Monday, February 21, 2011

Another thug Qld. cop abusing his police powers

A police officer who was demoted for misconduct after he injured his former police lover, when he handcuffed her during an off-duty argument, has lost an appeal.

Jane Moran, who was then a constable, ended up with a fracture to her right eye socket, facial bruises and abrasions and tenderness to her neck, arms and wrists.

In February last year, after a police disciplinary hearing found Mount Isa police prosecutor Mark McKenzie had inappropriately and forcibly detained Ms Moran, he was demoted from sergeant to senior constable for two years. He appealed against the decision.

Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal was told Sen. Constable McKenzie, a police officer for 18 years, would suffer a financial loss of almost $34,000, and it would take him six years to progress to the position of sergeant.

The incident involving Ms Moran occurred on March 1, 2008, at police accommodation in Mount Isa. The tribunal heard the couple argued and Sen. Constable McKenzie claimed he became concerned for his safety because there was a knife within reach of Ms Moran. He claimed he restrained Ms Moran, using reasonable force, to defend himself, the tribunal heard.

She denied any knowledge of the knife, but admitted she got into a fight with Sen. Constable McKenzie. The hearing found that Sen. Constable McKenzie grabbed Ms Moran by the wrist, forced her face down on the bed with his knees in her back and handcuffed her.

After calling for police “back-up", which did not eventuate, Sen. Constable McKenzie escorted Ms Moran to the door and removed her handcuffs. The tribunal found Sen. Constable McKenzie’s demoiion was appropriate.

Above article by Kay Dibben appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 20 Feb., 2011
Qld. Cops soft on their own

CMC chief Martin Moynihan says lax internal investigations erode public confidence in police, writes Renee Viellaris

The head of Queensland’s crime watchdog has accused police of having double standards and urged the service to rigorously investigate members accused of wrongdoing. Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan said some police shielded their own from scrutiny but he denied the problem was endemic

He stressed that the pre-Fitzgerald era of widespread police corruption had not returned to Queensland but said vigilance was needed. The former Judge has provided a frank assessment at the anniversary of his first year in the Job and his comments are likely to further antagonise senior police.

"Community confidence ln the police has to start with the police cultivating it", Mr Moynihan said. Community confidence was undermined when complaints from the public were investlgated by officers belonging to the same police unit as the alleged offenders.

Asked if it was a perception or reality that there was one rule for police and one rule for others, Mr Moynihan said, "I think it's probably both". He said it was worth serious consideration to limit the time any police commissioner could serve. Commissioner Bob Atkinson has been in power for a decade. Many senior government positions have fixed terms. Asked whether Mr Atkinson was doing a good job, Mr Moynihan said, “I think he’s doing OK. I mean, he’s doing his job".

Mr Moynihan singled out “heroic”- young police who spoke out about the bad apples in the service. Constable Bree Sonter blew the whistle on then-Senior Constable Benjamin Price, 32, who shoved a hose down the throat of Timothy Steele, 24, at Airlie Beach ln 2008. Price is no longer in the service. Mr Moynihan said more police would come forward if they felt they would be supported by the system.

(Police Union president) Ian Leavers is always saying to me that honest police get tarred with the same brush so I keep saying to him if that's their concern if they step up when they see what's going on then they can contribute to that not happening, Mr Moynihan said

The QPS has moved to fix some procedural weaknesses but sources say it is the high-profile cases that polarise the organisation. At the heart of that analysis is the Palm Island saga sparked after Cameron Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, died in custody in 2004. The CMC took aim at four police who investigated Doomadgee's death and the two officers who conducted a review of the initial death in custody investigation. Last year when Mr Moynihan released the CMC's review of the matter he said the original investigatlon and review were seriously flawed. They were characterised by double standards and an unwillingness to publicly acknowledge failings on part of the police, he said.

Misconduct disciplinary action was recommended against the four original investigators and disciplinary action against the reviewers. Mr Atkinson appointed Deputy Commissioner Kathy Rynders to determine whether the six officers should face any disciplinary action. Recently, she found they should receive managerial guidance [only].

Before that decision was announced, The Sunday Mail asked why Mr Atkinson had appointed Ms Rynders, given the CMC had appealed against her findings in the past. The response, which is being put on the record for the first time, highlights the tension with the CMC and the frustration of Mr Atkinson - who ticked off on the statement. “If there were concems they (CMC) could have voiced them or assumed responsibility for the matter,” the statement said. “They have a range of formal avenues open to them if they are unhappy with the outcome of the disciplinary process.”

The CMC is now considering Ms Rynders’ findings and will announce its position in coming weeks.

Above article appeared in the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" on 20 Feb., 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rowe case shakes public trust in police

Bruce Rowe is one of those blokes authority hates. He has a simple sense of justice and when he digs in his heels he is immovable.

Rowe is the oldish fellow (65 at the time) who was seen on TV being manhandled by a bunch of cops in the heart of Brisbane's Queen Street Mall back in July 2006.

He was arrested, charged and convicted of obstructing police and failing to obey a police order after an incident that began in the public toilets and ended with him being held down by four officers and kneed by another.

Rowe was last seen on TV last week savouring a moment of triumph after Constable Benjamin Arndt was found guilty of assaulting him and fined $1000 and ordered to pay him $2250 court costs.

That was the result of a private prosecution by Rowe, not one launched by the established forces of law and order.

The case was one of the most unsavoury in Queensland's policing history and dragged through the Magistrates Court, the District Court, the Court of Appeal and back to the Magistrates Court.

The first court convicted Rowe, the second confirmed it, the third overturned it and the fourth fined Arndt, although it did not record a conviction. Even the supporting magistrate and judge made known their displeasure with what they saw on video tape.

Rowe was not caught up in some kind of public toilet degeneracy. Depressed and homeless after his wife of 41 years died, he went in there to change his clothes. There was some argy bargy with the cleaner, who wanted to close up for cleanings, and the police were called. The rest is history.

You might think that after the best part of five years, all involved would be happy to put it all behind them. But, no, the Police Union wants a rematch. Spokesman Ian Leavers said it would back an appeal against Arndt's conviction which had "dire consequences for all police officers doing their jobs".

"I am very, very concerned now that police officers across the state will be reluctant to do their job and the community will suffer," he said.

Any officers who think the right of assault is issued with their batons and handcuffs might be reluctant to do their jobs but I can't see what difference it will make to the majority who follow a tough calling with courage and dignity.

"It simply doesn't make sense at all because a District Court has found the force used was reasonable," he said.

Judge Nicholas Samios did find that but he also found the arrest was lawful. Whether he would have found it reasonable had he found the arrest unlawful is another thing.

In the Court of Appeal, Judge Cate Holmes noted that Rowe wanted to argue three grounds of appeal, including on the grounds that "the arrest was unlawful or, alternatively, because Mr Rowe's actions were a response to unlawful force used in effecting it".

It never came to that because the court found other reasons to rule the arrest was unlawful. In the circumstances, it might be a pity it was not resolved by the higher court. And whether the degree of force was reasonable and has much to do with the fact of assault is another matter.

Arndt is entitled to seek to clear his name and the Police Union is entitled (possibly obliged) to support him in his actions.

However, whatever the outcome, this was a shameful incident that should never have happened. It was badly handled during and after the event and has dragged on too long, to the detriment of just about anyone involved and at a cost to trust in our police service.

The courts will do their job, but I think public opinion has reached a verdict.