The South Australian Police have confirmed an internal investigation into the violent arrest of an Aboriginal man in Kilburn overnight is underway, as activists label the incident a “clear case of racial profiling”.
At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, South Australian Premier Steven Marshall – who also has responsibility for overseeing the state's Aboriginal Affairs portfolio – said he had viewed footage of the arrest that shows 28-year-old Henry Noel being pinned to the ground and struck by police.
“I was concerned by the vision I saw from the incident overnight in Kilburn,” Mr Marshall said.
“The police are conducting a thorough investigation. I will wait to hear what comes back from that.”
Meanwhile, SA Police Commissioner Grant Stevens refused to be drawn on questions relating to the arrest, saying an internal investigation was underway that was being overseen by a “very senior officer”.
“I can say the video that was uploaded to social media overnight obviously caused concerns in terms of the police response, but in fairness to all people involved, a thorough investigation is being conducted,” Mr Stevens said.
In a heated press conference, Mr Stevens said the officers involved have been placed on administrative duties while the investigation is underway. Body camera footage of the incident has been obtained by police and seen by the Commissioner.
While Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement (ALRM) and advocates had already been informed that Mr Noel was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting police, a statement issued by SAPOL after midday said he had also been charged with property damage.
Those charges were dropped prior to Mr Noel's release from custody at Port Adelaide Police Station by a back door.
Latoya Rule, whose brother Wayne Fella Morrison died in custody on 26 September 2016, was present at the station at the time of Mr Noel's release, but said she did not speak to him until later.
“He’s in shock,” said Ms Rule. "I heard he had really bad injuries to his face, his arms, his legs and he wasn't that well. He didn't have any medical assistance. They told him he would be seeing a nurse last night. He didn't.”
While there are no current charges relating to resisting arrest and assaulting police, the Commissioner refused to rule out the possibility charges might be filed in the future.
“There is an ongoing investigation and there may be charges resulting from that investigation but it is too early for me to speculate on that,” Mr Stevens said.
When asked why Mr Noel had not received medical attention, the Commissioner said he had been offered the chance but had declined.
Activists and legal advocates have since labelled the arrest as an act of racial profiling by SA police.
Cheryl Axleby, CEO of ALRM, told NITV News the rationale being given for the incident was confused and did not “connect together”.
“Which is it? Did they go to a family violence call out? Did they suspect him of possessing drugs? Or was it riding a bike without a helmet and a light? And did they ever get to the family violence call out? They haven’t confirmed that,” she said.
“There is some effort now to save face by the Commissioner so they can justify the arrest.”