The New South Wales Police Commissioner said an officer that kicked the legs of an Indigenous teenager and slammed him to get ground “had a bad day.”
Viral video of a white junior constable, who is now under review, shows the officer using force to arrest a 17-year-old in the inner-city Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
Speaking on 2GB radio on Tuesday, Commissioner Mick Fuller said the police could have “handled the situation better” but the officer, to his knowledge, has not had prior blemishes against his name.
“The fact that this officer doesn’t have a chequered history and he’s been in for three and a half years,” he said.
“You would have to say he’s had a bad day and I’m sure most of the community wouldn’t want to see someone sacked after making such a commitment to the community.”
The filmed incident happened on Monday and resulted in the teen being placed in holding cells at Surry Hills Station before he was taken to St Vincent’s Hospital via ambulance.
The police officer has been placed on restricted duties and is being internally investigated by the Professional Standards Command, police told HuffPost Australia.
New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Wednesday weighed in on the footage saying “we still have a long way to go.”
“What happened in the US is a good wake-up call for all of us, and I think that all of us have our hearts breaking as to what’s happening in the United States,” Berejiklian added.
“And we have to ensure that we can do what we can in our own country to protect all of our citizens.”
The teen’s sister told Triple J’s Hack radio show on Tuesday the footage made her angry.
“To see my brother treated like that, to have his liberty taken away from him. It’s upsetting,” she said.
Since George Floyd, a Black man, died in Minnesota after a white police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes, cities across the US and world have protested against police brutality and racial inequality.
A Black Lives Matter protest in Sydney saw a turnout of thousands on Tuesday, as Australians rallied in solidarity with protesters in the US but also to raise awareness of Australia’s own history with police killings.
The Guardian’s special 2018 Deaths Inside report used 10 years of coronial data to find that 407 Indigenous Australians had died in police care since the end of 1991’s royal commission.