Frederick Douglass (1818-95) American former slave and civil rights campaigner speaking on the 23rd anniversary of Emancipation in Washington DC, April 1885, said: “The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful and virtuous”.
With amazing revelations emanating from a flood of media coverage of late, concerning the unconscionable conduct of police associations and weak politicians who choose to turn a blind eye to the Mulrunji case, only time will tell whether the commanding words of Frederick Douglas have any currency in Australia today.
After reading an article in the Sunday Territorian under the headline “Blue wrist bands to support Sgt Hurley” by Roberta Mancuso on February 9, 2007, I continue to be appalled by the unprecedented action, some might say militant deeds, of our protectors - the police - in support of their fallen comrade.
I, like many of my people, have friends who currently serve in the police service, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous officers, and often wonder what their position is on the extraordinary stance countless numbers of their colleagues are taking in support of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.
My reluctance to date in not asking my few police acquaintances whether they support their union’s stance is probably more reflective of my present state of mind on the subject and angst, I guess, of their possible agreement with the actions undertaken by the union and of future plans the union may have on the drawing board.
The Sunday Territorian alluded to the potential of all Queensland police officers who may soon be wearing blue wrist bands in a show of support for Senior Sergent Chris Hurley who was recently charged over the death in custody of Mulrunji on Palm Island in 2004.
At present it would appear, from the article, that most Gold Coast officers are wearing the blue bands stamped with the number “6747” - the official police registration number of Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley.
Queensland Police Union vice president Denis Fitzpatrick was quoted in the article saying the bands would not only help raise funds for Snr Sgt Hurley's legal costs, but show a “silent protest” against his treatment.
It was also widely reported that the Queensland Police Union is considering staging an unprecedented police march on Parliament House in Brisbane.
I don’t begrudge anyone from voicing a protest on any matter but one would have thought it more prudent of police to await the outcome of a jury of Hurley’s peers to arrive at a verdict before trying to influence the court’s outcome by threatening to march on Parliament House as well as an array of other innovative planned actions.
Why has this particular case caused so much anxiety to the all conquering and powerful police unions across the nation? Perhaps it has something to do with the history and culture of policing in this country and their perfect record of no convictions recorded against a single police officer for a death in custody of an Indigenous Australian.
To fully understand this observation I provide a journey back in time to illustrate a brutal start to our people’s contact with non-Indigenous law enforcement agencies and the judicial system.
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