NSW Coroner describes police as reckless over taser death
RECKLESS, dangerous, excessive and thuggish was how NSW Coroner Mary Jerram described the actions of several police officers which led to the tragic death of a young Brazilian man on the streets of Sydney in March this year.
Coroner Jerram released her findings from the inquest into the death of 21-year-old Roberto Laudisio Curti on Wednesday.
On St Patrick's Day this year, Mr Curti went out for drinks with friends but never returned home.
His death was probably caused by police officers using multiple Tasers, capsicum spray and handcuffing, as well as a 'pile on' of several officers on his back while he screamed in pain in the street.
The Coroner's report also said other factors leading to his death were errors of police reporting his erroneous behvaiour as an "armed robbery", after he shared LSD with some friends hours earlier.
But Coroner Jerram concluded despite the LSD use, "he was guilty of no serious offence", and there was no alcohol found in his system during an autopsy.
She also found police officers abused their powers by using excessive force in tasering him multiple times at point blank range, or in 'drive stun mode'; tackling; spraying (with capsicum spray) and restraining him.
She was particularly critical of then-Sergeant Greg Cooper's actions both on the morning of Mr Curti's death, and during the inquest since.
"Sergeant Cooper's evidence was so self-contradictory, self-serving and obscure that it hardly bears narrating," Coroner Jerram wrote.
"Frankly, given that he was the most senior officer involved, both his actions during the event and his attempts to exonerate himself and blame more junior officers afterwards, are little short of contemptible."
Sergeant Cooper has since been promoted to the more senior level of Inspector within the state police force.
Coroner Jerram's report also highlighted the contradictory nature of some of the other officer's evidence, finding some individual officers more to blame than others.
While she made no certain findings on the cause of death, she wrote it was probable a "pile on" of 11 officers, numerous tasers used in "drive stun mode" and the use of up to three cans of capsicum spray on him may have contributed.
Coroner Jerram made five recommendations, including disciplinary actions against five officers be considered by NSW Police, and the actions of police be referred to the state's Police Integrity Commission (PIC).
She also recommended an immediate review of the state police standard operating procedures for Tasers, capsicum spray, handcuffing, restraint and potential asphyxia (suffocation) among other procedures.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione fronted the media after the Coroner's report was released.
He acknowledged the report was "scathing and vowed to adopt all five recommendations contained in the report.
Commissioner Scipione said he was "mindful" of calls for criminal charges to be laid against the officers involved but warned it would be "problematic" for disciplinary action to be considered before the PIC had reviewed the report.
He did however confirm the concerning officers had been stripped of their taser accreditation and would have to undergo training before the weapons were returned to them.
Asked why an officer, whose evidence was almost entirely rejected by the Coroner, had been promoted to Inspector in the months following the incident, Mr Scipione said he had been the strongest candidate for the job.
He said the Coroner had raised some "very serious concerns" about the officer's evidence and they had been referred to the Professional Standards Command.
He also accepted tasers could encourage "lazy cop syndrome" but strongly rejected the suggestion they had no place in policing.
"I think we need to remember that tasers have saved lives, and they have protected police and others, including those suffering mental health episodes, from the risk of injury on many occasions," Mr Scipione said
Mr Curti's death was officially listed as "undetermined".