• A policeman with his hand close to his gun. (Getty Images iStockphoto)Source: Getty Images iStockphoto
Legal experts are concerned about the number of fatal police shootings after months of urging governments to reduce police presence in Aboriginal communities affected by COVID-19.
Nadine Silva

18 Oct 2021 - 9:56 AM  UPDATED 18 Oct 2021 - 9:56 AM

A new report by the Australian Institute of Criminology found fatal police shootings have reached an all-time high since their record-keeping began 32 years ago. 

The report showed shootings rose by 78 per cent between 2018-19 and 2019-20 alone.

Waanyi woman and NATSILS executive officer Jamie McConnachie said she’s frightened by the findings, particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic where police are continually enforcing health orders.

“The use of police force and brutality by way of these shootings is a huge concern for our communities,” Ms McConnachie said.

“During the pandemic, police have disproportionately targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Data published by Crime Statistics Victoria shows First Nations people were subjected to 4.7 per cent of COVID-19-related fines from April 2020 to March 2021, despite making up less than 1 per cent of the state’s population.

In September, more than 100 legal professionals, academics and politicians signed an open letter urging the New South Wales Government to reduce policing and invest in non-punitive approaches to ensure compliance with public health orders.

“The excessive use of fines against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities in NSW also has the potential to further entrench disadvantage and exacerbate negative relationships between Aboriginal communities and the police,” the letter read.

Ms McConnachie said the latest figures on fatal police shootings strengthen NATSILS’ case for governments to consider a public health approach opposed to policing.

“That data is further proof that Australian governments are criminalising social inequalities during this pandemic,” she said.

“We should be looking at the pandemic as an opportunity to reimagine the criminal justice system and end these injustices so that we'll all be safe.”

Of the 24 deaths in police custody between 2019 to 2020, 16 were attributable to police shootings.

Two of those fatally shot were Indigenous, and the background of three others was not stated or unknown. 

A police officer is on trial over the death of Yamatji mother 'JC' in the West Australian town of Geraldton, who was fatally shot while allegedly armed with a knife in 2019.

In the Northern Territory, police officer Zachary Rolfe has been charged with the shooting death of Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu the same year.

Since record-keeping began in 1989, Australian police have shot at least 164 people dead. 

Police officers claim Yamatji woman ‘moved’ knife before fatal shot
First Class Constable Dillon McLean told a WA murder trial Yamatji woman JC "moved the knife at her side" before being fatally shot.