POLITICIANS from all major parties in NSW have backed calls for a new complaints body to scrutinise the work of the NSW Police, saying it is the only way the LGBTI community’s faith can be restored in the force.
At Parliament House in Sydney today, representatives from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and health body ACON, together with the Inner City Legal Centre and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, handed a petition to the NSW Parliamentary LGBTI Cross Party Working Group that said police should no longer investigate their own conduct.
GLRL convenor Justin Koonin said recent comments made by NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione during the parliamentary inquiry into police bugging — where he said he supported the creation of an organisation modelled on the lines of the UK’s Independent Police Complaints Commission — meant now was the “right time” to examine the force’s treatment of the LGBTI community.
“This body would have been able to investigate what happened at Mardi Gras 2013 or any instances of alleged police misconduct,” Koonin said.
“I think there would be many communities who would be interested, LGBTI of course but also Aboriginal and migrant communities.”
In a statement, NSW Police told the Star Observer they were “receptive to any concerns raised” and they had a “strong and productive relationship with the LGBTI community”.
They were already subject to a number of oversight bodies, the statement said, including the Police Integrity Commission and the Ombudsman.
However, Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich said the current oversight bodies were either not fully independent or lacked teeth and only a separate organisation could restore confidence in the force.
“I hope it will lead people to have more trust in the police because the current situation is untenable,” he said.
“You have someone raising a concern with police who then investigate themselves and, regardless of the outcome, if that is not in favour of the original person… they will always be able to accuse the police of a cover up.”
Greenwich said an independent body could examine the police’s investigations into a number of decades-old suspected hate crimes, particularly at known beats, that remain unresolved to this day or were written off as suicides.
Last week, the Star Observer revealed Alan Rosendale, who alleges that in the late 1980s he was bashed by police officers and left for dead in a Darlinghurst street after being chased out of a beat, wanted an independent inquiry into the NSW Police’s handling of his case after evidence disappeared.
Rosendale said he welcomed the call for an independent body.
“I am looking forward to perhaps finding out why so little was done originally,” he said.
“There are people out there that know who assaulted me and NSW Police have never attempted to find them.”
Police say they have no proof to link officers to his case.
Upper house Labor MP Penny Sharpe said: “There’s no doubt the police have moved a long way but as we saw what happened with Mardi Gras it’s a fragile relationship and I think clearing up some of those things from the past would actually help make it better in the future.”
ACON chief executive Nicolas Parkhill denied the call for an independent body showed current engagement with the police wasn’t working.
He said working with the police was “critical” but there were valid concerns surrounding previous investigations and policing of the community
“Our relationship with the police has a 30 year history, it’s an ongoing relationship and it’s always about negotiation,” he said.
“There are going to be things we don’t see eye-to-eye on but I don’t see that having a negative impact on ACON’s relationship with the police.”
Upper house Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi said the party had long campaigned for more oversight of the police’s work while Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith said he would be working with his colleagues across the house to push for the creation of the complaints body.
Main photo: L-R: Upper house Labor MP Penny Sharpe, ACON chief executive Nicolas Parkhill, Coogee state Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith, upper house Nationals MP Trevor Khan, NSW GLRL convenor Justin Koonin, Sydney state independent MP Alex Greenwich, and upper house Greens MP Mehreen Faruqi. (Photo: Benedict Brook; Star Observer)