Victoria Police — renowned for being almost Zen-like in their usual meditative state — are reportedly “furious” at the prospect of some kind of investigation by the Office of Police Integrity (OPI) into police conduct at the G20 protests in Melbourne last November. True to form, the Herald Sun reports the revelation under the title ‘Public back police actions’ (Mark Buttler and Matthew Schulz, January 30, 2007). Apparently, 75% of readers voted ‘Yes’ when asked “From what you can see on our video, were police actions justified?” According to The Hun, “Our videographer was caught in the centre of the pitched battle in which several police suffered broken bones, and others claimed they were bitten, punched and kicked.”
Leaving aside the corporate media-generated hysteria, that the OPI should have informed lawyers from the Federation of Community Legal Centres that it would be passing along complaints into alleged police misconduct to the Victoria Police Ethical Standards Department is in reality completely unremarkable (G20 officers may be disciplined, Mark Buttler, Herald Sun, January 30, 2007). In fact, this is simply standard procedure, and presumes innocence on the part of the accused officers. That the bloke they call Mullet should be angry and upset is also not-exactly-unexpected: it’s his job, after all, to deflect any criticism of members of his union. So too, the reaction of working-class man (and Victorian Premier) Steve Bracks who — with a nod-and-a-wink in the direction of the union — stated that:
“I thought [police] handled themselves extremely well, and I think controlled a very difficult situation and I think they deserve our praise and support,” he said.
“Anyone can make a complaint, doesn’t mean the complaint will be followed through, it may ultimately be thrown out.”
In other words, Bracks’ reaction is exactly the same as it was when allegations of police misconduct were made following S11 in 2000. And the results of any inquiry will also, naturally enough, be exactly the same: police did no wrong. In any event, the OPI has made its intentions quite clear:
G20 policing investigation not major, OPI says
January 30, 2007
Victoria’s Office of Police Integrity (OPI) says police generally behaved professionally at Melbourne’s G20 riots late last year, despite a number of complaints about them using excessive force.
The police Ethical Standards Department is investigating the claims in a probe that the OPI will review.
OPI assistant director Graham Ashton says it is not a major investigation.
“[The claims] have to be investigated by ESD in the usual manner but I think overall, for an event of that size, we thought that there was a very small number of complaints,” he said.
“Literally, we have received only five or six complaints.”
The two key events which police may focus particular attention on excusing are the wrongful arrest and assault of Drasko Boljevic on November 19, and the inappropriate and excessive use of force by police in dispersing a small protest outside of the Melbourne Museum on the same night. Further, judging by the complete absence of any criticism by the state/corporate media of the fact that police violated their own procedures by removing their ID at G20, this tactic should now be considered routine, and continue to receive the support of not only police and government authorities but the corporate/state media as well.
La lucha continúa.
Speaking of which, Australia’s #1 bean-counter has taken the opportunity afforded him by Rupert Murdoch to engage in some cheap political point-scoring:
Bracks fails his own force
January 31, 2007
WHEN the world’s finance ministers and central bankers met in Melbourne last year at a G20 summit, violent thugs attempted to disrupt the meeting.
In carefully planned attacks, they threw broken glass and urine-filled balloons at police while smashing private and taxpayer-funded property.
Wow Peter: you saw all that from the window of your luxury room at the Hyatt? Or are you just talking out of your arse, as usual, while planning further attacks on Australian workers’ wages and conditions? The “urine-filled balloons” is an old one, but a good one, and a complete furphy… that is, if one assumes that Peter isn’t referring to the heads of the architects of global finance gathered at G20.
Now the police are being attacked again, this time by activist lawyers who contrived to send a human rights observer team to observe the premeditated attacks, so they could intimidate and harass police officers performing their duty.
Hmmm. It seems that our Treasurer has a slippery grasp not only of the facts, but of the law too. The existence of a group of individuals, some with legal training, committed to observing public protest is obviously a cause of great concern to Tories, and Peter is no exception. But to assemble such a group is not a matter of ‘contrivance’, but planning. And to hold (or to at least attempt to hold) police accountable for their actions is actually quite sensible — especially given the record of Victorian (and other) police in this regard.
Victorian police at G20 behaved with courage and professionalism.
But their task was made harder by the Bracks Government law and order policies.
Now that police are under attack again, it is time for the Victorian Government to give them the unequivocal support they deserve.
For ‘attack’, read ‘OPI fulfilling its statutory obligations by referring complaints to the appropriate body — whereupon they will be excused, to nobody’s surprise’.
Under Steve Bracks and Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon, the focus of the Victorian Police has changed from preventing damage to people and their property to preventing negative media coverage.
For which claim Peter provides no evidence.
One symptom of this was the tiny handful of arrests made outside G20, despite the appalling violence and damage to property.
Yes indeed. Why aren’t global financial leaders held to account for their systematic failure to address the mass murder of the world’s children? Send your entries, including a stamped self-addressed envelope, to: PO Box 199, East Brunswick, VIC, 3057.
Police were forced to stand by while the law was breached, then browse media footage in a bid to identify culprits.
Bracks and Nixon may think these tactics were a success.
By adopting a strategy of refraining from making arrests in the heat of the protest, police top brass may have been hoping they would avoid allegations of excessive force dreamed up by lawyers.
But the primary function of police is not media management. It is law enforcement.
Police were not ‘forced’ to do anything: they were paid (the starting salary for a constable is $45,773 per annum — the base rate for a Federal MP is $118,950 per annum) to obey orders from their superiors: which they did. The principal strategic objective of police was to prevent protesters from drawing any closer to Peter and his friends wallowing in luxury at the Hyatt than security experts advised: this they also did. In a pre-emptive attempt to whip up public hysteria over possible police prosecutions, Peter cynically pretends not to have some very basic knowledge regarding policing methods.
Not a good look; one reinforced by his permanent smirk.
To allow dozens of police to be injured, a police vehicle torched and property smashed, without any attempt to arrest the culprits at the scene, is to make a mockery of the rule of law.
Moreover, to do so is to allow oneself to engage in a complete phantasy: dozens of police were not injured; no police vehicle was torched; there have been no reports of property damage (outside of $1,000 damage to one police vehicle); police did attempt to make arrests… including, of course, Drasko Boljevic.
It is also an insult to the police on the ground, who were the victims of vicious and cowardly assaults.
Police deserve the resources and political support necessary to enforce the law and retaliate against attacks.
When making split second decisions in the heat of mob violence, they need to know their judgment calls will be backed by political leaders and senior officers.
Steve Bracks and Christine Nixon should make it absolutely clear that attempts to arrest criminals are not provocation, but a case of a conscientious officer doing their duty.
Whether and to what extent police were subjected to assault will obviously be determined by the courts. To imagine that Bracks and Nixon do not, or will not, give police their unequivocal support, however, simply flies in the face of all the available facts. One might also note that Victoria Police employs more than 13,600 people, the 2006/7 State Budget was the largest in the state’s history, and $109 million was dedicated to ‘preventing terrorism, and organised crime’.
If anyone else committed a brazen crime in the middle of the street, onlooking police would move in to make an arrest. Motorists get zero tolerance for breaking the speed limit even by 3km/h.
Sure. Just ask Jeff Kennett.
Protesters get maximum tolerance for assaults on property or person.
For which claim Peter provides no evidence.
The problem with responses like the one we saw at G20 is that they provide encouragement for future mob violence. They send a message to criminals that law officers will appease, rather than confront them, so long as the criminals use sufficient force to create a fear of negative media coverage.
The message is not just heard by criminals.
It is also heard by the millions of law-abiding Victorians, who justifiably expect the law will be applied equally to all.
The rights of the business owners whose property was vandalised and the rights of the taxpayers, who must now pay to replace damaged police vehicles, have been trampled.
The Bracks Government went soft when the broken glass started flying. It should not go soft now that the writs are flying.
Sadly, the police may find it hard going in a state justice system increasingly stacked with judges who have a civil libertarian background.
The problem with Peter’s analysis is that it, like his liberalism, is completely unfounded. The extent of ‘future mob violence’ will not be determined by police response to protest at the G20, but general economic and social conditions. As they, in conjunction with the state of the natural environment, continue to deteriorate, so the likelihood of violent social conflict with the state will increase. Besides which, individuals who are motivated solely by financial gain and social status care little for throwing bottles at police, and would do much better by joining the Tories — and thereby enjoy the company of a much better class of criminal.
From next year, the situation will be even worse, when the Bracks Government Charter of Rights requires all government agencies, including police, to comply with its ideological agenda.
It is time for the Bracks Government to restore the focus of its law and order policies on promoting law and order, not on protecting the rights of thugs and criminals.
That means taking an aggressive approach to arresting violent demonstrators who attack police. It means providing police with the resources they need to confront these thugs.
It also means creating a legal system that does not allow police to be persecuted for just doing their job.
It means not only defending police in the courts and complaints tribunals, but pursuing costs orders against the activists responsible and reviewing the funding of taxpayer-funded lawyers involved, which the Commonwealth is already doing.
It means showing whole-hearted public support for the police officers, who are the true defenders of our human rights.
I want to express my gratitude to the hard-working men and women of Victoria Police.
I hope to hear the Victorian Government and ministers join me in thanking them for their wonderful efforts in protecting our city from the anti-G20 thugs.
Blah blah blah blah blah blah blah…
And if anyone had yet failed to realise on which side Newscorpse butters its bread, the Herald Sun also has an editorial, ‘Defending the police’:
THE G20 riot in Melbourne last November saw a revival of the notorious tactics of the rent-a-crowd brigade. Their modus operandi is to hijack an otherwise peaceful protest, break the law, attack the police trying to enforce that law, then cry “police brutality”…
The point is further rammed home in a ‘news’ item:
Tax-funded cop bashing
Ellen Whinnett, Craig Binnie and Mark Buttler
January 31, 2007
COMMUNITY legal bodies such as the one behind complaints of police brutality at the G20 protests are pocketing $10.29 million in government funding.
The State Government tips $5.59 million into the centres and the Federal Government contributes $4.7 million annually.
The Herald Sun yesterday revealed that the Office of Police Integrity had received a complaint from the Federation of Community Legal Centres of excessive police violence at the G20.
The OPI referred the matter to the Victoria Police ethical standards department for investigation, sparking widespread community anger…
Meanwhile, arushandapush (January 28) reports that:
in recent days there have been further arrests and house raids. on thursday [january 25], a 21 year old man from glenhuntly was arrested. another man was arrested on friday [january 26] at the invasion day march to the concert in the city. 2 houses were also raided on friday, one during the day and one later that night, one for the second and the other for the third time, by 10 undercover police. both times police had a warrant for an arrest, but no arrests were made.
More commentary later…