Criminal investigation launched into officers' conduct in Melbourne head-stomp arrest

| 15.09,20. 07:53 PM |

Criminal investigation launched into officers' conduct in Melbourne head-stomp arrest

The arrest was captured on video by a passing motorist.

Victoria's anti-corruption watchdog will take control of a criminal investigation into the actions of two officers who allegedly stomped on a man's head and hit him with a car during an arrest in Melbourne's north.

Footage of the man's arrest was posted to social media, including a moment when one of the officers making the arrest appears to stomp on the man's head as he lies on the ground, surrounded by other officers.

A second video showed the man running on the street and striking out at a police car before he was knocked over by another police vehicle.

At a press conference this afternoon, Deputy Commissioner Neil Paterson said he had viewed the footage online and footage from the body cameras of officers and concluded that it was an "inappropriate use of force by a police member with regard to the kick or the stomp to the head of the man involved in that incident".

"I've also formed the view that the use of force in using a police vehicle with the man involved in that incident is concerning," he said.

Deputy Commissioner Paterson said the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) would take over a criminal investigation into the matters and Victoria Police would hand its evidence and records to IBAC.

He said the officer who stomped on the man's head during the arrest had been suspended with full pay, while the officer driving the car that struck the man had had their authority to drive a police car withdrawn.

The suspended officer is a senior constable from the Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT), Victoria Police said in a statement this morning.

In a brief statement, IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich confirmed the police oversight agency would independently investigate the arrest.

"Given the potentially serious nature of this incident, IBAC has determined it is in the public interest to independently investigate this matter," he said.

Officers feared man may attempt a carjacking, police say
Deputy Commissioner Paterson said on Saturday around 9:00pm, the man had attended the Northern Hospital to seek treatment for a mental health issue.

At 4:00pm on Sunday, while he was still waiting to receive treatment, an incident occurred where the glass doors at the hospital were smashed by the man and police were called, he said.

"It was a very dynamic situation, with the man running amongst traffic, kicking a police vehicle, at one stage, he hops on the bonnet of a police vehicle and then we see the police vehicle hit the man and then members tackle the man to the ground," Deputy Commissioner Paterson said.

When pressed on whether the use of the car was appropriate, he said the man had been "extremely violent" at the hospital and police were concerned about the possibility he would attempt to carjack a vehicle.

"So they're looking at ways that they can protect the public, that they can stop the person, causing as minimum use of force or injury to that person at that time," he said.

"Now, I'm not going to guess the reasons for that officer, as to whether it was purposeful or not, because the investigation is in its initial phases and IBAC is now the investigating agency for that event."

He said while using a car to knock over a person was not part of police training, "it may well be appropriate once we understand the full set of circumstances and hear from the member involved in that incident".

Kicking a person in the head outside 'accepted training' for officers
He said while IBAC would conduct its own independent investigation into the arrest, Victoria Police would review the matter and its training policies.

But he said "using a kicking action or any action against the head of a person is not trained by Victoria Police, that is outside of our accepted training within Victoria Police".

Robinson and Gill principal lawyer Jeremy King, who is representing the arrested man, told the ABC yesterday his client had not committed a crime and was being treated for mental health issues at the time of the arrest.

"Really he's a person that the police should be dealing with in a very unique way," he said.

"They should be recognising that he's a vulnerable person and this isn't a situation … where police are pursuing an offender."

Mr King said the man, who was in an induced coma at the Northern Hospital yesterday, was now conscious and receiving a high level of care as doctors ran tests to assess his injuries.

Anti-corruption watchdog flagged concerns with CIRT in April
IBAC flagged concern over "ongoing and potentially systemic issues" within CIRT in an April report into the botched raid on the Hares and Hyenas bookstore, which ended in an innocent man's arm being badly broken.

"These issues include use of force, training and capability around key functions, and inadequacies in CIRT's policies and procedures," IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich said.

Commissioner Redlich asked then-chief commissioner Graham Ashton to report back on those issues by June, when IBAC would decide whether further action was necessary.

The ABC has contacted IBAC and asked whether the report was received, what was in the report and if further action was taken.

Police are urging anyone who witnessed the incident or has footage of it to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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