The inflammatory flyer showing the face of the officer and branding him “violent and dangerous”. The Herald Sun has decided to protect the identity of the policeman. Supplied
Herald Sun October 26, 2011
UPDATE 10.51am: POLICE are seeking legal advice after Occupy Melbourne protesters circulated a flyer that featured a bitter personal attack against an officer.
Acting Chief Commissioner Ken Lay last night wrote to the force’s 12,500 members urging them not to be intimidated by protesters who produced a poster singling out an officer under the heading “This officer is violent and dangerous”.
“The personal attack on one of our people, who was simply doing his job, will not be tolerated,” he said.
“These tactics will not – and can not – deter us from doing our jobs and ensuring the safety of the Victorian
community. Stay safe.”
The Leading Sen-Constable was working on the front line on Friday when violence erupted in the city.
Mr Lay said the officer was “pretty good” when they spoke this morning.
“It’s quite extraordinary. I don’t think people go to work expecting to be attacked in this way.”We’ll just put some support around him and make sure he’s OK,” he told 3AW.
“We’re going to take every possible step to protect him and all our members.
“The risk, of course, was that if we’d had this person on the front line and someone within that group had decided to turn their attention to him personally, it’s a bit worrying how that might have ended.’’
Mr Lay said the attack had united the force this morning and the officer was at work today.
He said police would need a complaint to investigate the allegations.
“But having said that, we’re reviewing a whole lot of video footage to make sure we’re completely satisfied with the actions of our people and certainly the allegations that this person’s assaulted dozens of people to me … is not based in fact in any way shape or form,’’ Mr Lay said.
Police Association secretary Greg Davies said if the force did not take legal action against those distributing the flyer, the union would.
Sen-Sgt Davies said this would include a defamation suit.
“We would hope the police force will pursue any avenue of legal redress against these outrageous allegations,” he said.
Sen-Sgt Davies said he was disappointed but not shocked by the material.
He said he did not know the identity of the office pictured and he had not contacted the union.
“We’ve not spoken to this officer. At this stage he hasn’t contacted us. This only came to light late yesterday evening. I have no doubt that will change as the day progresses,’’ Sen-Sgt Davies said this morning.
He said the association did not know who produced the poster.
“Not to our knowledge. That may well come to light down the track and that might make other processes a little easier if and when it happens,’’ Sen-Sgt Davies said.
When asked why the officer’s picture was used he said: “I’d say he’s probably the only one they got a clear enough photo of to put on a poster.”
Media law expert and HWL Ebsworth partner Nicholas Pullen said on first look the flyer was “clearly defamatory’’.
“Certainly to call anyone violent and dangerous would be considered highly defamatory by the courts as it’s clearly sending a message to people or the reader that this is a person to be avoided and that’s an essential part of defamation, meaning it lessens or demeans that person’s reputation in the community,’’ Mr Pullen said.
“Anyone who is caught handing out this pamphlet or has authored this pamphlet or is responsible for printing it, all of these people are going to be just as liable as each other.
“They would actually have to prove to the court that this police officer is violent and dangerous.’’
Mr Pullen said flyers handed out at mass gatherings were a common way to defame people.
He said the court would decide on damages if those responsible for creating the flyer were found guilty of defamation.
“This is highly defamatory so it would definitely be in the tens of thousands of dollars of damages,’’ Mr Pullen said.
Police Minister Peter Ryan and Lord Mayor Robert Doyle hit out at the flyer.
“This is an appalling personal attack upon an officer doing no more than enforcing the law,” Mr Ryan said.
A furious Cr Doyle added: “This is reprehensible behaviour. These (protesters) are people who purport to represent democracy and the rule of law.”
“How would they feel if police did the same thing to them? I reiterate my support for the professionalism of the police and their work.”
Police said it was “extremely disappointing that a member is subjected to this type of attack whilst only doing his job”.
“If people have legitimate complaints, there is an official process for them to follow,” a statement said.
Mr Lay said the photo of the officer in the flyer was taken while he was on duty last Friday.
“It is important to point out that the photo shows the member simply standing there and does not illustrate anything to justify the defamatory words which follow under the image.”
In a move set to further inflame tension with police and the city council, protesters said they would again take to the streets on Saturday at noon to march from State Library to Treasury Gardens, where they plan another occupation.
They do not intend seeking a permit from Melbourne City Council.
At last night’s meeting of protesters at the State Library, Occupy Melbourne repeated its claim members had been attacked by police during Friday’s ugly showdown in City Square.
Married couple Koby and Rory James, 22, of South Melbourne, said the officer in the flyer should be sacked.
“He should be ashamed of himself, he should be marched back to headquarters and he should be stripped of his job,” Koby said.
The couple said they were both assaulted by police on Friday and were also taunted over their sexuality.
“They homophobically taunted us. I kissed my husband as we were being separated and they said ‘see you later girls’,” Koby said.
Police continue to review video and photography of last Friday’s wild scenes in the City Square.
– Mark Buttler, Stephen Drill and Amelia Harris