Cops engage in 'serious misconduct' after pulling over women
TWO police officers engaged in "serious misconduct" when they racially abused an Afghan woman and her stepmother after pulling their car over in western Sydney, the force's watchdog has found.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has published its report into the traffic stop on April 20 this year involving two senior constables in a police car with flashing lights and a silver Holden Barina.
Footage recorded by body-worn and in-car videos captured the torrent of "rude and disrespectful" behaviour.
The first policeman, called Officer 1, launched into the "discourteous" attack from the get-go.
"You have to be the most stupidest (sic) person I've met as a driver of a motor vehicle," he tells the 24-year-old female driver from the side of her car.
"We're in pursuit with you because you would not stop … you've lost your licence."
The driver replies: "I'm sorry … I'm sorry. I didn't actually know. I wasn't sure."
Officer 1 claims the older female passenger wasn't wearing a seatbelt when they drove past and the driver's P-plates aren't correctly displayed.
He demands they produce identification but is told the older woman came from overseas and is on a temporary visa.
"We're taking her back to jail anyway," he says.
"Where's your bag? Where's her wallet? I don't care where your home is, at this stage you're under arrest for driving in a negligent manner.
"Do you understand that? Hop out of the car. (To Officer 2) Whack the cuffs on her."
The two women appear confused at times and the driver questions what is happening.
"Don't argue with me love or you'll be going back in the paddy wagon as accessory to bloody murder," Officer 1 says.
"This is ridiculous."
He yells at other people who arrive at the scene to "go away", "go home" and "go inside".
The driver tells Officer 2: "I swear to God that I didn't know where to stop.
Officer 2 says: "Well what's your religion? OK, swear to Allah".
The driver replies: "I swear to Allah, I didn't know."
"Yeah right," Officer 1 interjects.
When the driver's stepmother tries to talk, the officer says "I don't care, you go back to jail" and accuses her of "telling fibs" after he asks her age and where she lives.
When the driver tries to assist, Officer 1 tells her: "Do your maths."
"Your Mum has 30 seconds to tell me her date of birth or we're on the way to Rosehill police station.
"Contact someone to get her passport down here, she'd have an Afghan passport.
"You (the older woman) ring someone. Tell them to get your passport down here now or you go back to the police station."
When Officer 2 is told the older woman is visiting her family in Australia, he says: "Oh, so she's committed an offence whilst on a temporary visa? Aid and abet."
In the last seconds of the video, Officer 1 unleashes yet again with threats of prison.
"Don't you get aggro or you'll be in the back of a divvy (divisional van) going back to the jail," he tells the female driver.
"Don't take advantage of our system.
"This is ridiculous."
The LECC report stated: "Officer 2 appeared by his demeanour to agree with this sentiment."
After the incident, the 24-year-old woman was issued five traffic infringement notices for negligent driving, not indicating left when exiting a roundabout, driving with an unrestrained adult passenger, not obeying police direction and not complying with conditions of her licence.
She was a student with no criminal history and worked to pay for her studies and support her family - part of the Muslim Afghan expat community living in Sydney's western suburbs, the LECC said.
In evidence given privately to the commission in July, Officer 1 agreed that his "accessory to bloody murder" comment was a stupid thing to say.
He admitted he was angry and "lost his cool" but denied attempting to bully and intimidate.
Officer 1 agreed he breached the force's code of conduct by being "out of line" on that day.
The commission said his remarks were "totally wrong and disrespectful".
It also found his conduct was "partially motivated by and exhibited racial prejudice".
In his evidence, Officer 2 said he believed it was "within the rule of law" for a police officer to take someone to jail if they couldn't provide ID within 30 seconds.
He also believed an officer was entitled to take someone into custody for being "aggro".
"Even if, as in this case, there was no breach of the peace," the LECC said.
The driver, in her complaint to the NSW Police Force, said comments were also made by the officers that weren't included in the videos, including allegations there were drugs in the car and "If they were in Afghanistan, they would be gunned down".
More than seven minutes of the 12-minute traffic stop were not recorded.
"Officer 1 did not recall, but did not deny, saying to (the two women) that if they had been stopped in Afghanistan they would be shot from behind," the LECC report states.
"Nor did he remember Officer 2 saying those words."
Both men were found by the force's watchdog to be "unfit for purpose as a police officer".
But Officer 1's determination was clarified as being "presently unfit" to deal with the public.
"The Commission finds that both Officer 1 and Officer 2 engaged in serious misconduct during the relevant traffic stop," the LECC stated, noting breaches of the Police Act, Code of Conduct and Ethics, and provisions of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act.
The commission found that charging the driver with failing to indicate "when the circumstances - proceeding straight through the roundabout - justified an exercise of discretion" amounted to bullying. It said the five charges laid were "excessive multi-layering".
The LECC was also concerned about the "ripple effect" the police misconduct would have on members of the Afghan-Australian community.
"The people who hear of this incident are likely to form a very adverse view of police officers and, as a result, be wary of or even aggressive towards those officers with whom they come into contact," the report said.
A police spokeswoman said a formal response to the findings would be provided in due course.
"The NSW Police Force acknowledges the recent reports published by the LECC and will consider all recommendations," she said.