The NT Police have continued to suppress information about violence in Wadeye, issuing a press release an hour and a half after the NT Independent sent questions about the ongoing rioting, but which lacked vital information about bloodshed in the community and why the Territory Response Group has not been sent in to restore safety.
Police media manager Rob Cross did not respond to the NT Independent, instead issuing a public press release, sent to everyone on their email list, a method he has used before when this paper has exposed sex crimes that had gone un-reported by NT Police.
In the release, NT Police continued its suppression of details of violence and destruction in the town, saying there was “significant damage to property, including extensive damage to 37 residences”.
“A number of community members have been displaced across the area and efforts are currently in place to support and relocate some of the vulnerable,” Mr Cross wrote.
In the statement, Acting Superintendent Bradley Fox was quoted as saying police had responded to “numerous instances of violence within the community recently, and it is believed historical tensions between local families are the cause of the unrest”.
He said “tensions had heightened since late March” and continued after the death of a 32-year-old man on April 19. A source had told the NT Independent that man had allegedly been “speared in the head” by a metal pole.
Mr Cross did not address questions put to him, including a request to provide a list of all alleged crimes that have taken place in the last month in Wadeye along with any injuries, and provide someone from NT Police who could speak to the NT Independent about what is happening.
He also ignored why the TRG had not been sent to the community and information provided to the NT Independent which indicated that an ex-TRG officer was being sent out to teach officers how to use tear gas.
He did tell the NT News that over two weeks in early April, police arrested 18 people for anti-social behaviour, and that police were hit with rocks.
Sources have told the NT Independent there is “absolute mayhem” in the community, with a health staff member speared through the leg, police officers injured, and police being ordered not to leave the compound. Crossbows and other high powered weapons are also now being used by locals.
One source said of the houses burnt, 10 were newly built.
Acting Chief Minister and Police Minister Nicole Manison and Labor MLA for Daly Dheran Young did not respond to questions yesterday about why they were being silent.
They also did not explain what the government is doing about the ongoing violence in the town.
CareFlight would not provide comment on how many people it had flown out of the community in recent days.
The West Daly Regional Council also did not respond by publishing time.
Territory Families and Urban Housing minister Kate Worden did respond to the NT News saying the burning of the houses was “extremely disappointing”.
“Not just for us as the asset managers but also for the community,” Ms Worden said.
“It’s really devastating for the families that are in those homes.”
Lack of information from NT Police contravene transparency guidelines
The NT Independent asked Mr Cross about police reporting of incidents in Wadeye including how they make decisions about which crimes are inserted in media releases, or how their decisions comply and compare with the NT Police’s “transparency guidelines”.
Wednesday’s media release was just the third from NT Police about Wadeye in two months, the first being about two police officers being assaulted on April 8, and the second about the teenager being charged with manslaughter over the death of the 32-year-old.
NT Police suppression of crime tactics follow on from the NT Independent’s exclusive series of articles last year exposing how alleged rapes, and sexual assaults, including of children, had not been made public soon after they had happened – even in cases when the alleged offender was still at large – or the sexual part of the assault had been hidden, and in one case, the executive had not made public the alleged rape element of a break-in, only describing it as a break-in and robbery.
Less than six percent of alleged sexual assault offences in the NT recorded over 22 months until October 2021 were publicly reported by the NT Police, an NT Independent analysis that compared crime statistics to police media statements showed, including three months where no sex crimes were made public by police at all.
Sources specifically came to the NT Independent with information about Wadeye because they were angry with the NT Police executive not making information public.
The NT Police transparency guidelines state any officer-in-charge of an investigation is allowed to “provide information to the media provided this does not compromise the investigation, identify alleged offenders, identify victims (unless permission is granted and the victim(s) is over the age of 18) or disclose police tactics”.
“Police may release identifying information of persons they are unable to locate by other means, who are believed to have information which will assist with a serious investigation and whereby public safety is a justified concern,” it states.
The media release guidelines – which are confusingly worded – state they ensure the following matters are proactively considered for public release, and if information falls within one or more of the following categories, it should be considered for public release.
- Timely, significant events of likely public interest.
- Requirement for public assistance or witnesses where members in charge believe there is a real likelihood media can assist with this part of their investigation.
- Serious incidents such as robbery, serious assault, fatal motor vehicle crashes.
- Proactive, positive PFES stories of likely public interest.
- Strategic priorities with key educational messages such as road safety – drink drivers caught.
- Significant arrests, charges and court dates.
- Public safety concerns.
The transparency guidelines go on to state the media unit will endeavour to provide a response to all requests for information from media, despite the media unit continuing to breach their own guidelines by refusing to disclose pertinent public information.