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Restoring order?

23 November, 2009

The Crime and Misconduct Commission has released its report – Restoring order: crime prevention, policing and local justice in Queensland’s Indigenous communities. Download the report here.

The words ‘restoring order’ are unfortunate and contribute to a discourse of control. It continues on from where Peter Beattie left off with his Five point plan for Palm Island of which the first and absolute priority was to restore law and order. It is as questionable now as it was then, whether the community would have felt much safer after this ‘threat’ of further over-policing. The report states there were two catalysts for this inquiry:

The first was the aftermath of events that followed the death of Cameron Doomadgee (Mulrunji) in the police watch-house on Palm Island, the riots and the other controversy that has followed. The second was the rioting against police that occurred in Aurukun in January 2007 after allegations were made by a man that he had been assaulted by police during his detention in the watch-house.

Both catalysts for the inquiry were brought about by the state ‘restoring order’. So is the answer to restoring order, restoring more order. It may be simplistic, but could the answer lie in the treatment of individuals in police custody? Here, one person died and another was allegedly assaulted in police custody and this precipitated any riot or civil unrest. The findings of the coronial inquest into the death of Mulruji included:

The starting point for consideration of any comments must be by reference to recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody. It is reprehensible that the detailed recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody should have to be referred to, so many years after the Royal Commission. The evidence is clear however that these recommendations are still apt and still ignored.


8. The decision to arrest Mulrunji and the evidence of Senior Sergeant Hurley discloses a lack of awareness of, and a failure to take into account, the recommendations of the RCIADIC relating to the arrest of Aboriginal people for drunkenness and public order offences. The Police Commissioner should consider whether this reflects upon police training generally or a need for further training of Senior Sergeant Hurley and the other officers who gave evidence at this inquest.

Arrest should be a last resort and it is time to stop merely having ‘regard’ to RCIADIC and actually implementing the recommendations.

Eleswhere. Andrew Bartlett on Queensland’s CMC, police and Palm Island.

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