Drunken Aborigines can be hard to take but the police are supposed to be professionals, not goons. The black must have copped a hell of a hit to rupture his liver. Two official Commissions of Inquiry into Queensland police misbehaviour -- the Lucas Inquiry and the Fitzgerald Inquiry -- did not lead to any permanent change that one can see. As ever, almost all complaints against police are investigated -- cursorily -- by the police
A senior Queensland police officer lost his temper and repeatedly punched a drunk Aboriginal man before putting him in a police cell where he was left to die from his injuries, a coroner has ruled. After two years of investigation into what killed 36-year-old Palm Island man Mulrunji, Acting State Coroner Christine Clements yesterday found the island's top police officer Snr Sgt Christopher Hurley was responsible for the death. She also ruled Hurley was "callous and deficient" in not properly checking on Mulrunji's welfare in the island's watchhouse, where he died from internal bleeding due to a ruptured liver and portal vein at about 11am on November 19, 2004.
Attorney-General Linda Lavarch has referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions to consider whether anyone should face charges. The State Government also has announced a "high-level response team" to advise Cabinet on the 40 recommendations of the report.
In delivering her findings, Ms Clements was scathing of the Queensland Police Service's initial investigation into the death, which she described as "lacking in transparency, objectivity and independence". She said the integrity of the investigation had been compromised by the involvement of local officers, some of whom knew Hurley personally and who dined at his home during the investigation.
The death sparked a violent community backlash and riots on the island during which the police station burnt to the ground. Hurley - a decorated officer credited with reducing crime on the island and helping locals - has vehemently and repeatedly denied he assaulted Mulrunji, who he met for the first time that day. But Ms Clements said she was not convinced Snr Sgt Hurley was telling the truth about events inside the station and accepted a witness account that Snr Sgt Hurley said "Do you want more, Mr Doomadgee, Do you want more?" during the incident.
Mulrunji, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.292 at the time of his death, was arrested for public nuisance after mouthing off at a police liaison officer who was helping Snr Sgt Hurley arrest another man. He resisted arrest and punched Snr Sgt Hurley in the jaw as he was being led from the police van to the watchhouse and the pair fell as they were walking through a doorway.
Ms Clements urged mandatory first aid training for watchhouse staff following evidence that Snr Sgt Hurley was not qualified in first aid and no officer attempted to resuscitate Mulrunji after it was discovered he may have died.
Multiple recommendations were also made to beef up training for officers in the area of watchhouse safety and arrest procedures. Ms Clements also found that Mulrunji's initial arrest by Snr Sgt Hurley was "not an appropriate exercise of police discretion" as he could have been dealt with by a caution or summons to appear in court. It is reprehensible that the detailed recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody should have to be referred to, so many years after the Royal Commission. The evidence is clear however that these recommendations are still apt and still ignored," she said.
Despite the damning findings, Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson said there were no grounds to suspend any of the officers named in the report. [Extraordinary!!]
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