World News

Australian Officer Suspended After Police Car Hits Aboriginal Man

Posted May 10, 2018 1:06 p.m. EDT

PERTH, Australia — A senior sergeant in the Western Australia Police Force was suspended Thursday after an Aboriginal man was struck by a police car in Perth.

The move came after the release Thursday of video footage on the SBS network showing the man, William Farmer, 18, being closely followed by a female police officer in a yellow jacket as he walked across the road Sunday in a suburban area of south Perth.

As she continues to follow him, a white car backs out of a driveway, makes an abrupt turn and hits Farmer, who collapses in what appears to be a seizure. A male police officer then leaves the car and grabs Farmer, turning him over.

The episode came to light after Mervyn Eades, a relative of Farmer from the Nyoongar people, posted video of it on Facebook. In that footage, filmed from farther away, a woman gasps as the car hits Farmer, who rolls briefly out of sight.

Farmer had been wanted for questioning over a caller’s complaint of “suspicious activity” in the area, the police statement said. In the police account of the episode, they said that after a scuffle in which one officer was injured, Farmer fled and was arrested “after colliding with a police vehicle involved in the search.”

The officer, who was not identified, will be suspended from all operational duty pending the outcome of an investigation by the police force’s internal affairs unit, police said.

The family of the young man is extremely upset, said George Newhouse, a lawyer from the National Justice Project who is representing them. They are considering litigation, he said.

Farmer, who was taken to a hospital for treatment, did not have a previous history of seizures, Newhouse said, adding that he had been “seriously injured.”

“The WA police have one of the worst track records in this country for discrimination and prejudice against Aboriginal people,” he said. “The commissioner of police needs to come out with a very clear statement that violence against and harassment of Aboriginal people is not acceptable in his police force.”

West Australia’s police minister, Michelle Roberts, told reporters Tuesday that what happened was “very disturbing,” and pledged a thorough inquiry.

Others said the episode reflected a pattern of police mistreatment.

“This is not a singular incident. It has been going on for a very long time,” said Eades, chief executive of Ngalla Maya Aboriginal Corp., adding that if it had not been caught on video, it would have never been made public.

He referred to other cases, like that of Ms Dhu, a young Indigenous woman whose family was awarded a 1.1 million Australian dollars (about $822,000) after she died in custody in 2014.

“This is systemic racism, and my people have been bearing the brunt of it, and we are sick of it,” he said.