Mobile phone footage finally proved WA police unlawfully tasered and falsely arrested a driver, but only after 3 investigations cleared them

File photo. Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
  • Western Australia’s Corruption and Crime Commission has ruled police unlawfully tasered a driver.
  • Three “flawed” internal police investigations into the incident found nothing wrong.
  • Mobile phone footage contradicted the police version of what happened.

Police in Western Australia unlawfully tasered a driver at a random breath test stop and then falsely arrested him, according to an investigation by the state’s Corruption and Crime Commission.

Three internal investigations by Police found nothing wrong but footage shot on a mobile phone by a witness told a different story.

And the state’s corruption watchdog has now found serious misconduct among the police involved, that the actions of police were “unreasonable and oppressive”, and that the arrest of the driver was unlawful.

The man, the CEO of a company supplying and fitting vehicle accessories, his wife, Amy, and a friend, Alan Robbins, were on the way to dinner, an 8pm booking at Don Tapa, a South American restaurant, when their car was stopped at a random breath test in Fremantle on March 31, 2017.

The driver, who for the purposes of the subsequent investigation was called Bill Holt (not his real name), returned a zero alcohol reading.

Screenshot from mobile phone footage released by the WA Corruption and Crime Commission.

However, the police then directed the driver to move to a carpark where the vehicle was issued with a yellow defect notice for allegedly unlawful modification to the car, including outsized wheels, a cracked windscreen and a light bar installed on the top of the vehicle.

The man was driving a large green Jeep modified by him to include a lift kit and an array of lights including a bar light above the windscreen.

He was then told he was: “Good to go.”

Shortly after that, a police officer stopped the car again and tasered Holt who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Jeep.

He was then was arrested, put into a police van and taken to Fremantle police station where he spent several hours in the lock-up before being released. The next day he was told there would be no charges.

His friend, Alan Robbins, filmed the incident using his mobile phone. He kept filming even when told by police he would be charged with obstruction. He wasn’t.

The commission later commented: “Filming police using a mobile device at a reasonable distance is not obstructive and cannot constitute an offence.”

Here is the footage.

Holt believed the positioning of the LED lights did not infringe Western Australian Design Rules and therefore should not have been part of the defect notice.

During the inspection, police said there was heckling from inside the vehicle: “You are jealous of my car, you are too poor to afford this car.”

One of the police, after the driver had been told he could go, then decided to have a “quick chat” about the heckling, which he described as a “minor bit of disorderly behaviour”. This was the alleged reason for stopping the car again, after the vehicle inspection.

The investigation by the Corruption and Crime Commission found that Senior Constable (no first name given) Keenan reached into the jeep and tried to grab the vehicle’s key.

This ended up with the car’s key being twisted and broken.

Witnesses say Senior Constable Keenan then shouted: “You are about to be tasered.”

He stepped back, took out his taser, took aim and fired.

Two other police at the scene said the firing of the taser took them by surprise.

Subsequent internal investigations by police ignored the mobile phone footage.

However, the Corruption and Crime Commission paid close attention, finding that the driver was “tasered in his vehicle for no good reason”, arrested and locked up.

“There was no lawful jurisdiction for Mr Holt to be tasered,” the commission says.

“The tasering was unreasonable and oppressive. The Commission has formed an opinion of serious misconduct by the officer who administered the taser.”

The commission says the three police investigations into the incident — a criminal investigation by the Traffic Enforcement Group, a managerial review, and a Professional Conduct Investigation Unit review — were all flawed.

“The tasering incident involved a Senior Constable who used the taser and was the most senior officer; and another Senior Constable who later produced a Statement of Material Facts (an important legal document) that varied considerably with what the recorded vision of the incident shows,” the commission says.

The commission says the police officer, Senior Constable (no first name) Arnold, who tried to prevent the filming, faces charges.

At one stage, her identification badge was removed from her uniform. The commission says she could not satisfactorily explain the removal of her velcro name badge.

Western Australia has a history of controversy over the use of tasers by police.

In 2014, two policemen were found guilty of assaulting an Aboriginal man, Kevin Spratt, in the East Perth watch house in September 2008 by repeatedly tasering him.

They were given suspended jail terms and fined.

Last year a 40-year-old man died after being tasered in East Perth. Again, the incident was filmed by onlookers using mobile phones.

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