Tuesday, April 17, 2012

CCC recommends W.A. police be charged over Kevin Spratt taser case

Another illustration of why the W.A. cops are as popular as mud in their own community -- and the lack of any sign of repentance or apology from the police can only reinforce that

WA's corruption watchdog has recommended charges be considered for two police officers who tasered Kevin Spratt 12 times, stating "excessive force" was used.

The Corruption and Crime Commission report made several misconduct findings and said the policemen who tasered Mr Spratt used “undue and excessive” force which was “unreasonable and unjustified”.

Mr Spratt was tasered at least 12 times in the Perth Watch House in August 2008 after refusing to comply with a strip search.

The investigation followed the 2010 release of a Commission research report on the police use of tasers and included public hearings in 2010 and 2011 into the use of tasers on Kevin Spratt.

The report, tabled in the Parliament today, said the use of tasers by the senior constables - who had already been subject to internal police disciplinary action over the matter - was an undue and excessive use of force which was unreasonable and unjustified.

The two senior constables involved, Troy Tomlin and Aaron Strahan, were subject to internal disciplinary proceedings following the tasering incident and were fined $1200 and $750 respectively in November 2009.

Today's CCC report recommended the DPP consider misconduct charges against the officers who misused their tasers to subdue Mr Spratt in the watch house and said they had acted contrary to use of force rules as laid out in the WA Police manual.

Shadow Attorney-General John Quigley stopped short today of calling for the officers to be stood down but he said he wanted to make the point that every other public service employee who had faced similar opinions of misconduct by the CCC had been stood down.

"I am not going to call upon the Commissioner to stand these people down," he said. "I simply invite the public to reflect on this, in every other branch of the public service, serious findings of misconduct, like they find here, would result in the public service (employee) being stood down - no doubt.

"We have seen it happen with ministers, but not in the police force because it would appear they have a lower standard of accountability."

The commission recommends WA Police tighten up rules for officers submitting use of force reports.

Acting Commissioner Mark Herron said any reasonable person viewing a video in which police tasered Kevin Spratt nine times in a little over a minute is left with a feeling of considerable disquiet if not outrage.

He said the report also criticised a Police Internal Affairs Unit investigation into the matter. “While the Commission found no misconduct, the internal investigation did not resolve inconsistencies between a police summary of the facts around the incident, and other documentation and the video,” he said.

Kevin Spratt was also tasered 11 times on 6 September 2008 by Emergency Support Group officers from the Department of Corrective Services while being removed from a cell in the Perth Watch House. Seven of those uses were reasonable and while no finding was made in regard to the other four due to insufficient evidence, the report expressed concern about them.

Concern was also expressed about whether sufficient consideration was given to the use of negotiation and conflict resolution techniques.

The report makes nine recommendations to improve procedures - four relate to police and five to DCS.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said all the recommendations from the CCC report had long been implemented. "I am very confident that the WA Police has put in place all the recommendations that the Corruption and Crime Commission have asked for," he said. "In that regard this report is a good recipe for change."

He said both police officers involved in the tasering of Mr Spratt were still working, and that there had not been a 'black mark' put against their names. "We've dealt with those people internally so there is obviously some record internally with the internal discipline process," he said. "That gets kept on their record but there's no black mark against their names at all - I don't even know what the DPP are going to recommend yet."

The report also concluded that the release by police of a controversial timeline of Mr Spratt's contact with police was not misconduct.

It accepted evidence by Mr O'Callaghan that the timeline was released to preserve public confidence in the police as there was misinformation in the public domain about the events surrounding Mr Spratt.

But the report said inaccuracies in the timeline should have been corrected before it was released while Mr O'Callaghan said he had no regrets about his decision to present the flow chart to the media. "It was the right call to make at the time based on the information that was available to me and based on the situation that we faced at that time," he said.


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