Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre
Police Accountability Project
Reports of police brutality, excessive use of force and human rights abuses are not new in Victoria. Community Legal Centres throughout Victoria have received, since their inception in the early 1980s, a constant stream of reports about excessive use of force and other human rights violations. In response to the ongoing reports, the Police Issues Working Group of the Federation of Community Legal Centres formed in 1983 to work collectively on the human tragedy these reports represent.
Along with other centres, police accountability has been a central concern of the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre since its inception in 1980.
Between 1987-1989 eleven people were shot dead by police in Victoria. The families of four of those killed lived or had close connections to the Flemington & Kensington area. In response to the killings, the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre commenced a community based campaign that saw it working closely with the families of the four deceased to support them through the coronial inquests that followed the deaths and to expose abuse and systemic failures in police actions and procedures.
In 2007 the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre established the Police Accountability Project.
The aim of this project is to:
a) Provide information to victims of police misconduct and the community about police misconduct, racial profiling, where to go for help, what to do if you are assaulted, and your rights and the police. We also draw on the local, national and international connections that exist in peoples experiences around the globe.
b) Campaign for the introduction of a fully independent, effective and human rights compliant police complaint system.
c) Increase the access of victims to justice through civil litigation and anti-discrimination mechanisms.
d) Assist victims to defend charges laid by police after they have made a complaint about police behaviour
e) Work with other legal centres, justice centres, universities, community groups, individuals, lawyers, advocates, youth workers and effected communities towards increasing the safety of the community in their interactions with police, the elimination of human rights abuses by police, and in getting effective remedies for people who have had their rights abused.
The Victoria Police Inquiry into racial profiling 2013
This inquiry is the first of its kind held by Victoria Police. Its outcomes have the potential to improve the interactions of police with Aboriginal, newly arrived and culturally diverse communities not only in Victoria but across Australia, as other police services take note of the Victorian response.
This historic opportunity is the result of a settlement between six courageous young men and Victoria Police as part of the Haile-Michael Federal race discrimination action. Broad participation from the community, in particular culturally and linguistically diverse young people, offers the greatest hope of this inquiry leading to substantial reform and the end of racial profiling in Victoria. Read more
2013 Race Discrimination Case
Haile-Michael v Konstantinidis was settled on Monday 18th February 2013 with a landmark agreement for Victoria police to publicly review its training and ‘field contact’ practises.
The agreement provided internal documents discovered during the lead up to the case and research commissioned specifically for the applicants to be publicly released. Read more
Complaints about Victoria Police
Since October 2005, the Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre has received over 50 reports of human rights abuses against African and Afghani Australians in the Flemington and surrounding regions.
Police behaviour reported to the legal centre includes assaults requiring hospitalization of victims, punitive beatings of handcuffed or otherwise restrained people, unlawful imprisonment, acts of torture and brutality within police stations, excessive use of force, unlawful searches, threats of sexual violence, unjustified use of capsicum spray, strip searches conducted after such threats are made, searches in unjustified and humiliating circumstances, racist and sexist comments, thefts of money and mobile phones, loss of vehicles, harassment, degrading and humiliating conduct and ill-treatment against racial and religious minorities. In some of the reports, children as young as 10 have been assaulted and mothers sprayed with capsicum spray.
People have reported being told by police to “get back to Africa,” “go home”, “we won’t stop till you are locked up”, you are a “terrorist”, a “monkey” and your Qu’ran is “shit”.
Reported and observed effects on individuals and witnesses to the violence have included intense paranoia, fear, refusal to leave the house, helplessness, loss of weight, dropping out of school, long term injuries, long term pain, scaring and deep distress at being in Australia, distrust of institutions. In some cases people have left Victoria and Australia rather than continue facing the degree of harassment they receive in Flemington at the hands of police. Some people have ongoing medical needs as a result of police misconduct that they cannot afford to fix.
In the words of a 16 year old Somali young person: "In my experience the police are racist. They are racist to black people. They think we are all gangsters. We are not gangsters. We are normal people. They should treat us like normal people. Since this incident [an allegation of severe beating by police] I haven't been sleeping properly. I've been paranoid. I've been hating cops. I don't want want to associate with police. I don't want anything to do with police."