Four officers have been suspended by Victoria Police, after footage emerged of two incidents of alleged excessive force in Melbourne. A fifth was reassigned over a 2015 incident when a man was thrown into a metal door at Bendigo police station.
The suspensions come after CCTV footage was released by 7.30 this week, showing police arresting a man in Melbourne during a welfare that went off the rails. The video shows John, as the man has asked to be called, being pinned down by police, repeatedly struck with batons, and maced with capsicum spray.
"The police notes state that when John opened the door he came at them with two raised fists. But the video appears to show him fending off an officer coming at him with capsicum spray," reporter Nick McKenzie said. "While police pin him down, one strikes John's calf with a baton. He is punched and his face is again sprayed with capsicum at close range."
"You like that? You like that? It smells good, doesn't it?" an officer can be heard saying to John. "Get you're fuckin' hands behind your fuckin' back."
"Oh, my back! My back!" John cries as he is arrested.
Nearby there is a watering can, which paramedics later use to rinse out John's eyes. However, the arresting officers decided to spray him in the face with a hose once he was cuffed—a choice that has garnered widespread criticism.
"I thought I was going to die," John told 7.30. "I really literally thought I was going to drown. I don't know, it's all gurgling, you can feel the mace and the water together in your lungs, it is a weird feeling and it is hard to explain."
Another CCTV video released shows officers punching and kicking a Sudanese man in Preston, after he tried to hold up a chemist in February, 2016. The 23-year-old, who was in the midst of a psychotic episode, was kicked in the head and hit with a baton, before officers stomped on his back.
According to Victoria Police's Professional Standards Unit, the arresting officers acted lawfully.
"These are interim actions only whilst all three incidents are being investigated by IBAC [the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission]," Victoria Police said in a statement. "As they remain under investigation by IBAC it would be inappropriate for Victoria Police to comment further."
According to IBAC, though, "Victoria Police, as their employer, is responsible for determining whether the officers are 'stood down' from policing duties while they are subject to investigation."
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