Saturday, October 30, 2010

Australian police fear photography too

British police have an absolute phobia about photography and some American States also have laws that police routinely abuse to stop photography

A POLICEWOMAN has been caught on camera threatening to "smash" a photographer's phone as he filmed a routine arrest in King Cross.

The female officer is seen on the video walking a short distance from an arrest on Darlinghurst Road to confront several cameramen who were filming on public property.

The arrested man, who was pinned on the ground by four officers and later charged with resisting police, was heard screaming and witnesses allegedly saw one of the officers "putting their knees into his head" during a violent confrontation about 2am.

After the man was restrained, the female officer allegedly approached a photographer and aggressively shoved him in the chest. An officer told the photographer "you wanker, you're such a hero". Not long after the female officer is heard to say, `turn it (the mobile camera) off now before I smash it on the ground'.

Police officers attempted to block the view of the media, who were standing more than 10m away, and cleared away the large crowd that had gathered.

A witness said the police had over-reacted. "The policing was brutal. The guy on the floor was not even fighting back and then [the officers] came over in a threatening way and started intimidating and pushing people - it was like they had something to hide,” he said.

Kings Cross Local Area Command Superintendent Tony Crandell said he had spoken with the junior female officer about her actions and admitted that it could have been `handled better'. "I've spoken with the officer and she has acknowledged that her actions were inappropriate," Supt Crandell said.

Supt Crandell said he had reviewed footage from the incident. "The context of the situation was that a violent offender was being arrested and that person was behaving in an offensive fashion, smashing bottles on to the roadway, picking up scraps of the bottles and throwing them further down the roadway," he said.

Supt Crandell said he had handled the matter 'at a local level' and no disciplinary action would be taken against the female officer. "I've reminded the officer about her responsibilities under the media policy and that media have rights to film."

Supt Crandell said it had become tougher to do police work in Kings Cross because of phone cameras and increased CC-TV surveillance.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Druggie Victorian cops

Police are failing drug tests more often than motorists or AFL footballers

Shock new figures reveal three officers tested positive to illicit drugs in the past 10 weeks, with two facing possible criminal charges. Hundreds more police will be checked in the next few months as the force accelerates its drug and alcohol testing.

Testing program head Acting Insp John Felton told the Herald Sun officers would soon face a better than one in 10 chance of being tested each year. "To have three (positives) in such a short space of time is disappointing but it also tells me that our approach in intelligence lead testing is sound," he said. "I have got a focus to undertake as much testing as I can and I have put changes in place to ensure that happens. We've done 200 tests in the past 10 weeks and my focus is to continue driving those sorts of numbers."

In August the Herald Sun revealed the force had conducted just 699 tests in 23 months - at which rate it would have taken 41 years to test all 14,400 police.

The latest officers to fail drug tests were among 200 police tested between July 1 and October 19 - a failure rate of one in 67 tests.

Police have said one in 69 motorists failing roadside drug tests in the first six months of the year was a high strike rate because they had focused on hot spots such as nightclubs, rave parties and truck routes.

The AFL tests all listed players at least once a year, and last year conducted more than 1500 tests, with 14, or one in 112, positive.

Acting Insp Felton said most of the latest tests were random workplace checks but the officers who failed were each chosen because of specific information. Seven police have now failed drug and alcohol tests, with 899 checks conducted since the force began testing in August 2008.

Acting Insp Felton would not say if any of the seven had worked in units involved in drug investigations or other "high risk" areas, citing privacy. "The Police Regulation Act forbids me to identify any individuals," he said.

He encouraged officers who had drug or alcohol problems to come forward and get help before they were tested.

The officers who failed the most recent tests were yet to face disciplinary hearings. Of the officers to fail earlier tests, two have resigned and the other two were disciplined.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Qld. Missing Persons Bureau did not work Sundays when Daniel Morcombe went missing

IF Daniel Morcombe had been reported as a missing person the day he vanished, the file would have gone to "an empty office".

The inquest into his suspected abduction and murder was told yesterday that in 2003, the Missing Persons Bureau "did not work Sundays".

Sergeant Robbie Munn, the police officer who took the initial statement from 13-year-old Daniel's parents, Bruce and Denise, early on the evening of December 7 that year, defended his decision not to immediately launch a full-scale search. Sgt Munn said even if he had forwarded a report to the Missing Persons Bureau, it would have been a waste of time. "They would not have had any staff on a Sunday and it would not have been attended to until Monday," he said. "At that time, it would have been forwarded to an empty office." Sgt Munn said for that reason an "official" missing persons report would have been "impractical and ineffective".

However, the inquest heard processes had since changed and several policies improved. These included the addition of a "risk assessment" check that now had to be completed by police every time someone was reported missing.

Under at times heated questioning from the Morcombes' solicitor Peter Boyce, Sgt Munn stood by his decision to send the Morcombes home to wait and see if Daniel turned up. He said there had been no pre-arranged time for Daniel to be back, so at that point he technically was not missing. Sgt Munn said Daniel had been from a good home, there were no tensions or obvious "warning signs" that would cause the boy to run away.

He organised a Be On The Lookout For (BOLF) bulletin to be broadcast to police in the Sunshine Coast area and said he would call the Morcombes a few hours later.

The inquest heard that when Sgt Munn phoned them at 10pm, darkness and the fact no shops or cinemas were open caused added concern.

Senior Constable Paul Campbell was the next officer involved. He had finished his 2-10pm shift at Palmwoods station, but was passed the responsibility to contact the Morcombes, which he did between 10.30 and 10.45pm. Sen-Constable Campbell said he treated it like a fresh complaint and interviewed Mr Morcombe about the events of the day. He decided it best to wait until the morning and arranged for the Morcombes to go to Palmwoods at 8am on the Monday to ask to lodge a missing persons report. "There were no facts before me that would lead me to think anything sinister had happened," said Sen-Constable Campbell.

Qld. Police officers Graham Richards and Paul Dalton on trial for trying to pervert course of justice

The trial of two senior Queensland police officers charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice will begin in Rockhampton today. The former boss of Rockhampton's Criminal Investigation Branch Graham Richards and his former colleague Paul Dalton, are accused of conducting a secretive meeting with a prisoner the day before his new cell mate confessed to a murder.

Detective Senior Sergeant Richards, now retired, and Detective Sergeant Dalton, who has been suspended without pay, are accused of meeting with prisoner Lee Owen Henderson at the Capricornia Correctional Centre near Rockhampton in 2005. The two officers were recorded signing in and out of the centre but did not follow the requirement to record the meeting in any diary, log book or running sheet.

The day after the meeting Henderson's new cell mate, Scott Jobling, who was moved to the same cell at the request of the officers, confessed to killing Rockhampton flower seller Suzanne Standing.

The two officers are due in the Rockhampton District Court today at the trial heard by Judge Tony Martin. A jury will be selected today and the trial could run into next week. The police officers are being supported by the Queensland Police Union and both officers will plead not guilty to the charges.

It was previously heard in the committal hearing that the officers' failure to record the meeting with the prisoner was a mere oversight. The two officers were named in the Crime and Misconduct Commission's Operation Capri last year which investigated alleged police misconduct.

Victoria police officer paid $600,000 for nothing

Ripping off compassionate provisions in the law

A VICTORIA Police officer has been paid $600,000 in salary and benefits despite not working for more than nine years. Sen-Constable Paul Warton has continued to draw a wage and benefits since being suspended from duty in September 2001 after being accused of bullying a fellow officer.

Sen-Constable Warton, who was based in Marysville, received a wage until this month, when he was suspended without pay. His case file has been with the police chief commissioner since 2002, but he has avoided appearing before a disciplinary hearing because of medical reasons. A police spokeswoman said Sen-Constable Warton's psychiatrist provided him with doctor's certificates.

The marathon break from work took in all but six months of Christine Nixon's tenure as chief commissioner. Four police ministers tackled the case without success.

The Herald Sun believes Sen-Constable Warton has also accrued annual leave in the period he has been suspended.

The spokeswoman said Sen-Constable Warton had recently been before the Police Medical Officer and "we are currently assessing a way forward''.

A police source said the case was ridiculous. "These guys get all the help in the world from the Police Association," the source said. "They are very hard for management to deal with. "The system is not working as it should."

Sen-Constable Warton was suspended after he allegedly intimidated another officer who had agreed to give information to investigators about Bairnsdale police strip-searching Aborigines in 2000.

In 2002, Ringwood Magistrates' Court heard the officer feared for his life while a passenger when Sen-Constable Warton reached speeds of 130km/h driving down dirt roads near Marysville.

Sen-Constable Warton was fined $500 without conviction for breaches of the Police Regulation Act and has not returned to work since.

The police spokeswoman said Sen-Constable Warton's suspension was the longest for a Victorian police officer. "Victoria Police has been unable to interview or speak to Sen-Constable Warton as his treating psychiatrist has consistently provided him with doctor's certificates," she said.

Police Association secretary Greg Davies said Sen-Constable Warton was entitled to support and had rights "like any other police officer". Sen-Constable Warton declined to comment.


Monday, October 25, 2010

WHAAAT?? This is disgraceful!

New law means arrests for 'minor' crimes not worth the effort, say Qld. police. Another case of do-gooder legislation doing more harm than good

Hundreds of offenders could soon escape prosecution by police who say new laws will make arrests for minor crimes not worth the effort. From November 1, police will be required to present more material at an offender's first court appearance, including witness and complainant statements, pictures, CCTV footage and a list of exhibits.

Under reforms adopted by the State Government, officers who fail to fulfil the requirements face the prospect of being charged with contempt of court, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 months' jail.

Queensland Police Union official Tony Collins said many minor offences would be detected but not acted upon because of the threat of police themselves being charged. "How many arrests are you going to make knowing that this sword of Damocles is hanging over your head?" Senior-Sergeant Collins said.

The sort of offences likely to be ignored by police included shoplifting and break and entering where a small amount of property was involved, as well as some domestic violence incidents and minor assaults.

A senior officer, who did not want to be named, said that in the case of assaults, police would be less inclined to encourage victims to make a complaint because it would not be worth the effort. "It's not worth our while to gather all this material then put it before the courts where you get nothing," the senior officer said. "Arrests will dry up and police will start ignoring stuff, but not serious stuff."

The reforms flow from a 2008 review of Queensland's criminal justice system by former judge Martin Moynihan, now the head of the CMC. They are intended to improve disclosure by police to give the accused a better understanding of the case against them from the outset. In his report, Mr Moynihan found there was an attitude among police that it was "not their job to help the defence".

The Queensland Police Service never responded to the report and as a result Sen-Sgt Collins said they were left with laws that would see officers spending more time desk-bound.

"If Moynihan truly wanted to improve the justice system, he would've required full disclosure from both sides of the table. Instead what we've got is a card game where you have to show your opponent all your cards, and they don't have to show you anything."

The QPS would not respond to questions about the changes yesterday but Brisbane criminal defence lawyer Ken Mackenzie said they would foster an efficient justice system. "It's about disclosing (evidence) to the defence early so informed decisions can be made, and the lawyer can advise the client of the case against them and an appropriate plea," he said.

QPU president Ian Leavers said police were concerned about the implications of the reforms.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

MP calls for third murder inquest

The police conclusions about this have always stunk: Too lazy to do a proper investigation

A North Queensland MP has called for a third inquest into the brutal deaths of best friends Vicki Arnold and Julie-Anne Leahy, whose bodies were found near Atherton in August 1991.

Mulgrave MP Curtis Pitt told Parliament police found Ms Leahy in the driver’s seat of her Nissan Patrol, propped up by a tightly wrapped seatbelt around her neck, bashed with a large rock, shot twice in the head and with her throat slashed.

Beside her, Ms Arnold was sprawled across the passenger side floor, her hand resting on a sawn-off .22 gun. She had been shot in the thigh, upwards through her chin and fatally behind her right ear.

“Vicki Arnold has been written off as a murderer with no opportunity to defend herself,” Mr Curtis said. “This crime remains unsolved due to an unwillingness to acknowledge that it was virtually impossible for Vicki Arnold to have killed her friend in such strange circumstances and then take her own life.

“I believe a third inquest into this matter is warranted to make sense out of Iong-time confusion and to seek answers for a family still grieving,” Attorney-General Cameron Dick said: “I am currently taking advice on whether to direct the State Coroner to reopen an inquest.”

The article above appeared (print only) in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 24 October, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More computer mayhem in Queensland

This comes on top of Queensland Health still not being able to get its payroll software working properly -- after MONTHS of trying

QUEENSLAND police are spending almost $6 million on a new computer package to process gun licences after a report found their own $100 million system was too slow and a similar program used by Queensland Transport was not secure.

The confidential report, obtained under Right to Information laws, investigated several options to replace the current licensing system that requires gun owners to go into a police station and fill out paperwork.

The options included the extension of the police computer program QPRIME and the system Queensland Transport uses for driver licensing, known as TRAILS.

But project manager Trevor Holmstrom found QPRIME had increased data entry times for police by 115 per cent since its introduction in 2006 as a replacement for a number of other systems.

If the same system were used for weapons licensing, another 61 staff would be needed and applications would take 85 per cent longer to process, the report said.

Queensland Transport fared no better with Mr Holmstrom finding the department had "no pre-existing good record of looking after customers" and no experience dealing with security-sensitive information. A lack of a 24/7 culture at QT was also an issue, he said.

Instead, his 67-page report recommended police adopt a new computer program known as Sword Ciboodle at a cost of $5.8 million – despite it having no Queensland support office.

Opposition leader John-Paul Langbroek said the fact two existing systems were ruled out was further evidence the Government "could not get the basics right". "The problems with QPRIME and the length of time it takes police now to fill in crime reports and process warrants have been concerns the Opposition and police have been raising for years, but Labor has been in denial," he said. "This review further confirms the rollout of QPRIME has been a debacle."

Mr Langbroek said the review's finding that Queensland Transport was dogged by "poor customer service and responsiveness" was a further wake-up call to the agency.

But a spokesman for Transport and Main Roads said the department had maintained a score of 7.7 out of 10 in customer satisfaction over the past two years in surveys conducted by ACNielsen.

The new computerised system for gun licensing is expected to be up and running by December, coinciding with an increase in the cost of a firearms' licence. The State Government hopes the switch to an online service will save about $7.5 million over five years in staff "efficiencies" and processing improvements. [Joke! Joke!]


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Qld. police undermine attempted political coverup

POLICE have apologised for failing to respond to a family's panicked triple zero call despite the Police Minister's claim their story was "total rubbish".

Dennis Trovas and his partner Kylie rang 000 on Saturday night after a confrontation in their front yard at Morningside with a gang of up to 30 aggressive and drunken youths. It was the third time the couple, who have three young sons, had been troubled by the gang but the first time they had called 000.

When no one arrived to deal with their complaint, they called police again and were told to follow up the matter at their local station on Monday morning.

Although police told The Courier-Mail a crew was sent, they said it had been diverted to another job believed to involve the same youths and the officers never responded to that particular call.

When questioned about the incident on radio yesterday, Police Minister Neil Roberts said it was "total rubbish" that a police crew did not respond and claimed officers had gone to Mr Trovas's address after his second phone call at midnight but there was no answer. Meanwhile Mr Trovas said he and Kylie waited up until 1.30am and nobody came.

Yesterday, Kylie said they were disappointed to hear Mr Roberts' account of their experience on radio. "I contacted his office after that, and gave him the correct information," she said.

A senior officer from Morningside then rang the family yesterday afternoon and apologised, said Kylie. "He was very nice and we had a big chat. It seems like it was a mix up in communications from the 000 centre," she said.

However a Policelink employee who contacted The Courier-Mail said police simply did not have the resources to respond to the callout. "It's an out and out case of not having the numbers. It happens every Friday and Saturday night," he said.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Queensland police communications centre can't cope with calls

There's lots of cops driving desks. How about putting some of them on the phone?

CALLS for help to Queensland police are going unanswered because the state's main communications centre is understaffed. Frustrated operators say dozens of callers each day are forced to wait in long queues or fail to get through to the QPS call centre in Brisbane because overstretched operators cannot cope with surging demand.

The delays affect callers reporting incidents ranging from burglaries and noise complaints to car crashes.

Queensland police yesterday admitted the situation was "not ideal", but said life-threatening triple-0 calls were still being answered promptly. [Not always]

Figures provided by the QPS show the Police Communications Centre handled more than 1100 calls a day last year, including 480 to the triple-0 number. The statistics represent a 50 per cent increase on 2005, yet staffing levels have not kept up, improving just 20 per cent in the same period. The Courier-Mail has learnt the PCC regularly operates with a staff of just 12 officers and radio operators – six fewer than the agreed minimum staffing level.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said delays in answering calls could "cost lives". "It is critical that the safety of the public is put first when staffing levels for communication centres are determined," he said.

On a busy shift, call takers can handle more than 160 calls each. At the request of Inspector Paul Fogg, the QPS recently installed a massage chair in the centre's meal room.

But frustrated officers said it was simply impossible to answer all calls with many going unanswered or waiting up to half an hour in phone queues. "At one point on New Year's Eve, we had 20 triple-0 calls in a queue. We weren't able to answer any of them on the first presentation," an officer said.

"One caller waited 28 minutes to be answered (on the normal line). Most people wouldn't have the patience, but this was from a police officer who wanted to see how long it would take."

A QPS spokesman said triple-0 calls were given priority by the PCC which meant there could be "some delay in answering non-urgent calls". "On average, 90 per cent of triple-0 calls are answered within nine seconds of being presented to the PCC," he said.


More on 000 calls

A Morningside family bore the brunt of staff shortages at the weekend when an emergency call to police about a confrontation with a group of drunken teenagers in their yard failed to raise a response.

Dennis Trovas said his three young children were asleep inside his home on Saturday night when his fiancee called triple-0, fearing the youths outside were about to bash him.

"My fiancee was pretty much terrified at the time and I'd assumed we'd get a quick response," he said. "When no one arrived she rang Morningside station and was put through to Mount Gravatt. "They told us to go to Morningside station on Monday morning and make a complaint then."

A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman said police had responded to the call but were diverted to another incident.

A supervisor from Morningside station contacted Mr Trovas yesterday to address his concerns about the lack of a police response, a police spokeswoman said.

"In an effort to prevent further incidents, local police will endeavour to conduct patrols around these streets for people causing incidents," the spokeswoman said.

In a separate incident, a man from Cairns in far north Queensland, who did not want to be named, said he and his wife waited 40 minutes for police after calling triple-0 during a terrifying home disturbance – despite living only 500m from the Smithfield Police Station.

The Courier-Mail revealed earlier this year that police were taking an average of 37 minutes to begin driving to crimes across Queensland.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Airlie beach abuse sounds the alarm over a rotten Queensland police culture

The violence dealt out by former officer Benjamin Price points to a grand-scale breakdown within our police force: "They showed no more caution than a bunch of druggies raiding a servo with a stick"

All Queensland police would have been shamed, embarrassed, humiliated and angered by videos showing former officer Benjamin Price strong-arming tiny Renee Toms and water-torturing Timothy Steele. Along with most ofthe 172,000 people who had watched the events on YouTube (as of Friday morning) they would have thought it was one of the lowest, most cowardly and disgusting displays of sadistic power-tripping they had seen.

Well, not of all of them, because the videos seemed to suggest that it was nothing much out of the ordinary at Airlie Beach police station, where officers are seen walking around the violence like you and I might step around a floor cleaner. It was very much business as usual, with a little bit of professional courtesy thrown in as one officer was seen handing Price the fire hose. There didn’t even seem to be the slightest bit of concern - let alone criminal cunning - over the fact that unsavoury events were being captured by video cameras, which they must have known about. They showed no more caution than a bunch of druggies raiding a servo with a stick.

This is the real problem for the Queensland Police Service as it deals with the backwash of a series of appalling events. That one policeman abused his authority is sad but no great surprise. But the fact that of nine police oticers on the periphery of the events that led to Price’s jailing only one, Constable Bree Sonter, did her duty as an officer and human being is shocking.

Five have quit and three are under investigation. Only Sonter has emerged with any credit, although her future in the force might not be a happy one. Throw in Price, and a failure rate of nine out of l0 is not too flash in any circumstance.

Airlie Beach is not exactly Gotham City, so this represents a failure of discipline, purpose, professionalism, process and moral courage on a grand scale. The force is justly proud of the fact that about a quarter of all complaints against officers are now made by police themselves but that cannot alter the fact that more than 50 per cent of those assigned to Airlie Beach were derelict in their duty.

If you subscribe to the rotten apple theory of policing, this barrel was pretty putrid, leaving a smell that has got right up the noses of most Queenslanders. It's not a question of police bashing. lt’s a question of squandered resources and squandered trust.

Think about it. One rogue cops gets off on brutalising people and, because of sins of omission, we lose five other trained officers and have three more under a very dark cloud. One rogue cop goes ape and all the good deeds, good policing and good reputations of thousands of others are trashed. And probably a million bucks is blown on compo for Price’s victims.

Attorney-General Cameron Dick says he is considering an appeal against the leniency of Price’s sentence because of the community outrage over the security camera footage.

They could throw away the key for all I care, but that’s not really the point. The point is that after an individual meltdown there was a collective breakdown in professionalism and process in a force that has more brass than a South American army, more regions than we have states, more districts than a red-headed kid has freckles, more inspectors and sergeants than there are bouncers at a Valley pub and more cops per capita driving desks than any other force in Australia.

Yet, it still seems to go off course with monotonous regularity, We need to know more, including just what happened to the mid-rampage reports of serious misconduct allegedly made about Price by his station oflicer.

ln a hierarchical institution, authority goes downward and responsibility goes upward. Sometimes, responsibility seems to hit a very low ceiling.

The article above by Terry Sweetman appeared (print only) in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 17 October, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inexcusable failure to prosecute accomplices of thug Queensland cop

There is plenty of precedent for the prosecution of all cops present at the attacks -- e.g. R v Dytham [1979] Q.B. 722

THE Crime and Misconduct Commission has been urged to re-investigate the Airlie Beach police bashings following the release of disturbing video footage of assaults by jailed former officer Benjamin Price.

The videos show other officers watching and in one case assisting Price during his assaults on handcuffed offenders, but the police service has said there is not enough evidence to charge them.

In a letter sent to the CMC, Queensland Council of Civil Liberties vice-president Terry O'Gorman said there were indications the police handling of the case had been "less than rigorous". "It is submitted there are a number of unaddressed issues in relation to the Airlie Beach matter, which bear an unfortunate similarity to the steps engaged in by various police in relation to the cover-up of the Palm Island affair," the letter reads.

Mr O'Gorman said there were "unsatisfactory aspects" to the Price case that warranted a thorough investigation.

"Why have criminal charges not been laid against the other officers who were present when a fire hose was shoved down the complainant's throat?" Mr O'Gorman said. "Why was Mr Price charged with the lesser offence of assault occasioning bodily harm when on the facts publicly known a charge of torture was clearly open?"

He said other senior criminal lawyers were of the opinion that under the law, the other officers who were present during the assaults could be charged. "Presence in something like that is regarded as encouragement," Mr O'Gorman said. "Secondly, the bloke who hands the police officer the hose is an alleged accomplice. That's criminal law 101."

A CMC spokeswoman said the investigation into officers who observed the assaults was "ongoing". "The CMC will be provided with a report from the QPS Ethical Standards Command. This report will outline the action the ESC is recommending against the officers," she said.

The videos posted by Queensland Police on YouTube have now been viewed by almost 200,000 people and have also been uploaded to other websites in India, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

Mr O'Gorman also criticised the "doctoring" of the footage including the lack of audio, but the CMC spokeswoman said the release of the video was a matter for the QPS.


For more background on the above, see my Queensland cops blog

Friday, October 15, 2010


Media Release, Peter Pyke: 13 October 2010. (Peter Pyke was a Labor member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly from 1992 to 1995, representing the district of Mount Ommaney. Prior to entering politics he served with the Queensland Police Service for 15 years, rising to the rank of Police Sergeant)

In 1994 I told then-Queensland Premier Wayne Goss that ‘politicians thought they were pretty powerful but - in our system – it was the police who had all the power’. Goss, a former-lawyer, looked blankly at me. He just didn’t understand what I was on about. As a first-time MP I had just told him that I was about to be charged by police with a number of criminal charges which I have always maintained were false, and the jury who acquitted me later seemed to agree. But I was a mere backbencher in his government and he had a huge majority so why should he care? It seemed to me he didn’t.

When Goss lost office in the next election by just one electorate – the ALP now understands that was my seat of Mount Ommaney which I had lost by a handful of votes after the coppers had smeared me beautifully in the media for fifteen months as only they can do – he may have better understood what I had told him.

The Queensland police – whose campaign slogan is the ironical ‘with honour we serve’ – changed the outcome of the 1995 Queensland election in favour of a Borbidge-led government which – happily for some – let convicted and disgraced police commissioner and junior Rat Pack member Terry Lewis out of gaol four years early. But who’s counting?

This week we have seen more of the handiwork of the Queensland coppers with the release of heavily censored CCTV footage of the bashing of handcuffed prisoners in the custody of that outstanding example of one of Queensland’s ‘finest’, former-senior constable Benjamin Thomas Price, who is shown bashing a tourist and a barmaid at the Airlie Beach police station in the state’s north.

The ex-policeman, 34, was sentenced to 27 months' jail on 11 October 2010 after pleading guilty to four counts of assault. Steele, a plasterer from NSW, suffered a broken nose, black eyes, a head wound, hearing problems, memory loss and lack of sensation in his arms and hands after his arrest in the popular Whitsundays tourist town. He told the court he was trying to break-up a fight between two mates when he was capsicum sprayed by police. It is alleged Price led the handcuffed Steele to a police car before saying "watch your head" and smashing his face into the vehicle, knocking him unconscious.

Price allegedly dragged Steele from the car outside Airlie Beach watch-house, repeatedly punched him and "kicked him with his boots" in the face, breaking his nose.

CCTV video footage from the police station shows a dazed, heavily bleeding Steele being dragged into an alley beside the watch-house. It shows the handcuffed man being punched in the head before having a fire hose jammed into his mouth, where it was held for up to 90 seconds as another officer watches.

Steele screams and groans in agony and blood can be seen sheeting down the concrete path as the policeman stands on the handcuffs, pressing his hand into the back of the man's neck, forcing his head into his lap in a brutal spine lock.

"I felt like I was going to drown," Steele told the court. "He jammed the hose into my mouth. I couldn't breathe. I was coughing and spluttering blood. It was pretty scary. It went on for a long time. I called him a pussy. He knocked me about. I was pretty dazed, I'd had a boot to my face, my nose was broken. I was choking on my own blood, I felt like I was drowning."

The vision shows other police officers standing by as Price stuffs a fire hose into his victim's mouth, nearly drowning him. The CCTV footage also shows Price hitting slightly-built barmaid Renee Tom, 21, slamming her to the floor inside the watch-house in January 2008 and pulling her to her feet by her hair.

As a former police officer who saw service as an operational trainer and academy law lecturer, I know full well that any one of the other police who observed Price’s actions could have stopped Price and even arrested him on the spot for each of his savage bashings. So what happened? Only one of the police shown in the censored footage with their faces blurred did something; it was left to courageous female trainee constable Bree Sonter to do the right thing and to complain about the incidents.

Queensland police deputy commissioner Ian Stewart told reporters on 11 October 2010 that five other officers had resigned and three more were facing potential disciplinary actions over the incidents. All of the other officers who did nothing were complicit in the offences in my opinion.

It was my honour to be sworn in under Commissioner Ray Whitrod in 1976 - Whitrod was a real police commissioner. I immediately saw service in North Queensland and soon discovered that police bashings of Aboriginal and homosexual citizens were everyday sport for far too many Queensland police. It’s easy to say, but individual police have the power to control the behaviour of their peers by stepping in and stopping offences like those committed by Price. I know, I was bashed several times in the Townsville watch-house and once out on the street by my police colleagues for intervening to stop other officers from assaulting prisoners.

As I said at the outset, each individual police officer has the power to arrest anyone, the premier, the prime minister, or another officer. With such power comes enormous responsibility.

That’s the job and that is what is required. Don’t like it? Coppers who aren’t up to it should get out of the kitchen.

Prisoners were being bashed in the custody of Queensland police in the 1970s and we now have incontrovertible evidence they are still being bashed, even under the watchful eye of CCTV. Too many police thugs are protected by their peers and deaths in police custody will continue to occur while other officers fail to serve with real honour.

Is it all bad? As someone who will bleed a little bit blue until the day I die, I like to listen to the police radio on the scanner when I am writing, or driving around. While the Queensland police are badly led by their most senior officers whom I wouldn’t feed, I can report that many of the uniformed officers who undertake first-response operational duties do an excellent job. It is with pride that I can report hearing more often than not in the voices of police on the scanner their obvious humanity and concern for children, young people, battered women, the homeless and the elderly, and I commonly hear police going to great lengths to ensure that everything possible is done for people who need police assistance.

No, it’s not all bad.

If there is a hero in this sad story it is Constable Bree Sonter who did serve Queenslanders with honour.

I call on the Queensland Government to appropriately honour this young woman with the highest police award.

Author: Peter Pyke, 0427 388 598,

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trigger-happy NSW cop shoots frightened guy dead

Turns out he had good reason to be frightened of the NSW wallopers

A NSW officer tasked with bringing a mentally ill man back to hospital chased and shot him, despite warnings he was frightened of police. Elijah Holcombe died after being struck by a single bullet in the chest fired by plain-clothed officer Senior Constable Andrew Rich in Armidale, in northern NSW, on June 2 last year.

On the opening day of a two-week inquest into Holcombe's death, Armidale Coroner's Court yesterday heard police were warned the Macquarie University psychology student suffered from a mental illness characterised by paranoid episodes and a phobia of police.

Counsel assisting the coroner, Chris Hoy, said an "integral component" of the inquest would be to determine whether Holcombe's death was a result of justifiable homicide.

The inquest, which will hear from 71 witnesses, will also look at the role of police officers and how they interact with people with a mental illness.

In the months leading up to his death, Holcombe, who had battled depression for eight years, was living with his parents, Jeremy and Tracey, in Wee Waa, in the state's north, because of concerns about his mental health.

Four days before his death, Holcombe was treated at nearby Narrabri Hospital for "superficial self-mutilation cuts" to his wrists. He was prescribed the anti-depressant Zoloft and the anti-psychotic Risperidone and released the same day.

On June 1, Holcombe took his father's car and drove to Armidale. Mr Holcombe reported the matter to Narrabri police and warned them his son was experiencing paranoid delusions but "would not hurt anybody".

When Holcombe arrived at Armidale, he went to the police station, admitted stealing the car and asked to be taken to Armidale Hospital where he was assessed by nurse Carla Rutherford.

In a witness statement, Ms Rutherford said Holcombe appeared paranoid and despite attempts to keep him at the hospital as a voluntary patient, he was legally allowed to walk out.

When senior constables Rich and Christopher Dufty learned Holcombe had discharged himself, they went to the hospital and nurse Robyn O'Brien asked them to bring him back because of concerns about his mental health.

Soon after, the officers spotted Holcombe walking along Rusden Street, in Armidale's city centre. There was a brief exchange before Holcombe fled, pursued on foot by Senior Constable Rich.

Holcombe ran into a coffee shop, grabbed a bread knife and then fled out the back door to Cinders Lane. Senior Constable Rich confronted Holcombe in the laneway and asked him three times to drop the bread knife before shooting him in the chest.

The inquest heard from Narrabri officers Senior Constable Brett Allison and Leading Senior Constable Alexander Coates who both said they had not received formal training in how to deal with mentally ill people.

Former top cop slams Victoria police

There's a lot to slam. They were never brilliant but they went downhill fast after the Leftist Vic. government appointed a totally incompetent but very "correct" fat feminist to lead them

OUTSPOKEN officer Gary Jamieson has reaffirmed his call for a return to "back to basics" policing in Victoria, saying the force's entire philosophy must change.

Former assistant commissioner Jamieson - a 37-year police veteran and one-time rival of Simon Overland for the force’s top job – in today’s Herald Sun accused Victoria Police of being distracted by "silly side issues" and raised concerns the force has been taken over by interstate and overseas career professionals who are "running their own agenda".

Speaking on radio 3AW today, Mr Jamieson said police numbers weren’t going to increase in great numbers no matter who was in government, so it was up to command to ease officer’s workload for their many "masters" and get them back on the streets.

"You’ve got to get more out of what you’ve got," he said. "And credit to Simon (Overland) he’s doing a lot of good work in trying to get more police back on the street. "But it’s also about trying to cut their workload back down so they can do the things which are important to the public.

"And I think that’s the missing link that we are just not doing that work that is really important to the public. "People just want to be safe. They just want to feel safe and so that means having people out on the streets to make sure that happens."

Mr Jamieson said work for other government departments and increasing PR spin was distracting Victoria Police from its core responsibility. "I think the spin is part of the problem," he said. "But I think the other part is that police have lost momentum.

"It’s a little bit like St Kilda in the grand final. "They come out one week and play absolutely superbly. The next week they work very hard, they battle very hard, but they seem to get nowhere."

"This is a whole philosophy of policing that has to change. "The basic role of policing is public safety, keeping the community safe and meeting community expectations."

Mr Jamieson said Western Australian police had successfully implemented a back-to-basics approach but the idea had failed to win the Victorian government’s favour when he was a contender for the job of police commissioner. "That’s exactly the line that I took," he said. "They obviously found a better model – a better person perhaps."

In today's Herald Sun Mr Jamieson wrote: "Over the past decade, the recruitment of police leaders from outside this state, bringing with them their unique policing models, has resulted in policing in this state becoming far too confused," Commander Jamieson wrote. "We have lost direction on what Victoria Police should be doing by making the model of policing far too complex."

The extraordinary breaking of ranks by Commander Jamieson is a clear broadside at former chief commissioner Christine Nixon, Mr Overland and Deputy Commissioner Sir Ken Jones, all considered management specialists drafted from interstate and overseas.

Commander Jamieson writes the force's top brass drafted from interstate may be placing their own careers ahead of the community. "Can today's police executive create the excitement and passion their police force needs - or is their focus about continuing to experiment with their policing model?" Commander Jamieson writes. "And does the police executive have the ... unwavering commitment to serve our state, or are they happy to serve any state which presents an opportunity to further their own personal careers?"

Commander Jamieson also claims that police officers who understand the community have been passed over for promotion. "Leaders who have a burning desire to improve their own society - drawn from an ingrained understanding about local wants and needs and the best way of satisfying these - are often overlooked," he said. "It is clear to me that policing is very local, fundamental and based on traditional practices of serving your community.

"But does Victoria's own police command today understand grassroots policing? Does it understand the connection established between their police officers and the public? "Have today's police leaders had the same experiences - and therefore built up the same skills - presumably have the same skills - to support the difficult work that is frontline policing?"


Saturday, October 9, 2010

The charming Victoria police again

What does it take to spur a Royal Commission of enquiry into this bunch of goons?

POLICE officers have been caught joking about the electrocution of an Indian train passenger in a racist email scandal. They circulated sickening video footage of the man being killed and suggested it could be a way to fix Melbourne's Indian student problem.

The Herald Sun has discovered some of the force's highest-ranked officers have been implicated in the scandal, which also involves pornographic material. Three superintendents were nabbed during an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate emails through the police computer system. Several inspectors have also been caught.

Emails probed by the Ethical Standards Department's Operation Barrot contain pornographic, homophobic, racist and violent material.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland described the emails as "disturbing, offensive and gross".

One of the offending emails contained video footage showing the death of a man who was travelling on the roof of a crowded train in India. When the train stopped at a station the man stood up and touched an overhead power cable. Onlookers screamed as he was electrocuted.

The email containing the shocking video began circulating in the Victoria Police computer system and racist comments were added, suggesting "this might be a way to fix the Indian student problem". It came at a time when force command was trying to ease racial tension after a number of assaults and incidents involving Indians living in Melbourne.

Premier John Brumby yesterday criticised the actions of the police who circulated the racist material. "This is completely offensive and contrary to the views and values at the heart of the Victorian community - tolerance and respect," he said.

A police spokesman said the emails were offensive. "These are matters which demanded we took action. Some of the content was extremely offensive and we can't tolerate that within the ranks of Victoria Police," he said.

Federation of Indian Students spokesman Gautam Gupta said he was appalled. "It is outrageous that police officers would joke about the death of anyone. I am really shocked. This is humour in very, very bad taste," he said.

None of the superintendents or inspectors caught during the sweep have been interviewed by ESD yet. But the Herald Sun believes it has been unofficially suggested to two long-serving superintendents they should retire as soon as possible to avoid disciplinary action.

A sergeant, two leading senior constables and a senior constable have already been sacked and six other low-ranking police have been demoted or fined.

Healesville sergeant Tony Vangorp took his life in March after being suspended and being told he faced the sack over inappropriate emails. Fifteen officers will be dealt with at disciplinary hearings in the next fortnight.

SOURCE. Note that I have a special blog on Queensland cops, there is so much misbehaviour among them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nasty NSW cop

This would not stand up in court -- under the "triviality" defence

If you think being fined for a friendly toot on your car horn is bizarrely zealous policing, it's nothing compared with what one young Sydneysider copped. And if it had happened 24 hours later - when double demerit points applied - it would have cost the 23-year-old P-plater her licence.

So what was her heinous driving crime? Taking her seat belt off for a few seconds because she couldn't reach the car park ticket machine through the car window. With an officer in a police patrol car watching, what was going to be a free park cost her a whopping $300 and three demerit points.

NSW Police have yet to comment on their application of the law in this case, but the young woman's mother, from Lilyfield, is not impressed. Lyndal Gabriel said her daughter had just completed a mail run for her employer last Thursday and was about to leave the car park.

But what happened next left her in tears after she leaned through her car window to press the button for a ticket to raise the boom gate. "She put the ticket in and proceeded and then there was a marked police car behind her which pulled her over," Mrs Gabriel said. "They fined her $300 and 3 points, they kept her for about 30 minutes on site and she does have a clean record."

The "stern" officer, who was "a bit grumpy" told her daughter she should have turned off the ignition before getting out of her car. "They said she broke the law because she should have turned the car off, taken the keys out of the ignition, got out of the car, put the ticket into the machine, then buckled up and started the car and then proceeded," she said. "I guess we will have to cop it but I think it has all just gone mad, really."

Mrs Gabriel said her daughter was genuinely unaware she had broken the law. But then again, as Mrs Gabriel points out, so are most drivers. "To me the fine and points don't match the infringement," she said. "It just needs to be out there that this is the law and that this is happening."

Mrs Gabriel said her daughter had a clean driving history and that her car, a 10-year-old Nissan Pulsar, would not immediately attract the attention of police.

She said her daughter was neither rude nor argumentative to the officer who issued the fine. "My daughter just said he might have been having a bad day. Who knows, but in all honesty she is a bit embarrassed about it all," she said.

At least there's a little good news for the unlucky P-plater. Mrs Gabriel hinted "mum and dad might have to help out" when it comes to paying the fine.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

W.A. transit cop charged with assaulting unaggressive passenger

A TRANSIT officer has been charged with assault after a football fan was pepper-sprayed and left with a bloodied face at Subiaco train station in March.

Police say Liam Barry McCalmont, 22 of Maylands, assaulted James Hagerstrom, 46 of Bassendean, after the March 28 AFL game between Fremantle and Adelaide at Subiaco Oval. It will be alleged the assault occurred while transit guards tried to apprehend Mr Hagerstrom and charge him with obstruction.

The victim received facial injuries after his head was slammed into a platform during the altercation.

A Perth magistrate withdrew the obstruction charge against Mr Hagerstrom in July after viewing CCTV footage of the incident.

The Public Transport Authority conducted an internal inquiry into the incident in July and handed its findings to the Corruption and Crime Commission. Mr McCalmont has been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm and will face the Perth Magistrates Court on October 19. The PTA has placed him on "alternative and non-operational duties in the immediate term".

SOURCE. Earlier report here

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Unarmed man Tasered 13 times by WA police as 9 police stand and watch

Nine police who surrounded an unarmed man at the East Perth watch house used a Taser on him 13 times even though he wasn't threatening them, the WA corruption watchdog has found.

The Corruption and Crime Commission investigation was part of a wider examination of WA Police's use of Tasers since their introduction in 2007, the majority of which were found to be reasonable.

The watchdog looked into the watch house incident after the Deputy Police Commissioner Chris Dawson brought it to their attention. It found the 39-year-old man could have been suffering from a mental illness or substance abuse when he was Tasered in August 2008.

Police said they tried to arrest the man on a Bayswater street after complaints of a trespasser sniffing petrol from cars, but he fled. They later arrested him after he ran into a stationary car on Guildford Road. He allegedly collapsed and became violent, kicking two officers when he woke.

He was taken to the watch house, where police attempted to strip search him. Police said he had previously been convicted of a number of offences including assaulting police officers, resisting arrest and common assault.

"The man had been compliant, removing his belt and earring when requested by police officers. However, the man refused to comply with a strip search and held onto the armrest of the bench. One police officer kicked out at the man in an attempt to 'startle' him into letting go of the bench," the report said.

"Another officer drew his Taser weapon and said 'let go or be Tasered'. The man did not let go and a Taser weapon was deployed on him. The man fell to the ground and was restrained by other police officers." While he was struggling on the ground a police officer said "do you want to go again?" before discharging the Taser again.

CCC director of corruption prevention Roger Watson said the incident was subject to an internal police investigation and the two officers who fired the stun-gun faced disciplinary charges and were fined $1200 and $750 respectively for using undue and excessive force. Two senior officers were found to have provided inadequate supervision.

Mr Dawson said the inmate, who was later jailed on assault charges, did not elect to press charges against the two officers after consultations with the Aboriginal Legal Service and advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions. He conceded the officers were fortunate not to be sacked, though one had been promoted to a sergeant's position since the incident.

"This is an example which is not a good example to use in isolation, it is an example from which we have learnt, but it should not represent the way in which police deal with people all the time," Mr Dawson said.

"We're dealing with violent persons regularly, in this particular instance, this person had an extensive criminal record, and clearly in my view the officers overreacted. They didn't do it in accordance with the policy and the training. For that we very much regret what happened."

Mr Dawson said since the incident, stun guns had been raised against some of the 25,000 inmates brought through the watch house, but not fired by prison officers. He said Corrective Services officers had used Tasers in the watch house but they had their own policies on Tasers.

WA Premier Colin Barnett said he was disturbed by what he saw in the footage. "It was excessive use of a Taser that could not be justified," Mr Barnett said. "I think anyone seeing that footage would find it totally unacceptable." Mr Barnett admitted the incident was a major breach of procedure by the officers involved, and their actions could not be "swept under the carpet".

WA Attorney-General Christian Porter said the incident was completely indefensible and a breach of police guidelines that stipulate Tasers should not be used to get people to comply with orders. He said the officers' behaviour could "properly described as outrageous" and that the fines against them were insufficient.

Mr Porter said police guidelines setting out when Tasers could be used needed to be reviewed. "The government accepts that those guidelines need to be reviewed, we accept the CCC's recommendation in that respect and they will be reviewed," Mr Porter said.

"As a second point of priority this government will be looking into the police force regulations and ways in which we can ensure that the use of Tasers is put to a higher standard in terms of disciplinary proceedings, than just any old run-of-the-mill excessive use of force."

A second case highlighted in the CCC report concerned a man who was Tasered while running from police officers, causing him to fall and break a tooth. He was Tasered twice again while on the ground and seemingly not posing a risk to the male and female officer trying to apprehend him.

Tasers are meant to be used in violent situations, to stop officers having to resort to guns or use lethal force. The weapons deliver a 50,000-volt electric shock to the target, disrupting their muscles. They can also be used in stun-mode, where the shock causes pain but not incapacitation.

But the CCC also found the high-voltage weapon had become the favoured option for police over capsicum spray, batons and handcuffs, with officers reaching for their Tasers in 65 per cent of cases where force was used.

The CCC said Tasers were increasingly used to impose compliance by alleged offenders rather than as an alternative to firearms to reduce injury, as originally intended.

Tasers were used in 49 per cent of incidents where force was necessary in 2007. That figure increased to 74 per cent in 2008 and settled at 65 per cent in 2009. The use of guns had doubled in the same time-frame, rising from 6 per cent to 12 per cent.

The investigation found the weapons were being used disproportionately against Aboriginal people. The CCC was also concerned about the frequency of Taser use against people with mental illness and drug users.

An analysis of the weapons revealed police usually used them between 9pm and 3am from Friday through to Sunday. "There were common situations in which a Taser weapon was deployed, including domestic violence incidents, disturbances, fights and brawls, traffic stops, vehicle pursuits, and reports of weapons and/or assaults," the report said.

Injuries to police had not decreased since the introduction of the weapons, while a study of incidents over a three-month period in 2009 showed those involved in altercations were a Taser was used were 54 per cent less likely to be injured.

The CCC gave 10 recommendations surrounding Taser use, asking for the policy to be changed so that officers could only use them in situations where a safe resolution could not be reached in any other way.

It recommended the weapons should not be used when there was a risk of the person falling and sustaining a serious injury, if they were near water or at risk of drowning, against pregnant women, on those with pre-existing medical conditions, or near flammable liquid or gas.

Mr Watson said the recommendations would bring Taser use in WA into line with other parts of Australia and the world.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Top Victorian cop in bid to stop flow of information about police corruption

Victoria Police chief commissioner Simon Overland has banned police from covertly recording colleagues. Police members, well versed in the advantages of recording evidence, have a history of covertly taping workplace disputes, some of which have been made public, embarrassing the force.

Former police commissioner Christine Nixon was recorded when she told detectives she was disbanding the armed offenders squad in 2007, which was leaked to the media and later broadcast.

Only non-operational matters cannot be recorded and the ban applies to all staff working for the force.

Covertly recorded conversations have also cost the force, with one police officer exposing a senior officer racially vilifying him.

Mr Overland's instruction, effective from July 4 for 12 months, was detailed to police members in The Gazette this week, stating the practice undermined workplace relationships. Those found to have recorded conversations could face disciplinary action. An internal notification of the same instruction was circulated on the force's intranet in September last year.

The Police Association has written to members worried the move could leave them vulnerable. Secretary Greg Davies is opposing the ban. "The association does not encourage members recording other members in a covert fashion however, regrettably, on some occasions it is a necessary step in order to protect themselves," he wrote in a letter to union members.

Mr Overland's instruction is at odds with the force's increasing use of surveillance tactics. The Herald Sun exposed Victoria Police were secretly checking phone records of its reporters to save face over whistleblower leaks.