Vic Police accused of racism in handing out COVID fines

Photo: AAP

Victoria Police officers have been accused of racial profiling, with a damning report showing they disproportionately targeted people of non-Anglo appearance during the pandemic.

African, Middle Eastern and First Nations people were up to four times more likely to be fined for COVID-19 breaches, when considering their share of the state’s population.

More than 37,000 fines were issued for COVID-related offences in 2020, with at least 28,000 including details of the person’s perceived racial appearance, according to data from Inner Melbourne Community Legal released on Tuesday.

More than 20 per cent were issued to people of African and Middle Eastern appearance, despite them only making up about 5 per cent of the Victorian population.

Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people accounted for nearly three per cent of all fines, yet make up just one per cent of the state’s population.

Lead researcher Tamar Hopkins said the data was evidence of racist policing.

“We found strong evidence that African/Middle Eastern-appearing people were more likely to be issued with a fine that required questioning than white people,” Dr Hopkins said.

“This difference in treatment provides evidence of racial profiling by the police against African/Middle Eastern people.”

It follows an apology from Victoria’s top cop in May for racist police practices within Victoria Police.

During a truth-telling inquiry, Chief Commissioner Shane Patton acknowledged the state’s criminal justice system had failed First Nations people over generations .

“I know Victoria Police has caused harm in the past and, unfortunately, continues to do so in the present,” he told the Yoorrook Justice Commission.

“As an organisation, we continue to make necessary changes and improvement, and it is a firm requirement of mine that we will continually strive to do better.”

Asked about Tuesday’s report, a spokeswoman for Victoria Police  denied any wrongdoing.

“Victoria Police rejects any suggestion that officers targeted specific ethnic groups for COVID-19 offences,” she said.

“This is simply not true.”


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