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"Blatantly racist" : More than 30 community leaders call on Police Union president to resign

Dechlan Brennan -

Calls for the Queensland Police Union president to resign have grown, with a letter signed by community leaders saying he expressed "outward racist ideology" in an article he wrote this week.

Ian Leavers' article in the Courier Mail on Wednesday expressed disdain for the state's Treaty process, saying it would make the justice system favourable for Indigenous people.

He offered no evidence for this prediction other than conversations he supposedly had with other police officers.

On Friday, more than 30 community leaders - including a former judge, lawyers, Indigenous elders and academics - called on the Mr Leavers to resign, arguing his statements reinforced negative stereotypes of Indigenous Australians.

"These statements politicise the truth and treaty process as a means for spring boarding a personal campaign that is negligent and outwardly harmful to the wellbeing and interests of our First Nations peoples and communities, and to the reconciliation efforts of our nation," the statement said.

Signatories to the statement, titled, "Queensland Police Service (QPS) First Nations Advisory Group, Supporters and Allies," include former court of appeal president Margaret McMurdo - who heads the state's Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce - and Ross Homel, emeritus professor at Griffith university.

Prof Homel told ABC on Wednesday that Mr Leavers' comments were factually wrong.

"And he's implying, I think, in this op-ed, that you can't have a treaty with people like that, because they're, you know, they're all criminals," he said.

"If that's the implication, then I think that is blatantly racist and just unacceptable."

The statement said Leavers' comments in the article were "gravely irresponsible" and propagated personal views ahead of what criminologists and researchers have said isn't rooted in fact.

"The Queensland Police Union President has through his comments undermined the incredibly complex and challenging role of police to develop trusting and culturally safe relationships with communities and has harmed communities and the community confidence in the QPS," it said.

"The Queensland Police Union Presidents' comments have seen him deny the evidential 'truth' that was demonstrated in the Commission of Inquiry that racism, sexism and misogyny exist in the QPS in favour of spreading misinformation and inciting a racial divide."

Last year, a report titled A Call for Change, found: "Racism is a significant problem within the QPS. It manifests in discriminatory behaviours directed towards First Nations employees, employees from other cultural backgrounds and members of the community."

In his piece, Mr Leavers cited the suggestion by the Yoorrook commission in Victoria to "create a presumption in favour of bail for all offences with the exception of murder, terrorism and like offences."

"They are effectively offering a free pass to every rapist, domestic violence abuser, habitual home invader and car thief who tells police they identify as Aboriginal," Leavers wrote.

There was no mention that the bail presumption should only apply to Indigenous people under the age of 16 from the commission.

The statement rejected this notion, arguing youth crime was rooted in trauma and needed to be addressed holistically, not through police targeting.

"The 'real truth' of crime committed by young people is that they themselves are likely to have been victims of crime and are much more likely to have experienced trauma causing a disengagement from education, family, and community. They are more likely to be homeless or are couch-surfing. These are our forgotten children," the statement said.

Mr Leavers also wrote that, "The establishment of the rather euphemistically named Truth and Treaty Body will, as far as I can tell, remind us all on a daily basis how bad all Queenslanders should feel about the First Nations people of this state and that we are all probably racist."

In a press conference on Wednesday, he defended his comments, saying the $400m that would be spent on Treaty would be better off in the communities.

"That's where I'm coming from," he said.

Wakka Wakka woman and Co-Chair of the First Nations Advisory Group to QPS, Christine Thomas, told the Brisbane Times to her knowledge, "there was no consultation with the 17,000 members he (Mr Leavers) claims to represent".

"Most importantly (there was) no consultation with QPS First Nations staff, some of whom have been left shattered by these comments," Thomas said.

The signatories said Mr Leavers did not represent the views of the "thousands of Qld Police Employees and members of the public who are appalled by the comments."

"The Queensland Police Union Presidents' factually inaccurate, inflammatory and fear mongering comments do not reflect who we are, and who we aspire to be as people in this state of Queensland. These racialised and divisive comments should be condemned in the strongest terms."

"We call on Mr Leavers to resign."

Mr Leavers, who said in his piece people would "whip themselves into a frenzy" over his comments, has already been criticised by the State's Human Rights Commissioner, as well as members of the Labor Party.

The State opposition declined to condemn his remarks, only pointing to their previous statement that Treaty would bring about division.


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