Kensington Legal Centre launches police accountability project

The program is aimed at stopping racial harrassment by the police.

The Kensington Legal Centre (KLC) is running a police accountability program to try to raise awareness about racial profiling and police harassment after numerous young people have been harassed by Victoria Police.

This program, which has been running for some time, began when a group of young teenagers approached KLC after being harassed by Victoria Police.

The young men report being stopped while doing everyday things.

One man reported being asked by police where he was going then being asked for ID. At the time he only had a health care card on him. As he reached for it he was struck to the ground by police and a tooth was knocked out.

These young men and women would often be stopped by police while walking home after getting off a train or tram. They say they are bullied and made to feel like criminals because their skin color is different. They have also been embarrassed by being searched by police in public for no apparent reason.

After getting no help from Legal Aid or any other law firm, the young people approached KLC for help.

The police accountability program teaches young people how to talk to and deal with police better. It also takes away their fear by showing them they do have rights and the police cannot just do as they please and harass people.

KLC also advised Victoria Police they need training to deal with racial profiling. Every new police recruit is now taught this as they go through the police academy.

The police have also participated in a three month trial of receipting in Dandenong and Moonee Ponds. This means every time a person is stopped by Victoria Police they receive a receipt that says why they were stopped, the date and time.

Victoria Police are reluctant to continue the trial as they say it takes up too much time. However, young people who have been stopped and received these receipts say they feel safer knowing that they get them and the police cannot just stop them because they have nothing better to do.

KLC is waiting for a report from Victoria Police about the receipting trail and are hoping the police to will make it permanent, as it is their job to make people feel safe, not scared or intimidated, and it will help both sides deal with this major issue.

Studies have shown that the police are three times more likely to stop young ethnic people for any reason than young white people, just because they look different. Yet when these same young people ask for assistance from Victoria Police they are told their calls are not important.

At the moment KLC is training groups of young people to go into the community and share the knowledge with other young people. They will be better able to deal with this racial discrimination and everyone will know they have rights and they do not need to feel scared or bullied by Victoria Police.

It is very sad that we have come to this but this program is an excellent way to help young men and women feel safe in the community.

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