Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Trigger-happy W.A. cop is REAL scum

And the police union is supporting him!

THE policeman under investigation for firing a warning shot at a car in Nollamara yesterday has been convicted of bashing his wife and is already facing another Internal Affairs Unit probe.

PerthNow can reveal that Niko Westergerling, 39, is under investigation by internal affairs officers amid claims he unlawfully accessed the WA Police database.

The revelation comes just months after the senior constable was convicted and fined $2000 for a brutal attack on his wife during a heated argument at their Innaloo home in February.

Subsequent claims then arose that he had misused the secure police database to access information unrelated to his police work.

Despite the conviction, Sen-Constable Westergerling was allowed to remain in the job.

Sen-Constable Westergerling has been stood aside from duty while internal affairs officers investigate the circumstances surrounding the Nollamara shooting.

It is understood both inquiries - yesterday's shooting and allegations of misusing the police database - will now be conducted simultaneously.

In March, Sen-Constable Westergerling narrowly avoided jail and was fined $2000 after admitting to repeatedly punching and kicking his wife during a heated argument on February 14 while he was off duty.

Defence lawyer Gabrielle Clarke said her client accepted full responsibility for his behaviour, which he had described as "unacceptable and disgusting".

Senior WA police say the officer did not appear to have any valid reason for firing two shots at a black station wagon in Nollamara in the city's northeast early yesterday afternoon.

The car sped off and police have today said there were no reports of injury to any of the five occupants, believed to be three adults, one 17-year-old and a three-year-old. The car was found by police at about 10am today and investigators from the IAU are interviewing two occupants of the vehicle.

Detective Superintendent Tony Flack told reporters the policeman was with two female officers carrying out a routine traffic stop of a driver who was not wearing a seatbelt. He said the driver gave a false name and when the officer asked her to accompany him to a police station, she wound up her window and sped off.

It was then that the officer drew his weapon and fired at the vehicle.

"The Internal Affairs Unit can't find at this time any valid reason for the discharge of this firearm," Det Supt Flack said. "WA Police do not condone the use of firearms to stop motor vehicles." "There are other methods of stopping and detaining motor vehicles and it would not be appropriate and the WA Police do not condone the use of firearms to stop motor vehicles."

Det Supt Flack said criminal charges against the officer were "more than a possibility".

Police are still searching for a second woman who was in the car, but police today revealed there were up to five people in the vehicle at the time of the shooting.

Supt Flack today told reporters the car was stopped because at least one of the passengers was not wearing a seatbelt. The driver then gave police a false name and attempted to flee at high speed.

"The officers had cause to stop a black Holden Zaphina station wagon. We now believe there were up to five persons in that motor vehicle and they pulled this vehicle over for a routine traffic stop. We believe this was for a simple seatbelt offence committed by the driver. "One of the officers who subsequently has been found to have discharged the firearm approached the vehicle, asked the driver for her details. It is believed the driver gave a false name.

"The male officer then did a check on the inboard police computer. It was subsequently found that the name was false and the officer requested the driver accompany him back to Mirrabooka to establish her identity. "The driver has refused this request, wound up the window and driven away. To this point our inquiries establish that the officer has drawn a firearm and discharged the firearm on two occasions.

"It's unknown if the two rounds struck the vehicle or whether they caused any injury to the occupants.

Supt Flack said the senor constable would be confined to administrative duties and stripped of his firearm pending the outcome of the internal investigation. “He will be office-bound and without access to firearms,” Supt Flack said.

He also revealed the officer had recently been disciplined over another case of "poor judgment" but refused to reveal details.

It is believed the latest incident could result in the Police Commissioner having to make a decision on the officer's suitability to remain in the job.

Supt Flack added: "He has a history that is not relevant to this particular incident, but he does have a history that we will assess in its totality, and then we will make a recommendation to the Commissioner of Police about things like judgment, practical intelligence, tolerance to stress."

He also said there was concern about the time it took the officer to notify the Police Operations Centre about the incident. "Our inquiries reveal that they were not immediately notified and this notification's occurred sometime after the event," he said.

"One would expect that there would have been a notification by the officers to POC and one of the things we'll be looking at is why the officers chose to notify their office, rather than getting on the radio. It's a concern to us, they manage operations on the road and we would have expected a radio call to POC."

Initial interviews with the officers indicated the occupants of the vehicle were not hit, however Superintendent Flack said "the potential for serious injury is high" if the two rounds struck the wagon. "That discharge was made in a suburban area, occupied by a number of houses and the potentiality and the danger will be assessed as part of the investigation," he said.

WA Police Union president Russell Armstrong said the union would continue to provide support to Sen-Constable Westergerling. "We will look after the officer and we will continue to support him into the future," he said. Mr Armstrong backed the senior constable saying he was was an experienced officer and he must have had good reason to draw and fire his weapon.

He said it was too early to draw conclusions and he was surprised Supt Flack had indicated so early in the investigation that the discharge of the firearm appeared to be unjustified.


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