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Police fined for riot bungle - 07.08.2005

THE NSW police force is facing an embarrassing $800,000 fine for not providing adequate riot gear for officers involved in last year's Redfern riot.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that Workcover has recommended the police department be charged with negligence.

It's believed to be basing its case on the fact that senior police were warned almost a year earlier that helmets, shields and other riot equipment held at Redfern were either old, broken or worn.

Despite that, no new equipment was purchased.

One police officer has told Workcover this was because of "budget cuts."

Although court proceedings have not yet started, Workcover will allege officers were injured and their lives were put in danger because of the sub-standard gear.

During the riot, in February 2004, about 50 police were injured. Eight ended up in hospital after being pelted by rocks and bottles.

The disturbance was sparked by the death of teenager Thomas "TJ" Hickey, who many locals believed died while being chased by police.

Helmets used during the riot were later found to be too big for some officers.

Some of the visors were scratched so officers could not see and the shields were too short to stop leg injuries. "Clothing (protective vests) was one size - extra large," said one source. In addition, some officers had not received any training.

It's believed Workcover will use a report which warned senior police the riot gear was not up to scratch.

The Sunday Telegraph has learned that on March 22, 2003, leading Senior Constable Scott Burkenshaw identified the problem in a report to his superiors. Sources said the report had passed through the chain of command, ending up with the then region commander, assistant commissioner Dick Adams. Mr Adams recently left the police service on medical grounds.

A spokesman said Workcover was waiting on a conference with the Premier's department before proceeding.

By Neil Mercer August 07, 2005 The Sunday Telegraph,10117,16170781-1242,00.html