Police watchdog reports show damning pattern of police behaviour


Three reports delivered today by the police watchdog LECC into the police use and abuse of consorting laws, the failure of police internal police discipline procedures and the violent arrest of a 14 year old Aboriginal boy, together show a disturbing pattern of police misbehaviour, mismanagement and a police force that continues to grossly over-police Aboriginal people.

These reports show a police force that is incapable of holding officers to account for misconduct and that continues to be racially biased against Aboriginal people.

The Operation Krosno report reviews the violent arrest of a 14 year old First Nations boy by at least 4 police officers. None of these officers turned on their body worn camera. The young man was significantly injured during the arrest with the Consultant Paediatrician reporting his injuries were "extensive and severe" requiring "surgical repair under general anaesthetic".

The LECC found that police made no notes of the use of force and took no photos of the arrest/assault site despite the boy being rushed into surgery immediately after his arrest because of his severe injuries.

The Consorting review considers how police have targeted First Nations people in their application of consorting laws. Consorting laws make it a crime to associate with people who have previously been convicted of a serious offence. The racial targeting by police has increased since the 2016 Ombudsman's review of the laws when 37% of those subject to the consorting law were Aboriginal, in this report 40% (947 people of 2,361) of the people served with a consorting order were Aboriginal. This means that Aboriginal people are more than 15 times as likely to be targeted by a police consorting order than non-Aboriginal people.

Regional analysis shows that in Western and Northern NSW over 50% of consorting matters involved a person who was from Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background.

The  Review of the NSW Police Force Conduct Management Plans shows that almost half of all police (42%) who were  placed on a performance management plan as a result of a sustained finding of misconduct were later the subject of one or more sustained misconduct findings and further performance management plans.

Not once did NSW police properly record potential or actual conflicts of interest that the supervising officers had with the officer the subject of the performance management plan.

In short, the police internal discipline system is dysfunctional and too often fails to correct police misbehaviour.

Greens MP and Justice Spokesperson David Shoebridge said: "This is a police force that has become even more racially biased against Aboriginal people and has proven itself incapable of holding officers to account for misconduct.

"It's clear that discretionary police powers like the consorting orders, are systematically targeted at First Nations people and what is extremely distressing about this report is that the problem is getting worse not better.

"After the 2016 Ombudsman review found extremely high targeting of First Nations communities under the consorting laws, police said they would make changes to limit this, but instead the numbers have just got worse.

"The violent arrest of a 14 year old Aboriginal boy detailed in Operation Krosno is just one example of the many violent police interactions between young First Nations people and police. In this case police chose not to use their body worn camera while making the violent arrest, which is a choice that should never be open to police .

"The failure to record or even document the violent arrest meant an external review by the LECC was the only opportunity to get information about what actually happened. It's a live question just how many other matters like this happen every day in NSW.

"Even where police are found to have engaged in significant misconduct and been ordered  to undertake Conduct Management Plans, it does little to reign in poor behaviour. Almost half of the police who were given a conduct management plan went on to have one or more additional sustained misconduct findings.

"NSW police have extraordinary powers and hopelessly inadequate accountability mechanisms which is a policy mix that does long term damage to police and society," Mr Shoebridge said.