Thursday, June 27, 2013
A POLICE sergeant who shot dead a mentally ill man should be prosecuted for lying to the Police Integrity Commission about the incident, the commission recommended yesterday.
Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione should also consider sacking Sergeant Sherree Bissett or taking disciplinary action against her, the PIC said. Sgt Bissett, with more than 21 years on the force, shot dead Adam Salter at his Lakemba house in November, 2009.
She later claimed she believed a fellow officer, Aaron Abela, had been in grave danger from Mr Salter, who was suicidal and armed with a carving knife with which he had already stabbed himself.
Sgt Bissett and two fellow officers said Probationary Constable Abela had been trying to restrain Mr Salter at the time.
But PIC Commissioner Bruce James rejected almost all of the police evidence in favour of the paramedics, who said Constable Abela was at the other side of the kitchen and not in danger.
Mr James also rejected independent ambulance briefing notes that supported the police version of events of what happened in the Lakemba house Mr Salter shared with his father Adrian in November, 2009. The briefing notes, prepared by an independent senior ambulance officer after she spoke to the paramedics, stated: "The only police officer in kitchen at the time, being possibly junior, attempted to restrain the patient."
Mr James also rejected an Ambulance Service file note that supported the evidence given by police. The file note stated: "Police on scene trying to restrain (patient)."
Lawyers for the police had argued the paramedics had changed their evidence because they were angry with the police, but that was rejected by the PIC.
Mr James found Sgt Bissett, Constable Abela and the two other officers, Leading Senior-Constable Leah Wilson and Senior-Constable Emily Metcalf, had lied to the PIC about Constable Abela being close to Mr Salter and in danger.
The Commissioner also recommended disciplinary action be considered against three other officers, including respected homicide detective Inspector Russell Oxford, who conducted the internal police investigation into the shooting.
Posted by JR at 12:01 PM
Wednesday, June 26, 2013
<i>The Police service is protecting him. It's only a very persistent victim that is giving hope of justice</i>
A POLICE officer who assaulted an elderly homeless man in a mall seven years ago has failed to stop the Crime and Misconduct Commission trying to have him disciplined.
Bruce Rowe was assaulted in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall in 2006 when some police officers pinned him to the ground and Constable Benjamin Arndt kneed him.
Constable Arndt was found guilty of assaulting Mr Rowe and fined $1000, with no conviction recorded, after a private prosecution.
After the CMC referred a complaint from Mr Rowe to the Queensland Police Service, an assistant commissioner decided Constable Arndt needed only "managerial guidance'', and there was no disciplinary action.
The CMC has applied to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for that decision to be reviewed, on the ground that Constable Arndt should have been disciplined for misconduct.
Constable Arndt tried to strike out the CMC application, saying it lacked substance and the tribunal did not have jurisdiction to deal with it.
The tribunal heard when the CMC first investigated Mr Rowe's complaint, it found there had been an illegal assault and referred a report to the QPS for any disciplinary action.
In February, the QPS told the CMC that managerial guidance had been provided to Constable Arndt.
The officer was told no further action would be taken in relation to the complaint and no adverse reference would be put on his personal file, the tribunal heard.
Tribunal member Michelle Howard said the CMC Act allowed the tribunal to review specified decisions made about police officers if the CMC applied.
While Constable Arndt argued there had been no reviewable decision, Ms Howard found there had been a decision in relation to an allegation of misconduct regarding the unlawful assault.
On May 10, she found that it was a reviewable decision that was made within the appropriate time and dismissed Constable Arndt's application.
Posted by JR at 10:10 AM
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
A Victoria Police investigation into the violent death of a patient at a state-run psychiatric hospital was ''manifestly inadequate'', with crucial physical evidence not collected and potential witnesses not questioned, a scathing report by the homicide squad has found.
Detective Senior Sergeant Sol Solomon described ''catastrophic failures'' of basic police investigatory procedures as he presented his report to the Coroners Court on Monday as part of the inquest into the death of Fred Williamson at the Austin Hospital's psychiatric unit in Heidelberg in March 2008.
''The deceased and his devoted family deserved far better service than they have received in this situation. Quality control processes … failed on all levels,'' Senior Sergeant Solomon said.
Fred and Roma Williamson with their son Fred.
Fred and Roma Williamson with their late son Fred, centre. Photo: Jason South
Mr Williamson, 52, was found in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor inside the locked room of another patient. He was found with a plastic bag covering part of his head and had suffered several injuries indicating a possible assault.
Despite Mr Williamson's injuries and the bizarre nature of his death, Heidelberg detectives and uniformed officers attending the scene determined on the day that it was not suspicious, concluding that suicide or misadventure was the most likely cause.
Their conclusion meant that neither the homicide squad nor forensic crime scene investigators were called to attend and potential witnesses, including staff and patients, were not interviewed. The room was cleaned soon after the incident, destroying any forensic evidence.
In 2011, Fairfax Media reported the Williamson family's disappointment with the police investigation and coroner Paresa Spanos's request that Senior Sergeant Solomon, then a 19-year veteran of the homicide squad, review the case.
Senior Sergeant Solomon told the inquest that his review had identified a ''number of aspects'' that did not support the suicide scenario. These included an assessment by Mr Williamson's treating psychiatrists that his risk of self-harm was extremely low, extensive blood spatter patterns at the scene, the fact that Mr Williamson had been recently assaulted twice by other patients and an autopsy report that showed injuries indicating possible assault.
He said important evidence, such as the plastic bag found over Mr Williamson's head, had not been collected or examined by forensic experts and had since been lost. A cloth towel reportedly found near or inside the plastic bag was also not examined and its whereabouts were unknown.
Senior Sergeant Solomon also found anomalies in statements by uniformed police regarding their claim that no footprints were at the scene when photographs suggested otherwise.
''I cannot reconcile or understand how the attending members could have come to the conclusion they came to [so quickly],'' he said. ''I have attended hundreds of crime scenes and deaths and I've never seen anything like this.''
Senior Sergeant Solomon said senior police attending the scene had failed to show leadership and that Mr Williamson's family had received a ''manifestly inadequate'' investigation.
Two senior plain-clothes detectives who were called out on the afternoon of Mr Williamson's death were also strongly criticised by Senior Sergeant Solomon, who found they should have taken control and treated it as a potential crime scene. Police records indicate the detectives spent less than 40 minutes at the scene before leaving it to uniformed officers.
A uniformed junior constable was left with the task of preparing the brief for the coroner with very little or no supervision.
Ms Spanos said the inquest had heard evidence that a junior constable was given the job of preparing the coronial brief - her first- on the basis of a local police convention that deemed the officer who drove the car to the scene also did the paperwork. Senior Sergeant Solomon said he had not heard of such a convention and described it as ''absolutely outrageous''.
''With a shoplifting it might be OK, but you're talking about a man's death,'' he said.
Posted by JR at 10:20 AM
Monday, June 10, 2013
FOOTAGE of a police officer repeatedly punching a prisoner and dragging another through a watch-house by his neck has been shown to a public hearing held by Western Australia's corruption watchdog.
The footage, taken by CCTV cameras at the Broome watchhouse in WA's Kimberley region, shows the same senior constable involved in two separate incidents less than three weeks apart earlier this year.
After viewing the footage, Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan served a loss of confidence notice on the 31-year-old constable, who has since resigned from the force.
In the first incident on March 29, the officer appears to place a teenager arrested for obstructing police in a neck hold before dragging him inside after he refused to leave a police van.
As the hysterical girlfriend of the teenager looks on, the youngster is placed in a padded cell and stripped - as numerous other officers watch.
In the second incident captured by CCTV, a man is seen swinging a punch in the Broome watch-house after being arrested for public drinking.
The senior constable reacts by swinging several hard punches. Then, as the prisoner lies on the floor, the officer appears to drop his knee twice on the head of the man, who goes limp.
The prisoner is then dragged inside where another camera shows him flying forward through a doorway onto the hard floor with his hands cuffed behind him.
As other police look on, another officer removes the man's shorts and searches them.
Some time later, when the detainee is back on his feet, the 31-year-old constable is alleged to have said to him: “Nice face, ****.” He then added: “Nothing wrong with mine. You punch like a faggot.”
The detainee suffered a broken finger and swelling to his eye, according to Gail Archer SC, counsel assisting the Commissioner Roger Macknay of the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC).
The public hearings into the incidents, beginning today, were ordered by the CCC.
Ms Archer said the hearings would investigate the use of force by the officers, and what other officers at the station could - and should - have done.
Two other officers were stood down over the incidents, although one of them, a 38-year-old female, has since returned to her duties.
Commissioner Macknay ruled that the identity of the two arrested men and the former officer should be suppressed during the hearing, while the CCTV footage would not immediately be released to media.
Posted by JR at 5:14 PM
Sunday, June 2, 2013
SERIOUS criminal cases including murder, rape and assault could be going unsolved because police have failed to do basic forensic work.
The Sunday Times can reveal that police will overhaul how cases are handled after an internal audit of more than 100,000 arrests found more than two-thirds of people charged for serious offences did not have their "identifying particulars" such as DNA or fingerprints recorded.
In 30 per cent of the cases, in which particulars were taken, they weren't properly recorded.
Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said it was clearly not good enough. "WA Police is concerned about any gaps in the collection of identifying particulars and we are working to correct this," he said.
"It is unclear what the underlying causes have been, but we have set out to educate, better train and supervise our people about the absolute importance of this process to solving current, historical and future serious crimes."
Mr Dawson said systems were being sought that would ensure prosecution briefs and detention processes could not be completed until all offenders have been sampled, fingerprinted and photographed.
Details of the police audit were recently highlighted in an internal weekly police publication sent to every WA officer.
It found that of more than 100,000 arrests made in WA in 2011 only 31.5 per cent of people charged with a serious offence had their identifying particulars recorded.
WA police forensic division superintendent Tony Flack said getting identifying particulars from charged people was essential in cracking outstanding cases and preventing crime.
"Taking IP (identifying particulars) is not an optional extra and we continue to lose investigative opportunities every time we don't take a sample," he wrote in the weekly publication.
Mr Flack said it had been suggested that officers might not be taking IP because they did not fully understand their rights.
Legislation introduced in 2002 allows police to take DNA samples from people charged with or suspected of committing a serious offence that carries a penalty of 12 months or more.
That can range from shop-lifting, to assault, or more serious crimes such as rape and murder.
Mr Dawson said some of the 68 per cent of people who did not have their identifying particulars taken in the 2011 audit period might have already supplied them to police because they were repeat offenders.
But The Sunday Times understands the confidential police audit found most of those 68 per cent had no DNA police record prior to 2011.
WA Police Union president George Tilbury said officers were being pressured to deal with offenders quickly and as a result were not taking DNA samples or fingerprints as often as they should be.
"Sufficient resources will ensure that all (identifying) particulars can be taken and investigations can be extensively concluded," he said.
Posted by JR at 9:54 AM