Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Former cops who were caught on camera bashing a drunk man and snapping his finger in 'gruesome' arrest avoid jail

Two police officers who lost their jobs after bashing a 'vulnerable' drunk man and dislocating his finger during a violent arrest have avoided jail.

Sergeant Nathan Trenberth and constable Julian Donohoe were slapped with fines after the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) findings resulted in actions of misconduct.

Horrific footage of the incident showed the former officers throwing punches at John Wells at High Street Mall in Fremantle, Western Australia, in 2017.

Trenberth admitted to the court that he punched the drunk man seven times claiming the first three punches were of reasonable force, compared to the other four which were excessive. He pleaded guilty to one count of common assault

'There was no injury alleged, there was no injury to the male, they were distractionary techniques of little force...' he said, Perth Now reported.

His partner Donohoe pleaded guilty to a charge of assault occasioning bodily harm for his role in the brutal arrest which saw Mr Wells's finger bent backwards causing it to dislocate.

The court heard Donohoe attacked Mr Wells 'deliberately, vindictively and maliciously'.

Dohohoe told the court he was 'deeply ashamed and appalled by what he did'.

The magistrate described the arrest as 'gruesome' and 'violent', and highlighted the power imbalance between the officers and the 'vulnerable' victim.

Donohoe was fined $3,500 and Trenberth pleaded guilty to a count of common assault given a $1,800 fine. Both have resigned from the police force.

The incident occurred when Mr Wells was trying to light up a cigarette and three police officers approached him asking for some identification.

A police officer grabbed the cigarette which saw the pair wrestle before Mr Wells was repeatedly punched in the face as his arms were held down.

Mr Wells' finger was twisted until it was completely dislocated in the violent arrest in September 2017.


Thursday, December 5, 2019

Police "strike" on going into Aboriginal settlements?

Just the charging of constable Rolfe has created tension. If the Rolfe trial leads to anything but complete exoneration, police may well in future refuse to go into Aboriginal communities.  Armchair judgments on police actions in the heat of the moment are intrinsically unfair and basing a prosecution on them tells police not to bother in future

One of Australia's longest-serving former police commissioners believes the shooting of Indigenous man Kumanjayi Walker in a remote Northern Territory community could have widespread consequences for the future of policing.

Western Australia's ex-police commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said officers felt unsupported after Constable Zachary Rolfe was charged with murder and many will be watching the outcome of the case "very closely".

Dr O'Callaghan also expressed sadness at the low number of Aboriginal people involved in law enforcement and the failed efforts to recruit them.

The comments come amid fresh scrutiny on policing strategies in isolated townships and the relationship between Indigenous people and the law.

Too risky for officers

As the state's highest-ranking officer for 13 years, Dr O'Callaghan has extensive experience in overseeing policing strategies in some of the most isolated places on earth.

He said the decision to charge Mr Rolfe with murder over the shooting sent ripples of dismay through the policing fraternity.

"I think [officers] feel they are not supported," he said. "[Officers] go out and do their job, something happens in a split second and they end up getting charged with a very serious offence.

"I think police in Western Australia and the Northern Territory will be very, very concerned about what this means for trying to support those Aboriginal communities."

He said the case had the potential to change the way officers approached policing in these places — and not necessarily for the better.

"The outcome of this will be watched very closely all over Australia," he said. "It will have an impact on the best of our police officers, on their decision to go to those communities.

"It will be a bad thing if police officers who are qualified and very skilled at their work decide that they don't want to go there because of this risk."

Policing in the far-flung regional centres of Western Australia and the Northern Territory has long presented a logistical and cultural challenge for officers.

A handful of staff are often responsible for between several hundred to 1,000 residents.

Small communities can be easily inundated by visitors who travel thousands of kilometres, many from interstate, to attend family commitments.

In addition to layers of complex social problems, there are language and cultural barriers to navigate, and support is usually hours away.

Law enforcement in these conditions requires a unique approach, according to Dr O'Callaghan, because officers, "are trying to deal with a lot of complex social issues".

"It can have an enormous impact on a police officer because of the complexity of what they're dealing with and I think even the best-prepared officers are not prepared or trained to deal with what they find in those communities," he said.