“Don’t Take Advantage of Our System”: Racist Traffic Cops Lay Bare NSW Police Culture

by Paul Gregoire

Recently released footage shows NSW police officers driving around metropolitan Sydney, pulling people over a young woman and confronting her in such a manner that one would think she’d committed a heinous crime, rather than some minor traffic offences that hurt no one.

Indeed, the two officers that stopped the 24-year-old woman, and her passenger – her stepmother, who had just migrated to the country – reveals a lack of professionalism from people in positions of authority, ready to take their bad day out on anyone, with relish.

When the state employs people to patrol the community, equipped with weapons – guns, tasers, batons, handcuffs – it should be expected that they have a level of training and awareness that enables them to keep their prejudices in their back pocket.

Yet, these two senior constables were gleefully wearing their bigotry on their sleeves. The pair were racist and condescending in their taunts aimed at the two Afghan women. And they were certainly getting off on intimidating their victims.

The two officers – who one could assume aren’t alone in their conduct – have been the subject of a Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) investigation. And while the state’s police watchdog has recommended disciplinary action, the final decision is left up to the NSW Police Force (NSWPF).

Reclaiming the roads

The incident happened on 20 April. Footage captured on an officer’s body worn video camera shows a car with two women wearing hijab pulled over in Brisbane Street, Harris Park. The driver stopped after police had been following for two minutes, as she’d allegedly performed an illegal U-turn.

As he approached the car, the first senior constable opens up with, “You have to be the most stupidest person I’ve met as the driver of a motor vehicle.” Of course, no one corrected the man with the gun over his use of the wrong comparative, which should have been most stupid.

The first officer then demands ID. The driver explains that her stepmother doesn’t have any, as she’s just migrated. But, the officer doesn’t listen and continues to demand identification from the older woman who obviously can’t understand him, and he goes onto threaten her with prison.

Then the second officer gets in on the action. After questioning the driver as to why she didn’t stop straightaway, he tells her to hand back her licence if she doesn’t know “how to drive on Australian roads”. And he also suggests she “swear to Allah” that she’s telling the truth.

The second officer further threatens to take the older woman to “Villawood”: the immigration detention centre.

Meanwhile, the first officer is still on a roll. Despite the fact that the older woman who has just arrived from Afghanistan can’t understand what he’s saying, he continues to demand her age, and then he accuses her of telling “fibs”.

“Don’t get aggro with me or you’ll be in the back of a divvy van going back to the gaol,” the first officer threatens the younger woman, who’s hardly being aggressive. And he goes on to end the taped confrontation with, “Don’t take advantage of our system”.

The outtakes

The driver made an official complaint to the LECC. And it picked up the investigation. The young student, who is a member of the Afghan expat community in western Sydney, claimed that the officers made further offensive remarks after the camera had been switched off.

The officers are said to have questioned what police in Afghanistan would do to the women in similar circumstances, and then suggested they’d be shot from behind. They also implied there were drugs in the car, and that the younger woman had a record, although, she has no prior convictions.

The LECC investigation concluded that based on the way the officers were acting in the footage, it was “satisfied” that the unrecorded comments “were likely to have been said”.

And after they’d gotten their frustrations out of their systems, the officers issued the 24-year-old P-plate driver with traffic infringements notices for driving with an unrestrained passenger, negligent driving, not obeying police directions, not complying with licence conditions and not signalling.

Raptor 13

The first officer – who was wearing the body camera and therefore, can’t be seen – has been identified as senior constable Andrew Murphy, who’s notorious for his tough cop behaviour. He goes by the moniker Raptor 13.

The nickname relates to being a member of Strike Force Raptor: an operation established back in 2009 to deal with outlaw motorcycle gangs. And constable Murphy has built up a following due to his forceful policing methods that have been captured on film in the past.

However, it seems that too much time on the frontline policing bikies might have resulted in the same policing methods being applied when dealing with a young woman who’s mistakenly breached traffic rules, and her passenger, who’s been given an interesting glimpse into life in her new country.

Policing their own

The LECC found both senior constables were “unfit for purpose” as police officers. The pair had engaged in serious misconduct, and they’d breached the Police Act 1990 (NSW), the NSWPF Code of Conduct and Ethics, as well as the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW).

The commission recommended that the officers should be disciplined under section 173 of the Police Act, which can involve a demotion or the deferral of a salary increase. But significantly, it didn’t recommend section 181D discipline, which can lead to dismissal or a fine.

However, the LECC only has the power to conduct investigations, produce findings and make recommendations. It’s now up to NSWPF to decide on what – if any – disciplinary action is taken.  

And it might be remembered that right-wing politicians espousing racist views are often scrutinised over the influence they’re having on your garden variety “patriots”. Yet, it’s these same suburban communities being patrolled by racist cops that produced the Christchurch killer.

Author

Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He has a focus on human rights issues, encroachments on civil liberties, drug law reform, gender diversity and First Nations rights. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, he wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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