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Issue #1652      August 20, 2014

Rant sparks claim

An Aboriginal activist has lodged a human rights abuse claim against a police officer, using discrimination laws the federal Attorney General had wanted to scrap. Queensland Senior Constable Leanne Rissman used the fake Facebook account Anne T Sharia to make abusive and racially offensive remarks on Yamatji woman Joyce Capewell’s page Boomerang Justice.

Photo: Avante Media Australia

Senior Constable Rissman wrote “have a look at the Aust bureau of statistics of deaths in custody. Aboriginals are a tiny minority of those deaths purported to occur but are overly represented in the prison system, so why the hell all the who har over black deaths in custody when the bulk of deaths are WHITES!”

Disparaging

She also made abusive and disparaging remarks about people on welfare and Aboriginal people’s abilities to look after their children. Ms Capewell told the Koori Mail that soon after seeing the racist rant on New Year’s Day and discovering the woman was a police officer, she made a formal complaint to the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and wrote to Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion, Queensland Police Minister Jack Dempsey and Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

“That woman has no right to be wearing a badge,” Ms Capewell said.

“I worked for 20 years in the prison system and I’ve attended deaths in custody and what she wrote affected me deeply. I’d like to see her sacked. I’ve no trust in her ability as a policewoman.”

The QPS said the officer made “inappropriate remarks” while off duty.

“The QPS takes complaints of this nature seriously, not only as a reflection on the specific individual’s conduct but also because of the potential to negatively impact on the confidence of the community in its police service,” police said in a statement.

The statement said the officer underwent a number of cultural awareness training programs and was relocated to alternative duties in a larger regional centre under “direct supervision”.

Ms Capewell has not received an apology.

Lawyers for Ms Capewell have lodged a complaint against the officer and the QPS with the Australian Human Rights Commission. Lawyer Peter Black said she is seeking $250,000 in compensation for the hurt caused by the offensive remarks.

He said the comments were racially offensive and contravened section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, one of the parts that Attorney General George Brandis had wanted to wind back after proclaiming that people had the right to be a bigot.

Before last year’s election, the Coalition had promised to repeal section 18C which makes it unlawful to “offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people” because of their race or ethnicity.

However, Prime Minister Tony Abbott dumped the controversial changes.

A senior police officer from the northern region and the Ethical Standards Command were also investigating “all matters relating to this officer”.

Koori Mail

Next article – ANZAC Centenary and the CPA response

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