Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crooked cops caught red-handed

Graphic video images of detectives beating and kicking a suspect in an interview room have rocked the inquiry into the Victoria Police's disbanded armed offenders squad. One of three detectives accused over the bashing collapsed in the County Court witness box yesterday after being shown the secretly filmed footage. Another officer was warned against perjuring himself as he denied taking part in the bashing on the 11th floor of St Kilda Road police headquarters on May 10.

The video, taken by a hidden camera installed in the interview room for the Office of Police Integrity, includes the voice of an officer threatening to remove the suspect's ear. The video was revealed on the second day of open public hearings into the squad, which was disbanded this month. Three officers who appeared yesterday - Robert Lachlan Dabb, Mark Harrison Butterfield and Matthew Franc - all denied assaulting the suspect, identified only as A100.

The hearing was told that a bungled search for the suspect's sawn-off shotgun and his stash from a jewellery store robbery sparked a two-hour interrogation in which he was beaten with a telephone after asking to make a call, slapped repeatedly about the face and kicked while being held on the ground. At one stage, the suspect is allegedly struck four times in time with the words "F------ . armed . robbery . squad." The video shows detectives telling A100 to decide whether to be "all friendly and co-operative" or whether he will do it the "f------ hard, hard, hard way". When he does not answer, A100 appears to be pushed to the floor and one of the officers says: "Welcome to the armed robbery squad."

The video shows one officer, alleged to be Detective Senior Constable Butterfield, repeatedly hitting A100, whose ear was bleeding, before telling him: "That ear's coming off by the end of the day." The former head of the squad, Detective Inspector Bernie Rankin, also allegedly enters the room and tells A100 it's going to be "a long old day for you, pal" and that "it might be a lot less painful and a lot easier for you" if he listens to advice. Detective Senior Constable Dabb told the hearing he was unaware that a recording device had been placed in the room. He collapsed in the witness box after being shown some footage.

A group of men in the public gallery rushed to assist, lifting him back to his feet. Senior Constable Dabb pulled at his tie and collar as the men led him from the room, and resisted attempts by security staff to usher him back in, telling them: "Get your hands off me." Senior Constable Dabb's lawyer, Rowan Skinner, later said a doctor had issued a certificate saying he was medically unfit to give evidence until Thursday. Earlier, Senior Constable Dabb said accusations by the OPI against the squad, revealed on Monday, were scurrilous.

The other accused officer, Sergeant Matthew Franc, denied kicking A100 while another officer pinned him to the ground. Hartog Berkeley, QC, who is conducting the hearing, told Sergeant Franc to consider his options overnight and to "talk it over with a good friend" before "perjuring" himself further. Mr Berkeley refused applications by media outlets for access to the video images.

Sean Cash, for Sergeant Franc, said the images - which he likened to the notorious police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles - could "overwhelmingly prejudice" any potential trial. Police Association secretary Paul Mullett said the officers were still entitled to a presumption of innocence. He labelled the hearing and the OPI's use of hidden cameras in squad offices as "questionable". The hearing continues this morning at the County Court.

Meanwhile, Premier Steve Bracks has defended the OPI's decision to make the inquiry open to the public. He said a closed hearing would be "an usual circumstance" and the OPI had the discretion to hold open hearings under state legislation.

More here

More on pro-terrorist "Research"

The critics of my opinion piece on terrorism research allege that the status quo is fine. They also defend the ubiquitous "class, sex, race" theoretical template and similar ideological presuppositions that predetermine the outcomes of their research. These defenders of the status quo complacently think their research paradigm is irrefutable and therefore anyone who challenges them must be wrong. They typify the arrogance of the academic elites that dominate the research agenda in Australia. Fortunately, the truly lamentable state of affairs in terrorism studies is becoming clear as other scholars in the field reveal the abuses that are occurring ("Research 'blames West for terror"', The Australian, September 15).

Among the critics defending the status quo are Stuart Koschade and Luke Howie, who are doing PhDs. They claim that "during the next four years the academic community will be inundated with young Australian scholars with a special expertise in studying terrorism".

Apparently Australians are meant to think this is a good thing. On the contrary, we should be very worried about the ideologies that these researchers will be imposing on terrorism studies in the near future. In fact, these ideologies are quite bizarre, as I pointed out in my original article, and as David Martin Jones and Carl Ungerer have also recently revealed ("Delusion reigns in terror studies", The Australian, September 15). Overwhelmingly, these ideologies blame the victim for terrorism and absolve the terrorists.

Koschade and Howie proudly refer to themselves as members of "an ambitious bunch and we all plan to be significant features on the terrorism studies landscape". Let us therefore take them at their word and look at what they have achieved in this field as they have pursued their climb up the academic ladder. Koschade managed a special mention in the Best Paper by an Emerging Researcher prize, Social Change in the 21st Century conference 2005, a conference he promotes in his article. This conference is a one-day affair that appeals to postgraduates and has nothing particularly to do with terrorism. Koschade presented an essay about Aum Shinrikyo, the Japanese cult that was active in the early 1990s.

Howie similarly promotes the Safeguarding Australia Summit in Canberra this week, at which he is presenting a paper on Melbourne as a Terrorist Target and the Human Response as part of a session that goes for all of 20 minutes (tomorrow, for those who don't want to miss it). This conference exemplifies the way in which terrorism research has been absorbed into the academic conference industry. Participation in this industry is open to anyone who pays a very high fee: in this case, $1195. In return, participants get the opportunity to present a micro-paper (15-18 minutes) on the subject of their choice, the big pay-off being that they can then include their presentation at an impressive-sounding conference in their CV as they proceed to climb the academic ladder.

A gang of four critics (Alex Bellamy, et al, HES, September 13) also defends the status quo, within which they are apparently doing very well, exploring such areas as the "aesthetics of terrorism", as if there is something sublime about mangled bodies. Fortunately, the ideological bias of their work has been well exposed by others, so I need waste little time on them here, beyond noting their defence of the equally questionable views of Scott Burchill. Unfortunately, they fail to disclose that one of their number, Richard Devetak, is a co-author with Burchill of a textbook on international relations: hardly the basis of an objective defence.

This group also alleges that I have an obligation to disprove Burchill's claims that "Muslim identity in Australia has been increasingly constructed as a problematic Other". Why? If Burchill (or anyone else) says that Muslim identity is constructed by Santa Claus, am I obliged to disprove such a patently absurd claim? Isn't it up to Burchill to prove such assertions in the first place? The group then writes about "the empirical basis" of these arguments about the Other, as if such a basis exists. In fact there is no empirical evidence whatsoever that this "social construction of the Other" model has any basis in reality. This obsession with the Other is simply an item of faith taken up by post-structuralists and postmodernists and inherited from Claude Levi-Strauss, Jacques Derrida and Edward Said, none of whom proved that it relates to any real aspect of human knowledge. It certainly plays no role in any reputable psychology or epistemology.

Goldie Osuri and Bobby Banerjee (HES, September 13) are explicit: they want me silenced. They also defend the theoretical template, make some observations about the Enlightenment and suggest I take a sabbatical in Kabul, without showing what any of this has to do with terrorism research in Australia. Brett Bowden's article (HES, September 13) is also simplistic and misleading, and he undermines his own credibility by misquoting the title of one of my articles. Bowden refers to What's Wrong with Terrorism? by Robert Goodin of the Australian National University, where Bowden is based. This book is notable for Goodin's claim that "terror is not only the weapon of organisations like al-Qa'ida; it also benefits democratic politicians. Political figures conducting a campaign of fear as part of their war on terrorism may therefore be committing at least one of the same wrongs as terrorists themselves."

This absurd and dangerously irresponsible argument exemplifies the crisis of terrorism studies in Australia. These critics seek to defend the ideological status quo from which they benefit, even if that ideology equates terrorism with the policies of the Australian Government and other democratic governments, and absolves vicious terrorists who have openly declared their intentions of destroying our society.


The usual government approach to "child welfare"

No Australian State is free from such gross official negligence

A baby suffered serious electrical burns, witnessed repeated acts of domestic violence and lived in horrific conditions for 22 months before Victorian welfare authorities finally took her away from her drug-addicted mother. The state's Department of Human Services was first notified of concerns for the girl in March 2001, when the child was three months old. Despite the mother's first child being removed from her care in 1999, the second child was not removed by the department until January 2003.

The full horror of the girl's first two years of life have been detailed in a judgment handed down by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. A non-government child welfare worker, who made repeated visits to the mother's Melbourne home between August 2002 and January 2003, detailed the appalling conditions the child was forced to endure. On her first visit, the worker found the child, then 19 months old, wearing only a sodden nappy that had leaked on a three-seater couch. It left a pool of urine that the mother made no attempt to acknowledge or clean up.

The girl was also eating yoghurt with hands that were covered in urine. Asked by the worker to take away the yoghurt, bath her daughter and change her nappy, the Aboriginal mother, who was 21 years old when she gave birth, said: "I'll do it after I finish my smoke and coffee." Despite the electrical burns suffered eight months earlier, the worker - on the next visit - saw the girl playing with electrical cords plugged into the wall. On September 13, 2002, the worker found the mother and girl lying together on a filthy mattress. A male friend was present and said he and the mother had been drinking the previous night. An open beer bottle was at his feet. It was 9.30am.

The girl, who was unclean and naked, picked up an empty baby bottle that she pushed against her vagina and then placed in her mouth. The worker noticed a large bruise and graze on the girl's knee. Five days later, the worker returned and saw a bump "the size of a walnut" on the girl's head. The mother said her daughter had fallen over. Asked if the girl had seen a doctor, the mother said "she didn't need to because she was OK". The next day the worker returned to find the bump on the girl's head was "still large and now (had) a large dark blue bruise surrounding it". She suggested the mother take her to a doctor as she could have a concussion. The mother said "she could not because she had access today and then had to go shopping".

The mother subsequently took the child to a parenting group. The girl became extremely distressed, screaming and banging her head against the floor. The mother ignored her and only picked her up after urging by a welfare worker. The department was first notified about the child when she was nearly three months old. Seven months later, in October 2001, the department received a second notification. In January 2002, three days after her first birthday, the girl received serious electrical burns to her foot requiring skin grafts.

A supervision order was made in the Children's Court of Victoria in March 2002. But the mother repeatedly breached it, turning up to the department high on drugs and with the girl. On November 14, 2002, the mother said her daughter had been vomiting and had suffered diarrhoea for two days. The welfare worker suggested she take her to a doctor but the mother said the girl was "alright (and) was getting better". "The (worker) noticed piles of cat faeces in the bedroom that appeared to have been there for many days," the VCAT summary said. "(The mother) said her toilet was blocked and that she was using a bucket to urinate in and tipping it out around the back of the flat". The worker returned with a social work student to clean up the flat. "The smell of faeces in the flat was overpowering," she said. "There was six empty methadone bottles on the lounge room floor and on the mantle that were easily accessible."

On January 2003, the mother brought her daughter to a welfare agency, the Caroline Chisolm Society. After smelling the girl's dirty nappy, the worker saw patches of raw skin on her bottom and noticed a rash and thrush halfway down her leg. The mother said she had been drinking vodka and had forgotten to take the girl to the doctor. Evidence from another welfare worker outlined how the girl picked up a used syringe. The mother appeared unconcerned.

The girl was removed from the mother's care after a report to the department from the Royal Children's Hospital in January 2003. The mother was subsequently found to have a history since early childhood of severe domestic violence, substance abuse, neglect and deprivation. When the mother was three, her older sister had been murdered. She was placed in foster care but had suffered repeated sexual abuse there. She lived on the street from the age of 14 and had convictions for theft and robbery from the age of 15. She also took heroin. The mother now sees her child, supervised, for two hours every three weeks. Senior VCAT member Robert Davis rejected her bid for shared guardianship. He said the girl, now five, appeared to be well settled and "thriving" with her foster parents, their two children and her sister.


No comments: