Friday, March 01, 2013

Australia: Ombudsman criticizes killer NSW cops

For no good reason they piled onto the student after he was down

The family of a Brazilian student who died in Sydney after being tasered and sprayed with capsicum spray say they are disgusted at what they say is a complete lack of accountability for police officers.

Roberto Laudisio Curti died on March 18 last year in Sydney's central business district while being restrained by New South Wales police officers.

The state's ombudsman, Bruce Barbour, has criticised the force's own investigation into the incident, describing some aspects of it as farcical.

In a report that was released yesterday, Mr Barbour called for his office to be able to monitor any internal police investigations into incidents involving a death.

Mr Curti had been living in Sydney with his sister Ana Laudisio de Lucca and her husband Mike Reynolds.

The couple spoke exclusively to the ABC's AM program after the ombudsman's report was released.

Ana Laudisio de Lucca says her family is still struggling with the shock of her brother's death. "He left this world and nothing came out of this for the better, so that's why waiting for answers is very frustrating," she said.

On the night of his death Mr Curti had taken LSD, making him paranoid and delusional, and stole a packet of biscuits from a convenience store.

Police pursued the 21-year-old, firing Tasers at him 14 times and also blasting him with capsicum spray.

Last year Coroner Mary Jerram made an open finding on Mr Curti's death. But she also said, "It's impossible to believe that he would have died, but for the actions of police."

Ombudsman Bruce Barbour says the internal police investigation into the death was lacking. "The police investigation into the death of Mr Laudisio Curti failed to adequately identify and deal with the question of whether there was any police misconduct," his report says.

Mr Curti's brother-in-law, Mike Reynolds, welcomes Mr Barbour's findings. "Look, I think it's incredible. Unfortunately it is not entirely surprising," he said.

"I just think that throughout this process we have kind of had the feeling that the police have been trying hard not to admit that they've done anything wrong and that's really tough for us to deal with."

In his report Mr Barbour says that, despite collecting evidence, it appears no-one in the New South Wales Police Force wanted to address difficult questions about the conduct of officers.

He says leaving the four officers under investigation armed with their Tasers for eight months after Mr Curti's death ignored the risk those officers posed to the community.

Mr Barbour says there was a "farcical situation" where the internal investigation team and the Taser Review Panel each assumed the other would review the use of Tasers by the officers.

Mr Curti's sister and her family still live in Sydney, but no longer have any trust in the state's police.

"Following closely the case, you can see that a lot of these officers are really young, they barely have any training and they're just giving arms that look like toys to go out there," Ana Laudisio de Lucca said.

"When you really think about it, the fact that this could go wrong and the fact that they can be promoted and they are even still police officers is, I think, quite scary," Mr Reynolds said.

"So unfortunately you don't have a degree of confidence in the police as a result of that."


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