Rolfe and Walker never should have met, inquest told
A former Australian Federal Police officer has criticised Northern Territory Police leadership, telling an inquest Kumanjayi Walker and Zachary Rolfe should never have crossed paths.
Constable Rolfe fatally shot the Indigenous teenager three times during a bungled arrest in Yuendumu, northwest of Alice Springs, on November 9, 2019.
"My personal belief is that those two young men, Kumanjayi Walker and Constable Zachary Rolfe, probably never should have met," Ben McDevitt, the AFP's former chief firearms instructor, told the inquest on Tuesday.
"I believe that, quite frankly, the reason that they did was largely due to a tragic failure of leadership."
Const Rolfe had been sent with a sub-unit of the NT police's tactical response group to apprehend the Warlpiri teenager after he left an Alice Springs alcohol rehabilitation clinic.
Mr McDevitt said Const Rolfe's sub-unit should not have been sent in, and the higher-skilled unit should have handled the arrest.
"A specialist unit isn't just about kicking in doors," he said.
"Specialist units come with all of the other skills and less lethal options that just aren't available to general duties police.
"You may well be talking about a de-escalation and chances are, you'd probably end up with less danger to the community and to everybody else, because you had brought in the higher level of skills."
Under cross examination by barrister Julian Murphy, acting for the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, Mr McDevitt said he had not had previous experience working with Aboriginal communities in the NT.
However, he defended the testimony he gave at Const Rolfe's Supreme Court trial that indicated the three bullets shot by Const Rolfe were consistent with police training.
Const Rolfe was found not guilty of Mr Walker's murder in March 2022.
Earlier, the inquest was told the NT police's specialist units fulfilled the description of a paramilitary group.
Monash University emeritus professor of criminology Jude McCulloch said while such groups had their place in modern policing, she questioned their appropriateness in the context of the NT.
Professor McCulloch said given the region's history of militarised colonisation, the use of tactical groups for community policing could undermine trust and legitimacy.
"That's the whole basis of community policing in general - the idea that policing can only be successful with the consent of the community," she told the inquest on Tuesday.
She also said Const Rolfe's text messages showed a "cowboy" mindset with a "sense of impunity and no accountability - not only no accountability to the community, but no accountability to other police."
"It's not the mindset of a disciplined police officer, or even a disciplined member of a paramilitary chain," Prof McCulloch said.
The inquest continues in Alice Springs on Wednesday.