We invest billions of dollars every year into police forces nationwide. We give officers immense power, lethal weaponry and entrust them to uphold the law. But one Melbourne police officer is alleged to have betrayed that trust by taking the law into his own hands and murdering a man on the street.
Leading Senior Constable Tim Baker was patrolling the Melbourne suburb of Windsor in August 2013 when he stopped a car driven by 44-year-old Vlado Micetic after detecting that it had stolen numberplates.
Mr Baker says he attempted to perform an arrest, but Mr Micetic resisted and brandished a flick-blade knife. Baker then shot Mr Micetic while a female passenger who witnessed the incident fled the scene. As Baker was patrolling the streets alone, there were no other eyewitnesses, but in-car audio and visual footage was seized from the police car..
The shooting led to investigations by a number of bodies including the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission, the Coroner, the Homicide Squad, Victoria Police Crime and Professional Standards Command, and the DPP.
After almost two years, Mr Baker was arrested and charged with murder on Wednesday last week. He appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on the same day, where his criminal defence lawyer flagged possible mental health issues. Baker is next due to face court in January 2016.
Victoria Police Vow to Stand By Baker
Despite the seriousness of the allegations, spokespersons from Victoria Police have declared that they will stand by Mr Baker while the case continues.
Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, Graham Ashton, reminded members of the public to exercise caution before judging Mr Baker for his actions, saying that police are faced with a difficult environment each day when ‘facing critical incidents, often with very little notice and often in an emergency environment.’
And while Mr Baker has been suspended from duty pending the outcome of the prosecution, it appears that he will have his legal costs partially or fully funded by the Police Association, with spokesperson Ron Iddles issuing a media statement saying that ‘the Association will support him. This happened on duty and as such he’s entitled to funding from the Association cost fund.’
Other Police Facing Murder Charges
Mr Baker is not the first police officer to face murder charges. In April 2012, a Queensland officer fatally shot a 36-year-old man, after mistaking a replica gun for a real weapon.
Senior Constable Thomas Andrew McNaught Hess attended the home of Jason Protheroe to question him over allegedly stolen property. But the situation quickly escalated when Mr Protheroe pulled out a replica gun, causing Mr Hess to shoot him twice in the back and arm.
Mr Protheroe’s family were understandably upset and vowed to launch a private prosecution against Mr Hess. He was subsequently issued with a summons to appear in court in respect of murder and manslaughter charges.
Predictably, the union representing police officers hit back at the family’s decision to commence private proceedings, with President Ian Leavers expressing the view that ‘there is no case to answer’ as Mr Hess had been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Coroner, the Police Ethical Standards Committee and the Crime and Corruption Commission.
The family subsequently lost its bid to proceed with the charges, with the Brisbane Magistrates Court ordering the family to pay the legal costs borne by the Police Union.
A case that has received a great deal of media attention is the prosecution of former police officers Roger Rogerson and Glen McNamara.
Both men worked as Police Detectives, and are currently awaiting trial for the murder of 20-year-old Sydney student Jamie Gao. It is alleged that the men brutally killed Mr Gao in a Padstow storage unit in May 2014 after a drug deal went wrong.
The men appeared before the NSW Supreme Court in June this year, but the jury was discharged for unknown ‘legal reasons’ before Mr Rogerson’s defence counsel had the opportunity to make an opening address.
A second trial which was set to begin in August was also aborted after it emerged that barrister Charles Waterstreet, who was representing Mr McNamara, had posted a photo on his Instagram account making reference to the trial. Waterstreet was forced to withdraw from the case and may be charged with contempt in relation to the post, which presiding Justice Bellew stated could prejudice the rights of the accused to a fair trial.
A new trial date has been set for next year.