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Byron Shire
March 9, 2021

Calls for crisis team to address street violence

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Adaja Black (left) is among 20 people to March on Byron Bay Police Station last week to protest police brutality. Photo ABC

Paul Bibby

Disturbed, drug-affected people in our local streets and parks should be assisted by trained mental health professionals, not forcibly arrested by ‘heavy-handed’ police, a local anti-violence campaigner said.

But a local police superintendent said it was police themselves who were at risk, stating that his officers had been assaulted more than 170 times in the past year.

As a second violent arrest in Byron Shire came to light last week, campaigner Adaja Black said the region needed a ‘crisis team’ that could intervene in such situations.  

‘We need a whole new unit that comes in before the police – trained drug and alcohol psychologists out there getting to the bottom of the issues,’ Ms Black said.

‘We need to look at how we can help these people in crisis situations, not just smack them across the head.

‘It really feels like it is their [the police’s] intention to silence them like bad children instead of reaching out to help these people whom society has forgotten.’

Ms Black was one of around 12 women who marched to Byron Police Station on February 14 to protest against violence by police.

The march followed the V-Day rally at Main Beach, but was not associated with that event.

Following the highly publicised arrest of a 16-year-old boy, which is now the subject of an independent investigation, the second arrest took place at Main Beach on February 12.

A video of the incident recorded by a passer-by shows an allegedly intoxicated 18-year-old woman being physically escorted up the stairs by a male and a female officer as the young woman’s boyfriend attempts to intervene.

There is a brief scuffle during which the female officer appears to strike or push the young woman on the back of the head. She falls to the ground and remains there, apparently unconscious, for a number of seconds.

Police said later that the female police officer was defending herself after the young woman had attempted to bite her. The video of the incident went viral last week, bringing further accusations of police brutality.

Police assaulted

But Superintendent Wayne Starling from Tweed-Byron Local Area Command said his officers had been assaulted more than 170 times in the past year.

‘[In] America, some of these incidents that have occurred lately, police would have shot the people involved,’ Superintendent Starling said in an interview with the ABC.

‘At the moment, I have 30 police who can’t strap on a gun. Fifteen of those police have physical injuries. They come to work each day. Many of them have slings, many of them have broken bones, and several have black eyes at different times. That’s the community they’re policing at the moment

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  1. I think Ms Black should enquire about accompanying police when they are out responding to these drug affected individuals so she can see the behaviour police have to deal with first hand. These situations don’t call for psychologists to talk to them about their problems. Their logical minds are severely affected. Mental health workers won’t attend situations where there are identified risks, e.g. getting injured. Police are trained to de-escalate situations. They are pretty good at it. I’m not defending heavy-handed tactics, but then again, I wasn’t there facing the violence so I am unable to make an informed comment. People who take drugs have to assume responsibility for their actions. It seems that Ms Black assumes that all drug users who come to the attention of the police are “people whom society have forgotten”.
    I have current experience of trying to safely care for some of these, often psychotic, individuals who need containment in a mental health facility. It’s a regular experience. It’s not a favourite part of my work – abuse, threats & violence is commonplace. Occasionally, some of these people even require intubation & placement in an intensive care unit because they are so violent that they cannot be managed safely until the drugs lose their effect.
    Social media doesn’t always show the whole story.

  2. “‘[In] America, some of these incidents that have occurred lately, police would have shot the people involved,’ Superintendent Starling said in an interview with the ABC.
    ‘At the moment, I have 30 police who can’t strap on a gun. ”

    I invite Starling and the rest of the morons who share his views to please migrate to America, where this type of thuggery is still tolerated.
    There is another way, called ‘community policing’ but that requires the police to act honourably and decently in order to deserve the respect and co-operation of the public. As the police have been “assaulted”
    170 times , it seems they have a long way to go to learn this art.

  3. A major problem is Doctors prescribing opioids for pain relief that cause the reason why Police are called to take that person into custody for their protection when they are out of their minds , 300,000 Americans have died from prescription opioids since 2000 .
    No person should have to be injured in their line of work and that includes the Cops the Ambo’s or whoever else who come in contact with people who are undergoing a panic attack brought on by the withdrawal symptoms of prescribed opioid medication .
    Read the Pembleton Report and watch the law suits mounting against drug manufacturers in the US for the death and mayhem they have caused world wide including us .


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