Copping a spray

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By CAM LUCADOU-WELLS

LIBERTY Victoria has slammed a lack of “objectivity” in an internal police review into Protective Services Officers’ use of force and capsicum spray against two 17-year-old boys at Springvale railway station.
A redacted version of a report into the 7 June 2014 incident by Victoria Police’s Post Incident Review Team (PIRT) was released on Monday.
Liberty Victoria president George Georgiou took issue with the report’s take on officers pouring water from a mop bucket onto the two 17-year-olds’ faces to flush OC spray from their eyes.
Mr Georgiou contrasted the after-care given to one of the PSOs – who suffered OC spray splashback – who was treated with clean water in toilets upstairs.
“No-one has suggested that the (mop) bucket was clean or hygienic before it was used.
“To be pouring the contents of a bucket which might have had cleaning solution or fluid in it is not only foolhardy but dangerous in terms of infection.”
The “after-care” was described as “adequate” by the PIRT report.
In an internal memo also released on Monday, Victoria Police Inspector Darryl Thompson stated in response to the PIRT review that “there is no indication that the contents of the water within the bucket were not clean”.
The PIRT review described the PSOs initially chasing a fare evader who fled from the station’s ticketing barriers.
The officers removed him from a train parked at the platform and used a two-man takedown to bring him to ground.
According to the review, a second male – a friend – is sprayed with capsicum spray after approaching within two metres of the officers.
Dandenong magistrate Greg Connellan, who presided over the second teen’s trial in February, was reportedly critical of those actions.
“I have to say I have real problems with the deployment of foam to (the second male),” Mr Connellan said, according to ABC TV’s 7.30 program.
“There is nothing in his behaviour or body language which justifies him being sprayed.”
He acquitted the second teen of charges of assault and hindering police.
Mr Georgiou told the Journal that OC spray seemed to be used “indiscriminately”, “unjustifiably” and “too readily” as the PSO held the second male.
PIRT deemed that the officer had acted in line with OC spray training by first trying to “maintain a safe distance” from the second male.
According to OC guidelines, the spray should be deployed only in situations of violent or serious physical confrontation, or an imminent threat.
In his post-memo, Insp Thompson said it was “arguable” whether the spraying was necessary and proportionate.
Insp Thompson noted the need for the officer to cover and assist his partner – who was restraining the fare evader.
He described the teen’s friend who “continually challenged a lawful direction” as a “potential threat”.
In a statement, Victoria Police stated the two PSOs were debriefed and received “further development”.
In response to the incident, police command had emphasised to PSOs that fare evasion should not be their “primary focus”.
It was stated that Victoria Police had since introduced a process to review all CCTV footage of use of force, and audited all railway stations for available water points.
Sealable water containers have also been stored at the stations for OC spray after-care.
Mr Georgiou says the report showed the need for independent reviews into future incidents.
“This is a review conducted internally by the police and it seems to lack objectivity and certainly lacks independence.”

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