'Racist police' targeted Africans

African youths have been racially targeted, taunted and bashed bypolice across Melbourne, according to an explosive report,as Victoria's police struggle to regain pubic confidence after attacks on Indian students.

African youths have been racially targeted, taunted and bashed by police across Melbourne, according to an explosive and scathing report, as Victoria's police struggle to regain pubic confidence after a series of attacks on Indian students.

Victoria Police officers are accused of labelling young African men "monkey" and "black c***", taking photographs of them gathered on the streets for intelligence purposes and, in one case, taking off their uniforms to bash black men in a public park.

Police routinely target young Africans by repeatedly arresting and questioning them about crimes, the report by a legal service says, and demand youths give their names and addresses to officers several times each day.

Increased searches

When young Africans complain, front-line officers increase random searches and questioning, the report says.

"It's horrible, humiliating," says Aran Brown, an 18-year-old African refugee who says he has experienced discrimination in Melbourne.

Police have randomly pulled him off the street and questioned him about break-ins and drug activity, he says, so he now runs away when he sees an officer.

The last time he ran, a police officer followed him.

'Who to complain to?'

"He started chasing me and when he caught up to me he said: `Wogs are faster than niggers'," the teenager told AAP near his home in a high-rise housing commission flat in Flemington on Monday.

"If a cop can say that to me, who can I complain to? What do you do when it's the police who are harassing you?"

Mr Brown's account of his experiences match those compiled for the damning 35-page report, to be released to the public on Thursday.

Written by the Springvale Monash Legal Service, the report focuses on Melbourne suburbs with high African populations - Flemington, Dandenong and Braybrook.

Community input

Thirty young Africans and eight community workers were interviewed for the report, which also compiled information gathered from community service workers over the past 15 months.

Helen Yandell, the legal service's director, says it took months to convince African youths to come forward with their stories. Many have lost faith in the police force and fear retribution, she says.

"We're talking about three major areas where young people live," she told AAP.

"It, therefore, has to be looked at as a systematic failure rather than the actions of a few bad cops."

Police 'must acknowlege racist elements'

In one 2009 incident included in the report, police asked a group of young Africans to leave a public space, she said.

The group refused. The officers eventually left, but allegedly returned later, but they were not wearing their uniforms and began assaulting them, the report said.

Police must admit there is a racist element among its ranks, she said.

Allegations 'disappointing'

A Victoria Police statement said the force was "disappointed" by the allegations.

The statement says officers work tirelessly to build relationships and trust among African communities.

"Victoria Police expects its members to take a fair and professional approach when policing the community," the statement says.

"Our key focus is on crime, not specific cultural groups. We have various checks and balances in place to ensure the conduct of our members is appropriate."

The report will recommend that officers are trained in de-escalating conflict and call for an improved complaints procedure so Africans can come forward without fear of retribution.

Situation 'slightly improved'

Berhan Ahmed, chairman of the African Think Tank, said the situation had improved since 2007 when Sudanese refugee Liep Gony was fatally bashed in Noble Park.

"It was really bad back then. But we've since been working to improve our relationship," he said.

"I can't say we've done everything, but without a doubt there has been progress."

Victorian police have also been accused of failing to take attacks on Indian students seriously, with some in the community claiming the slow response was due to racism.

Source AAP

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