An investigation by the Australian Federal Police found that an unidentified officer breached the police service's code of conduct on Anzac Day in April following a scuffle between police and Indigenous protesters.
By
NITV News, Myles Morgan

26 Oct 2015 - 3:52 PM  UPDATED 26 Oct 2015 - 6:09 PM

"An AFP member breached Section 8.4 of the AFP Code of Conduct by demonstrating discourteous behaviour towards Myles Morgan from National Indigenous Television", an Australian Federal Police (AFP) spokesperson told NITV News.

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Section 8.4 of Australian Federal Police Code of Conduct states "an AFP appointee must act with fairness, reasonableness, courtesy and respect, and without discrimination or harassment, in the course of AFP duties." 

In April, activists marked the Frontier Wars at the rear of the traditional Anzac Day parade in Canberra. During the march, a short scuffle broke out between police and activists when they were prevented marching any further by a police blockade.

"An AFP member breached Section 8.4 of the AFP Code of Conduct by demonstrating discourteous behaviour towards Myles Morgan"

In the days after the incident, Australian Capital Territory police stated one protester was briefly taken into custody for breaching the peace and a female police officer was struck by an unknown person during the scuffle.

As the protesters walked away, a police officer questioned NITV journalist Myles Morgan and said his camera had potential evidence of a crime and it would be seized if he did not surrender it.

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Mr Morgan told police officers he would assist the police with their request but that he needed permission from NITV, a part of hybrid broadcaster SBS TV, to hand over his camera.

Two other AFP officers then joined their colleague and continued to question the journalist.

One told Mr Morgan he was "shaking almost uncontrollably" and "twitching quite badly".

Despite repeatedly identifying as a journalist who was covering the protest, two of the police officers told him he was abusing Commonwealth property because his camera was labelled as an SBS asset.

"So that’s being used for private purposes?" one officer asked.

"Unfortunately, stupidity is not illegal"

"It would appear so, wouldn’t it?" the officer said in reply.

"Bit of a misuse of a Commonwealth asset," said one of the officers.

When Mr Morgan said he would like either to leave or be arrested by police if they believed they had reason, one of the officers said: "Unfortunately, stupidity is not illegal."

In relation to NITV's complaint about the conduct of the two other police officers, the AFP said neither had breached guidelines.

"After consideration of all the investigation material relevant to your complaint, a member of the AFP Professional Standards Adjudication Panel has determined that the complaints are found Not Established against both members," the spokesperson said.

"This matter is now considered finalised." 

The AFP has not revealed whether any administrative or disciplinary action was taken against the officers involved. It did, however, indicate it had developed a one-day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training for AFP officers, which became effective from 1 July. 

"The training aims to raise awarenes and understanding of the historical and contemporary issues experienced by Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander communities and how these issues impact on the interface between AFP staff in external and internal workplace settings," an Australian Capital Territory police spokesperson told NITV on Monday.

NITV News executive producer Christopher Roe said the Indigenous news service was upset to learn about how Mr Morgan was treated as a working journalist and Aboriginal person. 

"I think that he acted with integrity in a difficult situation and it’s a shame that he was met with such a lack of respect," Mr Roe said.  

He said he was pleased that the AFP took the matter seriously, found one officer had breached the code of conduct and had deployed a training course. But Mr Roe asked for more clarity around their investigation.

"There's no explanation of exactly how the officer breached the code or how the other two were cleared. The term they used for the breach was 'discourteous behaviour' which is pretty vague," he said.

"We'd also like to learn a little more about what the new training entails, and more broadly, what approach the AFP takes to training recruits in Indigenous relations and recruiting indigenous officers."  

He added that NITV News wanted to know that the AFP's investigation was not just a reactive move that allows them to tick a box.

Australia's Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA) believed the outcome was disappointing.

"MEAA believes the attitude, comments and the conclusions reached by the AFP officers indicated a poor attitude towards media and journalists"

"MEAA believes the attitude, comments and the conclusions reached by the AFP officers indicated a poor attitude towards media and journalists carrying out their duties," the alliance said in a statement to NITV News.

It added that its CEO Paul Murphy had asked the AFP investigate the incident, and publicly report its findings and any outcomes of its investigation. 

MEAA also requested that "the AFP ensure its members are trained in the rights and responsibilities of journalists".