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Police deny heavy-handed approach to Palm Is

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 28 November 2004

The Queensland Police Union has defended the actions of officers in the troubled Indigenous community of Palm Island.

Scores of armed police were sent to the island after a riot on Friday, which was sparked by the death of 37-year-old Cameron Doomadgee in custody.

Several buildings, including the police station and court house, were burnt down during the disturbance.

Twelve people have since been arrested amid accusations that police are being heavy-handed.

Police are now questioning a man over the torching of the police station after he turned himself in this morning.

Bradley Foster, from Palm Island, says operations by armed police in the past 24 hours have brought fear to many residents.

He says there was a heavy police presence in parts of the island last night.

However, the union's Denis Fitzpatrick has rejected the claims of heavy-handedness.

"To my knowledge the police are responding and taking these persons into custody as they would in any other situation, regardless if it's Surfers Paradise for schoolies week or Palm Island," Mr Fitzpatrick said.

"They are using the same procedures that would be adopted right throughout the state.

"There's no favour or affection shown."

Mr Fitzpatrick says island elders are becoming "very precious" about the police presence.

"They're becoming irate that the police are there, that the police are moving about the island," he said.

"But let's be very clear, these people [taken into custody] have committed very serious offences."

Government plan

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie, Police Minister Judy Spence and Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson arrived on the island today.

Mr Beattie met with Palm Island council members and has put forward a five-point plan to help restore calm normality in the community.

Mr Beattie says his discussions today with the Palm Island Council were positive.

"We had a very productive two-and-a-half hour meeting and I've spelled out a five-point plan to deal with issues for the future," he said.

"Clearly this is going to be a very emotional and difficult time for the community up to and post the funeral and we've talked about how to do all that."

The council says the Government and police should take some responsibility for the situation because they have failed to address deaths in custody.

Earlier, the Mr Beattie toured the site of Friday's riot with Police Commissioner Atkinson.

The pair met some of the 80 police officers now stationed on the Island.

Mr Beattie says the armed police reinforcements will remain.

"Police will stay obviously until such times as the community feels safe," he said

The Premier is calling on the community to wait for the results of the Crime and Misconduct Commission investigation into Cameron Doomadgee's death.

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