Saturday, May 22, 2010

Watchdog no longer trusts in Qld. police honesty

About time!

THE Crime and Misconduct Commission has indicated a scathing distrust of police, announcing it will now take charge of investigating all deaths in police custody.

Queensland Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine was unable last week to make a definitive finding about the 2004 death of Aboriginal man Cameron Doomadgee - known in death by the name Mulrunji - due to unreliable witnesses. But he found that Mulrunji's arresting officer, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, punched Mulrunji several times as he lay on the floor of the Palm Island watchhouse.

He suggested that the officers who initially investigated the death had colluded with Sen-Sgt Hurley, tipping him off to an Aboriginal witness's claims about the punching. Mr Hine recommended the Crime and Misconduct Commission be the sole or primary investigator in future unnatural deaths in custody.

On Monday, the CMC wrote to the Queensland Police Service, advising it would take on the role immediately. CMC chairman Martin Moynihan announced the decision on Tuesday, saying all relevant parties had been notified of the change in responsibility. ``We are liaising with the state coroner and the QPS to develop protocols to ensure that all parties understand and respect the roles to be performed by each agency,'' Mr Moynihan said in a statement. ``Until these protocols are endorsed, interim arrangements for the investigation of deaths in police custody have been established.''

Meanwhile, Police Minister Neil Roberts said he and Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson were concerned about the findings regarding police collusion. ``These issues will of course require careful analysis to determine what future action is required,'' he told parliament on Tuesday.

Mulrunji died at the Palm Island Watchhouse on November 19, 2004, after struggling against Sen-Sgt Hurley following his arrest for drunkenness. A CMC report into his death is expected to be released in coming weeks.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Drunken cops: 5 in a row

ANOTHER Queensland police officer has been stood down for suspected drink driving. The off-duty sergeant from the North Coast region was involved in a crash on the southbound ramp to the Bruce Highway at Caloundra yesterday morning. Police said he was taken to Nambour Hospital by the Queensland Ambulance Service with minor injuries. Investigations are continuing.

He is the fifth off-duty officer to be caught allegedly drink driving this year. This week, Mackay Senior-Constable Leisa Aitken appeared in court charged with driving under the influence of liquor. She pleaded not guilty and the matter was adjourned until July.

Three other officers have faced court and are now awaiting internal disciplinary hearings.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Queensland cops colluded to protect killer colleague

The thug in question above

QUEENSLAND police colluded to protect an officer who caused the fatal injuries to an Aboriginal man in his custody, a coroner has found. However, Coroner Brian Hine said the unreliability of police and Aboriginal witnesses meant he was not able to make a definitive finding on the death in custody of Cameron Doomadgee.

Mr Doomadgee died on the floor of a watch-house cell on Palm Island in November 2004.

Mr Hine accepted the fatal injuries suffered by Mr Doomadgee - a burst portal vein and a liver which was cleaved in two - were caused by Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley. However he was unable to rule whether the injuries were inflicted deliberately or accidentally.

Mr Hine said the injuries could have been caused by Sen Sgt Hurley accidentally falling on top of Mr Doomadgee or by the officer "dropping a knee into his torso". He also accepted Sen Sgt Hurley had punched Mr Doomadgee in the face and abused him during his attempts to force him into the police station.

The coroner's inability to deliver a definitive finding on the death in custody of an Aboriginal man was a "tragedy", the deceased's family says.

Lawyer Andrew Boe, representing the family of Cameron Doomadgee, said the officers should "hang their heads in shame". "This is a tragedy not just for the family, but for all of us, to think that this level of investigation went so badly because of the specific conniving conduct of police officers" he told reporters in Townsville. "This judgment documents an abysmal failure of duty of care to a man in custody and abysmal investigation by police."

The inquest held fresh hearings in March after Queensland's Court of Appeal upheld a decision to overturn the 2006 findings into the matter by Deputy Coroner Christine Clements.

Sen Sgt Hurley was acquitted of Mr Doomadgee's manslaughter by a Townsville jury in 2007. [That acquittal would now appear to be badly polluted by police malfeasance. Grounds for a re-trial?]


Friday, May 14, 2010

Queensland cop 'stole $20 from dead man's wallet'

And the investigation of the matter is very leisurely

A group of Queensland police officers is being investigated over the alleged theft of $20 from a crash victim's wallet. Ethical Standards Command has been investigating at least four Sunshine Coast officers over the missing money for almost a year. The ugly incident is among about 200 matters being examined by Ethical Standards - some of which have dragged on for years.

Officers responsible for receiving the property belonging to a man killed in a road accident last year noted he had four $20 notes in his wallet. By the time the wallet was returned to the station, one of the $20 notes had disappeared.

The alleged theft was noted by senior staff at the station the next morning when the victim's belongings were being prepared for collection. It is understood one officer offered to replace the $20 with his own money but was told it would have to be reported to Ethical Standards.

ESC investigators arrived at the station that afternoon - but almost a year later no one has been charged or disciplined over the missing cash.

The ESC is already under fire over the time it takes to complete investigations. Officers complain they are left in limbo while cases are allowed to drag on for months. Three of the officers under investigation over the alleged theft continue to work at the station.

An officer who spoke to The Courier-Mail said a $20 note folded in exactly the same way as the others in the man's wallet was found in the station's social club tin. He said the club's organiser had recently emailed staff reminding them of money owed to the club and asking them to pay up. "We all know who it is but he won't own up and we can't prove it," the officer said. "That's what eats at me. I have to work with this man."

Last year 2760 complaints were lodged about the conduct of Queensland's 10,200 police, up from 2267 the previous year and 2104 in 2008. Almost 30 police are now suspended or have been stood down while being investigated.

The QPS said Ethical Standard investigators involved in the wallet case were unavailable to answer questions.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Police officers face disciplinary action over botched probe into death in custody of aborigine

TOP Queensland police have been accused of protecting their own while investigating the Mulrunji death in custody. A soon-to-be released Crime and Misconduct Commission report is understood to name at least nine serving officers and recommends at least seven face official misconduct charges and disciplinary action over the police handling of the 2004 Palm Island death.

The report claims the people of Palm Island, the wider indigenous community and the ``public generally'' have been let down. And it is set to be particularly critical of the apparent failure of investigating officers to be seen as impartial.

The CMC is understood to have found the investigation into the death of Doomadgee, also known as Mulrunji, was seriously flawed and its integrity gravely compromised in the eyes of the community.

Mulrunji was found dead in a cell less than an hour after his arrest and a scuffle in Palm Island watchhouse on November 19, 2004. Sen-Sgt Chris Hurley was tried and acquitted of the manslaughter of Mulrunji in 2007, admitting that his knee may have come into contact with Mulrunji's stomach in a complicated fall.

The death infamously sparked riots on the island three days later when the police station was burnt to the ground.

The long-awaited report, which explores the initial police investigation and subsequent internal investigation, is due to be released next week after Deputy Chief Magistrate Brian Hine hands down the findings of a third coronial inquiry into Doomadgee's death. It has accused the Ethical Standards Command officers of running a biased investigation to protect other police.

It is alleged that witnesses were guided in their answers in interviews, with some provided in advance with copies of the questions they were to be asked.

A further allegation is that some key witnesses were not even interviewed by the officers, privately described by Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson as among his "most respected".

The Queensland Police Commissioned Officers Union is considering legal action to stop publication of the report.

The report is set to attack police "double standards'' and the apparent culture of officers protecting other police. Mr Atkinson will be urged to act immediately to restore public trust in the police service opening the way for a royal commission.

It is understood the harshest criticism is reserved for officers who headed the investigation into police. It is expected to suggest high-ranking officers escape criminal charges but be fined, demoted, or dismissed.

The CMC believes officers protected other police from blame. Four officers are believed to be facing disciplinary action for official misconduct over the initial Palm Island investigation. Three other senior officers are slated for management action. Another two officers are likely to face disciplinary action for negligence in failing to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation of the initial QPS investigation.

A CMC spokeswoman said the QPS had had until April 30 to provide feedback to the draft report under the procedural fairness process.

She said all relevant affected parties had provided feedback, and the final report was expected to be publicly released within the next month.


Friday, May 7, 2010

What are they hiding? Some very worried cops

Forensic police refuse to supply DNA

Five police forensics officers have been booted out of their roles for refusing to supply DNA samples to their employer. The Queensland Police Service had given the officers until March 1 to provide a "voluntary" sample for the purpose of eliminating their DNA from crime scenes.

As many as 50 per cent of officers are believed to have objected to the requirement but only a handful stood their ground out of concern about the lack of safeguards for their genetic blueprint.

A QPS spokesman said 10 officers had refused to provide their DNA out of 495 who work in the forensics area. Of those, four are on long-term leave and are "not expected to return to forensic duties", said the spokesman.

The other five are working in an area of forensics that does not require DNA sampling and another will be asked to provide a sample when the officer returns from leave.

As a result, five scenes-of-crime and scientific officers in the South Eastern Region have been informed they will be transferred back to general duties.

A complaint has been lodged with the Crime and Misconduct Commission, which has referred the matter to the police internal investigations branch, the Ethical Standards Command.

A CMC spokesman said the complaint centred on the pressure being applied to supply a "voluntary" sample and the threat of transfers if they did not comply. "We will be monitoring that (ESC investigation) and reviewing the outcome," the spokesman said. He said the CMC simply did not have the ability to handle all complaints that came to it. "As part of the devolution strategy, we encourage police and other agencies to take responsibility for their own conduct."

An officer who spoke to The Courier-Mail said police were concerned the service was taking low copy number DNA which increased the risk of contamination and inaccuracy. LCN DNA uses as little as 15 to 20 cells for analysis. "There's a lot of concern about it, how it's being managed," the officer said.

The officer said they had been left in no doubt about their future in forensics if they refused to provide a sample. "The Superintendent of Forensics has told us directly, if we don't supply our DNA, we can come and talk to him about our career options," the officer said.

The Queensland Police Union is demanding legislative protection for officers who provide DNA amid fears the scheme will eventually affect all officers. [As it should]


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Top cops fed lines to thug police

Corrupt behaviour from those supposed to be investigating improper behaviour. Truth and justice come second to protecting fellow police -- even if the police concerned are killers

THE Crime and Misconduct Commission has recommended two senior officers, picked by Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson to review the discredited investigation into the 2004 death in custody of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee, face disciplinary charges for an alleged whitewash.

A draft CMC report has accused the Ethical Standards Command officers of running a biased investigation to protect other police. It is alleged that witnesses were guided in their answers in interviews, with some provided in advance with copies of the questions they were to be asked.

A further allegation is that some key witnesses were not even interviewed by the officers, privately described by Mr Atkinson as among his "most respected".

Last night, a Queensland Police spokesman would not comment on whether the Ethical Standards Command report would be released, although the CMC has committed to putting it out within weeks. The Queensland Police Commissioned Officers Union is considering legal action to stop publication of the report.

The revelations in the draft are a further embarrassment to Mr Atkinson, who has led the service for the entire six years since the violent death of Doomadgee sparked riots in the Aboriginal community off Townsville.

The internal police review was launched in 2006 after Deputy State Coroner Christine Clements slammed the death in custody investigation as lacking "transparency, objectivity and independence". Palm Island Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley was charged and acquitted in 2007 of Doomadgee's manslaughter.

The Ethical Standards Command handed its 266-page report -- which was vetted by an independent barrister -- to the CMC in 2007. It recommended only "managerial guidance" for the four police -- two of whom were friends of Sergeant Hurley -- who initially investigated the death in custody. But the CMC rejected the report and has recommended tougher disciplinary action against the four investigating officers.

For almost 18 months, since receiving the police report, the CMC -- Queensland's corruption watchdog -- has revisited all evidence and all witnesses. "There is a long list of problems with the Ethical Standards Command report, it was a totally unsatisfactory investigation," a source told The Australian.

Last year, The Australian revealed that the CMC had accused the top-level police unit of "protecting their own". The then-CMC chair Robert Needham later went public, confirming that his body was "not going to be complimentary " of police.

"In effect, what we have done is we have gone back to ground zero and gone right to the primary documents, right to every interview that has ever been had with all the relevant officers, to the evidence of the coronial inquiry and gone back to every single thing in great detail," he said.

The police issued a statement saying: "In the circumstances that currently exist it is not appropriate that we comment on the Palm Island matter at the present time."


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Queensland police spend millions investigating each other

Long overdue. It shows how big the backlog is. Let's hope they do get rid of the goons eventually. Faint hope, I suppose

THE Queensland Police Service is spending more money investigating its own officers than on vital crime-fighting operations amid claims it has become addicted to "navel-gazing".

The budget for Professional Standards and Ethical Practice, which has blown out from $151 million to $260 million in the past five years, now accounts for nearly one-fifth of the entire police budget.

In contrast, the service spent less than $1 million on 27 undercover operations last year.

The ballooning ethical standards budget comes as the QPS battles rising complaints about police conduct.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said a "ridiculous amount of time" was being spent investigating police in Queensland. "The QPS is now more interested in navel-gazing and accountability overkill than the core business of catching crooks," he said.

The ethical standards budget represents 17 per cent of the total QPS budget – not far behind traffic operations which command about 20 per cent of overall expenditure. A total of $5 million has been budgeted for phone intercepts this year, the Taser rollout will cost $14 million, and $1.5 million was set aside for Operation Merit in Fortitude Valley which targeted alcohol-fuelled violence.

Last year 2760 complaints were lodged about the conduct of Queensland's 10,200 police, up from 2267 the previous year and 2104 the year before that. Of those complaints, the Ethical Standards Command is investigating close to 200 matters, some of which have dragged on for several years.

Almost 30 police are now suspended or have been stood down while their alleged indiscretions are examined, including five officers who stripped naked and ran through traffic during a bucks party last September and who now await disciplinary action.

Professional Standards and Ethical Practice has been identified as the top priority for the QPS in the 2010-11 operational plan – replacing the prevention and detection of crime.

Australian Council of Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman questioned how effectively the large budget was being used given the "unacceptable delays" in investigations. "While there are some conscientious and competent police in the Ethical Standards Command, the model is broken as evidenced by the fact the Palm Island (death in custody) complaint is five years-plus," Mr O'Gorman said. "They still can't complete an investigation on the simple premise that (Sgt Chris Hurley) was investigated by his mates."

He said the QPS needed to return to the immediate post-Fitzgerald report model of complaints against police being investigated independently.

Mr Leavers said officers were unable to give their best to their community when they were stood down. "It is the community that suffers when police officers are unable to perform normal duties whilst under investigation," he said.

Chief researcher with the Centre for Excellence in Policing at Griffith University Tim Prenzler said only 3 per cent of matters involving police were investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. "It's not really enough for an agency that claims to be an independent corruption body."