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Police activities must be monitored

The relationship between the police and many Aboriginals in Redfern-Waterloo is pitiful reports Joseph Correy in the South Sydney Herald of February 2008.

The Aboriginal community faces the humiliation of searches that rarely result in an arrest and have no effective means of redress. The process whereby police investigate complaints made against other police officers defies logic. It discourages people from reporting harassment.

This situation creates mistrust and suspicion towards the law, blurring the line between right and wrong in a community that is susceptible to crime. Furthermore, it drives a wedge between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people because the law is applied differently to different sections of the community.

Police deny that their relationship with the Indigenous community is damaged. But ask an Aboriginal person about how officers behave on the beat and a different story is told. In December I stopped at the Block to say Merry Christmas to an Aboriginal woman I’d known since I was five years old. When I left, the police threw her into a paddy-wagon, searched her and accused her of selling drugs to white people.

A similar incident occurred a few days earlier when a white person visited a friend on the Block. Police searched him as he walked home and accused him of buying drugs.

Is it inconceivable to police that people from different backgrounds in Redfern could have a relationship that doesn’t involve the sale of narcotics?

Complaints weren’t made about any of these occurrences because the complaints system is flawed. I experienced its failures when I lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman after a teenager was dragged out of my car near Leichhardt Pool. He was searched in front of his little brother and the detective accused us – we were shirtless, dripping water and in board shorts – of acting suspiciously and told us to “stay in Redfern”.

When I complained, the Ombudsman reported that the police officers involved had refuted my account and the car was pulled over because of a crooked P-Plate. Investigation closed.

Experiences like this stop people from reporting injustices. I’ve seen teenagers covered in bruises and scrapes after encounters with police but they think it futile to lodge a complaint. A man I know was capsicum-sprayed when he opened his door because he heard a noise outside his Surry Hills home. The police did not apologise. Rather they handcuffed him before letting him go without charge or explanation.

Where is the accountability? Incidents like these will continue to occur every day until fairness is restored to the justice system and the activities of police are monitored

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2008 -