The Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad raided three houses in Auburn last week, looking for people suspected of being involved in the shooting of a 23-year-old man. They allegedly found a handgun and ammunition, two stun guns, cannabis and a large sum of cash. But within 10 minutes of their arrival, 150 local youths gathered to intimidate the police, drawn by text message and, according to the Opposition Police spokesman, Mike Gallacher, by Facebook messages describing police as ''Kefeirs'', a slang Arabic term for non-Muslim unbelievers. ''Kefeirs raiding brother's house, everyone get down hier [sic]!!''
The mob pelted officers with bottles and abuse, while inside one of the houses a policeman was smashed in the face. He was taken by ambulance to Concord Hospital to stitch up his forehead. The new Public Order and Riot Squad, formed after the Cronulla and Macquarie Fields riots, was called in, along with the Dog Squad and PolAir helicopter. This circus was all par for the course for police trying to perform routine law enforcement duties in south-western suburbs such as Auburn and Granville, where whole streets have become no-go zones.
Just three people were arrested that night - two men and a woman - and the alleged police assailant was released on bail the next day, after claiming he was defending his mother.
Then the complaints came thick and heavy from people outraged "culturally insensitive" police would dare execute a search warrant during Ramadan, a holy month of the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast until sunset. Do they think there should be one law for Ramadan observers and another for ''kefeirs''?
The Auburn raid, at 6pm last Tuesday, when Muslims were sitting down to break their fast, was planned simply to ensure "persons of interest" would actually be home. ''Race, religion, anything - that doesn't come into consideration in criminal investigations,'' Chief Superintendent Ken McKay, told reporters the next day. ''A lot of people like to use excuses for their behaviour. There's a way to solve that - don't commit crime … ''This is NSW. We have laws in this state we must all abide by, and these people have to abide by the same laws.''
Hooray for Ken McKay. That statement was a long time coming. It is a sign the culture of impotence that has infected the NSW Police Force in the troubled decade and a half since the Wood Royal Commission may be on the retreat. The Commissioner, Andrew Scipione, is a quiet diplomat, with little independence from his political masters. But there are indications he is empowering frontline police to do their jobs, going after real crooks rather than only easy targets of jaywalkers or law-abiding citizens bending traffic rules.
The riot squad is one example. The high jinks at a recent police dinner attended by the Premier is another. A home video spoofing the overly bureaucratic softly-softly tactics of policing today was shown. Based on Life on Mars, it featured a 1970s detective time-travelling to 2009 and flabbergasted by his colleagues' inability to fight crime. Just the fact police feel free to openly mock the state of law enforcement shows change is afoot.
The Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad is another example. It is difficult work, and while no one dares mention it in polite company, crime families from Middle Eastern Muslim communities, especially when linked up with bikie gangs, are the biggest law enforcement headache in the state.
So frightened are authorities of alienating the Muslim community, in case they supposedly become terrorists, the go-softly approach has been mandated for years. The Liberal MP John Ajaka wants the squad abolished because he says its name vilifies ethnic communities. But the fact is many other squads within the State Crime Command, from Robbery and Serious Crime to Gangs, are finding more than half their work involves criminals of Middle Eastern origin.
However, as one frontline police officer working at a south-western Sydney police station said yesterday, the criminals he arrests are not representative of the Muslim community, and are a menace to law-abiding, Allah-fearing Muslims in their neighbourhoods. "These people don't go to mosque. They are not religious. They are just using the excuse that they are being targeted because of their religion." They use cultural sensitivities as a weapon to intimidate police.
He describes the difficulty of executing a warrant on a Muslim house: ''We do raids on them and you can't have mums running off to get scarves on their heads because they could be getting weapons. Everything we do is for operational safety … You're in a hostile environment. You don't know if there's a knife here or a gun there. We have to secure everyone in the house and it is dangerous to allow people to go into bedrooms unaccompanied … The mothers don't want their sons dragged away so [they] provoke the police … and if you go near them they say it's assault [and the men] use that as justification to come in over the top.''
For too long he says there has been "a genuine feeling in south-west Sydney that the cops are soft. [The criminals] try to intimidate a police officer to the point where they back down". The Auburn riots were different. "The police just didn't put up with the intimidation. We're not here to make friends.''
Of course, a goal for many years in the NSW Police Force has been to reduce the number of complaints, as some sort of anti-corruption indicator. This has meant any criminal with enough wit can hobble arresting officers for years with spurious complaints and even civil action. It remains to be seen whether front-line police will end up ruing the day they decided to take on the thugs of Auburn.
Another pack attack by Lebanese Muslims
TWO teenagers have been stabbed outside a pub in Sydney's south. Police say the two, aged 17 and 18, were set upon by six males of Middle Eastern appearance outside a hotel on Forest Road, Hurstville, about 7.15pm yesterday. They had been inside the hotel.
During the altercation the 18-year-old man was stabbed in the left side of his chest and suffered a punctured lung, while the 17-year-old sustained a stab wound to his ribcage. The pair were taken to St George Hospital, where they are in a stable condition.
The men who attacked them were last seen running in a westerly direction on Forest Road. The attacker who produced the knife is described as being about 18 years old, of Mediterranean/Middle Eastern appearance, and about 180cm tall.