The reaction of Queensland police and their Union to the decision by Attorney-General Kerry Shine to charge Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley following Sir Laurence Street’s review of the DPP’s decision can only be described as intimidatory.

Police in Brisbane voted yesterday to march on Parliament House, following similar decisions by meetings at Townsville and the Gold Coast earlier in the week.

The rhetoric of the Police Union refers to “political interference” with the DPP and the government bowing to “the reaction from minority groups”.

The Police Union has developed a new and surprising interest in the implementation of the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody recommendations, but refuse to be placated by a promise that the Crime and Misconduct Commission will investigate resourcing and other issues in Indigenous policing.

But it’s obvious that the real source of police and union anger is the fact that charges have been laid for the first time over an Indigenous death in custody.

The response of Police Minister Judy Spence has been bizarre and contradictory.

Known for acceding to almost every request the Police Union ever makes to neutralise law and order as an electoral issue, the Minister sat silently in the front row of the Brisbane meeting while speakers denounced the government.

She justified her presence as signalling attention to their concerns, and claimed some political virtue through pointing out that street marches and public protest had been authorised by a Labor government after the Fitzgerald Inquiry.

Fitzgerald’s report, of course, was an object lesson in demonstrating the dangers of governments and police using each other as political tools.

Many Labor members are frustrated by the Minister’s tactics, and the inability of Premier Beattie to ensure that the carnival of errors that followed the findings of the Deputy Coroner into Mulrunji’s death stops.

Beattie needs to grasp the nettle and resist the attempts of the Police Union to deter any serious investigation and prosecution arising over future incidents. That’s what this issue is all about, and Beattie is displaying anything but his usual sure political touch in its handling.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey