Rolfe police unit ‘definitely a paramilitary group’

Zach Rolfe will give evidence to an inquest into the death of an Indigenous teen he shot dead.

Zach Rolfe will give evidence to an inquest into the death of an Indigenous teen he shot dead. Photo: AAP

The specialist police units involved in the fatal shooting of an Indigenous teenager fulfilled the description of a paramilitary group, an inquest has heard.

Constable Zachary Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker three times during a bungled arrest in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

Const Rolfe had been sent with a police sub-unit of the Northern Territory’s response group to apprehend the Warlpiri teenager after he left an Alice Springs alcohol rehabilitation clinic.

Monash University emeritus professor of criminology Jude McCulloch told the inquest that, based on her understanding of the group’s role and access to weapons, “it is definitely a paramilitary group”.

The author of a book on paramilitary policing in Australia said that while such groups had their place in modern policing, she questioned their appropriateness in the context of the NT.

Professor McCulloch said given the region’s history of militarised colonisation, the use of tactical groups for community policing could undermine trust and legitimacy.

“That’s the whole basis of community policing in general – the idea that policing can only be successful with the consent of the community,” she told the inquest on Tuesday.

She also said Const Rolfe’s text messages showed a “cowboy” mindset with a “sense of impunity and no accountability – not only no accountability to the community, but no accountability to other police.”

“It’s not the mindset of a disciplined police officer, or even a disciplined member of a paramilitary chain,” Prof McCulloch said.

Last week, NT Deputy Police Commissioner Murray Smalpage told the inquest that guns were integral to the territory’s police force and ruled out their removal.

The inquest continues, with a former Australian Federal Police officer expected to give evidence next in Alice Springs.


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