Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Watchdog must probe 'culture of police violence' in wake of video of handcuffed man being bashed

A 'WIDE culture of police violence' needs to be investigated by the new head of the Crime and Misconduct Commission 'as his major priority'.

Australian Council of Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman made the call this morning after viewing shocking video, obtained by The Courier-Mail, of an alleged prisoner bashing in the basement of the Surfers Paradise police station last month.

Mr O'Gorman said police brutality was continuing despite the presence of CCTV cameras. "If police are doing this when the CCTV cameras are on, what are they doing away from the cameras?" he said.

"They are committing what the cameras show - excessive violence, and in some cases grossly excessive violence, against people who are already restrained."

Mr O'Gorman said a number of cases of police brutality had not been satisfactorily dealt with, including the bashing of three tourists at Airlie Beach police station. He said while one officer had been jailed over the assaults, others who were present and were 'clearly liable' had not been punished.

And the Queensland Police Service, while releasing video of the incidents, had refused to release the audio showing the full brutality involved.

Mr O'Gorman said police had also escaped criminal prosecution for the bashing of homeless man Bruce Rowe in the Queen St Mall, and lawyers had to mount a civil prosecution on his behalf.

New CMC boss Ross Martin SC needed to urgently tackle police violence, Mr O'Gorman said. "In our view, the new head of the CMC has to deal with the issue of police violence both on the streets, and against people in custody, as his major priority," he said.

"The examples that we're seeing speak to a wide culture of police violence that even the Police Commissioner (Bob Atkinson) has acknowledged."


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