With the recent surfacing of two separate videos showcasing an altercation, and subsequent arrest, of a young man participating in Sydney’s 2013 Mardi Gras Parade, the Australian community is once again demanding an inquiry into whether or not the use of force by (six) members of the NSW Police was heavy-handed. Is this a question, though, that we are beginning to ask all too often? It feels as if it is and as a result, the trust in Police is dwindling, especially amongst the younger community.
If you haven’t seen the footage, here are the two YouTube links.
The first clip shows an eighteen year-old man being held down and arrested by an officer before being thrown to the ground: click here.
The second clip, however, displays what occurred moments before the arrest, but does not explain why the young man was being detained: click here.
What is as worrying as the injuries that could have been caused to the young man, is the frequency of which we are beginning to object to the force they use. A good Police Force is one that is respected and not feared, but the seemingly repeated occurrences of some heavy-handed individuals within their ranks is beginning to erode the trust of the community.
This especially, is a perception that is gaining traction amongst the younger community. It has been made clear through conversations with friends and strangers alike, at work and where we study, that rather than respect the Police for the often-thankful jobs they do, we are instead focusing on the brutish aggression used towards us, our friends, and like one spectator made clear in the first clip, to people we don’t even know.
Ignoring Mardi Gras for a moment, it is widely acknowledged that Police are confronted weekly by hundreds of people partying on city-streets. Many revelers are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, sometimes both, sometimes none, and our Police are required to deal with them in a way that keeps not only both parties safe, but also the community. More often than not, the high Police presence in our cities, as well as the decent policing, is a good enough deterrent to most loutish behavior. On the odd occasion, though, Police need to resort to more physical means to control a person and resolve a situation. This is no point of objection, it is part of their duty and responsibility to the community they serve. When such dooming images arise, however, we have every right to question and object to how forceful the Police acted or reacted, whichever it may have been. And irrespective of how you may view this latest instance, it has its consequences.
This ostensible heavy-handedness is fostering an animosity between the two groups and when such footage surfaces displaying disturbing images of someone being dumped to the ground – in what can only be compared to a tackle that both the AFL and Rugby Codes have stamped out – it becomes difficult to justify the force of actions used, let alone respect the Police for the job they do. Add to this the knowledge that the alleged perpetrator was handcuffed when thrown to the ground, it seems near impossible to imagine a context in which such force was deemed necessary. Nevertheless, this happened at Mardi Gras this year and unfortunately, is not the first time we’ve seen such footage in recent times.
It’s a tribute to social networks such as Facebook and YouTube, to see the attention that this incident has attracted and how empathetic and in a lot of cases, how fiery the Australian public have become. There is no doubt we want to see a change and that we want to be a part of it too. The community’s presence has never been more felt; the younger generation are able to band the support of thousands in a matter of seconds and with only a few clicks worth of effort.
Another example of Police heavy-handedness is the death of Brazilian student, Roberto Laudisio Curti, back in March of 2012. Curti passed away after being tasered up to fourteen times, sprayed with up to three bottles of capsicum spray and restrained by a number of officers. Video footage of one of the tasers used showed Curti lying motionless on the floor whilst one officer proceeded to stun him one more time. The coroner Mary Jerram found that at least five officers used excessive force and acted with a thuggish, “pack mentality.“ What’s more concerning is that during the proceedings the coroner felt as if some witnesses were treating her as if she was stupid saying that particular evidence “bore no credibility and was self-serving and misleading. “Such findings only go on to cement the growing distrust towards Police Officers as a whole, when in reality, it’s only been a few who have damaged their reputation.
Nevertheless, such footage like that from the weekend showing altercations between civilians and Police, regardless of whether the force used was justifiable or not, will only intensify the fragmented relationship between those doing the protecting and those wanting to be protected. And if this is not rectified soon, the past has plenty of examples for what might regrettably occur.
To read more, click here.