By Blake O’Connor and Ugur Nedim
A Brisbane police officer with a history of misconduct complaints has been given a ‘slap on the wrist’ after assaulting a disabled man while off-duty.
Senior Constable Michael O’Sullivan claims he saw the man, referred to as GTB, performing a dangerous U-turn and gave chase.
He approached the man at a Deagon petrol station and an argument ensued. The officer grabbed the man’s arm and pushed him to the ground, causing his head to hit a petrol bowser. The incident was witnessed by several members of the public who were shocked by the off-duty officer’s conduct, reporting that he shouted “I am the fucking police” as he assaulted GTB.
An internal police investigation found the officer’s conduct to be unsatisfactory, recommending that he be given a ‘suspended demotion’ – meaning he would be need to be of good behaviour for two years or have his rank downgraded to constable.
The matter was then referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, where member Michelle Howard found:
“I am satisfied that objectively the substantiated misconduct amounts to a serious misuse of power by a police officer against a member of the public. The misconduct was significant. The force used was inappropriate and excessive. His actions were distressing for Mr GTB and other witnesses. It was an incident which reflects poorly on the Police service”.
Despite her finding, Ms Howard handed the officer a 12 month ‘suspended pay cut’ – meaning he would need to be of good behaviour for one year or have his salary docked.
There is no suggestion the officer will face criminal charges over the incident.
History of misconduct
This is not the first time Senior Constable O’Sullivan has fallen foul of the law.
In July 2008, the officer was convicted of assault over an incident outside Caesar’s nightclub in the Brisbane CBD. O’Sullivan attended a disturbance at the venue, detained a man for ‘disturbing the peace’, sprayed him twice with capsicum spray and then struck him three times to the leg with his baton.
The Magistrate’s court agreed with the prosecution’s submission that O’Sullivan’s conduct was “excessive in the circumstances” and found him guilty of common assault.
That case is currently being appealed.
Just one of many complaints
The latest incident is just one of many involving officers of the Queensland Police Service in recent times.
Figures released in September 2016 suggest that Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission has been investigating 345 complaints received between May and August of that year, nearly 70% of which were against police officers.
Investigations have already resulted in 31 recommendations of disciplinary action against 10 officers. But as O’Sullivan’s case suggests, police officers will often get away with conduct for which ordinary members of the public might face criminal prosecution and significant penalties.
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