Wednesday, May 20, 1998

Police beat teenagers

By Chris Latham

PERTH — Police are trying to defuse community concern following television news footage of the Tactical Response Group (TRG) kicking and beating people at a birthday party on May 10.

The party, attended by 150 people, was raided after complaints from neighbours about the noise. At 1am, 20 TRG officers arrived in full riot gear. They kicked in the front door and chased party-goers through the house. Footage showed five police standing over a youth on the ground, kicking him and beating him with batons.

In mid-March, police threatened to use Section 54a of the Police Act — which allows for mass arrests — to stop all unruly parties.

An internal investigation has been launched into whether excessive force was used on May 10. However, Superintendent Lamb is reported in the West Australian as saying, "there [was] a bit of swinging but lots of the blows [were] to the limbs, which are quite legal. Overall, I think the police acted quite okay." Premier Richard Court has also defended the police: "I have seen the footage and if someone was throwing bricks at me, I couldn't guarantee what I would do with my legs."

Neighbours' fear for their safety was used as a justification for police brutality. These fears were not based on any actual threat but rather on the belief that the party could get out of hand and lead to violence.

The overwhelmingly negative portrayal of young people and their parties by Perth's media has fuelled such fears. It is ironic that the TV cameras which captured the police violence on May 10 had converged on the party to obtain more footage of "unruly youth".

From Green Left Weekly #318

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