NT officer who shot dead Kumanjayi Walker had tendency to use heavy-handed tactics, inquest told | Australia news

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A Northern Territory police officer who shot dead an Indigenous teenager had a tendency to rush into incidents and use force where none was needed, an inquest has been told.

Const Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times during a bungled arrest in Yuendumu, north-west of Alice Springs, on 9 November 2019.

An Alice Springs inquest was told on Friday that Rolfe interpreted a suspect’s non-compliance as a threat and did “not endeavour to bring about peaceful resolutions to some incidents”.

“He uses quite heavy-handed tactics,” an NT police use-of-force expert, Acting Supt Andrew Barram, said in a report about the officer’s performance read to the inquest by counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer.

Barram’s report reviewed five incidents between 2016 and 2019 where Rolfe’s use of force was excessive or necessary.

“His choice of tactical options in these cases has resulted in injuries to subjects and potential injury to himself,” he said.

Barram, the former officer in charge of the NT police operational safety section, also noted Rolfe failed to use communication to diffuse incidents “and appears to prefer to go hands-on”.

“Force is used where none is needed,” he said in the report.

“It is likely Const Rolfe interprets any non-compliance or lack of cooperation as a threat and he therefore responds with a higher level of force than would reasonably be considered necessary.”

Barram, a veteran officer with 25 years on the job, concluded Rolfe showed a tendency to “want to get his man no matter what and pays little or no regard to the consequences of his actions, which has resulted in quite severe and totally unnecessary injuries to suspects”.

He said Rolfe disregarded his training and police policy during the incidents.

Barram agreed with Dwyer that Rolfe displayed a tendency to rush in and use excessive force.

He also agreed Rolfe’s attempted arrest of Walker was a failure and his death the “worst possible outcome” that had a “ripple effect” through the community and police force.

Barram previously told Rolfe’s criminal trial, which concluded with the officer being acquitted of Walker’s murder, that he didn’t need to fire the shots that killed the Warlpiri man.

He told the jury in March that Rolfe’s second and third shots into Walker’s side as he lay on a mattress with another policeman on top of him were not reasonable or necessary.

“Things had changed substantially from when the first shot was fired,” he told the Northern Territory supreme court.

“They had gone from standing in a fairly equal fight … to Mr Walker being shot in the back, which would affect a person in some way, and being pinned on the ground with his right arm under him.”

Walker stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors while resisting arrest in the seconds before he was shot.

The inquest continues.



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