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Saturday, August 27, 2011

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

On Friday evening, one of my housemates arrived home around 10pm, a little under the weather but also greatly upset about something. We had a bit of a chat. He seemed calmer and went to his room. Shortly afterwards, he began shouting and screaming.

I have had manic episodes in the past and I have been around others who have had them. And this is just what that sounded like. I stepped outside to try and think about what to do next. At that point I found something outside belonging to my housemate that was of great value to him. It had been torn to pieces. This wasn''t just a result of a drunken lashing out or something but a deliberate and sustained effort to achieve that degree of demolition. Then the stereo went on - loud. He has never done that before at night, being too considerate of others in the house. And the shouting and screaming were going on over that.

By now, I was getting really worried. Walking  around puzzling over what to do  next, I saw a police car  arrive at the complex.  I approached the two police officers who exited the vehicle wanting to speak to them and get their opinion. Initially they did not want to, explaining they had been called to a disturbance elsewhere. But after explaining my concerns about the extent of my friends outburst, they agreed to come and have a listen. However by the time we were back at my place, all had gone quiet. I said if he had enough control to turn the stereo off then things can't be quite as bad as I thought. I apologised for wasting their time and the police gave me every indication that they were now leaving, telling me to call them if any problems arose.

I now walked up to the nearby vending machine for a can of drink. By the time I had returned to the house no more than three minutes had passed but there were now seven police at the rear of the building. I was first introduced as the person who had called them. What? I soon put that straight. I hadn't called anyone and they then backpedalled, admitting that they had originally been called for something else.

I insisted that all was now quiet and there was no problem. But I had seven police, all taller than me (including the single female officer) and staring me down, continually insisting that they needed to enter the premises to do a welfare check. I refused, again insisting that all was now quiet. They continued to argue with me that this was essential.

I then stated I did NOT want all of them coming into the house as that would only be provocative and cause trouble with someone who was already obviously upset over something. Two police then accompanied me back into the house. Perhaps foolishly, I left the rear door open. I pointed the two towards the relevant bedroom door and then stepped back out of their way. Next thing, four more police decided to let themselves into the building and went trooping down the passage to join their colleages.

When my housemate opened his bedroom door, he was now confronted by six police, all grouped around him and staring him down.

According to the subsequent police report, all they were doing was a welfare check. What complete bullshit. The report implies they had no knowledge the individual had been drinking, until during or after the welfare check. Yet more bullshit as they had gotten that out of me earlier.

The police approach in supposedly doing this 'welfare check' and their report says that was all they were doing, was to be hostile, aggressive, demanding and interrogative. I was becoming furious now. They had conned their way past me, not to do any welfare check, but to very obviously act in a provocative manner. They got what they were after. I defy anyone to keep their cool in front of that. At one point my housemate was accused of spitting on one of the officers. Excuse me - I had a clear view of that supposed deliberate spitting. He was answering a question for fuck's sake and a stray bit of spittle may have gone from his lips and landed on the officer's front. That hardly justifies accusing him of deliberately spitting! Yet my housemate apologised and said he had not meant to spit. He admitted to being upset but was not that keen on revealing all the details. He asked the police to come into his room for a talk. They flatly refused.

In the end, they got what they wanted. All of a sudden, my housemate was swamped, handcuffed and dragged away under arrest. As they were leaving, I asked why had they all come into the house and thus directly causing that confrontational situation that I had repeatedly stated I wanted to avoid. I was fed some b.s. that all officers 'called' to an incident 'must' be present in the building. What a load of crap. For that matter, they were not 'all' in the building. Only six entered - the seventh went around to the front of the building and we later realised had let himself into the greenhouse attached to the front of the building. He left both front and back doors open and we found numerous pot plants knocked to the ground and damaged.

I made repeated calls during the night trying get through to the Watch House, to check on my housemate's state and try to the get message across that  I was greatly concerned about his mental state. I finally got someone at the City (Canberra) station talking to me. In response to my concerns, I was basically told 'don't worry your little head about that' sort of thing.

I attended court the next morning in an attempt to try and give evidence in a bail hearing. For reasons that still escape me, the magistrate refused to hear that particular application, requiring it to be held over until Monday. My housemate has now been transferred to a gaol just out of town. He is still wearing the same clothes he wore on Friday and I have no way of even getting a change of undies to him. All I can hope is that someone at the court may allow me to give them a change of clothes for him to change into down in the cells before being brought before the court Monday morning.

I should note that while waiting for my housemate's application to be heard, I listened to one made by another person who had breached their bail conditions, being found highly intoxicated in the city centre the preceding evening, despite bail conditions of (a) not entering the CDB between the hours of 7pm and 6am, (b) not consuming alcohol and (c) not entering any licensed premises. Their explanation for why they had breached all three was "I forgot." But it gets better. They then denied entering any premises, arguing that they only drank what they were able to get outside on the street! Oh yeah, we all manage to get skin-full walking around the street. "Hey mate - got a spare schooner? Can you spare a rum and coke, missus?"

To my amazement, the magistrate bought this crap, continuing that individual's bail and letting them go.

Meanwhile, my housemate, who was arrested as a result of my concerns about his mental health, only because I was conned by the police into allowing them into the house, not to do any welfare check but to engineer a confrontation which is what they bloody well did, was refused a hearing and is now sitting in gaol.

I then got to see what I can only call, police stupidity.

An accused drug dealer was also facing a bail hearing. The police opposed him being granted bail. Given the amount of drugs found on the premises, I don't blame them. However the main thrust of their argument as to why he should not be granted bail was that he did not have any income including no welfare receipts, did not have any employment and thus would continue to deal. The police evidence had already stated that they had been investigating this individual for some time. Yet when questioned by the legal aid representative, who had only had a quite short to question her client that morning, the police admitted not knowing he had been in full-time employment until two weeks ago, thus, according to the Legal Aid rep, some of the money found in the premises was part of his final payout. Next the Legal Aid rep asked if they had checked with Centrelink to ascertain the precise state of her client's receipt or non-receipt of welfare monies. No, was the admission. Well if you had, advised Ms Legal Aid, you would have discovered that my client is not only a full-time student, he has an application for AusStudy before Centrelink, currently waiting on the outcome.

I sure as hell don't want drug dealers walking free. But if this is an example of how well the Australian Federal Police investigate a criminal matter, then God help us all. No wonder the Australian Capital Territory has one of the worst conviction rates going around!

I became even further incensed in listening to the police report of the incident at my place the night before. They claimed to have been expressly called to the house in relation to a disturbance. Bullshit. They implied that they had no knowledge of alcohol consumption until during or after the welfare check. Even more bullshit. Not only had they managed to get that out of me earlier, one of the officers subsequently asked me to make a statement about that consumption of alcohol for the police to use against my housemate. In view of their earlier behaviour, I did something I have never done before. I flatly refused a police request. It should also be noted that this report made no mention of my repeated concerns about my housemate's mental health, nor that I had made repeated calls during the night to try and ascertain his state of health and continuing to express those concerns.

On arriving at the court, I had with me some of the remains of the item he had torn to pieces as evidence of my housemate's state of mind. These were some shreds of light wood, some 3mm thick. Security refused to let me bring them into the building as they were a security risk. For crying out loud, I could have done more damage with the pen in my pocket, or the keys in my pocket or the clipboard and pad in my backpack, but they were allowed in. But not evidence relevant to the hearing!

How on earth can we be expected to respect the police and the judicial process when stunts like these are pulled? The law is supposed to be blind - not entirely fucked up! But then again, this is the same system that happily let a notorious drunkard sit as a Justice.

I have already lodged a written complaint to the AFP's Professional Standards area about the conduct of those officers. I can only hope that Monday morning's hearing will be conducted in a much more sensible manner.

Of course, I also have to live with the fact that it was my actions and my letting myself get conned by the police that directly resulted in my mate being dumped in gaol.

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