Victoria’s police were cleared of using unreasonable force when they raided Greek Australian Nik Dimopoulos’ Fitzroy bookshop and seriously injured the man while arresting him.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), Victoria’s corruption watchdog, has completed Operation Lynd, an investigation into the conduct of Victoria Police officers at the Hares & Hyenas bookstore in Fitzroy that resulted in the serious injury of Mr Dimopoulos on 11 May 2019.
IBAC Commissioner, The Honourable Robert Redlich QC said, “The community is right to be concerned when someone is seriously injured during an interaction with police.
“As part of IBAC’s independent oversight of Victoria Police, IBAC undertook a thorough, independent investigation to examine whether police conduct on the night was lawful and reasonable.”
IBAC’s independent oversight of Victoria Police focuses on ensuring police act fairly, impartially and in accordance with the law. This independent oversight is critical because of the significant powers exercised by police officers including the use of force and powers to detain, search and arrest.
“IBAC’s Operation Lynd has found Victoria Police officers had reasonable grounds to enter and search the premises in Fitzroy given the nature of the offences suspected to have been committed and the information available to the officers at the time,” Commissioner Redlich said.
Mr Dimopoulos sustained a serious injury to his right shoulder during the course of a struggle with Victoria Police Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) officers outside the premises during the lawful arrest.
“IBAC found the force used by police in restraining Mr Dimopoulos was not disproportionate to the officers’ objective of arresting Mr Dimopoulos, as the police involved reasonably believed such force was necessary to arrest a person who was struggling with police,” Commissioner Redlich said.
Recognising the significance of the Hares & Hyenas bookstore to Victoria’s LGBTIQ community, Commissioner Redlich said IBAC did not find evidence that Victoria Police officers’ decisions to enter the premises or their actions in relation to Mr Dimopoulos were linked to the race or sexuality of the parties involved.
IBAC’s investigation and findings are limited to issues within its jurisdiction, specifically whether any criminal offences or breaches of discipline were committed.
However, IBAC did find that Mr Dimopoulos’ human rights were impacted as the officers involved in the incident did not, as the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities obliges them, advise him of the reason for his arrest, make him aware of his rights, or officially release him from custody.
IBAC has requested that the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police ascertain why the officers failed to act consistently with their obligations under the Charter, and that Victoria Police take appropriate action with respect to the officers.
“IBAC performs an important role in strengthening community confidence in Victoria Police by independently investigating and exposing matters like this, and identifying opportunities to prevent similar incidents in future,” Commissioner Redlich said.
Consistent with its police misconduct prevention functions, IBAC’s investigation considered whether any changes should be made to Victoria Police policies or practices.
Based on the findings from this investigation, IBAC has suggested a number of improvements be made to Victoria Police’s systems and processes.
IBAC has also separately raised broader concerns about the CIRT with the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police.
“Arising from IBAC’s review of other incidents involving Victoria Police’s CIRT, and as part of our overall oversight of Victoria Police, IBAC has particular concerns about a range of ongoing and potentially systemic issues concerning CIRT. These issues include use of force, training and capability around key functions, and inadequacies in CIRT’s policies and procedures,” Commissioner Redlich said.
IBAC has asked the Chief Commissioner of Police to report back to IBAC on a range of issues concerning CIRT, including: details of complaints made about CIRT officers; the reporting about the use of force; equipment management records; status of body worn camera use, and CIRT policies and procedures. This report has been requested by June 2020.
“Following IBAC’s assessment of this information, I will determine whether further action is necessary to address any systemic concerns or misconduct vulnerabilities regarding CIRT,” Commissioner Redlich said.
To report public sector corruption or police misconduct now, visit www.ibac.vic.gov.au/report or call 1300 735 135.