Thursday, January 28, 2016

Criminal prosecutions against South Australian police are at a record high

CRIMINAL prosecutions against police are at a record high and the number of complaints and breaches of code of conduct has risen 30 per cent over the past year.

SA Police annual reports show the number of sworn officers or public servants within the department facing criminal prosecutions has risen from seven in 2001-02 to 31 in 2014-15.

The 2014-15 annual report also shows complaints against police, breaches of the code of conduct and criminal offences prosecuted against employees rose from 69 in 2013-14 to 90 in 2014-15.

Criminal cases range from theft offences to more serious cases, including suspended SA Police officer Hayley May Greenwood who was charged after an Independent Commissioner Against Corruption investigation with abuse of public office, drug trafficking and aggravated theft.

Eight SA Police officers from the Sturt Local Service Area were arrested in October 2014 and charged with theft offences, also following an ICAC investigation.

Acting Assistant Commissioner Human Resource Service John Bruhn said that higher expectations of officers and a growing workforce could be contributing factors to the spike in criminal prosecutions and breaches of the code.  “There are variations in statistics over many years — you mention from 2002 where complaints against police appeared low compared to higher now,” he said.

“This may range from increased levels of reporting, fluctuations in the workforce, broader expectations and other vagaries.

“Policing is one of the most highly accountable professions — even off duty officers must maintain demanding standards of integrity and conduct. “Any breaches have always and will continue to be thoroughly investigated and prosecuted as required.”

The rise in numbers of prosecutions and complaints against police follows the introduction of the South Australian Independent Commission Against Corruption in 2013, which The Advertiser revealed spent $45,420 on six telecommunications intercept warrants during probes for bribery and corruption offences in the first financial year of operation.

Police Minister Tony Piccolo said South Australia has one of the best police forces in the country. “In the last financial year, there was a drop in the total amount of complaints received and SAPOL enjoys a ranking higher than the national average for general satisfaction from the public,” he said.

“Disciplinary matters are an issue for the commissioner of the day ... if any member of the community acts in an inappropriate way, they will face appropriate consequences and this does not exclude police officers.”

Thursday, January 14, 2016

NSW: Police officer pushed cyclist off his bike in Sydney's CBD, witnesses say

A NSW Police officer has been accused of pushing a cyclist off his bicycle at a major intersection in Sydney's CBD during peak hour, in a situation a cycling advocacy group has described as aggressive and "totally unacceptable".

Police are now conducting an internal investigation into the incident, which occurred about 8.25am on Wednesday at the intersection of College and William streets, beside Hyde Park in the city

One witness to the crash claimed the police officer, who was on a motorcycle, rode up alongside the cyclist and "just pushed him off his bike in the middle of the intersection".

"He fell on the road. It wasn't like he got pushed and sort of wobbled and kept rolling, and sort of [went] into a death spiral or anything. He just went bang," the witness, Marcus De Giorgio, told Fairfax Media.

Different accounts have emerged from the police and witnesses about what unfolded at the intersection, resulting in the cyclist lying in the middle of the road.

Police say that officers from the Motorcycle Response Team were patrolling near the intersection of William and Yurong streets in Darlinghurst when they allege the 30-year-old cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, disobeyed a red traffic signal there.

The police motorcyclist "activated his warning lights and sirens", police said, and attempted to stop the cyclist, who continued riding west along William Street.

"The cyclist continued along William Street and the officer made further attempts to stop the rider near the intersection of College Street," the statement said.

Police said the cyclist "has fallen from his bicycle", but did not detail any circumstances about how the cyclist fell or whether the police officer made any contact with him.

Mr De Giorgio, who had just finished an early morning training ride, had cycled north along College Street and was stopped at a red light at the intersection with William Street as he waited to turn left when the crash occurred.

He estimated he was three or four metres from the rider when the crash occurred.

He said the cyclist was travelling about 15km/h when he rode through the intersection of College and William streets on a green light.

"I don't know what led up to that situation. The only thing that was visually evident was that he wasn't wearing a helmet," Mr De Giorgio said. "The guy wasn't running a red light or anything [at the crash scene]. He was just riding along.

"The motorcyclist came up alongside him. There wasn't a siren that I heard, and it's not like he rode alongside him and asked him to pull over. It was literally like he came up from behind, then alongside and just pushed him over."

He said the motorcyclist's lights were flashing, but he did not hear a siren.

Mr Di Giorgio said the male cyclist fell onto the road, and suffered abrasions to his leg.  "He was lying in prone position, and kind of screaming and yelling in pain," Mr Di Giorgio said.  "The guy was saying 'You pushed me! What the hell? What the f---? You pushed me! ... He was angry and appeared to be in pain.

"The police officer essentially said: 'No I didn't.'

"It was like the guy [the cyclist] wasn't even aware he [the police officer] was there. When he was on the ground, he was saying 'I didn't even know you were there. I didn't hear you.' "

The police motorcyclist stopped immediately and was joined a short time later by another police officer, Mr Di Giorgio said.

It took about 10 minutes before the crash scene was cleared.

Police said the cyclist was treated by paramedics and taken to St Vincent's Hospital. He was discharged later in the day after being cleared of serious injury.

Police said the cyclist "will be issued with infringement notices for not stopping at a stop light and not wearing a helmet".

Another person who said he saw the incident, Tom McNamara, said he was on a bus beside the rider when he crashed.

"The cyclist was crossing College Street, the cop rode alongside him and knocked him down pretty hard. From where we were it looked very excessive," Mr McNamara wrote online.

Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards said the police officer had pushed the shoulder of the rider, according to witness accounts.  "This use of force against a rider moving on the street is totally unacceptable, and could have resulted in serious head injuries or worse to the rider," Mr Richards said.

"NSW Police are very fortunate that they are not having to explain the incident to the family of someone who is seriously injured.

"We know that NSW has strict protocols around the interception of vehicles on the street, with a high priority given to public safety.

"Police can make a vital contribution to safety on the roads, but there is no need to be aggressive and forceful in this way.

"There needs to be a full explanation of why the rules were not followed [on Wednesday] morning."

Police said the circumstances surrounding the incident will be the subject of an internal review.

Fairfax Media has asked NSW Police to provide further details about the nature of how the cyclist came off his bike.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Victoria: Police charged with assaulting teen boys who filmed alleged attack

Thug cops tried to cover up their misdeeds by destroying evidence

There are concerns over the handling of the internal investigation into an alleged assault of two teenagers by police.

A mobile phone video taken by a teenage boy as his young mate was allegedly assaulted by two policemen was mysteriously deleted on the night of the attack, but could now provide damning evidence when the officers face court in May.

The footage was only recovered when the father of one of the boys paid $4000 to an IT consultant, but its disappearance raises serious concerns about the handling of the internal investigation into the officers' conduct.

It is understood the family of one of the alleged victims will ask the Office of Public Prosecutions to examine the case, while the matter could also be referred to the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission.

Leading Senior Constable Dennis Gundrill and Senior Constable Simon Mareangareu will face the Ringwood Magistrate Court over the alleged assault on Christmas morning 2014 near a convenience store in Vermont.

The boys, who had just completed Year 11, were detained for several hours at Ringwood police station, and later charged with resisting arrest and possession of a small quantity of marijuana.  But all charges against the 17-year-olds were dropped in August last year.

An internal investigation by Whitehorse CIU was only launched when the father of the alleged victim handed over video footage from the phone.

It is understood there are discrepancies between the statements given by Mr Gundrill and Mr Mareangareu, which also differ markedly from the footage of the incident and evidence given by an independent witness.

Mr Gundrill and Mr Mareangareu were initially suspended with pay, but both men are now permitted to perform non-operational duties. They have not faced any disciplinary action from Victoria Police.

Mr Gundrill was previously involved in a serious assault at Ringwood police station in 2008, when he held Bonsai gardener, Tim Vivoda, before another officer punched him "as hard as he could" in the face. The entire incident was captured on CCTV cameras.

During a civil case in the County Court in 2013, Mr Vivoda was awarded $130,000 in damages after Judge Chris O'Neill ruled his treatment by police had breached his rights and undermined public confidence in the force.

Judge O'Neill expressed reservations about Mr Gundrill's credibility during the trial and rejected some of his evidence.

"Clearly the evidence was given after a reconstruction from the footage ... That was an artificial reconstruction and not an honest recollection," Judge O'Neill said.

The most recent allegations of excessive police force raise further concerns about the contentious practice of police investigating their colleagues, particularly when the respective parties are known to each other.

According to the Human Rights Law Centre, more than 90 per cent of complaints about police conduct are referred back to Victoria Police, despite the IBAC having jurisdiction to handle them.

"When serious allegations are made against police, it's essential that the complainant and the public have confidence in a system that is fair and impartial and properly resourced to deal with their complaint. Serious complaints should not be referred back to police to investigate their own conduct," said HRLC spokeswoman Anna Brown.

In July last year, Victoria's highest court referred allegations of police brutality and racism to the IBAC to determine if an independent investigation should be launched into a complaint by Ethiopian man Nassir Bare.

Mr Bare claimed that officers smashed his teeth in a gutter, racially vilified him and capsicum-sprayed him when he was handcuffed, after police stopped his car in February 2009.

The now defunct Office of Police Integrity decided not to investigate the allegations by Mr Bare, who unsuccessfully appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

But the Court of Appeals found the OPI's decision was unlawful and ordered the matter be sent to the IBAC.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Queensland's Keystone cops

What a bunch of amateur idiots! Kids terrified as cops storm Gold Coast home by mistake

A Gold Coast mother-of-two says her children were too traumatised to sleep last night after half-a-dozen police burst into their home and detained their innocent father by mistake.

Kristy Stewart told myGC a squad of officers stormed her Coombabah home along The Esplanade at around 9.30pm on Friday after allegedly mistaking her address for another in the street.

Mrs Stewart, 35, says her two children, aged 10 and eight, were shaking in terror as they watched police order her out of the house and rush inside to detain their innocent father.

“My husband was out on the back patio with the kids and I was in the kitchen when I looked outside and seen an officer approach the front patio,” Mrs Stewart recalled.

“I opened the front door and five or six police officers and two police dogs started coming from the front. “They yelled ‘step out from the door and put your hands to the front’.

“I stepped to the side and they yelled at me to stay put. “I kept repeating that they had made a mistake, that we have done nothing wrong (but) they wouldn’t listen.”

Mrs Steward told myGC the officers then raced inside her home and detained her 32-year-old husband in front of her 10-year-old daughter and eight-year-old son.

“My husband walked up the hallway as he could hear the commotion and was grabbed by both hands by an officer and (the police) said, ‘we know who you are’.”

But as it would turn out, the police actually had no idea whose home they were in.

“My husband kept saying that he hadn’t done anything and my daughter was pleading with them that we were not doing anything wrong.  “Finally they asked for our address which obviously didn’t correlate with the address they were suppose to attend.”

Mrs Stewart told myGC the officers “bowed their heads”, some with “embarrassing smirks on their face”, as they walked back out of the house and regrouped on the front lawn.  “The police where discussing how to get to the other address which is when I helped them out by giving them directions,” she said.

“It is extremely embarrassing for the Queensland Police Service, considering they are equipped with GPS.”

“It certainly shook us up. My kids and husband were so scared. It was scary as hell.”

Mrs Stewart said one officer yelled from the window of his patrol car before speeding off, “some excitement for you tonight!”