suicidal and in a highly disturbed state at the time so is therefore not criminally liable under Queensland law.

Pyke says the Bligh government’s claim that legal reasons require the police footage to be withheld is a lie.

Pyke says the Bligh government is employing concerning double standards, concealment, suppression, spin and lies in it’s attempts to manage the Tasering matter.

Pyke says the Queensland government has nowhere to hide and must now fully release the video footage of the Toowoomba Taser incident to all interested media and to the community.

“I call on premier Anna Bligh, police minister Neil Roberts and police commissioner Bob Atkinson to stop hiding the truth and to come clean by immediately releasing the video footage of the Toowoomba Taser incident last week,” requests Pyke.

“Even in the Joh era when a Rat Pack of corrupt senior former and serving Queensland cops installed their most junior member as commissioner, had a senior cabinet minister amongst their number as well as a ‘killer cop’ operative who murdered at least 20 people did we see such sophisticated and sinister information manipulation and propaganda as we have seen in this last week,” claims Pyke.

Peter Pyke says last week Queensland’s top cops and their Media Unit are operating in a way which damages democracy and says that for the Australian media and civil society to stand by and permit the Bligh government to act as it has and – particularly – to show the Taser video footage in-house and only to selected members of the media must not be tolerated.

Pyke says “The way the Bligh government is handling this incident is a sinister manipulation of public information which – it seems to me - strikes at the heart of our very democracy. I believe such conduct by an Australian state government is so troubling and grave, I call on Academia, Civil Society, the Media, Media Watch, the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission, the Human Rights Commission, the Queensland Ombudsman and the Australian Senate to thoroughly investigate all aspects of this matter,” Pyke asks.

“It has overtones which take us right back to Nazi Germany in its most scary mode,” he says.

“I call on all Australians who hold democracy dear to carefully analyse these events and to make public comment about them,” he said today.

Above is a press release from Peter Pyke, 0427 388 598,

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