NSW police on defensive over killing

Issue 

By Sharon Bryce

Community outrage has grown since the slaying a fortnight ago of Wollongong man Boris Milenkovski. An invalid pensioner, Milenkovski was shot dead by Senior Constable Steve Wheeler in circumstances which have once again raised issues of police culture and accountability.

Police stopped their vehicle after seeing Mr and Mrs Milenkovski arguing while walking along the street. Boris Milenkovski had been recently arrested at his home on the catch-all charges of resist arrest, assault police, offensive language and malicious damage.

Struggling on one crutch, Milenkovski ran from Constable Wheeler, who chased him. A brief struggle ensued.

From here the police story differs from that of Mrs Milenkovski. She stated that her husband's fruit-peeling knife had already been knocked from his hand and he was lying dazed on the ground from a baton blow to the head when Wheeler shot him.

"Boris kept saying 'Please don't hit me any more ... don't hit me any more'", said Mrs Milenkovski. "He was already injured in the head but [Wheeler] still shot him. The other policeman was telling him to leave him alone ... not to shoot him."

The police claim that the 49-year-old pensioner, who had attempted to hobble away from Wheeler on a crutch, had knocked the baton from Wheeler's hand after being hit over the head with it. They say that Milenkovski then lunged at Wheeler with his knife and was shot at point blank range, killing him instantly.

Community groups have already compared this

killing with the unnecessary and unwarranted NSW police killing of Aboriginal man David Gundy in 1989 and the serious wounding of Darren Brennan in 1990.

While police minister Ted Pickering and senior police are yet to offer Mrs Milenkovski any sort of apology, they have been quick to condemn a mock movie poster which criticises police action in the killing. Distributed around Sydney and Wollongong, the poster accuses police officers of being "Licensed to Kill".

Pickering, who hinted that action might be taken against the group who produced the poster, stated that the killing was a "tragic occurrence which is in the process of being fully investigated by the police service".

But a spokesperson for the group, Campaign Against Legalised Murders (CALM), stated that police investigating police and producing the report which would be go before a coroner only highlighted one of their concerns. "When the police murder a person, it is their police friends who do the investigation. Is it any wonder that prosecutions of police for their actions are never made?

"Police who used their guns to kill or injure innocent people are never held accountable.

"Far from being prosecuted, the officer who killed David Gundy has been promoted, and the officer who shot Darren Brennan remains in the police force", the spokesperson said.

It is past time that the community was provided with a supervisory role over the police. One significant step would be a system in which community members could oversee operations in police stations. This would reduce the incidence of police malpractice and neglect, of physical and sexual assaults, wrongful convictions and, worst of all, deaths in custody.

The Campaign Exposing Frame-ups and Targeting Abuses of Authority (CEFTAA) has established a fund for donations which will be passed on to Mrs Milenkovski to help her pay for funeral and living expenses. Donations can be sent to PO Box K365, Haymarket 2000.

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