NT Police to retire cop who shot Indigenous teen Kumanjayi Walker
WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are warned the following article contains images of deceased persons.
A Northern Territory police officer who shot and killed an Indigenous teenager is due to be retired from the force based on psychological and risk assessments.
NT Police Assistant Commissioner Bruce Porter on Monday told an inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker that the officer who fatally shot the teen, Constable Zachary Rolfe, had been issued with a notice of the intention to stand him down from duty.
Porter said the decision to retire Rolfe had been made on the basis of two psychological assessments and a risk assessment from December and January.
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"We were of the opinion that he had the inability to continue as a member of the police force," he said.
Rolfe was suspended from the NT Police Force shortly after he fatally shot Walker three times during a bungled outback arrest in Yuendumu, north-west of Alice Springs, in November 2019.
He was subsequently charged with murder but was acquitted after a Supreme Court trial.
Rolfe returned to work in July 2022 but went on personal leave less than a month later.
Porter said he requested the medical examinations after Rolfe indicated to the inquest in November that he would not be returning to work without telling his employer the reason.
Police are also awaiting an explanation from Rolfe after he published a 2500-word open letter 10 days ago criticising the coroner and NT Police.
Rolfe mentioned his employer's decision to "medically retire" him.
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Earlier, the inquest heard that current cultural awareness programs were inadequate within the NT Police Force.
The NT government's Aboriginal Justice Unit director, Leanne Liddle, told the inquest racism may not be deliberate but it was systemic.
She questioned why officers said locals might storm the police station if they were told of Walker's death the night he was shot, despite there being no evidence that would happen.
"If people align a characteristic with a group of people that they've had no evidence to prove otherwise, I think that shows the lack of cultural awareness that non-Aboriginal people have working in Aboriginal communities," Liddle said.
She was asked about her experiences leading the Aboriginal Justice Unit, where she led consultations with more than 120 communities across the NT from 2017 to 2019 as part of a government agreement to reduce rates of Indigenous incarcerations.
The former NT Australian of the Year said her team visited Mr Walker's home community Yuendumu in July 2020, shortly after his funeral.
She said people expressed concerns about deteriorating relationships with police and the fact that officers wore guns into the community.
The inquest continues this week in Alice Springs, with other representatives from the NT Police Force and Territory Families expected to give evidence.