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Police commissioner slams 'disgraceful' certificates

Neve Brissenden -

The Northern Territory's top police officer is outraged by a series of racist awards allegedly handed out by the force's elite tactical response unit.

Former constable Zachary Rolfe tendered the certificates during an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker, attempting to prove the force's ingrained culture of racism.

Mr Rolfe shot Kumanjayi Walker, 19, three times as he resisted being handcuffed while armed with a pair of scissors in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.

He was acquitted of murder at a five-week trial.

Lawyers spent much of the February inquest session arguing over the legitimacy of "certificates" produced by Mr Rolfe, which aimed to prove Northern Territory Police handed out a racist award at Christmas parties.

Coroner Elisabeth Armitage on Monday made public the three certificates.

An inquest into the police shooting of an Indigenous teen revealed "certificates" awarded by police. (Image: HANDOUT/NT CORONER'S COURT)

The first depicts an Aboriginal flag with the Territory Response Group (TRG) logo in the corner with the words "CAUTION for a RAPE... that's all that needs to be said".

The award appears to be from 2013 and the name of the receiving constable is redacted.

The second certificate from 2012 depicts the TRG logo and an image of a police rescue vehicle chasing Usain Bolt.

The words "Runner up SOOTY AWARD, for outstanding lack of excellence in approaching a stronghold" are printed.

The TRG logo is also on the final 2012 award, depicting a naked man lying on his back and a woman wearing revealing clothing.

The words include "award for outstanding lack of excellence in cooking sausages".

Commissioner Michael Murphy said he was "taking the certificates as true" though they have not been officially verified.

"It's absolutely disgraceful and abhorrent, I won't stand for that type of culture in the Northern Territory police," he said on Monday.

"It's a line in the sand and we need to move forward and do a significant amount of homework to make sure the NT police is a safe, culturally safe and culturally competent organisation that indigenous people want to work with".

He said police are conducting an internal investigation with ICAC about the awards.

In February Mr Murphy admitted the award was racist, whether the certificates were verified or not, but said NT Police does not have a systemic racism problem.

NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler said the award was "not acceptable", and Police Minister Brent Potter said work would be done to address the issue.

"This has highlighted that we need to act faster, even though the coronial (matter) is ongoing there is work that can be done between myself, the commissioner and the attorney-general," he said.

NT Chief Minister Eva Lawler said police "certificates" revealed by an inquest are unacceptable. (Image: Neve Brissenden/AAP PHOTOS)

During the inquest, NT Police lawyer Ian Freckelton tendered four statements from senior officers in the Tactical Response Group who rejected the claims, saying no such award existed.

All four statements referenced the award, believed to be the the same called out by Mr Rolfe.

They all said a word in the award titled was "made up" and had no connection to Indigenous people.

"This award is presented to people who have displayed an outstanding lack of excellence in the area of personal hygiene or feral behaviour," Superintendent Craig Garland said.

However, the following day Mr Rolfe's lawyers came to court with certificates claiming to be from the recipients of the racist award.

Mr Rolfe requested the identity of the officers not be released, but wrote it on a piece of paper for the lawyers to see.

Dr Freckelton made a successful application to prevent the media publishing the images of the award until investigations took place.

13YARN 13 92 76

Aboriginal Counselling Services 0410 539 905

Neve Brissenden - AAP

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