Jenny Leong speaks in Parliament on Police Accountability and Excessive Violence, on 01 June 2023:
Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (18:21): Tonight I address the serious and distressing incidences of excessive police use of force that have occurred in the past few weeks. A 95-year-old resident of a palliative care home tragically died after being tasered twice by a New South Wales police officer. A 41-year-old man died after being shot four times by New South Wales police in the middle of the day on Sydney's lower North Shore. Those are not isolated incidents. In 2012 a young man died after he was tasered 14 times, including seven times within 51 seconds, in Sydney's CBD. A court heard that the New South Wales police officers involved used "unnecessary, excessive and unlawful force". In 2020 a distressed 81-year-old dementia patient was forcibly handcuffed by police at their Sydney nursing home. Police aggression and violence has repeatedly and systemically targeted First Nations people and communities.
In my electorate of Newtown, TJ Hickey was 17 when he died while fleeing a police patrol car on his bicycle in Waterloo in 2004. Every year at the rally commemorating his death and marching for justice, the chants cry out, "They say accident; we say murder!" Mark Mason was capsicum sprayed, tasered and then shot dead by police in his home in 2010. Rebecca Maher was arrested for public intoxication in 2016 and, instead of being taken home or to hospital, was taken to a police cell where she died. Patrick Fisher died in 2018, again in my electorate, after falling from the thirteenth-floor balcony of a housing block in Waterloo, Sydney, while being pursued by New South Wales police.
I say some of their names in this Chamber because we cannot talk about police violence and police brutality without also fighting for First Nations justice. As we marched to insist that black lives matter, the First Nations activists and Elders and the thousands who marched with them in those rallies would call out, "Say Their Name!" We say their names to remember that they have died and there has been no justice, there has been no peace and that there are, sadly and tragically, too many racist police. There are clear and systemic issues with the excessive use of force by the police, the excessive powers the police are given by people in this Chamber and the excessive harm it causes in our community.
At least 474 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have died in police or prison custody since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody, and yet not a single officer has ever been found guilty of murder. Time and again police investigate police, with little or no consequences ever faced, while their powers continue to grow. Whether it is the ongoing criminalisation of protest, attempts to police our way out of a pandemic or the overuse of sniffer dogs and searches, police continue to be handed a huge amount of expanded powers without any of the desperately needed oversight or accountability.
When there is no accountability, the consequences are enormous. Many First Nations people and people who experience racism understandably do not feel safe coming forward to police. Many who experience sexual assault and domestic violence do not feel comfortable reporting it to police. Many young people and people from migrant communities, who grow up seeing those communities overpoliced, grow up with an innate distrust of the institution that we are repeatedly told is there to keep us safe.
The endless increases in police powers and police numbers are not making our communities safer; what would make our communities safer is stopping the endless increases in funding and the boosting of resources to police, and instead re-investing that money in more community and social services, more housing and more programs, and ensuring that there is proper, independent and fully resourced oversight of police and their actions. There is no place for tasers or guns in responding to people who are in crisis. There is no place for police chases that are so aggressive that they result in death. But we will not see an end to that until we put an end to police investigating police, and until there is a genuine commitment to ending deaths in custody and to respecting and upholding every person's human rights.