NSW police has – yet again – been caught on camera phone footage administering rough justice.
This time the incident involves undercover officers in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta meting out a bit of physical punishment on a First Nations minor whilst waiting for the paddy wagon to arrive.
On hearing yelling from an enclosed shopping area around the local station, a member of the public started filming as they made their way up a small flight of stairs to where the noise was coming from. And there, they encountered three undercover cops and a young boy in their custody.
The handcuffed Indigenous youth is screaming, as one officer has an extremely tight grip on his left wrist from behind. Not yet a teenager, the boy is calling out and struggling in pain with tears streaming down his face, as the armed male officer maintains an unrelenting wristlock.
A number of young passers-by, as well as those known to the youth, plead with the officers to “stop hurting” him. But two of the plainclothes officers blankly stare on – like they’ve heard it all before – while a third walks towards another minor filming in an effort to make them stop.
“We’re in Parramatta. He’s really twisting this kid’s hand, like, so bad you can actually see the colour changing,” explains the civilian filming. “The colour of his hand is actually changing. I can see it.”
The third officer approaches the person filming, waving them on. The cameraperson responds that they won’t move as the colour of the boy’s hand is changing. The officer then says, “you have no idea”, seeming to imply that something has occurred to justify the adult harming the minor.
In the background the police van can be heard approaching with its siren. “No. I am not moving,” the person filming continues. “How old is he?” And another young onlooker calls out, “He’s 12.”
The police then walk the Aboriginal boy over to the van and place him in the back.
The cameraperson then crosses the road and questions other kids in the vicinity about the identity of the arrested minor.
In the midst of the questioning, they can be heard to say, “It’s the police who were actually assaulting this kid. What is he, 12 or something?” A youth standing by confirms the age.
A centuries-old practice
Over the last year, Middle Australia has grown in its awareness that state police forces have a habit of overstepping the mark, as it was clearly evidenced during the enforcement of COVID restrictions.
But for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, police overreach and excessive force is something they’ve been well aware of since the various police forces were established. And it’s this systemic racism that the Black Lives Matter demonstrations have been calling out since mid-2020.
Although a major difference these days is camera phone use is increasingly being used to expose this brutal and racialised policing.
Indeed, NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge recently told Sydney Criminal Lawyers that “the single best police accountability measure” that he’s “seen in the past two decades has been the mobile phone”, as it allows “ordinary members of the public to capture in real time what police are doing”.
As the cameraperson left the scene of the Parramatta incident, they said, “I have absolutely no idea what the kid did.”
But, as they made their way back through the crowds of shoppers, the observer made clear that “at the end of the day, the kid is a minor. They can’t do that, regardless. He is a minor and that is considered assault.”
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.