• Stills from a video showing an unmarked police car hitting an Aboriginal teenager. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
When an unmarked police car hit an Aboriginal teenager, the National Justice Project was instrumental in the timing of the second video. Now its hoping to expand its Copwatch project.
Rangi Hirini

3 Aug 2018 - 4:14 PM  UPDATED 3 Aug 2018 - 4:14 PM

Earlier this year WA Police were left trying to justify a statement they released saying an 18-year-old teenager "collided" with an unmarked police car after a second video was released of the incident.

As the National Justice Project ran a workshop in Perth to expand its Copwatch program, Director George Newhouse pointed to this case to highlight what can come from watching the police.

“We begged the community members who had the second recording to hold off and wait, because we already knew from police media that the police were running a specific line that did not accord with the images that we had seen," Mr Newhouse said.

“So we asked them to wait, so we can lock in the police position so that later on the truth could be told. You see people can change their position if they know what images they hold."

The teenager is a relative of Noongar activist Mervyn Eades, who also chairs the Death’s in Custody Watch Committee.

He believes the police officer involved was only stood down because of this second video.

“That had showed what the police had said was not totally correct, and they never disclosed exactly what happened. And the stuff they said had happened, the video footage showed completely the opposite.”

Mr Eades helped to organise and run the skillshare session alongside Mr Newhouse.

The pair offered tips and information about the best way to document interactions between police and Indigenous community members.

"It is important to all communities to let people know that taking footage from a distance, a safe distance from the police, when there is any brutality or excessive force taking place is really necessary for when it comes to the criminal processing in the courts and to hold them accountable to whatever injustices they are doing to our mob," Mr Eades told NITV News. 

Offering advice for when filming police, Mr Newhouse said his organisation has built a phone application that can help. Although it is still an early version, and won't be officially launched until later in the year.

“Copwatch is basically a community tool to safely record interactions with the police. We teach individuals how to use their mobile phones safely, and legally, in a way that can be used for evidence,” Mr Newhouse said.

Right to film 

Mr Newhouse says he understands that filming the police can be intimidating for many people, but filming the police in public places is completely legal.

“You are allowed to film police performing their duties in a public space," he said.

"Of course, there are rules about obeying instructions, standing back, not blocking the road, not causing a danger. And provided you follow those reasonable instructions and stand back - and we do encourage people to de-escalate situations, we don’t want a confrontation - and generally if you follow those rules you won’t break any laws."

Mr Newhouse also said the police cannot take your phone without a warrant.

“If they don’t have a warrant and unless you’re under arrest, they have no right to take your property, and they have no right to ask you to delete your image or a recording, and they have no right to take your property and delete it themselves."

Mr Eades agreed.

“Don’t go ramming it in the police's faces, stand back at a good distance, take the video footage and it can be used when it comes to the criminal proceedings,” Mr Eades said.

Worth the wait

Although we live in a world of ‘generation now’ Mr Newhouse says it can be crucial in some cases to hold back from uploading footage.

“We teach people not to upload in a hurry, we want them to think about what they upload or speak to a trusted family member or friend or even lawyer before they upload,” he said.

“There can sometimes be real power in not uploading a document until other people have told their story.”

WA Police formally apologise to Indigenous Australians
The top police officer in Western Australia says racism against Aboriginal people needs to end.
Police officer stood down after footage shows car hitting Indigenous teen
The officer driving the unmarked car at the centre of the disturbing footage is under investigation.