Australia police rejects comparison to US over boy's arrest

By ROD McGUIRK
Posted 6/3/20

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian police on Wednesday rejected comparisons to the U.S. after an indigenous boy was injured while being arrested in Sydney, though a government official said it …

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Australia police rejects comparison to US over boy's arrest

Posted

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian police on Wednesday rejected comparisons to the U.S. after an indigenous boy was injured while being arrested in Sydney, though a government official said it raised questions about Australian race relations.

A New South Wales state police constable is under internal investigation after he pinned the 16-year-old’s arms behind his back then kicked the boy’s legs out from under him on Monday.

A video had circulated on social media of the boy falling face-first to the ground.

Police Minister David Elliott told reporters: “We have probably the best relationship between the community and the police of any jurisdiction around the world.”

“The important message here is that Sydney is not Minnesota and the situation that we had two days ago in Sydney, ... the response from police was not unprovoked,” Elliott said, referring to George Floyd’s death. “What happened in the United States is not what happens here.”

“I reject completely ... that we have similar problems that exist in the United States,” he added.

But New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the arrest raised questions about race relations in Australia.

“I thought what most Australians thought and that is we still have a long way to go in our country,” Berejiklian said of the video.

“I think what’s happened in the U.S. is a good wake-up call for all of us and I think all of our hearts are breaking as to what’s happening in the United States and we certainly have to ensure that we do what we can in our own country to protect all of our citizens,” she added.

The police officer is restricted on what duties he can perform while his use of force is investigated. The boy, who cannot be identified, was not charged and was taken to a hospital for a medical examination.

Police said the officer was in the inner-suburb of Surry Hills for an unrelated reason when he struck up a conversation with the boy and his four companions.

The video revealed the boy threatened to break the police officer’s jaw, and the officer's response was to arrest him. The boy suffered grazes to his face and a chipped tooth.

The incident was highlighted when around 3,000 demonstrators marched through downtown Sydney on Tuesday night in a peaceful protest against Floyd’s death and demanding fundamental change in race relations.

Indigenous Australians are 2% of the Australian adult population but 27% of the prison population.

A total of 432 indigenous Australians have died in police detention since 1991, according to a running analysis by The Guardian newspaper.

Australia’s indigenous people also have higher-than-average rates of infant mortality and poor health, as well as shorter life expectancy and lower levels of education and employment than white Australians.

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