Friday 20 August 2021, 1:30 pm
The Aboriginal Legal Service NSW/ACT (ALS) is deeply concerned by the NSW Police Commissioner’s pledge to not hold officers to account for wrongly applying public health orders.
The ALS has previously cautioned against NSW Police using COVID-19 restrictions as an excuse to target Aboriginal people.
“When the message from the top is that police officers can ‘put community policing aside’ and won’t be held to account for getting it wrong, that just gives rogue officers free rein to harass members of our community,” said Anthony Carter, Deputy CEO of the ALS.
“NSW Police currently have extraordinary powers of enforcement. Those powers need to be paired with increased oversight and accountability. Police must be held to the highest professional standards.
“Our community is being called upon to be accountable for following the COVID rules. It’s only right that police should also be accountable for applying those rules within the law,” Mr Carter said.
The ALS is urging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in NSW and the ACT to call them on 1800 765 767 if they receive a COVID infringement notice.
“We can offer legal advice to Aboriginal people who receive fines. We also want to monitor how many Aboriginal people are being approached by police and the circumstances of those interactions,” Mr Carter said.
Mr Carter called for police to support and work with Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to ensure people have access to masks, hand sanitiser, COVID testing and vaccinations. He noted that some western NSW communities are still struggling to access PPE, with the Dharriwaa Elders Group in Walgett asking supporters from the city to mail masks out west.
During last year’s COVID lockdown, police handed out the most fines in suburbs with a high Aboriginal population, including Mount Druitt, Blacktown and Redfern.
Media contact: [email protected] / 0427 346 017