Police inquiry into violent arrest of Aboriginal man
South Australia Police officers have been filmed pinning an Aboriginal man to the ground in Adelaide's inner-north as one officer punches him several times.
A police internal investigation has begun into the violent arrest of Noel Henry on Monday night, which sparked outrage from bystanders and indigenous campaigners.
The officers involved have been placed on administrative duties during the investigation, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said.
He said the video "caused concern" but was adamant SA Police was free of systemic racism.
"I've had the opportunity to view the body-worn video worn by some police and there is more detail regarding the actions of all people involved which needs to be fully investigated," he said.
"I've learned over significant experience that I need to wait and look at the full circumstances before I form a view of rights and wrongs."
An SA Police statement - reproduced in full below - said the arrest took place after officers responding to a "high-risk domestic violence matter" on Albert St, Kilburn, saw Mr Henry, 28, riding his bicycle at 8.15pm.
Officers suspected Mr Henry was in possession of illicit drugs and "he was asked to place his hands on his head while a search of his person was undertaken", SA Police said.
"The man originally was compliant and after a short time he began to refuse. Defensive spray was deployed and other police arrived."
Local resident Emma Perteira - who started filming the incident when Mr Henry was "getting tackled" by two officers - said he was a friend who lives nearby.
"He's like part of our family, he's lived in Kilburn for all his life," she told The Advertiser.
Her footage shows two officers pinning Mr Henry to the kerb next to a fence, before one of them is heard yelling "get on the f---ing ground" and appearing to strike Mr Henry.
Other officers then move in to assist with the arrest while distressed bystanders shout "let his head up" and "get off his head".
One officer then hits the prone man with a flurry of blows, causing the bystanders to react with outrage and fury.
An internal police investigation, led by a senior officer, is now underway.
The SA Police statement said, during the altercation, one of the officers' body cameras was grabbed and "only parts of the camera" have since been located.
Ms Perteira said it was shocking to see the officer "lay into him with physically closed fists" and deploy pepper spray.
"His head was pinned to the cement and he was not moving, so it didn't really warrant a punch in the ribs," she said.
"After I saw (Mr Henry) when everything had settled down, he was handcuffed and sat on the kerb. I rang the ambulance because he was bleeding and had a couple of bruises. I rang them twice in 20 minutes and they didn't come."
Mr Henry spent the night at Port Adelaide Police Station.
His caseworker Latoya Rule, whose brother Wayne Morrison died in custody four years ago, said he was "snuck out the back door" just after 10am on Tuesday without receiving medical treatment.
"You won't see the cuts on his face, arms, legs, you won't see the state he was in," she said.
Ms Rule called an ambulance on Tuesday morning, but when the paramedic arrived at the police station, Mr Henry had already been released.
"(Mr Henry) did not receive any medical care or assistance or any visitation by any community worker," she said. "He has sustained some injuries to his head, to his arms and his legs."
The Police Commissioner said Mr Henry had refused medical treatment while in custody and was escorted to a location of his choice after his release.
"It is also reasonable to point out that policing is a dangerous occupation and there is an obligation for police officers to take action and use reasonable force against people who may be suspected of having committed an offence," he said.
An officer suffered minor injuries in the incident.
Mr Henry was released from custody on Tuesday morning and Mr Stevens said "there are no existing charges pending", but he could be charged again after an investigation.
Ms Perteira estimated up to 20 officers swarmed Albert St, some in unmarked cars.
She said Mr Henry "looks after" everyone in the local community and was a "decent guy".
Her friend Doris Kropinyeri said she was shoved away by officers when she tried to help Mr Henry.
"The whole street was covered in police cars for one person, who wasn't intoxicated or nothing," she said.
Police officers are allowed to use "reasonable force" to secure an arrest, conduct a search or take and protect forensic evidence.
Craig Caldicott, co-chair of the Law Society's Criminal Law Committee, said the legal test for reasonable force was not what a police officer thought was necessary at the time.
"Reasonable force is what an objective observer would consider reasonable in all the circumstances," he said.
"There is no fine line between reasonable and excessive force. It comes down to what that observer thinks was reasonably necessary to make that arrest."
Less than two weeks ago, more than 5000 people rallied in Victoria Square in support of the global Black Lives Matter movement, which was sparked by police violence towards minority groups in the United States.
-With Mitch Mott