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Questions for Redfern Police

The relationship between some of the Aboriginal community and Redfern Police has become so dysfunctional that complaints against officers are rarely made despite claims of rampant harassment circulating Redfern and Waterloo reports Joseph Correy in the South Sydney Herald of February 2008.

Aboriginal activist Lyall Munro said the police practice of constantly strip-searching Aboriginals, and rarely malting arrests, had a g effect on the Indigenous community.

“Every day police pull our young people up on the street and strip search them, there are white police men searching young black women,” he said. “It’s inhuman. How many arrests come from the strip searches? The police won’t answer that because the answer is hardly any.”

Mr Munro said police had a free reign to harass Aboriginal people because of a flawed complaints process whereby police investigate allegations made against other police officers even if they’re made to the Ombudsman.

“Aboriginal people can’t get redress through this system no matter how many times we make complaints against police,” he said. “I’ve been involved in major complaints that have been made to the Ombudsman and they go nowhere, so what hope does a black teenager have?

“It devastates the community when Aboriginal people can’t get redress. Young people don’t forget how they’ve been treated and parents feel disempowered because they can’t do anything about police intimidating their children.”

Redfern Police local area commander, superintendent Mark Walton, said the relationship between police and the Aboriginal community had improved and complaints about police conduct were rare.

“Reasonable grounds to search somebody is established in the mind of an officer before they activate those powers,” he said. “They may have made observations in regard to a person or that person might have a history [that makes his/her actions suspicious].

“The police’s job is a very difficult one. Are we going to get it right all the time? Probably not. Is every contact with police going to be a positive one? Probably not. But we do aim to train police so they properly apply their powers.”

Superintendent Walton said he was confident that complaints against police officers were thoroughly investigated. “If people are concerned about particular incidents and how they are treated by Redfern Police then I encourage them to discuss them with the duty officer at Redfern police station,” he said. “The complaints are investigated and determined by the evidence, the same as any other allegation.”

NSW Council of Civil Liberties vice president Pauline Wright said the lack of police accountability led to systematic harassment of communities. “The complaint process where police investigate police is far from ideal,” she said. “In most cases the only evidence is the account of the police officer and account of the alleged victim.”

“It’s unrealistic to think that police will take the word of an Aboriginal person over the word of a fellow police officer whom they have a personal relationship with. Until the system , changes I don’t think we’ll see the relationship between the police and Aboriginal communities improve.”

Source: South Sydney Herald February 2008 -