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Security Video Shows Aboriginal Boys in Australia Threatened, Mistreated in Custody

A map of Australia showing the territory names, with the Northern Territory highlighted.
A map of Australia showing the territory names, with the Northern Territory highlighted.

Security camera footage shows a police officer grabbing, shoving, and verbally abusing a teenage Aboriginal boy in a police station in Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory. The video was recorded in March 2018.

The officer's language is crass and his tone is threatening towards a group of indigenous boys aged between 12 and 16 arrested for stealing a car and leading police on a chase. He is seen apparently twisting one boy's arm around his back and pushing him into a bench.

Two officers were the subject of disciplinary proceedings but authorities in the Northern Territory have said they were not allowed by law to divulge what action was taken, if any.

A Royal Commission in 2017 recommended improvements to the way Northern Territory authorities treated young indigenous people, but justice advocates are questioning whether anything has changed.

June Oscar is Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

"Disgusted with what I saw, what I heard, I am appalled at the footage and the treatment of young people by the so-called authorities," Oscar said.

The footage was obtained by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation under freedom of information laws. The Northern Territory ombudsman, a public sector watchdog, said the officers' actions had "substantially exceeded" what was appropriate.

The incident took place less than six months after the end of a royal commission investigation into youth justice in the Northern Territory. It was prompted by revelations of mistreatment of young people in the youth detention system.

It made a number of recommendations, including mechanisms to keep Aboriginal children out of custody and boost support for their families.

Campaigners believe that attitudes within law enforcement have barely changed despite the royal commission's report.

Aboriginal Australians make up 29 percent of all prisoners in custody, while indigenous people comprise just 3 percent of the national population.

The Northern Territory Police has said its officers were expected to achieve high standards of behavior.