Victoria Police clears itself of misconduct over pepper-spraying incident

The Victorian police force have found no misconduct over the pepper-spraying and arrests of photographers at anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne

Victoria Police clears itself of misconduct over pepper-spraying incident
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Victoria Police has cleared its officers of misconduct over the pepper-spraying and arrests of photographers at an anti-lockdown protest in Melbourne in 2021.

The internal investigations into the incident have finished and no disciplinary action will be taken against the officers involved.

Luis Ascui, a photographer at The Age, was pepper-sprayed by an officer during the protest on September 18, 2021. Despite the force paying a settlement to Ascui after he filed a lawsuit, the officer who drenched him in oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray was cleared of misconduct by the integrity unit.

The protest also resulted in 10 officers being injured and six being taken to hospital, while 235 demonstrators were arrested.

The Age newspaper reported that police investigations into the incidents involving Ascui, Kogler and Currie were monitored by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission. IBAC has yet to finalize the outcome of its oversight, a spokeswoman said.

A Victoria Police spokesman confirmed the matters had been examined by Professional Standards Command under the Victoria Police Act, that no members had been disciplined and that the complaints “have been determined unfounded”.

“There will be no further action taken,” the spokesman said.

Kogler, who was arrested during the protest, described the incident: “They start putting my hands behind my back, but I’m still holding my cameras, and then they kick the back of my legs, and, like, throw me to the ground. I’m wearing a helmet and my head smacks into the ground. Then they punch me in the stomach and they yell stop resisting.”

Both Kogler and Currie were working as photographers, had lanyards and media patches on their clothing, and were arrested after a police line had been broken by protesters and bottles and debris had been thrown at officers.

Independent journalist Rukshan Fernando and Rebel News reporter Avi Yemini were also sprayed during the protest.

The use of OC spray is governed by strict rules that officers must adhere to. The Victoria Police manual states that “OC aerosols should only be used where there are reasonable grounds to believe the use is necessary and proportionate in situations ... of violence or serious physical confrontation, [or] where violent or serious physical confrontation is imminent.”

Police misconduct lawyer Jeremy King, who represented Ascui, said “Victoria Police are clearly not taking these incidents seriously.”

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  • By Avi Yemini

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