• The family of Aunty Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo stand on the doorstep of QLD Police headquarters during a rally following her death in custody on September 10. (NITV News. )Source: NITV News.
Demands have been made for the QLD Police Commissioner and Premier to address the culture of the state police service, as the body investigates its own involvement in a racist, homophobic and sexist social media page.
Shahni Wellington

14 Jul 2021 - 5:43 PM  UPDATED 14 Jul 2021 - 5:43 PM

There are community concerns that more than a thousand Queensland police officers who were part of a social media group posting offensive and racist content will not be held accountable. 

An internal investigation was launched on Tuesday after the 'Defend the Blue' page made headlines, with the Police Commissioner, Katarina Carroll, sending an email to officers "voicing concern over the online behaviour."

According to Queensland Police Service, "slightly more than half" of the group's 3,500-strong membership is made up of current and former service members.

There are 12,000 people in the Queensland Police Force in total.

Gunai/Kurnai woman, Ronnie Gorrie, wasn't surprised by the vile commentary detailed in media reports after she spent a decade working in the Queensland Police Force.

She told NITV News it was the same behaviours she was subjected to for her entire career.

"This is how they speak within the confines of the police stations and within the police vehicles," she said.

While the internal investigation has been launched, the service stated that disciplinary action will be taken "if required".

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The Facebook group, which included racist, homophobic, sexist and defamatory posts, is a public display of a larger, deep-rooted problem within the Queensland Force, according to Gorrie.

"They're killing us. There's a lot of deaths in custody, they're using excessive use of force towards Aboriginal people and people of color and minorities, and they know that it doesn't matter what they do - They will not be sacked."

Ms Gorrie has written a book about her time in the service, titled 'Black and Blue: A Memoir of Racism and Resilience', and is currently developing a community-led frontline service as a culturally safe alternative to engaging with police.

A QPS spokesperson said the content is considered highly inappropriate and does not reflect the views of the organisation or the majority of its members.

'It means brutalisation of blakfellas'

While the Queensland Police Service has treated the incident in isolation, justice advocates say it forms part of a larger picture.

There has been an expansion in police powers within the state, including youth justice reforms earlier this year.

The expansion is taking place in the foreground of the death in custody of Birri Gubba woman, Aunty Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo at the Brisbane City Watchhouse in September last year. 

It also comes as the Queensland government makes moves to criminalise coercive control, that some advocates say will target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

Munanjahli, Yugambeh and South Sea Islander woman and Associate Professor at the University of Queensland, Dr Chelsea Watego, told NITV News the culture of the Queensland Police Service is dangerous.

"Every time the government increases the power of the police, it means the brutalisation of blakfellas," she said.

"The state government right now has evidence that they have serving officers that have extremely dangerous views - Yet, they're happy to still let them walk around with guns on their belts," Dr Watego said. 

In her address to media on Tuesday, Commissioner Carroll described the page as 'disappointing' but said she believed a majority of the page's members were on there for "the right reasons".

The Queensland Police Service social media policy is now being revised with a view to strengthening advice to all members.

It's a move that misses the point entirely, according to Dr Watego.

"I think what's concerning is the trivialisation by the police commissioner on this, who again downplays this - and whose solution is reforms to social media policy, rather than attending to the racism that is rife within the Queensland police service."

Dr Watego has filed a racial discrimination complaint against two serving Queensland police officers, after an incident saw her incarcerated.

In response to inquiries made by NITV News as to whether the officers were part of the group, a spokesperson said that due to the large volume of data that has to be analysed, "the identification of group members is ongoing."

"The commissioner has a responsibility not to the serving officers, but to the state of Queensland and citizens," Dr Watego said.

"She has an obligation to us, and we deserve to be protected as much as anyone else."

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