A NSW Police officer touched the nipple of a restrained Aboriginal boy while laughing, the police watchdog has found in a serious example of police misconduct.
Police restrained the 15-year-old boy in an ambulance, over fears he tried to self-harm in his cell.
The watchdog found the officer touched the boy’s nipple, while making a turkey ‘gobbler’ sound. Other officers present laughed at the officer’s behaviour.
The Aboriginal Legal Service is calling for NSW Police to dismiss the officer and charge him with assault.
Serious police misconduct, watchdog finds
NSW Police arrested the boy for breaching his bail. At the station, the boy threatened self-harm. As such police called an ambulance to take him to hospital for assessment.
After police restrained the boy, they placed a blanket over his face to stop him from spitting.
Then, the officer in question touched the boy’s exposed nipple, laughing with two other officers.
Another officer grabbed the boy by the throat with his right hand after the boy appeared to smile at him.
The Aboriginal Legal Service later complained to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (‘LECC’) on the boy’s behalf.
“There was nothing amusing about it”
LECC Commissioner Lea Drake found in a report that the officer:
- made a “turkey gobbler” noise,
- touched the boy’s nipple, and
- touched the boy’s stomach – all while he was being restrained.
Two other officers were “amused” and “laughed” at the officer’s “antics”.
Ms Drake said the boy needed transport to hospital for assessment. She stated that this created a difficult situation for police because he was exhibiting bad behaviour and spitting constantly.
“It was a difficult situation for the officers. However, there was nothing amusing about it,” she said.
“His situation was, if anything, tragic.”
Ms Drake said the “gangly, slightly built” boy was “begging not to be restrained or sedated”. The boy was unable to see what was happening around him due to the blanket over his face.
“He could hear Officer KIM4 making an offensive and demeaning, silly turkey gobbler noise.”
“He could feel the officers touching him including Officer KIM4’s touch to his stomach and nipple. He could hear the officers laughing,” she said.
“This incident involved disgraceful conduct by Officer KIM4 and all those officers who laughed with and at him. It was conduct that paid no regard to the feelings of the child who was in their custody. No one seemed to remember that [the boy] was just that, a child.”
Ms Drake said the boy lived in difficult circumstances and was regularly in trouble with the police.
She said he was unlikely to forget how Police treated him, and his relationship with the police was likely “incapable of rehabilitation”.
“This type of conduct is not only likely to affect the attitude of the particular young person towards the police but carries the risk of damaging the relationship of the police with the local Aboriginal community,” she said.
“Whilst, to some extent, this sort of heedless jocularity arises out of the stressful circumstances of policing … there is an obligation on officers performing this face-to-face work to behave sensitively and responsibly, particularly when dealing with children.”
Serious police misconduct: Officers slapped on the wrist
The Officer involved was found to have engaged in serious police misconduct. The LECC recommended that he get a reprimand or a warning. However, the other officers involved have not had findings made against them, but LECC recommended they receive counselling and further training.
Karly Warner, chief executive of the Aboriginal Legal Service in NSW and the ACT, said the treatment of the boy was “humiliating and degrading” and charges should be laid against KIM4.
“This man did not protect and serve. He is not fit to be a police officer, nor to be in any position of power over others, let alone children,” she said.
“Together with our client, we expect the officer to be terminated from the police force immediately, and for criminal charges to follow.”