Thursday, August 19, 2010

Police bosses ignored warning about rogue cop

As ever in Queensland, the rot starts at the top

ROGUE Whitsundays cop Benjamin Price assaulted his third victim despite having already been reported to senior officers by colleagues who witnessed an earlier attack.

Former officer in charge of Whitsunday police station Sergeant Russell Pike said that after Price assaulted tourist Renee Toms in the Airlie Beach watchhouse in January 2008, he and two junior officers filed a report of excessive force that amounted to serious misconduct against the then senior constable, and expected it to be investigated.

"In January 2008, I personally made recommendations that Price be withdrawn from active duty until the investigation was conducted," Mr Pike said. "The recommendations were ignored. The truth is the police service had full knowledge of Price's behaviour and failed to act on it."

Mr Pike and another officer from the Whitsunday police station quit the force in disgust at the height of an internal investigation two years ago into alleged brutality by Price.

Price, 33, a father-of-two, pleaded guilty in Bowen District Court on Monday to bashing three tourists while on duty in Airlie Beach. He is due to be sentenced in Townsville on October 8.

The assault on Toms, 23, was captured in graphic detail on security camera footage. Another video, from May 2008, shows three police looking on while Price punches and knees handcuffed Timothy Steele, 26, before jamming a fire hose into his mouth.

Queensland Police this week said that any officers who did not report the assaults might face disciplinary action. "Once the court process is finalised, consideration will be given in relation to discipline action against any current serving officers who were aware of Mr Price's actions and yet failed to report the misconduct," the QPS said.

But Mr Pike, 44, claimed the QPS was focusing unfairly on junior officers. "It is now all too easy to publicly threaten (officers) and spread innuendo," he said. "Entire reputations have been smeared and tarnished. A whole lot of police have been dragged through the coals, interrogated and investigated because of one rogue cop."

He said he did not want to play down the "brave act" of police whistleblower Constable Bree Sonter in coming forward after the Steele incident in May 2008.

He said police were assaulted in Airlie Beach but there was no culture of retaliation. "What more could we do? We reported it to our bosses, but we could hardly go over their heads."


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