Australian police hit by scandal over racist emails
Published 26/03/2010 | 05:00
ACCUSED of failing to investigate properly a string of attacks on Indian students, and of racially targeting African immigrants, police in Victoria must have thought their reputation could not sink any lower.
Until yesterday, when the force announced that up to 100 officers were being investigated over racist emails that include a graphic image of a man of ethnic minority origin being tortured.
The email scandal has already claimed one life: that of a long-serving police sergeant who shot himself in a suburban station on Monday after tendering his resignation three days earlier. Tony Van Gorp (47) had been challenged by senior officers to give reasons why he should not be dismissed over his involvement in the affair.
Another sergeant, who allegedly introduced the email containing the torture image into the police computer system, is also said to be facing the sack. According to the Melbourne newspaper, 'The Age', "sickening" racist comments were added to the email as it was circulated.
State Chief Commissioner Simon Overland -- who admitted last week that there was racism within the force -- said yesterday that the emails were too "disturbing and gross" to be released publicly. He told a Melbourne radio station: "It's extremely serious, it's offensive, and my view is that it would cause significant concern and alarm in the community if the material was made public."
It is also claimed officers failed to acknowledge that attacks on Indian students were, at least in part, racially motivated. In January, Nitin Garg was stabbed to death in a park walking home from his job in a fast-food restaurant.
Last week a report by three legal services found that young men from Sudan and other African countries were routinely targeted, verbally abused and even physically assaulted by police. Officers were accused of calling the youths "monkeys" and "black c***s", of repeatedly arresting and questioning them, and, in one case, of removing their uniforms to beat up a group in a public park.
Mr Overland said: "Racist attitudes held by members of Victoria Police -- that is not okay. Acting on those racial attitudes is clearly not okay, and where we find it people can expect that I will deal with them in the strongest possible terms."
He said the emails raised real questions about the suitability of certain individuals to serve with the Victorian force.
Homophobic and pornographic material was also found, according to media reports. The emails over which Mr Van Gorp was investigated were not racist, according to Mr Overland. (© Independent News Service)