Black Lives Matter demonstrations are being held all over Australia this week, with police action under new surveillance after the release of a video showing a police officer kicking a leg out from under an Aboriginal teenager and pinning him to the ground during an arrest in Surry Hills on Monday.
The boy’s family has called for the sentence to be handed down against the police. They said the troops used on the 16-year-old were “unnecessary and irresponsible” and they felt a mixture of “anger and frustration”.
Teenagers cannot be named for legal reasons. Family members do not give names to the media to ensure their privacy.
“We want to be able to develop better relations between the police and young people in our community, and this will not happen if we let the officers feel that they have the right to harass us without facing the right consequences,” the boy’s sister said.
“This police officer must be charged so we don’t have to deal with other incidents like this and I really hope this is a turning point in our community and the police.”
Karly Warner, chief executive of NSW Aboriginal Legal Services, said: “Incidents like these are not isolated.”
NSW Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday said footage showed Australia had “a long way to go in our country”, while NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said he was concerned about the behavior of officers.
“Not for a while I sat here saying the officer’s actions were correct. The focus was on whether the troops were overdone or not,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB. “… if the complaint is forwarded to him, you must say he is having a bad day.”
An hour later, at the same station, NSW Police Association secretary Pat Gooley said the police were “handed over to wolves”.
“People have judged him,” he said.
The family lawyer, George Newhouse, rejected the suggestion that the police had a bad day: “This is not an incident caused by an officer having a bad day – it’s systemic.”
He said if the police were not charged, the family would take civil action against the NSW Police.
The video shows three officers talking to several teenagers, with a male policeman heard telling a boy that he needs to “open his ears”.
The boy replied, “What? I hear you from here, I don’t need to open my ears. I will crush you in the jaw — brother, friend.”
The policeman then appeared to hold the boy’s hand behind his back, and kicked his leg out from under him before he was handcuffed.
The boy’s family also called for an end to their own police investigation after it was announced the incident would be examined by the internal Professional Standards Command.
The family also wanted to know what would happen to the other two officers involved, his sister said.
Ms Warner said there had been 432 Native deaths in custody since the findings of the royal commission on this issue were released in 1991.
“This is not because we do not have a solution, it is because there is no political will to make the changes recommended by the royal commission to save Aboriginal lives,” he said.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations make up nearly 3 percent of the population, but around 30 percent of the national prison population.
Ella Archibald-Binge is a Kamilaroi woman and reporter for Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs at The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sally Rawsthorne is a Crime Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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