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June Oscar backs call to stop cops carrying guns in communities

Emma Ruben -

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar has joined calls to remove guns from police officers working in communities.

It comes after Northern Territory policeman Zachary Rolfe was found not guilty of murder, manslaughter and a violent act causing death after shooting 19-year-old Kumanjayi Walker three times in Yuendumu in 2019.

Ms Oscar backed the Walker family's calls for no more guns to be carried by police in communities.

She also called for Indigenous Elders and liaison officers to hold decision-making positions in policing matters and for there to be substantial investments in community wrap-around supports and trauma-informed responses.

"Mass incarceration and the deaths of First Nations people when in contact with the justice system must end," Ms Oscar said.

"For 30 years we have urged Australian governments to implement all recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

"We have long held the solutions, and countless inquires and reports have given us the way forward.

"But time and again we fail to effectively implement them, and as a result we continue to see First Nations men, women and children dying in our so-called justice system."

While the move has support among Indigenous groups, both the NT Government and opposition have distanced themselves from the campaign.

NT Police Minister Nicole Manison on Wednesday said police needed to be equipped for unexpected situations.

"The Territory Government supports our police to have full access to the best resources, training and equipment to do their tough jobs," she said.

"The requirements for those situations is an operational decision for police command."

Northern Territory Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro said her party supported the carrying of firearms.

"We send police into volatile, challenging and dangerous situations, which is why we train them in a range of community engagement and defensive tactics so that they can protect the community and themselves from violent threats," she said.

"Police always strive to work collaboratively with communities and build positive relationships but the reality is, there are members of the public who are aggressive, unpredictable and violent, and we support the carrying of firearms by police as one in a range of tools they have to protect the community and themselves."

Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT backed the call for improved safety for all Aboriginal people and communities.

APO NT called for an independent board of inquiry to restore community confidence in police and to examine a return to community policing.

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