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.
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