By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
Controversial police officer ‘Raptor 13’ has once again been accused of acting inappropriately by harassing and bullying members of the public, resulting in a petition which calls for a public inquiry into his conduct.
The senior constable, whose real name is Andrew Murphy, was recently caught on camera aggressively demanding that an elderly motorcyclist ‘move it’ and – when the grey-bearded man leaned slightly forward – forcefully shoving him with both hands, flanked by several other officers.
‘I have not touched you,’ the elderly man can be heard saying as the officers close in around him, with Murphy in the centre.
Other videos uploaded to social media show Murphy brandishing a metal pole at a driver during a routine traffic stop, pushing a woman, and drawing a taser on, and then searching, a group of mourners on their way to motorcycle club boss Mick Hawi’s funeral in Sydney last month.
Officers had a strong and many feel inappropriate presence at the event, photographing mourners at close proximity and searching many of them.
Murphy is also at the centre of allegations that he and 25 colleagues unjustifiably raided a car repair workshop and, without sufficient reason, put defect notices on every single car.
The owner uploaded video footage of the incident to social media, saying the officers came in asking about a previous customer and proceeded to do as they pleased.
Murphy is part of Strike Force Raptor, a police unit comprising 55 officers whose primary goal is to dismantle motorcycle clubs.
Calls for an investigation
The online petition says ‘Officer Murphy has gone too far and something needs to be done. Police should be protecting civilians instead of harassing them. Please sign, nothing will be done unless we stand up in numbers.’
While some have publicly commended ‘Raptor 13’s for his ‘direct’ approach, many believe his conduct is inappropriate and ‘out of control’; some going so far as to publish abuse and threats against the officer online.
Many believe a better approach is to work with the community, and groups within, rather than target and harass them.
The change.org petition has amassed more than 11,000 signatures in just a few days. It is aiming for 15,000.
Strike Force Raptor has been described as a ‘military-style’ policing unit due to the way its officers conduct themselves, which many feel amounts to unwarranted targeting and harassment.
The state unit was established in 2009 after a brawl at Sydney airport between motorcycle club members from the Comancheros and Hells Angels, which left one member dead.
The unit is made up of officers trained and briefed to target motorcycle clubs and their members.
To give police extra powers, the NSW Government enacted legislation around the same time as the unit was established, including controversial anti-consorting laws which make it a crime to communicate with people with certain criminal records. Many feel the legislation makes a mockery of the law and stands in the way of rehabilitation by persecuting people who have long since ‘served their time’.
Police are also empowered to use Firearms Prohibition Orders, Public Safety Orders and Serious Crime Prevention Orders to control motorcycle club members, including their movements, employment and associations.
The laws have made it easier for officers like Murphy to abuse their positions of power, and have led to large numbers of people being unfairly targeted and harassed in the absence of any evidence of criminal conduct.