Former police commissioner calls for more power over critical police investigations after Taser death
White’s attorney said the resigning officer wanted to defend himself against the allegations of reckless causing of grievous bodily harm, assault involving actual bodily harm and common assault.
While Drake did not comment on the specifics of Nowland’s case, she said she “never understood” why the trial was designed that way.
“The [LECC’s] The job is to make sure the police get it right, not to do it themselves,” Drake said.
“If not, or if more needs to be done or there is a public interest, [the LECC] can take it. However, this is not the case for critical incidents.”
Drake said her five-year tenure with the LECC strengthened, not diminished, her opinion of NSW Police, although it dealt with “some very bad behaviour”.
“I’ve done a lot of defense work involving young people. I didn’t have a bad image of the police, but it wasn’t always good. But the more I worked at LECC, the better my perspective got,” she said.
“But the cooperation I saw from senior police officers and also from junior officers reporting bad behavior was a sign of a change from the bad old days.”
Overall, Drake believes the LECC has done a good job, but there are other issues, she said.
This week the herald revealed that more than 90 investigations into critical incidents are currently ongoing, one of which dates back to 2017. This is because investigations must be suspended when either criminal charges are filed or a judicial inquiry is initiated.
That includes investigating what happened to Nowland last Wednesday.
Drake said one solution is to prioritize matters subject to an investigation into a critical incident before the coroner, “particularly when dealing with black deaths in custody”.
“Delays in these matters detract from the concept of justice and openness, and removing them also helps remove suspicions of a cover-up,” she said.
“The problem with deaths involving the police is that no matter what the answer, the speed of the response makes a huge difference in whether it is an unavoidable accident that is no one’s fault.”
“The resentment grows, the grief grows and everything gets worse. If the answer is that it was an accident or something else, it’s better to know early on.”
She has also called for the agency to be able to oversee investigations when a person dies in prison, something the LECC suggested when she was commissioner in 2020 and what a joint parliamentary committee recommended, although it was never adopted.
“That would mean that deaths in custody and deaths of black people in custody in a prison are subject to the same external oversight as when it comes to the police,” she said.
On Friday, Cooma’s Catholic priest visited the Yallambee Lodge aged care home, where the devout great-grandmother lived, to lead a mass. Residents are mourning the loss of Nowland, who died at Cooma Hospital on Wednesday night.
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