Bridges or bandaids? Another Death in Police Custody Reveals Fatal Flaws in the Aboriginal Liaison Officer Concept


The appointment of liaison officers to act as bridges to vulnerable or hard to reach communities is a standard application of a community policing philosophy, and one that would seem to have much to commend it. However, in the case of many Indigenous communities, the very nature of the role is historically suspect. This article traces the role of the Aboriginal liaison officer Lloyd Bengaroo in the tragic death of Mulrunji in police custody on Palm Island, and considers broader questions about policing strategies in communities with a history of rejection of police authority. While recognising that Aboriginal liaison officers may be an accepted adjunct to State policing in some areas, it concludes that these unsworn officers cannot be expected to substitute for genuine consent to policing in areas where police legitimacy is in serious dispute. (Abstract.)

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