This is interesting. Apparently the video footage from the Rawiri Falwasser case is being sought out by the media. Mr Falwasser was the young Maori man who alleged he was beaten in prison by four police officers when he was held in police custody on Labour Day in 2006.
The trial was in June this year, and the jury watched the video footage the media now wants – it was from the prison Mr Falwasser was held in – a jury which later acquitted the four police officers accused.
I want to see this footage. One court reporter during the jury said it showed:
About 2.30pm three police officers come into the room outside his cell and one of them pepper sprays him through the open sliding door of the cell. He holds up his arms in defence but continues being pepper sprayed.
There are now four police officers in the room. Another of officers lunges at Mr Falwasser with what appears to be a baton. By this time there are seven police in the room.
They then close the door to the cell.
Then three of them leave. Mr Falwasser is holding his hands over his eyes and this continues for several minutes with police coming back and forth into the room outside his cell.
At 2.37pm, an officer comes into the room outside his cell holding a baton, and between 2.38 and 2.53 police continue pepper spraying Mr Falwasser sporadically through vents in his cell wall.
Now you may have noticed above that I ‘ethnically tagged’ the victim of this alleged crime above, Mr Falwasser, as Maori. That’s because he and his family believe this incident was racist, and believe the police officers being acquitted of assault is racist.
This attracted some media attention at the time, with some pretty high profile commentators like Willie Jackson backed calling the verdict racist.
Allowing the public to see this footage is important for the integrity of our justice system. I haven’t seen it, but the idea that a young Maori man wrote “Jesus” on the wall of his police cell in his own blood after being beaten by several police officers – well, that idea is going to keep me awake at nights – unless I can see the footage showing me a very different situation.
And if it doesn’t? What are we going to do if the footage shows police brutality directed towards Mr Falwasser? Are we going to accept there are some problems with our justice sector in terms of treatment of Maori, maybe especially young Maori men?
We may never have to consider these questions – or at least not today – the footage may show a starkly different picture to the one Mr Falwasser is painting.
Nevertheless, let’s hope the courts don’t let one of the accused and acquittted police officers – who is trying to stop the footage being released – win. Let the media show us the footage so we can make our minds up.