Saturday, August 13, 2011

Qld. Police suppress 'appalling' video of misbehaviour by one of their own

I normally put up accounts of police misbehaviour on my "Police News" blog only but I am putting this account up more widely because it has become a censorship issue as well

A video showing an anti-terrorism squad officer stripped to his underpants and gyrating his groin in the face of a drunk Aboriginal colleague has been suppressed at the request of Queensland Police.

The suppression order comes ahead of the release of a major review of police disciplinary procedures, raising further questions about the culture within Queensland’s police force and why the officer was not sacked.

The security camera footage, taken at the McDonald’s restaurant in the south-east Queensland town of Kingaroy on March 23 last year, shows Constable Daniel Kennedy straddling the Aboriginal officer while nine other non-indigenous officers watched on.

Constable Kennedy’s actions came to light when police reviewed the footage during an investigation into the Aboriginal officer’s arrest at the restaurant late on the first night of the state’s annual police rugby league carnival.

A Queensland Police report into the incident described Constable Kennedy actions thus: "You approached …removed your shorts, lifted your left leg and gyrated your groin in front of his face."


The Special Emergency Response Team officer’s actions were described as “appalling” by Deputy Commissioner Ian Stewart, who presided over an internal police disciplinary action last November.

"I have seen the footage and I am appalled by your behaviour … I am sure that had members of the public witnessed your behaviour, they would have been affronted by it … In your case, not only did you commit an act resulting in your conviction for a public nuisance offence but, if observed by a member of the public, it had the potential not only to be seen as offensive but also taunting the dignity of [the other officer], together with racial overtones."

Deputy Commissioner Stewart delivered his findings in the presence of Constable Kennedy, who denied it was a racist act.

However, Deputy Commissioner Stewart found Constable Kennedy’s conduct had “tarnished the good image of the majority of members of this organisation, which we strive to maintain …”

“Additionally your conduct had the potential to result in significant publicity and embarrassment to the Service and its members,” he said.

Deputy Commissioner Stewart's report said that Constable Kennedy had kept his underpants on, but an investigation had revealed the incident with the intoxicated and sleeping Aboriginal officer was not consensual.

“I note the argument submitted that your actions were done in jest and not intended to offend your friend,” Deputy Commissioner Stewart said. “I acknowledge there is no evidence you exposed yourself or that there was any contact, deliberate or accidental, between your genital area and [the other officer]. Further [he] has regarded this as a joke.”


Queensland's administrative appeals tribunal, QCAT, has ordered the CCTV footage never be shown.

An application by SBS for its release was denied, in spite of assurances to conceal the Aboriginal officer's identity.

Tribunal member Susan Booth ruled the footage is "capable of offending public decency" and could still cause the officer public ridicule and humiliation.

Former Queensland police inspector Col Dillion, once the highest ranking Aboriginal officer in Australia, retired a decade ago warning of the police culture towards indigenous officers.

“I think it is absolutely reprehensible, the actions of the police … given for starters, the police officer, any police officers for that matter should be setting the highest possible standards of behaviour for society,” he said.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service's Greg Shadbolt said Constable Kennedy’s actions had besmirched the reputations of his colleagues.

“The Queensland police service has the largest vested interest in cleaning up this area because there are many many officers who work long and hard in very trying circumstances, and do a tremendous job, as a general rule, and for them to have their reputation besmirched by conduct of this nature is really beyond the pale,” he said.

“One must feel really sorry for the other officers and wonder what they must think of all this.”

The Aboriginal officer did not lodge a complaint about the incident. He declined to be interviewed by SBS.

$250 FINE

The police disciplinary report states Constable Kennedy “did not believe his actions were inappropriate when he considers the circumstances of the incident. He stated this type of behaviour had occurred at other police football carnivals".

He was immediately stood down from anti-terrorism duties and later pleaded guilty to public nuisance, for which he was fined $250 with no conviction recorded in Kingaroy magistrates court.

Despite suppressing video of the incident, QCAT rejected a police application to suppress an audio recording of the deputy commissioner Ian Steward's disciplinary hearing, citing public interest.

It reveals that Constable Kennedy’s pay was frozen for a year, but this did not prevent his reinstatement to the elite Special Emergency Response Team.

ATSILS’ Greg Shadbolt said the outcome seemed “woefully inadequate”. “As I say, it really does demonstrate yet again the fact that police investigating police in terms of outcomes, simply doesn't work,” he said.

Mr Dillion, now the acting director of the University of Queensland's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit, said if a similar incident took place in that institution, the offender would be sacked.

“I'd certainly expect the person would be dealt with in the harshest possible terms,” he said.

In a brief statement to SBS, Queensland's police minister (mr) Neil Roberts said the issue is an internal police matter

A review of police disciplinary procedures ordered by Queensland premier Anna Bligh is due for release by September. It comes after the lack of disciplinary action against police investigators in the Palm Island death-in-custody case of Cameron Doomadgee. The issue of police investigating police is a major concern of the review.

Mr Shadbolt said the facts of the Kingaroy incident were not in question, placing the focus on Constable Kennedy’s punishment. “Anyone else, working for any other organisation would have been dismissed and the question I think the public is asking is should the police have lower standards than the rest of society,” he said.

Queensland Police told SBS the matter had been investigated by its Ethical Standards Command, and that “disciplinary charges were laid against this officer in accordance with the findings of that investigation”.


NSW hospitals can't cope with cold weather

HOSPITAL emergency departments are being stretched to breaking point by a massive influx of patients, forcing ambulance crews off the road for unprecedented periods.

July figures obtained by the Herald show the average number of emergency ambulance patients each day increased by 8.4 per cent over the same month last year, triggering a sharp fall in the proportion of people transferred to the care of a hospital within the benchmark 30 minutes.

Sixty-three per cent of ambulance patients were handed over to hospital staff within 30 minutes in July 2010, but the proportion had fallen to 56 per cent in the last week of July this year.
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The Health Department's target is 90 per cent.

At 15 hospitals, fewer than half of ambulance patients were handed over to emergency staff within half an hour of arriving.

Some of Sydney's largest hospitals fared worst, with St George and Prince of Wales taking over the care of only slightly more than one-third of patients within the half-hour benchmark.

At Wollongong Hospital, vehicle crews were obliged to wait for 72 minutes on average before offloading each patient, while other regional hospitals including Gosford, Wyong and Orange also saw ambulances tied up for extended periods.

The president of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, Sally McCarthy, said the slow off-stretcher times reflected the conditions at overcrowded hospitals, which could not find suitable inpatient beds for people who then had to remain in emergency.

It was also related to the size of the emergency department and its staffing levels, Dr McCarthy, an emergency specialist at Prince of Wales Hospital, said.

"We know we've been having an increased emergency presentation rate year by year and the admission rate hasn't changed," she said.

In those circumstances it was inevitable the pressure would be forced back on ambulance crews, Dr McCarthy said.

A new approach was needed to bed management in acute care hospitals, she said, which went beyond simple bed numbers to address how and when patients were moved around the hospital system.

Last week's agreement between the states and Commonwealth to set a target of four hours for people to be either admitted or discharged from emergency would focus hospital authorities on the issue, Dr McCarthy said.

Hospitals paid 114 days of overtime to off-duty paramedics during the last week of July, a spokeswoman for the Ambulance Service of NSW said. This was required to allow them to work in so-called ambulance release times, based at hospitals, to relieve vehicle crews and let them get back on the road.

Paramedics usually work a roster of four days on followed by five days off, the spokeswoman said, and it was not uncommon for them to take on three days of hospital-based shifts during their unrostered days. "It's rare that we don't have a paramedic seeking overtime," she said.

A spokeswoman for the NSW Minister for Health, Jillian Skinner, said an unusually cold period had caused more hospital presentations and admissions.

"Regardless of the season, the minister is highly concerned that paramedics stand around in hospital corridors waiting to offload patients," the spokeswoman said.

She said Ms Skinner was "committing to opening more beds, employing more nurses, improving efficiencies through new models of care such as fast track zones and medical assessment units [and] identifying patients who may not require transport".


Fourth "asylum" boat hits Australian waters since Malaysia deal signed

THE Federal Government's immigration woes have deepened with a fourth boat of asylum seekers hitting Australian waters since its Malaysian deal was signed.

The arrival comes as new figures reveal there are already about 65 child asylum seekers in detention pending deportation to Malaysia. It is expected nearly all minors in detention would be expelled under the Government's swap deal if the High Court allows it. The Government has said it would not give a "blanket exemption" to minors, saying there would be case-by-case decisions made.

But the UNHCR says it would not support a deal where young people were not given adequate care.

There are now 266 asylum seekers in limbo on Christmas Island, more than a quarter of the 800 the Government hopes to deport in a four-year deal.

Human rights lawyers have launched a High Court challenge, to be heard from August 22, to try to force the Government to assess their claims in Australia.

A source said there were 31 unaccompanied children on Thursday's boat who now face expulsion to Malaysia. They bring the total tally of unaccompanied minors up to almost 50. Another four families with three young children were among 102 asylum seekers on Thursday's boat.

As part of its asylum seeker plan, the Government will send a delegation to PNG to organise a processing centre on Manus Island.

But the PNG Government is facing a Supreme Court challenge over its legitimacy, and new Prime Minister Peter O'Neill has been warned by opponents against making big decisions before the matter is heard.

The challenge says parliament had no grounds to declare Sir Michael Somare's prime ministership vacant on August 2. Port Moresby Governor Powes Parkop claims the Manus Island deal is unconstitutional and threatens to take it to court. "It's not right that Australia keeps on passing this problem to its neighbouring country, in PNG, and Nauru and now Malaysia," he said.

Australian Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said a PNG deal would not work without a Malaysian one. "If you have only offshore processing as part of your regime then that's not a deterrent, because the majority of people who are found to be refugees who are processed on Nauru, for example, ended up in Australia," he told the ABC.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison said: "The Government should get over their stubborn pride and pick up the phone to Nauru."


Parents deserting chaotic and run-down Victorian State schools

And abusing the parents is the answer, apparently

Parent snobbery is being blamed for an exodus from Victorian state primary schools. While class sizes hit record lows, increasing numbers of parents are opting for private schools. Since 2003, the number of primary school-aged children sent to state schools has dipped by almost 3000, equal to 170 classes.

Over the same period, the Catholic and independent systems have been bolstered by more than 13,000 pupils - filling more than 600 extra classrooms.

Parents Victoria executive officer Gail McHardy believes snobbery is partly to blame for the shift. "Often people firmly believe that something that looks better, costs more, will get a better outcome. And that's not necessarily true," Ms McHardy said.

"When you've got a bit more disposable income, rather than making a conscious choice of which system and which ethos suits your child, sometimes that decision is more easily influenced if there are more bells and whistles."

Figures from the Education Department's February schools census show the average number of students is 22 - down from 25 a decade ago. However, comparisons with data over the past eight years show the decline in public school confidence.

Melbourne University education expert Prof Richard Teese said preferences for private education had traditionally been stronger at secondary level, but had also crept down to primary level.He said parents were driven by their wish for a "competitive advantage".

Australian Education Union state secretary Mary Bluett warned the physical appearance of some public schools had proved a turn-off, and said more State Government funding for capital works was crucial.


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