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Inquiry told of police problems during Redfern riot

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 25 May 2004


Redfern police commander Dennis Smith has revealed police had to break into a storage area at the Sydney Police Centre to get to equipment to take to the scene of February's riot.

Superintendent Smith has given evidence to a parliamentary inquiry and has defended the police tactics used to respond on the night.

The riot was sparked by the death of Aboriginal teenager TJ Hickey in February.

Superintendent Smith has told the inquiry that he briefed Assistant Commissioner Bob Waites as best he could after criticism that "mixed messages" were received about the size and violence of the riot.

Superintendent Smith has given details about the delays in getting equipment to the scene.

"There was some issues of storage of some equipment at the police centre in Sydney not being able to be accessed quickly and a lock was broken and that equipment was accessed," he said.

He says there was no police intelligence to suggest that the riot was going to happen.

But he has defended the police tactics used on the night, saying the options were limited because of the presence of children.

Meanwhile, New South Wales Opposition leader John Brogden says there needs to be an audit of the capability of police to respond to situations like the riot.

Mr Brogden says there needs to be a review to make sure Operational Support Group (OSG) police are available to respond quickly should another riot happen.

"They weren't on standby to respond to this riot and as a consequence what the Government needs to do, and they don't have to wait for a recommendation out of the parliamentary inquiry, what they have to do now is urgently audit the OSG to make sure they are available to respond to these sorts of riots if they should occur again in the future," he said.

Mr Brogden says he is also concerned that 31 of the 36 people charged over the riot have been granted bail.


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