Former cop insists NT police not ‘genuine racists’

Keira Jenkins |

An inquest into an Indigenous death has been told racist comments were way of police venting stress.
An inquest into an Indigenous death has been told racist comments were way of police venting stress.

A former member of the Northern Territory’s Tactical Response Group says during his time as an officer, offensive language and jokes were commonly made throughout the entire NT Police Force.

Carey Joy said, in a statutory declaration filed to an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker in the remote community of Yuendumu, racist comments were seen as “acceptable and a means of venting stress” within the police force.

“I would estimate not a week would go by where I wouldn’t hear what the general public would describe as racist, offensive or homophobic,” he said in the statement.

Despite this, Mr Joy said a “genuinely racist” person would not choose to work within the NT Police Force.

Zachary Rolfe in Yuendumu (file image)
Zachary Rolfe (right) was a TRG officer when he fatally shot Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu. (HANDOUT/NORTHERN TERRITORY SUPREME COURT)

“I feel I have never worked with or known a genuine racist within the ranks,” he said.

“I have no doubt heard and taken part in sharing offensive, racist, homophobic and other dark humour jokes and comments, in poor taste throughout my career and life.”

Kumanjayi Walker was fatally shot by then-constable Zachary Rolfe in November 2019, during an attempted arrest.

Mr Rolfe, who was a Tactical Response Group (TRG) member, was acquitted of murder during a five-week trial in 2022 and he is no longer serving as a police officer.

The inquest into Mr Walker’s death, which finalised its hearings on Wednesday, examined the culture within the NT Police Force, revealing racist language and jokes made by officers and a series of offensive certificates handed out to TRG officers.

In his statement, made public on Friday, Mr Joy admitted taking part in the awards ceremonies where the certificates were handed out and making comments that could be deemed offensive, but said he does not consider himself a racist.

Mr Joy also referred to a TRG book, labelled “the book of truths” where “silly, funny or offensive” comments made by officers were recorded.

He recalled a comment he made in Katherine, during his time as a TRG officer, which was recorded in the book.

“We observed there were large numbers of intoxicated people walking across the road, on the footpaths and everywhere,” he said.

“As we drove past a large group I made the comment ‘it looks like someone popped a pinata full of drunk … ‘ (and I then believe I used a derogatory term to refer to aboriginals [sic]).”

Mr Joy said his fellow officers laughed at the comment and told him “that’s going in the book”.

He insisted in his statement, TRG officers are “genuinely not racists” as multiple members were married to Indigenous people, had Indigenous family members or children.

Mr Joy said NT police officers are faced with “staggering volumes of the most horrific scenes/ injuries and trauma” that most people would not understand.

“Consideration needs to be given to an individual’s need to cope with these frequent horrors, their subsequent needs to vent, share their emotional trauma, use dark humour as a coping mechanism, their needs to constantly desensitise themself and process incredibly horrific exposure,” he said.

Coroner Elisabeth Armitage is expected to hand down her inquest findings in the coming months.

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