Thursday, March 07, 2013

"I find myself not guilty"

There's the usual problem with the latest example of police abusing their power - apart from the abuse of power itself of course. I refer to the fact that the police will investigate themselves about the incident.

Video of the incident has, as they say, gone viral. It shows a small, skinny young man at the weekend Mardi Gras with his hands handcuffed behind his back in the charge of a police officer twice his size.

Reports say the initial charge is the heinous crime of...steel yourself for this...offensive language.

The video shows a big crowd at the scene adding plenty of shouting and screeching, then the officer grabs the young man - hands 'cuffed behind his back remember - by the throat, throws him to the ground then puts his big boot on the young man's back.

It was a pose reminiscent of the old-time hunters standing proudly with their foot on the back of the elephant they'd just so bravely shot.

To me that pose underlined the contempt the officer has for not only the law but for public opinion. And of course, arrogant confidence that he'd get away with it.

We also hear another officer saying that filming must stop as it's not allowed.  Bullshit of course. A clumsy attempt at damage control.

The police minister and others have been spouting the usual cliches. We don't know the full story. We don't know what led up to it. Maybe the officer was provoked. Blah blah blah.

The fact of the matter is clearly on film.   A small, skinny young man was in custody, hands 'cuffed behind his back. Hardly a threat to anyone. An officer grabbed him by the throat, threw him to the ground and stood with his foot on the prisoner's back.

What came before doesn't change that fact, nor does it justify the attack.

I see that since the incident more charges, predictably, have been added - assaulting police and resisting arrest.   Handily, they can be used as an excuse for the force being used.

There was another similar incident too. Another man says a disagreement with police about him crossing the road led to several officers throwing him to the ground, kneeling on him and kicking him.

He's also been charged with assaulting police.

It's an all-too-frequent occurrence, from excessive and unnecessary use of force to tasering to shooting.  And most incidents are then investigated by the police themselves.

That they close ranks, rehearse their version of events with each other and - as in the Ballina case* - lie, is not in dispute.

After each incident we're told exactly the same things - the police have a hard and dangerous job.  That most officers are honest, hard working and obey the rules. That they need community support.

I fully agree. But I also see that the minority who break or bend the rules is far too large, that we have these incidents all too frequently. And that sure as hell doesn't attract community support, it generates distrust.

The whitewash of an internal enquiry adds to the distrust. Not only the more serious breaches but all incidents need to be independently investigated.

Here's the video on YouTube

* Ballina

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