Monday, June 21, 2010

Qld. Police Commissioner in the gun

THERE is an odour pervading the city, drifting down from Parliament House at one end of town and police headquarters at the other, merging mid-point to create a colourless, poisonous cloud. It's been building in intensity for some time, the occasional whiff of questionable behaviour indicating that something was amiss.

There was that police investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct in a nightclub hotel toilet made against three Broncos players, an investigation that inexplicably took months to finalise before it was eventually decided they had no case to answer.

Then there was the Taser issue, these weapons being handed out by then police minister Judy Spence despite the fact that a 12-month trial into the appropriateness of their use had not even been completed. They were handed over by a compliant minister because the police wanted them. End of story.

At the time, the London Metropolitan Police Authority declined an offer from the British government for the widespread distribution of Tasers because it believed that such a move would cause fear and damage public confidence in the police. The Queensland Police Service under Commissioner Bob Atkinson had no such reservations.

On the first night Tasers were in general use, a Queensland police officer and two security guards held down and shot a 16-year-old girl with a Taser when she failed to obey a police order to move on. She was waiting for an ambulance to attend a sick friend at the time.

On the Gold Coast, there have been repeated allegations that some officers working out of the Surfers Paradise police station have become a law unto themselves, routinely accepting free drinks and lap dances and consorting with those involved with the nightclub drug trade and organised crime. Police Minister Neil Roberts ruled out any inquiry and Atkinson said everything was being done to make sure police officers were not on the take. It was the usual "few bad apples" defence.

Last week, a Gold Coast businessman who went to the Surfers Paradise police station to pay a fine for his son claimed he was assaulted, thrown into a cell and threatened with having his arms broken after he asked for an officer's name.

The clues are there for all to see; the growth of the belief that if you're in the Queensland Police Service you can do what you want. The Government contributes to this climate of unaccountability by caving in to the police service all too often.

Last week Roberts indicated he was in favour of a police move to speed up the process of impounding cars for alleged "hooning" offences. The present scheme, the Minister said, involved a magistrate and "lengthy police paperwork". We are talking here about permanently confiscating someone's car or impounding it for more than 48 hours. If "streamlining" the procedure gives police more power and lessens the involvement of a hopefully independent judiciary and the rights of the individual, it should be resisted.

On the Government's previous form, it won't be. In the same week, Premier Anna Bligh boasted of giving new powers to police to issue on-the-spot fines of $100 to $300 for public nuisance offences such as swearing. As usual, the Queensland Police Service asked for more power and the Government quickly agreed.

Bligh's defence of the move was that it would save police time appearing in court. It would, I suppose, save police even more time if the courts were abolished completely. Detention without trial, I believe it is called. Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope voiced a widely held concern when he said: "This will become the thing police just slap on someone whenever they aren't happy."

Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan's denunciation of Atkinson as presiding over a culture of denial in the police service is damning but has been a long time coming.

The signs of a police service increasingly out of control have been evident for a while. The CMC report should mark the end of Atkinson's career. Whatever happens, the Queensland Police Service is at a crossroads, one of which leads down a dark path we have travelled before.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan says Police Commissioner must 'step up'

CRIME and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan has announced he will start a wide-reaching probe into how police investigate each other. In an exclusive interview Mr Moynihan yesterday dramatically raised the stakes in the debate that has raged this week over a "self-protecting" police culture under Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson.

Mr Moynihan said the CMC would look at stopping police accused of wrongdoing from being investigated by police from the same station or "establishment", after public complaints about the process. "You can see why that is a matter of concern," Mr Moynihan said, acknowledging lack of public confidence was a "big problem". "You can see why people might not have full trust."

Mr Moynihan said the CMC now needed to "bore down" in an overall review of how the system of investigation of police was working.

He said he was angry that decent police officers who were doing their duty were "besmirched" by a culture of police not acknowledging wrongdoing. "The Commissioner needs to step up and do his job and not be looking for other people he thinks might be able to do something. He's got to do it."

He said it was very disappointing the Commissioner did not at first see a problem in the way original police investigators ran the Palm Island probe into the death of Cameron Doomadgee, known as Mulrunji. "It's not very reassuring that he (Mr Atkinson) has really appreciated that considerations have arisen that there is this culture that says that you don't acknowledge that anything has gone wrong. "There is a culture that there is no effective supervision from the top down so that people can depart from standards and it has no consequence for them."

He said the police failure to face up to consequences of their actions and failures in the system could be fixed with effective supervision, which was not at present happening. "It has to start at the top and come down," he said. "You can't ask constables on the beat to set the standards ... they have to know if they do the wrong thing something will be done about it."

Mr Moynihan said there was nothing to stop the Commissioner reporting within 14 days on the course of action intended to be taken regarding disciplinary action against police involved in Palm Island investigations. He said the Commissioner could delegate a senior officer to consider it and implement the CMC recommendations - even an officer from another police service - or let the matter go to a tribunal.

Mr Moynihan said he would only consider an extension of time if the Commissioner gave a justifiable reason. "It would have to be a genuine compelling story because he's been across this or had staff across this for a long time," he said.

Mr Moynihan said he felt he could continue to work with Mr Atkinson as police commissioner. "My job is to have a proper relationship with whoever is police commissioner," Mr Moynihan said.

The state Opposition yesterday called for Mr Atkinson's reappointment as police commissioner to be frozen and for the position to be advertised, according to Fitzgerald report recommendations.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Killer cop faces two new official inquiries

They'll get the b*stard for something yet

POLICE officer Chris Hurley is facing two fresh investigations. The Crime and Misconduct Commission last night confirmed it had opened a new probe into Senior Sergeant Hurley's compensation claims for property lost when the Palm Island police station and residence was burned down in 2004.

It also confirmed it was investigating allegations raised by Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine at last month's coronial inquest.

CMC investigators believe Sen-Sgt Hurley, who owns a Gold Coast house and a beachfront unit, got as much as $150,000 after rioters burned the three-bedroom police house, police station and court house six years ago.

CMC director of misconduct investigations Russell Peace said Sen-Sgt Hurley appeared to have got three separate payments after the riots. "We are looking at whether this is a case of 'triple dipping'," Mr Pearce said. "The investigation is into any possibility of alleged insurance fraud in relation to the payouts. We believe there may be a case to answer."

FOI documents show Sen-Sgt Hurley - the officer charged and acquitted over the Palm Island death-in-custody of Cameron Doomadgee, known as Mulrunji - successfully claimed a $102,955 ex-gratia payment from the State Government for lost property.

Sen-Sgt Hurley was the main beneficiary of a Queensland Police Union Palm Island fund, taking donations from fellow officers, the size of which has not been made public. In May 2008, Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson ordered an internal investigation into the insurance-related payouts, overseen by the anti-misconduct watchdog, that has now been completed, sent to a barrister for independent review, and handed to the CMC.

The Queensland Police Service, Police Union and Sen-Sgt Hurley have been notified of the decision to reopen the investigation. None would comment yesterday.

Mulrunji's partner Tracey Twaddle said she had not yet received "one red cent of compensation". Ms Twaddle and the Doomadgee family plan to file a civil damages suit against Sen-Sgt Hurley and the Queensland Police Service.

The CMC also is investigating findings by Mr Hine at last month's coronial inquest that Sen-Sgt Hurley, Sergeant Michael Leafe and police liaison officer Lloyd Bengaroo had become aware of what a witness had said, and changed their own version of events.


Friday, June 18, 2010

Premier tells police boss to meet deadline for dealing with crooked cops

The heat is on -- and not before time

ANNA Bligh says embattled Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson needs to comply with a deadline set by the state's anti-corruption body to take action against police over the Mulrunji Doomadgee death inquiry.

Six officers were adversely named in the Crime and Misconduct Commission's report on the “flawed” investigation into Doomadgee's death in custody.

The Premier said this morning she expected Mr Atkinson to take seriously the recommendations of the CMC for disciplinary action against six officers, including two senior men he hand-picked to review the biased initial investigation into Doomadgee's 2004 death in the Palm Island lockup.

Speaking to reporters in Brisbane, Ms Bligh said the CMC had exposed very serious flaws in the original investigation, and “shortcomings” in the subsequent internal police review of it...

She said the CMC report on the Doomadgee affair did not reflect well on any of the parties involved in the investigations.

The agency has warned Mr Atkinson that it would move to launch disciplinary proceedings against the police it had cited if Mr Atkinson did not take action, to its satisfaction, within a fortnight.

Mr Atkinson said today that may not be possible because of procedural constraints.

But Ms Bligh said she expected Mr Atkinson to act on the CMC recommendations “within the timeframe” set by the agency.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Killer cop promoted

I suppose it's kind of appropriate that he is now working on the Gold Coast -- where thug cops are notorious. I guess his bosses want to keep him away from blacks. There are few blacks on the Gold Coast

THE police officer at the centre of the Palm Island death-in-custody saga has been promoted while fellow officers who protected him face demotion or dismissal. Senior-Sergeant Chris Hurley, now based on the Gold Coast after being charged and acquitted in 2007 of manslaughter over the death, has held the rank of Acting Inspector when filling in for senior colleagues.

As many as six officers face discipline for misconduct in a scathing 194-page Crime and Misconduct Commission report on the handling of the investigation into the 2004 Palm Island tragedy, to be released today.

The multimillion-dollar report into the investigation of the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee, known as Mulrunji, found evidence of officers protecting colleagues and bias. The report is expected to recommend action against the officers.

In contrast, Senior-Sergeant Hurley, who has been based on the Gold Coast after being charged and acquitted in 2007 of manslaughter over the death, has held the rank of acting inspector when filling in for senior colleagues on high profile events such as Schoolies Week.

The death of Mulrunji after his arrest by Senior-Sergeant Hurley led to riots in which the police station and courthouse were burned down.

But the subsequent investigation was "deeply flawed", according to the CMC's report, which offers damning insight into a police culture of "double-standards". In a top-secret draft obtained by The Courier-Mail, the CMC named nine former and serving officers for action but last night the CMC indicated fewer officers had been included in the final version.

The two-year CMC probe uncovered evidence of police bias, police acting above the law, officers protecting fellow officers from blame and "obfuscating" evidence when police investigated police.

But criminal charges have not been recommended against the investigating officers. The penalties they face include reprimand, fines, demotion or dismissal. The police union has vowed to fight any sanctions against the officers, including seeking a judicial review of the CMC findings.

Mulrunji's family and the Palm Island community said the failure to lay criminal charges amounted to "little more than a slap on the wrist". "This multimillion-dollar witch-hunt has produced little more than a wrap over the knuckles," Palm Island mayor Alf Lacey said.

"How can they spend all this time and money not to come up with any criminal charges. If those police did wrong, they should be put in jail just like the rioters. "Black or white, what do you say when the system (that is) supposed to protect you, fails you? What do you say when the system ordinary Queenslanders trust, betrays that trust?"

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson is urged in the report to act immediately to restore public trust in the Queensland Police Service. It says the QPS needs to rebuild the damaged image and repair the integrity of police. CMC officers will fly to Palm Island today to give the report.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Man locked up for daring to ask police officer his name

What a goon! Clearly a danger to the public.

EMBATTLED Surfers Paradise police are embroiled in a fresh misconduct probe after a retired businessman was allegedly brutalised and thrown in a cell.

Lindsay Walters, 61, says he was subjected to shocking treatment at Surfers Paradise police station last month when he went in to pay a fine for his son. He claims he was sworn at, handcuffed and threatened that his arms would be broken.

The wealthy Paradise Waters businessman has made a formal complaint to the Crime and Misconduct Commission alleging unlawful arrest, deprivation of liberty and serious assault.

The CMC says the case could amount to official misconduct and has referred the allegations to the police Ethical Standards Command. It is the latest scandal for Surfers police, who are at the centre of a major CMC probe into allegations of involvement in the Glitter Strip's nightclub drug trade.

In a police statement, Mr Walters said he went to Surfers police station on May 4 after two officers called at his home that day in relation to an arrest warrant for his 28-year-old son Ben over an unpaid traffic fine in Victoria. He said he arranged to pay the $1000 fine for his son but when he went to the station was told the officer handling the matter was out.

He said he asked civilly several times to speak with the officer-in-charge. An officer eventually emerged and allegedly told him: "You've got two (expletive) choices sit there and wait or I'll arrest you." Mr Walters said he replied: "Well, that won't happen, because I'll leave." He said he was affronted by the officer's demeanour and turned to walk out. "Before I exited, I turned and said, 'excuse me, can I have your name please?"' Mr Walters said in the statement.

"At this instant, the officer burst through a door, strode quickly over to me and seized my left forearm. He forced my arm behind my back and said 'you're under arrest'. I felt an intense burning pain in my shoulders and neck. I said, 'why am I being arrested?'. The officer replied: 'An outstanding warrant'."

Despite his protestations, Mr Walters said his arms were forced back and he was handcuffed, causing intense pain. He admits to "some resistance" but said he was "shocked and amazed" by the way he was treated. He said that as he was being handcuffed, the officer said: "Stop resisting or I'll break your (expletive) arms."

Mr Walters said his belongings were seized and he was forced into a cell. He was released about 15 minutes later when the officer who had been handling his son's warrant returned. The officer apologised for his colleague's conduct and accepted the $1000 fine payment, Mr Walters said.

He said the officer who locked him up threatened to charge him with public nuisance but he was released without charge. "If I was playing up, why didn't they charge me?" he said yesterday. "I was humiliated and treated like a common criminal ... all for trying to do the right thing.

"I've never been in trouble with the law and some of my closest friends are serving and retired police, but this bloke (the officer) deserves to lose his job over this. I'm not going to let him get away with it."

A police spokeswoman confirmed an internal investigation into the incident was under way.


Friday, June 11, 2010

Thug cops Taser man until he dies

Can you believe 28 taser shots one after the other into the same guy? He had a weak heart too but they showed no caution about that possibility

A MAN who died after being Tasered 28 times was not given breathing assistance by police because they could not find a mask and gloves, a coronial hearing has been told.

The pre-inquest hearing in Townsville before Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements heard that Antonio Carmelo Galeano, 39, died within 50 minutes of his partner calling police to her home at Brandon, near Ayr, on June 12 last year.

The hearing was told Galeano was naked and shouting threats when Senior Constable Craig Miles and Constable Melissa Cross went to the Green St address at 2.50am.

Believing Galeano was trying to climb through a tiny bathroom window, Sen-Constable Miles deployed his Taser from the outside of the house.

Galeano slumped to the floor and Sen-Constable Miles sent his partner into the house to restrain him. With the Taser probes still in Galeano, Sen-Constable Miles fired three more circuits of up to 16 seconds when it looked like he was getting up. "Each of those four activations occurred within a minute," counsel assisting the Coroner Stephen Keim told Townsville District Court.

Sen-Constable Miles then changed the Taser cartridge and went inside. Analysis of the second cartridge has revealed it was fired 24 times over 5½ minutes, with each activation lasting five seconds. Police have alleged Galeano tried to retrieve shards of glass but was eventually overcome and handcuffed.

Sandra Winn, who had been in a relationship with Galeano and who made the initial call to police, observed Galeano to be "black in the face" at this time, the hearing was told. Although the police administered chest compressions, they did not provide breathing assistance because there was no mask or gloves in their first aid kit. Galeano was pronounced dead 10 minutes after paramedics arrived.

Mr Keim said analysis of the Taser had found it was in good working order. But it is yet to undergo an "electron microscopy" which will examine the extent to which each activation period was a complete circuit.

Outside the hearing, Ms Winn said she had not moved from the address, despite the traumatic events of last year. "I sleep where he died," she said. "There are still burn marks from the Taser on the bathroom floor."

The coronial inquest has been tentatively set down for November 1. As well as the circumstances of his death, the inquest will examine the treatment and assessment Galeano received at the Ayr and Townsville hospitals two days before the incident.


Thursday, June 10, 2010

Another bad apple

Qld. cop stood down after allegedly harassing girl, getting into fight at nightclub on Gold Coast

A POLICE officer stood down over an incident outside a Gold Coast nightclub was allegedly involved in a fight after harassing a young woman.

A witness has told The Courier-Mail, the 39-year-old senior constable was lined up outside Shooters' Lounge Bar at Surfers Paradise about midnight on Saturday June 5, with a group of young friends. He was observed to be "highly intoxicated" when he said to a woman near him "tell my friends I'm too old to be here". She replied, "yes, you are too old".

But he allegedly grabbed her by the arms and repeated what he said, just centimetres from her face. The woman's boyfriend then remonstrated with him and the pair then started scuffling befored the police officer was knocked to the ground. He got up and pulled out his police badge but the fight continued.

Security was called and police arrived who separated the men. The off-duty officer is alleged to have resisted arrest.

The young couple was later called into Surfers Paradise police station where statements were taken. Police have so far not commented on the incident.

The senior constable has been stood down from his position in the North Coast region, while an internal investigation, overseen by the Ethical Standards Command, is carried out.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cops covering up for cops again

Police boss has dangerous nutcase of a son

A knife siege involving Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson's son last weekend was kept quiet after senior officers gave orders that it not be reported as a "significant event".

Police negotiators and half a dozen crews were called to 38-year-old Paul Atkinson's house on the Gold Coast early on May 29 after a complaint by a teenager at a bus stop that a man was armed with a large knife.

In what was initially treated as a siege, police negotiators were sent to the scene after Mr Atkinson allegedly barricaded himself inside his house.

James D'Agostino, 17, and girlfriend Amber Walter, 18, were at a bus stop in front of Mr Atkinson's house early on the Saturday morning when they saw a bare-chested man standing in the front yard in the rain.

Ms Walter said the man called out: "Can you call the cops? Tell them there's a madman at (the address). "Tell them it's Bob Atkinson's son. He's the Queensland Police Commissioner."

Mr D'Agostino called police, who then doorknocked the neighbourhood. The incident lasted three hours but was not recorded as a significant event, which ensures senior police executives are briefed and advised of any follow-up action.

Senior police, including a commissioned officer, have told The Sunday Mail that the handling of the case was "highly unusual". They said such an incident, involving a report of an armed man, a senior police officer's son and negotiators called in, should have triggered a significant event message, even if there were mental health issues involved.

But a police spokeswoman denied policy had been breached. "The matter was dealt with under the provisions of the Mental Health Act and by Domestic Violence Order, not the Criminal Code, as is standard procedure in instances of this type," the spokeswoman said.

When asked if police were told by superior officers not to report it as a significant event the spokeswoman said: "This could be the case. "There was no reason to submit a significant event message, as senior officers were already briefed on the matter. There is nothing unusual or inappropriate about this."

No charges were laid against Mr Atkinson.

Mr D'Agostino said he was surprised he had not received any calls from police since his complaint. When he first saw the man he had his arms dangling over the front fence and was holding a knife. "It looked big. It was a decent size," Mr D'Agostino said. He called triple-0, reporting to police that the man had a knife. He then provided his name and phone number.

Ms Walter, who stayed in the bus stop shelter, said she was "pretty scared". "I just didn't want to move," she said. Once on the bus, Ms Walter phoned her mother and told her not to let her little brother go near the bus stop.

One elderly neighbour was asked by police if she was all right while another woman said she was asked if she had seen a woman and a child. One neighbour said the house where the incident occurred, which was next to a pathway through to another street, was virtually cordoned off by police. "They had a negotiator at the front door," he said. "There were well over a dozen police in uniform. The public walkway was blocked off by police."