ABC: Queensland police culture needs independent review after another fatal shooting, civil libertarian Michael Cope says

After a fifth fatal shooting in less than six months, a civil libertarian has voiced concern “something is going wrong” inside the Queensland Police Service.

Key points:

  • Queensland police have shot five people dead in less than six months
  • The Australian Institute of Criminology says there are an average of 4.7 fatal police shootings a year in Australia
  • Michael Cope is calling for a review of Queensland police practice and culture

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said more people had died at the hands of Queensland police this year than occurred nationally on average.

Officers shot dead Raghe Mohamed Abdi, 22, on the Logan Motorway yesterday morning while Mr Abdi was suffering what his lawyer Terry O’Gorman described as “a significant adverse mental health event”.

Queensland police and Australian Federal Police said yesterday that when he was shot, Mr Abdi was on bail, had cut off a GPS tracker, and that he had been stopped and arrested at Brisbane International Airport on suspicion that he had been “influenced by Islamic State”.

Mr O’Gorman, who is also president of the Australian Council of Civil Liberties, condemned the “deplorable practice” by police “to paint the person that they’ve shot and killed in the worst possible light”.

Mr Cope said the run of police shootings in Queensland was a duplication of 2014, when there were seven police shootings, four of them fatal.

“Statistics show that the average number of fatal police shootings in the country in a year is five, we seem to have had five [in Queensland] in about the last six months,” Mr Cope said.

Call for broader CCC probe

Body-worn camera footage from two officers at the scene of Mr Abdi’s fatal shooting will form part of an Ethical Standards Command investigation that will be overseen by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC).

Mr Cope said he wanted the CCC to look at the Queensland Police Service more broadly.

“We will be calling on the CCC to conduct a thorough review of police practice and police culture,” he said.

“The pulling of the gun needs to be the last resort when there are no other options available.

“The problem is that when you’re having as many killings in Queensland as occur on average in the whole of the country in a year, you’ve got to be concerned that something is going wrong with the police approach to these things.”

Mr Cope said the Australian Institute of Criminology noted the role of mental health in police shootings and recommended mental health workers be employed by police in such situations.

“I don’t know whether that’s been occurring in these particular cases but that’s certainly a matter which the institute recommends be concentrated on and we would be calling on the CCC to review the whole issue, particularly whether mental health issues are involved and what resources police have to deal with them,” he said.

He said an inquiry was needed to review “whether the police version stacks up or not” and whether there are issues related to mental illness that required better resourcing for police.

“People shouldn’t be dying because they’re mentally ill.”

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