Silence = violence say Aussie cops

Chuck0 chuck at
Sat Mar 4 20:34:55 PST 2000

Police equate 'silence with violence'

Date: 04/03/2000


A senior NSW policeman has warned that silence is a form of violence and police may react inappropriately to non-violent protests in the lead-up to the Olympics because of lack of experience.

In a letter to the Green MLC Ms Lee Rhiannon, City Central Inspector David Darcy said he was concerned some groups in the Olympic Impact Coalition, a group of community organisations campaigning against the social costs of the Olympics, were reluctant to talk to police before conducting "non-violent direct actions".

"As I have expressed many times, silence is a form of violence. Even if the intentions of the group are non-violent, the environment is more unpredictable and the potential for negative, unintended outcomes, be they initiated by police or activists, is raised significantly," he said in the letter of February 9.

"I am also concerned about the reactions of police commanders who, due to minimal exposure to command situations involving non-violent activists, may act inappropriately.

"I take on board your expectations that all police commanders should be to standard and much is currently being achieved in improving training."

Inspector Darcy said he was willing to play a negotiating role between police and the Olympic Impact Coalition before the Games. "I hope that as we get closer to the big sports carnival, we can develop this relationship further," he said. "My long-term view is that ... I could gradually introduce other police officers, with a similar approach to mine, to roles of negotiation with activist groups leading up to and during the Olympics."

Inspector Darcy told the Herald he wrote to Ms Rhiannon after she indicated some members of the Olympic Impact Coalition might not want to notify police of planned actions.

She said Mr Darcy's comment that silence was violence was provocative and tantamount to a veiled threat. "Members of the community are being treated as if they are criminals, rather than citizens who have a legitimate right to protest," she said.

The president of the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, Mr Kevin O'Rourke, said Inspector's Darcy's claim about the lack of police training was an "extraordinary claim but a concern which we share".

Ms Rhiannon said the Greens would write to the Police Commissioner, Mr Peter Ryan, about their concerns.

"Any NSW police officer should be able to handle themselves at demonstrations and people should be able to attend them without worrying whether or not the police have been properly trained. The police need to exercise their duty of care in dealing with the community. This means acting with respect towards demonstrators without harassment or overreacting to situations."

The director of the NSW Council of Social Service, Mr Gary Moore, a member of the Olympic Impact Coalition, welcomed Inspector Darcy's "more sensible and mature views aimed at breaking the bar" between police and community activists.

"Inspector Darcy has raised the issue of the importance of police having the level of training and capacity to deal with a wide range of situations," he said.

Inspector Darcy said: "What I want to do is share a vision of where we are heading strategically ... I don't like seeing cops and other Australians wrestling about anything. The only people cops should be wrestling with are crooks."

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