Friday, May 29, 2009

Some recent Australian police experiences

(Via Australian Politics)

Abusive police in court

I can see no reason why police should abuse suspects so I hope they lose this one. Everyone is entitled to the presumption of innocence and in this case the accused WERE innocent. There was not even enough evidence to take them to court. Unless they are being physically attacked, the police should be polite at all times -- as in the old British tradition

THREE men questioned by police on Sydney streets are suing the New South Wales Government, saying the officers made defamatory comments about them within earshot of passers-by. Alleged statements such as "we are stopping you because you guys were ... intending to steal" could cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and restrict the way police conduct routine investigations, The Australian reports.

The NSW Government recently tried to have the men's cases thrown out of court. However, a NSW District Court judge not only gave the two separate cases the go-ahead, but ordered the Government to pay the men's legal costs. Payouts of up to $250,000 can be awarded if comments are found to be defamatory.

In both cases, none of the men can identify any members of the public who are said to have heard and witnessed the alleged defamatory comments made by the officers, but the court ruled they did not have to provide further details because it would be an "unnecessary expense" at that stage of proceedings.

In the first case, David Moses and Tangiwai Kawenga are suing the police for defamation over an incident in inner-city McEvoy Street in September last year. Police arrived after receiving a call that a criminal offence had taken place and arrested and charged the pair. At the time, one of the officers allegedly said to Mr Moses: "You're robbing women", "you're a thief", and "you have stolen from women". Mr Kawenga claims a police officer said to him: "You're under arrest -- you're a piece of shit ... you're f**ked -- you're going to jail."

The pair say officers were speaking "in a loud voice within the hearing of passers-by and residents of premises adjoining George Street, many of whom were standing at and near their front fence observing the police and (Mr Moses and Mr Kawenga)", according to court documents. Mr Kawenga tried to argue that the words "you're under arrest" were also defamatory but this was knocked out by judge Judith Gibson last week and he and Mr Moses were ordered to pay costs.

The charges against the pair were later dropped and no further action was taken against them.

In the other case, police were called to the exclusive watch store TAG Heuer, in Sydney's King Street luxury shopping precinct, in June last year. Staff had pressed the "hold-up button" while Michael Lassanah and another man were in the store. Police arrived shortly afterwards.

Mr Lassanah said he was defamed when police spoke to him on the footpath outside and allegedly said: "The manager of the TAG shop said you were intending to steal from the shop. We are stopping you because you guys were in the TAG shop intending to steal. You were intending to steal. Don't go into that shop. You were intending to steal."

Mr Lassanah is suing for wrongful arrest and false imprisonment and says police kept him on the footpath for an hour and searched him "in the presence of the general public".

Seeking to have the cases dismissed, the NSW Government unsuccessfully argued in the District Court that it was protected by defences available to the defamation laws. The matter will return to court in September.

NSW Police have yet to give their version of events. But a spokesman said yesterday: "It should be noted that this is an interim finding only and not final, and police will leave it in the hands of the courts to make a decision. The NSW Police Force has always stood behind its officers who carry out their duties in good faith."


Murder calls to police emergency number ignored

A CIVILIAN police radio operator in Queensland ignored two triple-0 calls which may have helped save a man's life, it has been revealed. Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said the calls were received at the Maroochydore Police Communications Centre on Monday night, about 10 minutes apart. Both calls are believed to have been made by a woman screaming that someone was in trouble.

Mr Atkinson said it was "highly likely" both calls related to the death of a 48-year-old man whose body was found near a Nambour creek about 6.30am (AEST) on Tuesday. James Albert Madden, 23, of Nambour, has been charged with the man's murder. Kilah Johnelle Jones, 17, of Yandina, faced Maroochydore Magistrate's Court yesterday charged with being an accessory. Jones was granted bail, while Madden did not appear yesterday and his case was adjourned for six weeks.

Mr Atkinson yesterday admitted it was his "biggest fear" that the man's death could been prevented had information from the 000 calls been relayed to police. "The person who took the calls is a civilian radio operator . . . who has been in that position for six months," Mr Atkinson said. "He brought the matter to light today when he became aware of the murder charge and related it to the two phone calls he received on Monday night."

An inquiry has been launched by the Ethical Standards Command. "The investigation will focus on the origin, nature and appropriateness of any response to any such call," Mr Atkinson he said. He said a civilian radio operator usually would pass on such information to the duty sergeant at the communications centre. "It's early days yet but it doesn't appear as though that happened," he said. "We have grave concerns that this information that was provided at the time was not acted on." [I'm guessing that the operator brought the matter up because he DID pass the info on to the cops]


More useless police

Emergency calls 'not answered'. It is common in the USA for police to arrive within a couple of minutes of a robbery call, often quickly enough to catch the robbers. That's a dream in Australia

South Australia's Police Minister has ordered a review of the emergency response to an armed hold-up at Torrensville in Adelaide. Witnesses to the robbery at Grech Jewellers on Monday afternoon say they were put on hold for up to 10 minutes when they tried to telephone 000. When shop owner Bruce Bubner heard a gunshot at the jewellery shop, he says he called 000 straight way. But he says he waited eight minutes, then hung up.

"It was worrying that David (jeweller) could have been lying in there waiting for the police to arrive, you know, he could have been injured," he said. "I saw other people on the phone as well and I figured that they had made contact. "As it turns out, when I talked to Theresa at the snack bar, she hadn't made contact either."

Opposition police spokesman David Ridgway says the lack of response is a worry. "The system if it can't cope then it needs to be upgraded or there needs to be a full explanation about why that happened," he said.

Witnesses say police took 20 minutes to arrive. SA Police Minister Michael Wright has ordered a report on the response. "I don't think we should make any assumptions at this stage. What we do know is there was a very high volume and that may have caused the difficulty," he said. Police are searching for the two men armed with a shotgun and a tomahawk who robbed the store.


(And don't forget your ration of Wicked Thoughts for today)

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