• The Point - Justice Or Just Us? (Supplied)Source: Supplied
On Wednesday night, The Point brought home the issues debated around the world in recent weeks - law enforcement, Black Lives Matter, and where to go from here - including the debate over defunding police forces.
By
Neil McMahon

Source:
The Point
26 Jun 2020 - 11:25 AM  UPDATED 26 Jun 2020 - 11:27 AM

On the front lines, this week's episode of The Point went behind the blue line through the eyes of a former police officer - Jarin Baigent, a Wiradjuri woman who grew up around The Block in Redfern.

Baigent delivered powerful testimony and perspective from the Australian viewpoint in the wake of global protests over the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. 

Baigent left the NSW police force last year, disillusioned by her experiences after 13 years in uniform. 

On The Point, she remembered her decision to join the force.

"I lived in Waterloo … none of my interactions with the police I felt were safe. If our house was broken into the police would respond …. we weren't very important. For me it was a natural gravitation, it felt like a job I could do and do well and that if I was going to go into another Aboriginal home or community [they] wouldn't feel the way I did [as a child]."

Baigent described the life experience she brought to the force. 

"We bring a lot of value to the role of being a police officer. We are from communities where we understand what it is to be confronted with police … definitely my ability to communicate with my own community was a huge asset. In community there is a real fear, a real present fear that when they make a report to police that it won't be taken seriously or it won't be investigated thoroughly."

A case in point: recent video of a man tasered in Adelaide, and a teenager being assaulted in Sydney. The latter case has been described by the NSW police force as the officer involved having "a bad day".

"I felt disappointed hearing that comment," Baigent said. 

"It minimised what happened to that young person too…. It did undo lots of good work. And how is that young person supposed to feel about police officers?"

The show's guests were Larissa Behrendt from the University of Technology Sydney, and lawyer Teela Reid, who along with hosts Rachael Hocking and John Paul Janke explored the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement and the local implications of the American campaign to "defund the police".

There is extensive debate about what that phrase means - does it mean abolishing police forces, or reimagining them?

"It's not just reforming but reshaping," said Ms Reid. "If you think of the purpose of the police, it is about the safety of the community, and our communities do not feel safe."

The program also examined the 13th anniversary of the Northern Territory intervention by the Howard Government.

"It saw the Racial Discrimination Act suspended and the introduction of a spate of restrictions impacting Aboriginal people's lives," Mr Janke noted. "From banning alcohol and pornography, to income management programs and the compulsory leasing of land."

"All of this was justified by what was labelled at the time as a child abuse problem in remote communities and to address other social issues."

"Many of the most extreme allegations have since been refuted by reports and investigations, including by the Australian Crime Commission," added Ms Hocking.

Last week, there was a panel held including traditional owners who had lived under the intervention laws.

Aunty Pat Ansell Dodds told the panel "no matter what we do, it's always been, 'Oh, they're Aboriginal, they must have done something wrong'. We're tired of it. But we want to move forward and start telling our kids to be proud of who they are. We want them to go back to country and let their old people teach them the culture."

Warlpiri elder Harry Jakamarra Nelson said the biggest amount of money ever spent on Yuendumu "was more than $7 million to build a new police station. We've got more police than ever and more people in jail than ever."

"The welfare mob keep taking children away, [they] don't respect our extended families … everything is done in English. We have no say in running our own lives on our own land. It is like we are under occupation by a foreign power.

"We want our local council back. We want our houses back. We want police to respect us and stop wearing guns."

- You can watch The Point on Wednesday evenings at 8.30pm on NITV (Ch34). 

- Get involved in the discussion on Twitter and Facebook using #ThePointNIT