Magnetic Island North Queensland
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February 4th 2007
Police accountability - a reader's experience

Fall-out from the Mulrunji death in custody on Magnetic's neighbour, Palm Island, continues and, following calls by the Queensland Police Union to bring watch-houses up to standard so prisoners are monitored during their custodial periods, Townsville based Bill of Rights activist, Pat Coleman, in a submission to the Qld Government over police accountability, tells a chilling tale of his own watch-house experience. He goes on to make some constructive criticism of the system and culture which, he believes, enabled this to happen and what might be done to fix it. (Ed)

It would seem that the Qld Police Union is being disingenuous about their call for all watchhouses to have video cameras. They know about how to get around this.

The fact that cameras are installed would neither change the culture, nor the tactics of the police. It would not change the way that investigations about police misconduct are led astray and perverted by the police themselves.

For some time now I have been in possession of documents and audiotapes relating to one of these so called investigations. I had made a complaint that after I had been arrested in early 2002, that I was left in cuffs for hours afterwards, in such a manner that they cut into my wrists, cutting the circulation, leaving me in such pain that I could not sit. That the only way I could keep myself from passing out with the pain was to pace the cell until such time that the only way I could keep myself from falling- was to stand with my forehead against the holding cell perspex . The police refused all demands to release me from the cuffs until I vomited (I was sober) and was about to pass out . The complaint was that they did this on purpose and that it was excessive force and akin to torture.

After I complained to the Crime & Misconduct Commission (CMC) this was referred to the Ethical Standards Command (ESC) for investigation. They tasked the Snr Sgt in charge of Townsville Police Station to conduct the interviews and gather any evidence, being the watchhouse tape.

The arresting officers and all police in the watchhouse at the time were interviewed, as well as myself. This generated audiotapes of those interviews.

After a number of months I received a letter from the ESC and also the CMC stating that my complaint had basically been dismissed.

I then FOI'd (Freedom of Information) the ESC and CMC and was both amazed and shocked, but not surprised about how they could come to such a conclusion.

What occurred was the following: after the interviews and the video tape was viewed, the Snr Sgt simply made only a few transcripts to go with his report to the ESC Assessment Committee (review panel). Neither the audiotapes nor the video were sent or overviewed. The video tape register shows that it was placed back into the watchhouse to be recorded over before the decision was given in the matter, so was unobtainable through FOI .

The officers interviewed all closed ranks bar one and one even made up a story that I was banging my head against the wall. This was dismissed as obviously untrue by the Snr Sgt . However, the one cop who backed me up also said that it was excessive and should not have been done.

No transcript of this particular interview was produced.

It took some time to go through the FOI process and assess the documents and tapes. The CMC Act states that there is a 1 year time limit for any prosecutions for lying in such investigations.

The FOI from the CMC only turned up my complaint and the letters from the ESC. It was the FOI of the ESC and police station that turned up the tapes, documents and the register.

The FOI showed that there was a failure of oversight by both the ESC Assessment Committee and the CMC which did none and simply accepted the police version of events.

It is my view that the ESC is worthless and suggest the following:

Police accountability - a reader's experience
John Citizen
February 5th 2007
What was Pat Coleman arrested for in early 2002?
February 6th 2007
Police accountability - a reader's STORY
February 6th 2007
It had never occurred to me that we might have a Captain Bligh as Deputy Premier - in fact the similarities don't extend far past the name in my opinion. However our modern 'Vice Captain' Bligh has other attributes that will get conspicuous this week as John Howard and Kevin Rudd try to out-manoeuvre each other over water / climate change.
Anna Bligh has stepped in to prevent any public scrutiny (ie. legal objection) to the gated luxury canal estate proposed for the "duck pond" seaward of the Townsville casino - alongside the proposed cruise ship terminal.
In defiance of all climate change predictions and Premier Beattie's often broken promise of "NO NEW CANAL ESTATES", the Queensland government is hiding behind the Casino Control Act (1982) and the Breakwater Island Casino Agreement to facilitate the construction of hundreds of McMansions at sea level in this most exposed part of Cleveland Bay.
Facilitate? Well, because of the likelihood that someone (the public, the Commonwealth, the EPA, the Opposition, even Heaven forbid, Townsville City Council) might want to raise an objection, Vice Captain Anna has suspended the Judicial Review Act and the Integrated Planning Act as they would apply to the surplus casino land and future development area. If you've got a problem with the proposal you can bugger off. You can't see the plans, you can't take them to court and you can't even ask why.
You can see where the Police Union learnt the game.
Jenny Stirling
February 7th 2007

Pat's arrest was for flag burning, an action which was triggered by the shameful
treatment of assylum seekers, mainly women and children who were made prisoners for the crime of being refugees.

My thoughts are that as the situation in this country deteriorates to the point where:

* Many people report systematic abuse of police polwer
* The Law appears to work for those rich enough to get good counsel
* Prime Ministers lie to parliament and get away with it
* Politicians become accountable under the Westminister system
* Powerful people subvert and corrupt democracy through campaign contributions

we need to be mindful that as citizens, we have rights which need exercising so that they remain strong. Use them or lose them.

It comes as no surprise that Pat has been a long time supporter of Aboriginal people and their fight for fairness in the administration of justice and policing here in Townsville. As usual these causes are not well received initially; Gandhi spoke about the porcess thus: First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win.

Such has been Pat Coleman's journey and one doesn't have to agree with everything Pat does or says to see that he makes some very valid points in this letter.

sick of it
February 7th 2007

What a person is charged with is not relevant, police have a high level duty of care to persons in custody, regardless of the alleged offences. It is not the role of police to punish but many seem to think if an arrest is made they can treat the person any way they like because they are guilty.
I worked for disadvantaged people in the justice system for over a decade and every time I tried to get hold of the CCTV video, it had already been taped over or was 'lost', once the camera was not even on and once they actually gave evidence that the camera was only for watching the prisoners not recorded, it was a lie and the magistrate was most unimpressed, my guy got off that day.
There are lots of good police out there but those that stand by and watch others do injustices are just as guilty as those that do the wrongs... if I stand by and watch a burglary, I am treated the same way as the primary offender, why do police get different treatment?
I strongly support the suggestion that police be subject to the criminal codes and also that they not investigate themselves. It should also be an offence to tape over videos for at least two years so that people can access the evidence they need in the timeframes that are in effect.

What do you think? Send us your comments.

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