NORTHERN TERRITORY: The Northern Territory government has ruled out sacking its top cop after damning findings over police treatment of a man who died in custody.
In a 79-page report released on Monday, NT Coroner Greg Cavanagh said some police who dealt with a man known since his death as Kwementyaye Briscoe were immature and utterly derelict in their duty.
“I find that the care, supervision and treatment of the deceased while being held in custody by the Northern Territory police was completely inadequate and unsatisfactory, and not sufficient to meet his medical needs,” Mr Cavanagh said.
CCTV footage showed one officer dragging Mr Briscoe to a counter, then shoving him down into a chair and later using a “takedown manoeuvre” which saw the prisoner hit his head.
The NT government, which came to office on August 25, responded to the coroner’s findings by promising there would be a cultural change in the police force, driven from the top down.
There was speculation that wording in a media release meant the job of Police Commissioner John McRoberts may not be safe.
However, Deputy Chief Minister Robyn Lambley on Tuesday said Mr McRoberts had been doing a good job under “extremely difficult circumstances”.
“I think booting out the commissioner is not an option,” she said.
“We have to stick with someone who has come to us highly experienced, a highly competent police officer, commissioner, and we need to work with him to iron out the problems.”
Meanwhile, the NT Police Association has moved to defend the perception of police after the coronial findings.
“To a certain degree, some of the stuff you see on that footage it is not police being bad or evil” said association president Vince Kelly.
He said the police were just desensitised and didn’t show the level of care that was required.
“The nature of the work that general duties cops do, including young police, when all you are doing is dealing with drunk people – covered in crap and vomit and pissed their pants, and can be violent or aggressive – if that is 80 per cent of your work, I defy anyone, no matter how kind a soul they are, not to get jaundiced by that,” Mr Kelly said.
The North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) called on Mr McRoberts to fully implement the coroner’s recommendations.
“Acting on these recommendations to address systemic problems is essential if there is to be lasting change to police culture and a restoration of public confidence in our police,” said Jonathon Hunyor, the agency’s principal legal officer.