Asia Rights

Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific

Victorian Police accused of racially profiling the Sudanese Community

See here for the full ABC News article.

Victoria Police is under fire again, this time for apparently training some of its officers to racially profile members of Melbourne’s growing East African community.

The force has repeatedly denied it profiles communities based on their skin colour and stereotypes, but a document obtained by the ABC’s Lateline program seems to prove otherwise.

The African community and the Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner have condemned the reports.

The document appears to be a teaching aid – a set of PowerPoint computer documents.

Entitled African/Sudanese Community Cross Cultural Advice, it opens with a brief geography and history lesson about Africa and then a more detailed analysis of the religions, languages and other cultural traits of people from Africa’s Horn including Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

Then under the heading “Their appearance”, the training documents obtained by Lateline state people from that area of the world are tall, have skinny features and dark, tight curly hair.

They then describe varying degrees of skin colour at some length and lists the sorts of interactions police may have with East African refugees.

Young males will be found in public spaces, the documents say. They are likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour, armed robberies, alcohol, drugs and sexual assaults.

According to Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, it is simply not enough that the documents also instruct police to treat individuals with respect and tolerance.

“I’m sure the training is put together with the best of intentions,” he said.

“But really to suggest that it’s appropriate to make judgments and decisions about any group of people on the basis of their race and behaviour which is suggested to be carried out by people of that race just doesn’t line up, doesn’t make sense.”

Victoria Police has acknowledged the training documents as genuine.

Inspector Charlie Allen says it is not racial profiling and the police have taken legal advice, which has come back saying the state’s human rights charter has not been breached.

“The document was developed in consultation with the Sudanese community, with Sudanese leaders,” he said.

“The document was about developing the cultural competence of our people to increase their understanding of the community, to improve relations with the community and to dispel racial stereotypes.”

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