Friday, November 26, 2010

Queensland Police cleared officer who was later found guilty of using excessive force

Finding a fellow cop guilty of anything is an Everest climb for them -- and they rarely get to the top

QUEENSLAND Police Service has received another stinging rebuke on its internal investigations after it cleared an officer that has since been found guilty of using "excessive force" on a teenager during a violent arrest.

In the wake of criticisms by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal accused the force of having unsatisfactory and archaic procedures when dealing with its own, saying that Sergeant Damien Chapman was "not authorised justified or excused by law" when he struck 15 year-old Graham McCormac of Clontarf in Brisbane's north - who was then hospitalised with a ruptured spleen.

QCAT said the investigation was "a relic of earlier armed service orderly room procedure". "It may be satisfactory for dealing with minor disciplinary infringements, but it leaves much to be desired in more serious matter like the present," QCAT documents said.

"In the original proceeding before Deputy Commissioner (Kathy) Rynders there was no prosecutor, and no witnesses were seen or heard. "The material was assembled by an investigator with power to require member of the police service to answer his questions; that material was sent to his superiors and in due course Sergeant Chapman was directed to appear before Deputy-Commissioner Rynders, which he did with counsel."

Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson refused to comment on QPS's handling of the matter.

It's the second time QPS had been overruled by QCAT in as many months, after doubling the penalty for a Sunshine Coast senior constable who had a party in the police station with people of "questionable" backgrounds.

A police spokeswoman said in a statement that the findings were noted and that it would be "inappropriate to comment further at this stage" as the matter has been adjourned to early December, where sanctions would be determined.

Crime and Misconduct Commission chairman Martin Moynihan told Police Minister Neil Roberts that QPS had a problem with "inadequate supervision and intervention in the context of operational policing".

The Chapman case was one of four referred to QCAT by the CMC in the past year.


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