Tuesday August 27 2013
– A fatal shooting by a Victoria Police highway patrol officer in Melbourne’s inner south-east has reignited debate over the need for independent investigations into police shootings.
Neighbours heard shots on Union Street in Windsor shortly after a 44-year-old St Albans man was intercepted on the road about 10:40 on Sunday.
An experienced senior constable working alone attempted to arrest the man, who was believed to be driving with stolen number plates, according to police.
On Monday, Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said police believed the officer had been threatened with a flick-blade knife to which he reacted with lethal force.
Although Mr Cornelius said the incident was still subject to an investigation, he also said he had been told the officer believed his life was in danger.
“No police officer when he starts work ever thinks he’s going to end his shift having had to take someone’s life,” he said.
“The precise details around the encounter are the subject of an investigation. My advice is that our officer believed his life was in immediate threat.”
The comments drew criticism from legal groups that claimed Victoria Police had “prejudged” the outcome of its own investigation.
The senior policy adviser at the Federation of Community Legal Centres, Michelle McDonnell, said: “By making comments within a few hours of the death that the shooting was an act of self-defence calls into question the ability of Victoria Police to conduct the investigation impartially and independently.”
Mr Cornelius had earlier dismissed these criticisms, saying he would always stand by his members.
The advocacy and strategic litigation director at the Human Rights Law Centre, Anne Brown, said: “It’s quite natural for him to back his officer, but in the same way an employer shouldn’t investigate a workplace death the police are an entirely inappropriate body to investigate these shootings.
“If the officer involved in the shooting did act in self defence he deserves to be exonerated by a process that’s credible and independent.”
Police Association secretary Greg Davies condemned the criticisms. “The Homicide Squad under the oversight of the [Public Service Commission] prepare an investigation and they hand it over to the Coroner,” he said.
“Coroners are not fools. These calls ignore the fact that there are a dozen oversights looking at everything the police force does.”
As part of the investigation police are reviewing in-car video and CCTV taken from near the scene of the shooting. They were also looking for a woman believed to have been a passenger in the car at the time of the intercept.
The Coroner attended the scene on Sunday night and would be presented with a brief following the internal police investigation.
The deceased was identified as Vlado Micetic on Channel Nine news. His sister described him as “very talented, very smart”.
“It should have never happened,” she said. “He didn’t deserve to go like this.” – Rania Spooner