Disturbing security footage from September 2017 has emerged of a disability pensioner being pinned down by several police officers, where the pensioner is repeatedly beaten and doused with water in the front yard of his Melbourne home.
Victoria’s assistant police commissioner Luke Cornelius has responded to the allegations made about officer misconduct in a press conference on Tuesday, April 3.
“When it was first shown to me last week, I was very concerned by what the vision depicted. The conduct displayed on the CCTV demanded examination and explanation,” he said during the press conference.
“The members involved clearly needed to be called to account for their conduct.”
Cornelius said he bad been advised by Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC) on Thursday, March 29, that they had received a complaint regarding the allegations and were investigating the incident.
The subject of the complaint was some CCTV footage released by The Age showing half a dozen police officers dragging a man — only known as John — out of his Melbourne house, then pinning him to the ground. He was then repeatedly beaten using an extendable baton and was sprayed with pepper spray. A police officer could then be seen using a hose to blast water continuously in John’s face.
Warning: Footage may be distressing for some viewers.
“He’s aiming for my nostrils and it’s going into my lungs — and that’s when I started choking from the water and from the hot mace going into my respiratory [system],” he told ABC 7.30.
“I couldn’t breathe.
“You can feel the mace and the water together in your lungs.”
Police were at John’s home for a mental health welfare check last September after his psychologist notified police because she was concerned about the man’s deteriorating mental health.
Police in Victoria are allowed to use force under the Mental Health Act to take a person who appears to have a mental illness to the hospital to keep them or others safe, according to Victoria’s Department of Health.
John said he felt “humiliated and degraded” after being subjected to the alleged assault, the man’s lawyers told 7News.
His lawyers said in a statement to 7News that during the police visit, John, who has a minor assault on his police record from 10 years ago, had not committed a crime and was not charged by police.
Cornelius said at the press conference that Victoria police welcomes any external scrutiny and are committed to addressing concerns which the wider community may have about police actions.
“[W]e recognise … that internal scrutiny is not in and of itself enough,” he said.
“Victoria police are very clear that we welcome external scrutiny and are committed to addressing concerns which the wider community may have about whether we are delivering police services to them in keeping with their expectations.
“Our officers make mistakes like anyone else, and when that happens, we seek to learn from them. When those mistakes are not mere mistakes but a result of intentional conduct then, of course, we seek to hold those officers to account.”
The IBAC inquiry is currently ongoing. Cornelius said he is unable to make further public comments on the incident until the investigation has been completed.
The assistant police commissioner said he welcomes anyone to raise their concerns about how they have been treated by police.
“[I]f there’s any citizen out there, who has as a result of hearing the reports today and seeing the CCTV footage, who may have concerns about how they were treated by police, I would welcome any reports or concerns they may raise with us so that they can be properly scrutinised,” he said.