The NSW police kicking a father out of an A-League game and later covering their tracks is not an outlier. Their heavy-handed approach has been frequently noted.
I believe in the idea of the police force. I don’t subscribe to the belief that “all cops are bastards” or that we would be better off getting rid of the police altogether. That naïve idealism, however, is pretty battered by now.
While it’s true that we do not, in Australia, deal with the extent of shootings of unarmed people of colour, like our cousins in the United States, we do have insane and indefensible rates of incarceration of our First Nations peoples, as well as a system designed to criminalise the lives of anyone who isn’t white and neurotypical.
This last part was exemplified over the weekend when Rory Carroll, after searching for a clean bathroom for his disabled daughter. Carroll says the police “screamed at” him and the riot squad followed him to a nearby McDonald’s to “intimidate” him, in an incident that has left his daughter “traumatised”. Carroll later took to Twitter to blast the security presence at the match.
It seems it’s a question of getting people like me out of the game. pic.twitter.com/uvo95nX3yF
— Rory Carroll (@CarrollRory) May 12, 2019
“I know that some of those police officers did not wake up this morning expecting to be coming down so hard on 10 yr old troublemakers, but absurdly here we are,” he said. “The question I must now ask myself is why bother taking to my family to our stadiums?”
“Ten cops”, according to a Twitter user who was a witness to the event John Miles-Craig, were used to escort Carroll and his daughter from the premises. “What an absolute joke,” he wrote.
The assistant police commissioner, Mark Walton, for his part (in a wonderful example of cops protecting cops) has said that Carroll was trying to get into an area he did not have a ticket for in order to “purchase beer”, claiming that he did not have a valid ticket.
“Some information I have that was recorded, was that he was trying to enter that grandstand area where there was a greater variety of beer available than there was in the outer grandstand area,” he said.
Carroll has clapped back against this “hatchet job” stating that he was “not drinking beer” that night, as he was driving his children around, and even tweeted out a photo of his valid pass. He also posted a photo of one of the police officers, who had his hand resting on his firearm while talking to Carroll. Intimidating a man with your sanctioned weapon because you think he barged in somewhere to buy beer is the definition of excessive force.
“For the record, when driving kids a parent doesn’t usually drink. I was not drinking yesterday evening, I take my responsibilities as a driver seriously,” Carroll tweeted.
“To inpune otherwise is disgraceful. I needed to go and check the same toilet that my daughter uses for it’s cleanliness.”
Melbourne FC player Scott Jamieson tweeted in support of Carroll, and FFA board member Joseph Carrozzi said he planned to have the FFA investigate the matter.
Whatever turns up in this case – and you can guarantee there will be further attempts by the police to find a reason to turn Carroll into the villain in this situation – it cannot be disputed that the police reacted extremely poorly here. Our police force is, apparently, taught nothing about calmly resolving a situation without either violence, or the threat thereof.
The presence of the police anywhere only serves to make people – including myself – feel nervous, not safe. Another contemporary example would be the heavy-handed method of strip-searching citizens behind a plastic sheet at Central Station. At the time, Anti-drug dog campaign Sniff Off posted the images on Facebook, with the page admin confirming that there were around 15 police officers and a couple of drug dogs in place to give the order. Per another TBS article, “…statistics obtained in NSW parliament in July last year revealed that the employment of strip searches following a dog indication had doubled from 590 in 2016 to 1,124 in 2017. And these searches resulted in no illicit drugs in 64% of cases.”
Clearly, their heavier method of policing doesn’t work. It finds itself at odds with reality. Greens MP David Shoebridge (discussing the strip-search of Lucy Moore at a festival, where she was detained for an hour, strip-searched and eventually kicked out of the venue, despite Ms Moore not possessing any illicit drugs), “Once police start seeing strip searches as routine, that’s when the powers become even more likely to be abused. And we’ve seen that with that young woman,” Mr Shoebridge remarked. “This is what you get when you have police feeling like the government will let them do whatever they like.”
We now stand at many crossroads. One of them is whether we want our police to continue to be a Force, something like a hammer wielded by the government, a weapon designed to uphold a set of morals, rather than laws; or whether we want them to be a Service, something that helps and makes us feel safe, something that considers each person as real human being, rather than a thing to be suspected.