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Byron Shire
May 31, 2023

Greens police meeting out of order, says ALP candidate

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Ballina councillor and candidate for ALP state seat preselection, Keith Williams. Photo supplied

Ballina’s Deputy Mayor Keith Williams taken a swing at Greens MLC David Shoebridge for hosting a public meeting to ‘call police to account’ following recent social media posts of alleged police beatings of drug affected young people in Byron Bay.

Cr Williams described last night’s meeting at the Suffolk Park Hotel as ‘an insult to the police officers forced to deal with people affected by ice and drug induced psychosis’.

The councillor, who recently announced his candidature for ALP state seat preselection, said there were ‘a number of internal and external mechanisms for review of police behaviour and these processes have commenced in relation to the recent, widely shared footage of an incident in Byron Bay.’

‘What is not appropriate is police being subject to trial by social media, egged on by a parliamentarian who should know better,’ Cr Williams said.

Mr Shoebridge told media ahead of the meeting that, ‘with the appalling footage of Byron Bay police violently beating a 16-year-old teenage boy, we’ve been overwhelmed by questions about how this can happen and how we can hold the police to account.

‘Nothing can justify this excessive use of force. How can we ensure there is a genuinely independent police investigation? What kind of training are police getting on the use of force?’ he questioned.

Drug policy

But Cr Williams said the overriding issue was to ‘ensure we are making sufficient resources available to our police, mental health, ambulance, drug and alcohol services and other health workers to ensure their safety while they’re at work. We ask these people to do a difficult job: keeping them safe is our responsibility.’

He ventured further, however, calling for ‘a thorough review of our out-dated drug laws’.

‘We have spent millions chasing people growing cannabis on the North Coast. How much better off would our community be if those resources were directed towards ice and other methamphetamine-derived nasties?’

He described NSW’s existing drug laws as ‘a complex area that intersect our health services and our police.’

Appearing to step beyond ALP policy, he added, ‘we need to focus on minimising the harm to individuals and the community, listen to expert advice and review strategies that have worked elsewhere.’

The real problems

‘Most people that I speak to are concerned at the lack of police resources to respond to the real problems in our communities; youth gangs in Alstonville and Ballina, alcohol fuelled violence on the streets and domestic violence and sexual assault that are the greatest threat to the health and life of women aged 24-44 in our community.’

‘Our police and other emergency and health services do a difficult job and need our support. We need to give them the resources they require and ensure they’re working with up-to-date laws that better reflect the realities of modern society,’ Cr Williams said.

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  1. If he had actually been at the meeting, then he would have seen that his concerns were not warranted, as this was not a mud-slinging meeting, it was actually a very considered discussion about what assistance that the police need and in particular, training so that they can better manage mental health situations. I was there, as were around 10 others, all of whom were there for positive reasons, as people who do either work on the front-line, or who work with services. This looks to me like Ballina’s Deputy Mayor Keith Williams is just jumping on a bandwagon without any true insight into what that meeting last night was actually about. No one was there to belittle the police, in fact quite the opposite. There was not one person there who did not acknowledge that the police have a very difficult job and particularly in Byron Bay, as a tourist destination with a high level of alcohol and drugs often involved. Byron Bay as a community does have cause to question the actions that were seen in the video footage regarding the police actions towards the 16 year old boy, and in fact anyone should and yes, the processes of investigations of matters like this do need to be reviewed, as any processes in any organisation should be, where a critical incident has taken place that involves a high level of violence, but obviously in this case, it is of particular interest due to the fact that this was a child, a naked child and there has been little information given as yet to justify the level of violence in the video footage. David Shoebridge pointed out last night that he could count at least 16 times where the baton came down on that boy, ACA claimed there were more hits than that, but let’s turn that around and ask if it was a member of the public, who beat a police officer with an object like that 16 times, how would that one be seen? Call a spade a spade, this was excessive force and I doubt that anyone who saw that footage would see otherwise, and this does need explaining and it does warrant an investigation. But part of David’s point of the meeting, was, how should that investigation take place? Should it be investigated internally at a local level, or even by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission which is still essentially an internal body, or should there be some form of completely independent external investigations in cases like this. He raised a lot of very valid points, and in no way did David Shoebridge or anyone else at the meeting dismiss the difficult job the police have in dealing with extreme incidents, involving mental health and/or drug induced violent behaviour.

  2. The point should be made once the girl was down
    What happened after that was un necessary .
    That’s the point excessive restraint was used.

  3. Can someone explain why batons were used against someone who are suffering agony of their mind ?
    How did the cops not know that the person they baton charged wasn’t suffering from a legitimate medical condition bought on by the withdrawal symptoms of prescription only opioid medication that Doctors are prescribing for pain .
    I congratulate David Shoebridge for starting a constructive conversation that can only do good for our society and front line Public Servants in that we can understand each other that we have a problem that violent Police cannot cure seeing the Police themselves keep telling us that one punch can kill so what difference to that one punch to a baton beating by Public Servants who’s responsibility is to protect us from this crap ?

  4. Talking about making the most of Police resources , I was on the XPT last Friday and 5 ( Yes 5 ) Police and a sniffer dog got on at Coffs Harbour and walked the entire train twice looking for anyone who might have had a joint somewhere in their clothing , 2 people were arrested and disembarked at Grafton Station , presumably to be formally charged . While these 5 Police were busy doing this , how many real victims of crime were there waiting for a Police response ???


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