RLC in the media: Aboriginal teenager dead - Jai Wright's family calls for independent investigation

The family of a 16-year-old Aboriginal boy who was killed in an collision with an unmarked police car have called for an independent investigation into his death.

Isaac Nellist reports

The boy's father indicated that NSW police had provided differing and contradictory accounts of what happened - disrespecting a grieving family. An unmarked police car, possibly in pursuit, hit Thungatti teen Jai Wright whilst he was riding a motorbike in Alexandria and his head injuries were so severe he died the following day in hospital. But the exact mechanism of the accident is unknown.

“We have been given inconsistent information by police as to what caused Jai’s death,” he said on February 21. “Any parent wants to know how their little boy has died. That is why we are calling for an entirely independent inquiry away from the police.”

Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) on February 21 NSW Police to release its policy on Safe Driving that it said is “shrouded in secrecy”.

Samantha Lee, RLC police accountability officer, said police pursuit protocols and its Safe Driving policy remains “hidden from public scrutiny” despite a spike in deaths following police pursuits.

“Police motor vehicle incidents often occur in the context of police pursuits, and continue to have horrific consequences, impacting many including young people, innocent bystanders, ambulance services, witnesses, and even police themselves,” she said.

“NSW State Coroners have made numerous recommendations about safe driving … but we still don’t know if NSW Police have acted on these recommendations,” she said.

RLC outlined the 10 recommendations made between 2016–2021, and said they must be immediately implemented.

The Coroner recommended in 2016 that “The NSW Police Force Safe Driving Policy component dealing with police pursuits be reviewed, in the light of Australian and international experience and research” and that there is an “ an unequivocal definition of the term ‘termination’ as it relates to pursuits”.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody brought down its 339 recommendations to save lives in 1991, more than 500 people have died in custody.

The Aboriginal Legal Service has echoed the Wright family’s call for an independent inquiry. “To be an independent investigation, you can’t be a police officer. You can’t be a police officer investigating other police officers,” Wright said. “That’s my kid. I am never going to see him again. I just want to know the truth.”

See the full article here (Green Left Weekly 22 February 2022)