Victoria Police have seriously injured an innocent man in a mistaken raid on an apartment behind a LGBTIQ community bookstore. His injuries are so severe that he may now lose the use of his left arm.
At about 2am on May 12, police stormed the Hares & Hyenas bookshop in Melbourne’s inner north, allegedly failed to identify themselves, and used excessive force against a fleeing man, Nik Dimopoulos. Nik believed he was being subjected to a homophobic hate crime.
In the process of arresting the man, police threw his head against the pavement and restrained his arms so far behind his back that his left arm broke in several places.
The co-owners of Hares & Hyenas said on Facebook, “He could only see boots and rifles and was assuming he was going to be bashed or shot. He said he thought he was about to be killed.”
The bungled raid took place because police thought the victim was a suspect in an unrelated home invasion and carjacking crime.
No doubt this incident has reminded people of other police raids that have targeted the LGBTIQ community, such as the infamous Tasty nightclub raid in 1994.
At that time the police detained almost 500 people for 7 hours, strip-searching, cavity-searching, and beating up club-goers.
Even though this incident seems to have been a case of mistaken identity, the sheer violence metered out by the police would have been horrifying.
Police are well known for using excessive force against picketers and striking workers. Anyone standing up to the powers that be could find themselves a ‘suspect’ in their eyes.
If they had gotten the right suspect, one wonders whether we would have heard as much about this outrageous use of force.
In a statement, Victoria Police acknowledged “the distress this situation has caused the victim” and said, “the incident will be thoroughly investigated by Professional Standards Command.”
While an investigation is in order the police cannot be trusted to investigate themselves.
On many recent occasions Victoria Police have been exposed for brutality, discrimination and corruption, but it is rare for internal investigations to result in serious disciplinary action.
A proper independent investigation must be carried out, with the aim of ensuring things like this can never happen again. Such an investigation would best be conducted by elected representatives of the local community.
The officers involved in this attack must be sacked and prosecuted for their crimes. Full compensation, decided by the community, must be paid to the victims.
The lack of accountability that police have to the community stems from the role they play in society. Their main role is to defend the profit-driven capitalist system. The other tasks they perform are secondary.
It is no coincidence that they mobilise hundreds of officers to act against protesters or during industrial disputes but very few resources can be found to tackle things like white collar crime.
Socialists oppose the biased role that the police play and demand that they be taken under democratic community control. The public should have the power, via elected committees, to decide on budgets, enforcement priorities, hiring and firing, and investigating misconduct.
However, the need for a police force would not exist if we did not live in an unequal class society that breeds crime and violence. On the basis of higher wages, decent jobs and services for all, many crimes could be entirely eliminated.
These things could be delivered via a publicly owned, socialist planned economy that shares out society’s wealth to ensure all people’s needs and wants are met.
By Jeremy Trott