NSW Police cleared of striking indigenous teen, leaving cheek ‘torn apart’ during arrest

An Aboriginal teenager who had his cheek “torn apart” and needed surgery after being arrested should not have been tackled or struck by police, but the five officers involved did not commit misconduct, according to the independent police watchdog.

Police officers arrested the 14-year-old in western Sydney after pursuing a stolen car in August 2020.

The LECC has cleared police officers of wrongdoing, but made several recommendations for future arrests.

The LECC has cleared police officers of wrongdoing, but made several recommendations for future arrests.Credit:Sam Mooy

The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) found that after the teenager ran from the car he was tackled into a shipping container before four officers wrestled him into the ground, with one striking him several times.

Its report said it was “regrettable” that none of the officers were wearing bodycams, and that if they had then an investigation may not have been necessary.

The LECC began investigating the incident after the Department of Family and Community Services reported an alleged police assault. The boy, referred to as KR01, was arrested along with four other young people.

He was taken to hospital with facial injuries after the arrest, with a paediatrician saying that his injuries were “extensive and severe” and that he needed surgery under general anaesthetic. He alleged that he had been repeatedly kicked and struck, and hit in the head with police radios.

The LECC found that the teenager had run from the car before being tackled by a police officer into a shipping container with several exposed metal hinges and poles, saying this was the most likely cause of his facial injuries.

Four officers in total helped restrain the teenager on the ground, with one striking him three times “to gain control”.

“Officers KR03, KR04 and KR06 all gave evidence that they were aware that KROI had used a knife the evening before and they were concerned that he may still have a weapon on his person,” the LECC report said.

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