Senior police officer in Yuendumu shocked by racist texts

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The senior officer in Yuendumu says she would not have called in a special police unit to arrest an Indigenous teenager if she had known some members had racist views about Aboriginal people.

Testifying in the inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker, Sergeant Julie Frost agreed with the language revealed in text messages, which referred to Indigenous Australians as “c-ns” and “Neanderthals”, was both shameful as repulsive.

The messages come from the phone of Officer Zachary Rolfe, who shot Mr Walker three times during an attempted arrest in Yuendumu in 2019.

Constable Rolfe was charged with murder over the incident but was acquitted after a Supreme Court trial.

He was part of an Immediate Response Team that went to the remote community to apprehend the 19-year-old just days after he fled the local police while wielding an axe.

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Sergeant Frost said she first heard of the lyrics when they were revealed to the inquest last week and told coroner Elisabeth Armitage she was shocked by the language.

She said she would take action if she heard such views from NCOs.

“I would definitely put them aside and advise them about it and try to figure out why they had that opinion and tell them it has to stop,” she said.

Sergeant Frost agreed that she would never have called in members of the IRT if she had known they had such derogatory opinions and not allowed them to assist in Mr Walker’s arrest.

As other evidence, she told the investigation that she “hadn’t considered for a minute” that the operation to detain the Warlpiri man would result in a shooting, given the resources available.

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She said after the incident that she made the “difficult” decision not to immediately tell the local community and the teen’s family that he had been killed for security reasons.

“In fact, it was made for the safety of the police and the community,” she said.

She was also involved in devising a plan with the police to send an ambulance to the airport to give the impression that Mr Walker was still under medical treatment and to get reinforcements from Alice Springs.

Sergeant Frost said she understood the community’s anger at not being told the truth.

“I understand their anger. I really want to apologize to the community,” she said.

“Again, we had to make these decisions for the benefit of both the community and the police.”

But she rejected suggestions reported in the local media that she hadn’t given Mr Walker proper first aid and could have saved his life, but didn’t.

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“Excellent first aid was provided,” she said.

Sergeant Frost said the shooting was incredibly difficult and it was very difficult to process what was happening.

But she said criticism of her on social media had been “downright devastating” and had caused a lot of “reputational damage”.

“The things that have been reported are factually incorrect. It’s biased, it’s nothing but propaganda for itself,” she said.

Sergeant Frost also indicated that she would read a statement to Mr. Walker’s family at the end of her evidence.

The Alice Springs inquest investigates 54 cases related to Mr Walker’s life and the actions of the police before and after he was murdered.

It will resume on Friday.

-MONKEY

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