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Policeman Shot at Car? No, People!

After a great deal of coverage from most of the mainstream media comes news that a WA police officer has been charged in relation to a “Shooting”.

Sen-Const Niko Westergerling, 39, was charged on Wednesday with two counts of discharging a firearm in a manner likely to endanger life over the November 14 shooting. AAP

From news reports and statements given to a WA court it can be generally agreed that the officer pulled over a vehicle when he observed one of the occupants not wearing a seat belt. The car occupants were 3 adult women (including a pregnant woman) and 2 children, one of whom was just three years of age. After a brief disagreement over the identity of the driver the car took off.

Channel Seven reported that it was then that Constable Westergerling produced his police-issue Glock pistol and tried to smash a window with it, then fired the weapon twice as the car sped away. SMH

This is clearly not acceptable from any officer of the law and the serious charges laid show just how serious a criminal matter this is. How does a traffic incident so minor escalate into a potentially fatal police shooting. The officer was accompanied by colleagues, he was pulling over a car with women and children and although there was a disagreement surely he could not argue his life was in danger. Police Officers for the large part are just like you and I, they do a bloody tough job for not a great deal of pay. But could there have been any insight into this officer that could predict such an incident might occur?

Earlier this year…. Senior Constable Niko Westergerling, 38, who also worked as a male model, was fined $2000 by a Perth Magistrate after admitting to kicking and punching his wife in their Innaloo home during a heated argument. Constable Westergerling “snapped” and punched his wife, causing her a black eye, and threw her to the ground where he repeatedly kicked her to the body. SMH

Although confined to desk duties during the case he was back on operational duties once the matter had been finalised. How on earth he wasn’t in prison is anyones guess… “I want you to consider yourself lucky to be walking out of here today,” Magistrate Heaney said. Maybe it is hindsight that allows us to make the following observation, but is it any wonder that a man who beats and kicks his own wife would be willing to shoot at a car of women and children.

Now facing criminal charges and an internal investigation it is best if the rest of the particulars not reported widely are left to the courts to be dealt with. But it must be raised that while there has been coverage of the story, virtually all of it has referred to the incident as if  a policeman shot at a car. Would you, if anyone with a gun shot at your car, look at the damage to your car first or be more concerned about your own safety and your occupants. Bullets do not discriminate when fired, they can puncture steal, glass and find their way very easily into flesh. Nobody knows the intention of the officer, one can only hope that will come out in the court hearings, but people, not a car, was shot at!

It is important that we also consider the fact that the occupants of the car were Aboriginal. Would the media coverage have included far more outrage if the victims of the attempted shooting had been white? And can the victims feel they will get the justice they deserve given the colour of their skin?

It is easy to fob these issues off if you have never faced race based discrimination particularly by the police. But the Western Australian police service came into being as a full time operation after the massacre at Pinjarra in which men, women and children were slaughtered by the newly established force. Nearly 200 years later and having suffered other such massacres, brutality, deaths in custody and all round general poor treatment is it any wonder that Indigenous West Australians are concerned they wont see justice in this matter.

And perhaps, in this context, we must consider why many Aboriginal peoples do not feel safe when an “Intervention” sees police on mass roll into their land. Perhaps what they fear is not a new beginning, but an escalation of persecution!

Aboriginal health standards ‘third world’

© AAP 2011

Urgent changes are needed to improve the third world health standards among indigenous communities, the West Australian opposition says. Health Minister Kim Hames said in February that he would introduce a bill to amend the Public Health Act by the end of the year. But he told parliament on Tuesday that it was not urgent and may not be introduced until next year.

Opposition Health spokesman Roger Cook said improving Aboriginal public health should be a focus for the government. “The Health Department’s website said the current legislation, which is more than 100 years old, was ineffective at addressing Aboriginal environmental health issues and the exposure of indigenous people to disparate conditions affecting health,” he said. “Remote Aboriginal communities continue to be subject to poor community sewerage, lack of rubbish collection and problems with water supply, which contribute to poor health in these communities. “These loopholes that have allowed environmental health standards to remain at third world levels must be fixed as a matter of urgency.”

Mr Cook said there was no excuse for not introducing the bill, because it was already drafted and had been subject to extensive community consultation. The legislation would protect communities from diseases and other public health risks, encourage communities to maintain a healthy environment, provide for the prevention or early detection of diseases, and reduce health inequalities in the public health of disadvantaged communities.

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