The police watchdog will investigate the conduct of four police who forcibly arrested a disturbed 16-year-old in Byron Bay last month.
As locals plan further protest action over alleged police brutality in the Shire following a second forcible arrest incident this week, the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) confirmed that it was going to review the January 11 incident.
‘The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) has received a number of complaints by members of the public about recent police events in Byron Bay which were reported in the media and has decided to investigate the circumstances surrounding the arrest of a young person on 11 January 2018, and the associated conduct of police officers,’ the commission said in a statement this morning.
It means that the incident will be the subject of a full, independent review rather than an internal review by senior officers from the Tweed Local Area Command as had previously been proposed by police.
The move suggests that either the LECC or NSW Police Minister Troy Grant have intervened in the case.
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge had said that he and many members of the public had ‘little confidence in an internal police investigation’.
The forceful arrest of the youth came to public attention on February 6, when Channel 9’s A Current Affair broadcast CCTV footage of the incident.
The footage shows an officer repeatedly striking the naked youth with a baton while three other police hold him down.
In a statement to the media, NSW Police said the officers had been called to the lane by residents at around 2.30am and arrived to find the youth, who appeared to be affected by drugs or alcohol, lying naked in street.
Police said the teenager then became aggressive, necessitating the use of capsicum spray.
The youth then allegedly attempted to assault the officers and was tasered, police said.
The statement made no mention of the officers striking the youth with their batons.
A small group of locals conducted a protest action outside Byron Police Station in response to the incident last week.
One of the protesters, Caterina Bosco, said she was ‘ashamed’ at the behaviour of the police, given that they were ‘supposed to be protecting us and upholding the law’.
‘It’s a disgraceful, sickening exhibition of police brutality,’ said Ms Bosco, who has lived in the shire for 18 years.
Another protester, Adaja Black (pictured), said the community wanted to know the truth about what happened and for justice to be served.
‘We want the CCTV footage to be examined by a trustworthy source,’ Ms Black said.
‘For what reason does the government exercise its right to surveil our lives other than for something like this – to find out the truth of what really happened?’
Local social media pages were awash with discussion about the incident last week.
While many expressed anger over the police’s use of force, others asked what might have led police to behave as they did.
Clarification: This story previously stated that there were plans for the V-Day rally to include a march to Byron Bay Police Station. The organisers of the rally say there were no so such plans.