Saturday, July 17, 2010

Police made terrible error of judgment causing death

POLICE committed a "terrible error of judgment" in leaving an Ipswich teenager lying handcuffed on a busy street, the Queensland coroner has told an inquest into the youth's death. Coroner Michael Barnes was critical of police actions on the night of February 7, 2009, when Andrew John Bornen, 16, was hit and killed by a car driven by local woman Jennifer Hind.

Mr Barnes said he could not accept the evidence of then-Senior Constable Anthony Brett and Senior Constable Robert Ward that Bornen, who was drunk, acted aggressively towards them, warranting him being handcuffed on the street.

Police had stopped their unmarked patrol car on busy Albion Street in the Ipswich suburb of Brassall with the headlights on, obscuring the view of the approaching car which struck Andrew.

Mr Barnes said a jury would be entitled to find they were placing the youth in danger of being run over. He referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether charges should be laid against the two officers.

Mr Barnes criticised the officers for not activating the emergency lights to warn the approaching Ms Hind. Their last minute attempts to warn her failed, he said, and absolved Ms Hind of responsibility for the youth's death.

Ms Hind wept loudly in the arms of friends after the ruling.

Mr Barnes said the officers had not verified the information that they were looking for a man armed with a machete. "I do not accept that on every occasion that an armed man is reported to police, officers should respond as if the subject is likely to kill and maim indiscriminately unless immediately apprehended," he said.

The subsequent death was "the result of a terrible error of judgement on the officers' part". "The actions of the two officers was a substantial and significant cause of Mr Bornen's death," he said.

As well as referring the matter to the DPP, Mr Barnes recommended the police uniform committee consider whether officers should wear reflective material as part of their standard uniform at night.

Bornen's mother, Helen Donaldson, said nothing would bring back "her beautiful boy", the fourth of her eight children, but the inquest went some way to ensure similar events did not reoccur.

General president of the Queensland Police Union, Ian Leavers, said there is nothing in Mr Barnes' findings that imply guilt. "The matter has merely been referred to the DPP to consider the information," Mr Leavers said. He said the QPU will continue to back the policemen.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Police officers to speak at inquest into death of handcuffed man

No matter how you shine it, this has got to be gross negligence. Leaving the kid lying down in the middle of a road shows gross indifference to his life

TWO police officers who handcuffed a teenager on a busy Ipswich roadway, where he was later hit and killed by a car, will appear in court today.

Two senior constables, Anthony Brett and Robert Ward, will testify at a coroner's inquest into the death of Andrew John Bornen, 16, who died on February 7, 2009 at Albion St, Brassall, west of Brisbane.

The inquest heard earlier a man believed to be Bornen was seen carrying a baseball bat earlier in the night.

Jennifer Hind, 24, the young mother who hit and killed Bornen said she did not know there was a person on laying face down road. She thought it was ``a black mass." She said she not realise it was a police officer who was waving at her to stop moments before she hit Mr Bornen.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Third Qld cop suspended in just eight days

Queensland police have stood down a third officer from duty in eight days. A senior constable working at a police station in Brisbane's south was today stood down from duty pending an ethical standards investigation.

"The 34-year-old man will work in a non-operational role until the investigation into allegations relating to the tendering of court documents is finalised," police said in a statement on Saturday.

In early July, police suspended a 56-year-old plain-clothes senior constable accused of misappropriation. He was taken off duty after an investigation by police and the Crime and Misconduct Commission, following allegations he misappropriated property that came into his possession in connection with his duties.

On the same day police also suspended a first-year Queensland constable from the Metropolitan South Region in the wake of a NSW police investigation. The 32-year-old man allegedly attempted to influence a domestic violence court matter in NSW. His alleged actions were not connected with his official duties. He will work in a non-operational role while investigations continue.

Police say investigations for each of the three officers are ongoing.


Monday, July 5, 2010

Top cop in coverup of police killing

QUEENSLAND Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson tried to block the release of a report into the death of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee. Mr Atkinson tried to stymie the Crime and Misconduct Commission's report into the investigations of the 2004 death of Mr Doomadgee, warning that it would stifle co-operation and harm the relationship between the crime bodies.

In correspondence obtained by The Australian, Mr Atkinson also pushed to shelve the CMC's report for ever, suggesting the then 200-page draft be kept even from officers accused of bias and "protecting their own".

Instead, Mr Atkinson supported a now-discredited internal review by two senior officers, who recommended "managerial guidance, correction and chastisement" for the four police who conducted the initial investigation. The internal review was ordered after Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements slammed the death-in-custody probe as lacking "transparency, objectivity and independence".

Release of the correspondence, in files submitted as part of an application for an injunction by two of the officers named by the CMC, will put Mr Atkinson's reappointment under even more pressure. Mr Atkinson has until tomorrow to act on the CMC's recommendations to file disciplinary proceedings for misconduct against the four original investigators and give consideration to launching disciplinary proceedings against the two officers who reviewed their work.

In its report, released last month, the CMC was highly critical of Mr Atkinson and said he needed to take responsibility for a "corrosive culture" that led to the "seriously flawed" Doomadgee investigation, as well as several other high-profile misconduct cases.

In a January 18 letter to then acting CMC chairwoman Ann Gummow, Mr Atkinson asks that the anti-corruption watchdog reconsider its intention to publish the report, then a draft. In his letter, Mr Atkinson said the CMC should dump its pursuit of disciplinary action and instead opt for managerial guidance and "intervention" - or face consequences.

"Given the nature of my proposed alternative course of action to resolve the Palm Island investigation issues, I ask that publication now be reconsidered," Mr Atkinson wrote. "Publication would likely have adverse consequences for the management of any future intervention, as public criticism of officers may affect their willingness to engage and accept responsibility; and for the adoption of open and frank dialogue between senior QPS (police)/CMC officers and initial Palm Island investigation officers".

Mr Atkinson then issues a further, more general warning to the CMC about the fall-out if the report were to be published:

"I have raised above the potential for the relationship between the QPS and CMC to suffer some harm from any publication and also my disappointment with the lack of consultation, indeed any formal consultation, with the service on this review since November 2008 - I view this most seriously," he wrote. "The process and public comments attributed to the CMC are a concerning precedent and I wish to avoid a future situation where the views of our agencies are reduced to writing and exchanged only formally - this is counterproductive."

The incoming CMC chair, Martin Moynihan QC, who took over in February, rejected Mr Atkinson's proposals. "The CMC will not compromise its 'overriding responsibility to promote public confidence' in reporting or commenting on events such as those which occurred on Palm Island following the death of Mr Doomadgee," Mr Moynihan wrote in March.

Queensland Police last night confirmed the authenticity of the letter, saying it was part of a "substantial amount of correspondence" between the commissioner and CMC over the past seven months. "It is not appropriate to comment while these processes are ongoing, but it may be at some future time," police said in a statement.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service chief executive Shane Duffy, who made the initial CMC complaint about the death-in-custody investigation, said he was stunned Mr Atkinson had tried to block the release of the report. "It is a disgrace. If this report wasn't released it would have caused an uproar not only in the indigenous community but the wider community about integrity and transparency of police in this state," he said. "The findings have been clear that there was an attempted cover-up by police and now this, another attempt at cover-up."

The correspondence also suggests Mr Atkinson intends to refuse to take disciplinary action against the two senior officers - acting chief superintendent Robert Gee and Inspector Mike McKay - who conducted the review of the initial death-in-custody investigation.

In one letter, Mr Atkinson slams the CMC probe as a "desktop review". Mr Atkinson said he supported the "spirit and intent" of the findings of Mr McKay and Mr Gee, who made up the Investigation Review Team, and their 2008 report into the initial death-in-custody. That report has never been publicly released.

Mr Atkinson told the CMC that the two officers - who were not named in the final CMC report - had shown their "well-established integrity, professionalism and commitment" when doing the review. "Potentially now, without any discussion or consultation they are about to have their reputation and careers significantly harmed," he wrote. "This is grossly unfair. I cannot abandon these officers and would have to consider the options available to me in that regard."

In its report, the CMC said Mr Atkinson had "ultimate responsibility" for the two-man team's report, handed to the CMC in 2008. At the release of the report, Mr Moynihan warned that the CMC would commence disciplinary proceedings through the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal if it were not satisfied with any action taken by Mr Atkinson against the six police officers by July 6.

It was now up to Mr Atkinson "to acknowledge the flawed and unacceptable conduct of the officers", he said. "He must step up, take strong, decisive action and restore the confidence of the public, and its own members, in the police service."

Doomadgee's violent death, within an hour of being arrested for public nuisance by Palm Island police boss Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, sparked riots during which the police station servicing the Aboriginal community off Townsville was burnt down. Sergeant Hurley was acquitted in 2007 of Doomadgee's manslaughter.

A third inquest into the death found last month he had fatally injured the heavily intoxicated Doomadgee during a scuffle at the Palm Island lock-up, but coroner Brian Hine said no finding could be made on whether this was accidental on deliberate.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Police scofflaws again

Police boss tells officers to stop parking in civic square

POLICE have been told to stop using Brisbane's main civic square as a parking lot and traffic shortcut.

Newly released Brisbane City Council documents show police officers were using King George Square for parking and a shortcut before council instigated a crackdown, leading to a direction from Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson's office to officers.

A spokesman for Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said council welcomed the presence of police for operational issues, but "not for using civic spaces as a parking spot or driveway".

He provided a photograph of City Hall's front door on May 13, showing five police cars in the King George Square driveway.


Friday, July 2, 2010

More crooked cops

Just minnows, though

Two police officers have been stood down after one was investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission and the other was accused of attempting to "influence a domestic violence court matter in another state".

A 56-year-old plain clothes Senior Constable from the South Eastern Region has been suspended from duty following a joint investigation by the Crime and Misconduct Commission and Queensland Police Service. The suspension comes after allegations the man "misappropriated property that came into his possession in connection with his duties". The investigation is continuing.

In an unrelated matter, a first-year Constable from Metropolitan South Region has been stood down from duty following a New South Wales Police Service investigation. The standing down of the 32-year-old man relates to alleged attempts to influence a domestic violence court matter in another state. A police spokesman said it was not connected to his official duties. The officer will work in a non-operational role while the investigation is ongoing.