Victoria Police routinely racially target, taunt and bash African youths across Melbourne, according to a Legal Services report released in March.
Police in Braybrook, Dandenong and Flemington – suburbs with high African populations – have been accused of using racial taunts, harassment and violence against black youth from Somalia and Sudan.
Victoria Police’s response to the Springvale Monash Legal Services report was to say it was “disappointed” that the allegations had surfaced. These are the same police who were in denial about attacks on Indian students being racially motivated. Victorian Police Commissioner, Simon Overland, even “advised” Indian students to “look poor” to avoid being assaulted.
The report said African youth were routinely told by police to “move on” from a public space and asked to provide their name and address several times a day. In one incident in 2009, police asked a group of African youths to leave a public space. When they rightly refused, the police returned later out of uniform and proceeded to assault the youths.
Helen Yandell, the legal services director, has been quoted in the media, saying, “We’re talking about three major areas where young people live. It, therefore, has to be looked at as a systematic failure rather than the actions of a few bad cops.”
Blaming things on a “few bad cops” is always the line used to explain illegal police behaviour, but the fact is the police force as an institution is imbued with racism to its core. Police are used to impose racist polices like the NT Intervention and other laws which disproportionately affect Aboriginal people and ethnic minorities. When governments use racism, sexism and homophobia to divide-and-rule, its not surprising that its “guard dogs” in the police internalise all those values in a concentrated form.
Another example of this racism was seen in March, when Commissioner Overland admitted a series of offensive emails have been shared by “up to 100” officers, which are “too shocking to ever be publicly released”. One email shows an ethnic man being tortured. Other emails were homophobic and pornographic.
Is it any wonder Indian students don’t trust the police to investigate racist violence seriously?
By Tom Orsag