Well, if they aren’t they should be.

I’ve written about the NT Ombudsman’s annual reports and the small glimpses that they provide into the various instances of misconduct by the NT Police before here – noting that her annual reports to the NT Parliament only document those matters that come to her by way of formal complaint.

The point that I made then – that Carolyn Richards’ reports into NT Police misconduct present convincing support for the need for an independent authority to investigate allegations of misconduct by NT Police and public officials – are only bolstered by the instances of appalling conduct of NT Police revealed in her latest report.

You can see all of the NT Ombudsman’s annual reports here.

The chapters on NT Police misconduct make for fascinating reading, and there is little to suggest that NT Police conduct, and the quality, supervision and investigation of that conduct, has improved over time.

As Carolyn Richards told the local ABC in Darwin, past NT Police recruiting and training policies may be making no small contribution to these issues:

“…a lack of senior officers in the police force could be a reason why there have been some serious breaches of police duty of care for people in custody. “Because of the influx of new recruitments into the police and because there was a five year delay prior to 2001 where [there] were no police recruitments, we are now in the situation where we’ve got all these young officers out on the beat with six months training.”

The Northern Territory’s Acting Police Commissioner, Bruce Wernham, said: “All new police recruits undergo thorough and intensive training prior to operating under full supervision as probationary constables. “I note the ombudsman’s comments with regards to increased recruiting causing more complaints against less experienced police. “However, I am not aware of any evidence to specifically support this.”

The material in this post comes from just one of the case notes of complaints against NT police documented in the 2008-2009 annual report to the local Parliament of the NT Ombudsman, Carolyn Richards.

Some of the comments made by the unnamed Police Officer in the unidentified NT watchhouse to a prisoner being processed included:

“shut your face.”

“dumb f**k”,

“f**king loser”

“d**khead over there”

“… no brain”

“f**king retard.”

The case note, headed “No brains” detailed the treatment meted out by NT Police to a complainant who was arrested:

“…for breaking and entering. This person had fallen asleep outside the premises, due to being highly intoxicated, and was arrested at the scene. A complaint was subsequently lodged relating to his treatment whilst at the watch-house.”

Even before he made it to the cells he was getting the full benefit of the cop’s limited vocabulary:

“The complainant could be heard mumbling something whilst he was seated on the bench, although it was not discernable as to what was said. One of the attending officers responded with “shut your face.” Further comments made to or about the complainant within the next 30 minutes included, “dumb f**k”, “f**king loser”, “d**khead over there”, “… no brain”, “he’s from CSI, one of our smart criminals who breaks and enters and then collapses outside the scene” and “f**king retard.” There were several officers present during the comments, not one of them suggesting they were wrong or inappropriate.”

And it just doesn’t get any better – for the poor guy in the cell or the cop with the potty mouth.

Further examination of the audio and footage from the watchhouse cameras revealed this tasty little incident:

“…the duty officer was eating a piece of toast. He was pointing to the toast and then himself and later pointed to another breakfast behind the counter. In the officer’s statement he claimed he was indicating to the complainant that his breakfast was behind the counter. However on viewing the video it appeared the duty officer ate the complainant’s toast that was sitting with the complainant’s weetbix. He then went to a box sitting on the bin containing breakfast rubbish and took out a white bag with toast and a carton of milk. The duty officer then poured the milk on the weetbix and brought this, along with the toast in the white bag, to the complainant. It was concerning that the duty officer provided the complainant with toast and milk which appeared to have been taken from rubbish sitting on the bin.”

And thanks to the watchhouse cameras we now know that:

In addition to the inappropriate comments identified above the duty officer was heard and observed making the following statements to or about the complainant:

• “stupid f**king idiot”

• “make things quite clear, …, if you wanna f**kin’ play up I’ll make things hard for you”

• “god, he f**king stinks”

• “didn’t bang head for too long coz it hurt” one officer apparently mocking the complainant to another officer

• Two officers were joking about the complainant hitting his head against the cell door because he

wasn’t given a blanket. One officer stating that the complainant had said he would jump in the air

and land on his head killing himself. The officer then stating “go ahead, do it.” The other officer

stating “make sure you do it in front of the cameras”

• “piece of s**t that he is”

• After the officer established that the complainant was dialling his wife whom he had a domestic

violence order against, the officer said “get back in your f**king cell you spastic”; “you’ve got a

domestic violence order that says you are not allowed to contact her, you f**king wanker. You’re

not allowed to approach her, you’re not allowed to contact her directly or indirectly you f**king


• “how about you shut the f**k up”

• “spastic c**t” whispered by officer

And what was the sanction meted out to the officer?

Here again from the NT Ombudsman’s annual report:

It was determined that some of the conduct was highly inappropriate for police officers and in breach of the NT Police Code of Conduct and Ethics and General Orders. The JRC recommended that the officers receive managerial guidance in relation to appropriate conduct when dealing with detainees. The JRC noted that it had already been recommended that the officers receive formal counselling.

The investigation also revealed that appropriate entries were not made into the watch-house log or offender journal.

Great – “counselling” and “managerial guidance” – no mention of the slap on the wrist, an apology to the complainant or any action against those other officers who, by their silent acquiescence, condoned their brother officer’s conduct.

As Glen Dooley of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) , which provides legal services and representation across the Top End of the NT, told the local ABC:

“…there should be tougher sanctions and more transparency.

“If we had a field officer and that field officer started calling that client a dumb whatever, a whatever loser and a whatever retard and then served them some food out of one of our garbage bins, that person would be sacked on the spot,” he said.

“The report here recommends the officers receive managerial guidance in relation to food hygiene and appropriate conduct when dealing with detainees. That’s limp to me.”

For the benefit of those members of the NT Police reading this who may have forgotten what it says – and for the rest of us who have most likely never seen it before – here is the NT Police Statement of Ethics:


Each member of the Police Force is to act in a manner which:

– upholds the rule of law;

– preserves the individual’s rights and freedoms;

– places integrity above all;

– seeks to improve quality of life throughout the community through involvement with the community;

– strives to attain maximum citizen confidence and satisfaction;

– strives at all times for professional excellence;

– strives to maximise the effectiveness of available human and other resources; and

– tempers authority with common sense, discretion and sensitivity

Any bids on how many of those points have been contravened here – all of them? – or none?

Have any thoughts about the effectiveness of the current investigative process for complaints against NT Police?

Your thoughts please!