A construction worker has accused police officers of knocking him off his bike, assaulting him and calling him a “black c***” while he was riding his bike to work in inner Melbourne.
- Noongar man Korey Penny says Melbourne police called him a “black c***” and assaulted him
- Police reject the allegations and say Mr Penny’s race was not a factor when he was stopped
- The two diverging accounts may not be resolved because police body cameras were turned off
Korey Penny, 32, said he was trying to slow down to speak to the officers when he was tackled and “bashed” in Southbank early on Thursday morning.
Victoria Police rejected his account and said Mr Penny’s race was not a factor when he was stopped — but said the officers’ bodycams were not turned on because of the “dynamic nature” of the incident.
“The police members involved in this incident were not aware of the man’s ethnicity until it was later confirmed after they had a verbal interaction with him,” a police statement said.
The force, which maintains Mr Penny refused to stop when asked, said it had conducted an “internal debrief” into the incident.
“At this stage we are satisfied with the use of force in relation to this incident.”
But Mr Penny, a Noongar man from Armadale in Western Australia, said he was slowing down and did not have a chance to stop before he was allegedly tackled.
He said he was an essential worker and had the appropriate permits required during Melbourne’s stage 4 lockdown.
“They didn’t even ask for a permit, they didn’t ask for anything,” Mr Penny said. “I just got bashed.
“It was not like I was trying to evade them. I didn’t have a chance to get off my bike.”
Police officer ‘not able’ to activate body camera
The two diverging accounts of what happened may not be easily resolved because of the lack of footage.
“Due to the dynamic nature of the incident, the officer was not able to activate his body worn camera at the time,” Victoria Police said.
It happened about 5:30am when Mr Penny, who is in Melbourne to work on the city’s Metro Rail Tunnel project, was riding his bike to his job when he noticed police lights.
Victoria Police said Mr Penny was seen riding along the footpath without functioning lights and refused to stop when asked. They then took him into custody before he was taken to hospital.
But Mr Penny said he was initially stopped by an officer who told him to “f***ing walk your bike”.
Mr Penny said he told the officer that he was riding to work. He said he was slowing down so he could stop, when he was “spear tackled” to the ground, landing on his arm.
“It happened so quick,” he said.
“When I hit the ground, [the police officer] put his two hands on me, grabbed my t-shirt and smashed me up and down on the ground,” Mr Penny said.
Mr Penny said while he was on the ground, he told the officers he had come from WA to work.
He said they responded by saying: “You’re not in WA now, you black c***.”
Mr Penny said he was circled by about 10 officers while he was on the ground and, when he asked for their help up, was rebuffed.
“They said, ‘F***ing get up yourself,'” he said.
Mr Penny said he then stood and called a work colleague who arrived at the scene and was searched by police.
Victoria Police said that Mr Penny was expected to be charged on summons with traffic offences including failing to stop, riding on the footpath and riding without lights.
Mr Penny has worn his arm in a sling since the incident.
‘As a blackfella, I’ve been through this before’
Mr Penny said that before yesterday’s incident, he thought Melbourne was “OK”, but now his opinion had changed.
“I hate the place mate, I want to go home,” he said.
He believes he was stopped because of his race.
“Feels like me, as a blackfella, I’ve been through this before,” Mr Penny said.
“We’re the magnet, and the police are drawn to us. It’s how it feels.
“You know, when you’ve done nothing wrong in your life but you feel scared.
“F***ing hell, I’ve just got to live with it for the rest of my life.”
Mr Penny was featured in an ABC story last year for his involvement in an employment program for reformed prisoners.
He said he was angry and planned to lodge a complaint with Victoria’s corruption watchdog, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission.
He also planned to launch legal action but in the meantime, he was not sure how his family would make ends meet.
“Now we’ve got to suffer and start budgeting,” he said.
Victoria Police has questions to answer, lawyer says
Mr Penny’s lawyer, Jeremy King from Robinson Gill, called for an urgent and independent investigation.
“Victoria Police has real questions to answer,” Mr King said.
“It is extremely concerning that an innocent person has been assaulted pretty viciously by Victoria Police and has been hospitalised.
“The fact that he has also been racially vilified while on the ground is outrageous and extremely concerning.”
Mr Penny is a member of the Australian Workers’ Union, and its Victorian secretary, Ben Davis, said the alleged incident was “appalling and yet far too common”.
“His only crime was to be riding a pushbike to work. Would he have been treated the same way if he had been white and wearing a suit and tie? Obviously not,” Mr Davis said.