Police defend Palm Island appointee re bias

By: Tony Koch

CALLS for Queensland Deputy Police Commissioner Kathy Rynders to be replaced as the person responsible for investigating the conduct of police who first looked into the 2004 death in custody of Palm Islander Mulrunji Doomadgee have been rejected by senior police.
Indigenous Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda yesterday added his voice to that of Palm Island Mayor Al Lacey, seeking Ms Rynders's replacement because of a perceived bias.
``Investigations of this nature, and particularly when dealing with something so sad and serious as the death in custody of Mr Doomadgee, have not only to be free of bias, but have to be seen to be so,'' he said.
It was disclosed that Ms Rynders last year gave bravery awards to two officers who were on Palm Island during the riot on November 26, 2004, when the police station and courthouse were burned down.
The ABC's 7.30 Report on Monday night showed footage taken by police on Palm Island during the riot, and claimed it was the first time it had been publicly shown.
However, the footage was shown to media and members of the public during two coronial inquests into the death of Doomadgee and has been available for several years.
Ms Rynders was appointed by Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson in August to decide the fate of six officers involved in the discredited investigations into the death of Doomadgee.
There is a legal challenge by the Crime and Misconduct Commission into Ms Rynders's clearing of allegations against another police officer, Sergeant Damien Chapman, who was accused of assaulting a 15-year old youth and later lying about it.
Ms Rynders ruled that the allegations were unsubstantiated, and added in her decision that the boy, who was suspected of a breaking and entering, could have suffered a ruptured spleen while moving furniture in his house several hours before he had the encounter with Sergeant Chapman.
The commission yesterday issued a statement that said it was ``aware of concern in some parts of the community about a perceived conflict of interest relating to the consideration of disciplinary action against police officers involved in two investigations surrounding the Palm Island death in custody of Mulrunji''.
It said the appointment of Ms Rynders was ``the responsibility of the Police Commissioner''.
``The CMC understands public frustration at the length of time it is taking to consider disciplinary action . . . (but) that is a matter for the Queensland Police Service.''