Family of Aboriginal man attacked by cops demand reform

Tommy Lovett was an outgoing and happy 18-year-old before an assault by Victoria Police made him a shell of himself, too scared to leave the house.

The Aboriginal teenager was assaulted by officers in 2016, arrested for a crime he did not commit and left traumatised and badly injured, a truth-telling inquiry has been told.

His family is still seeking justice after withdrawing a complaint for excessive force when they discovered the assigned investigators worked at the same police station as the officers involved.

"We're not seeing a prosecution against police but we're also not seeing any disciplinary proceedings against the police, especially in the First Nations dispute settings or First Nations people's interactions with police," Lovett family lawyer Jeremy King told the Yoorrook Justice Commission on Tuesday.

Mr Lovett's mother, Gunditjmara woman Aunty Doreen Lovett, and other witnesses called for an independent police oversight committee to be established to change the way complaints against officers are handled.

A parliamentary committee recommended such a change in 2018.

Monash University Emeritus Professor Jude McCulloch said existing police complaints processes were flawed, particularly when it comes to First Nations people who are vastly over-represented in the state's criminal justice system.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) presently investigates the conduct and misconduct of police officers, which she said was problematic.

"First Nations people have very low trust in policing, but linked to that very low trust in the accountability complaints mechanisms that exist is a feeling like they're not independent and that there is very little hope of any justice or redress, both in terms of the systematic or systemic issues and for individual compliance," Prof McCulloch said.

The hearing was told conflicts of interest would often arise as in some instances, cases against police were investigated by fellow officers.

There were reports of officers not being impartial, improperly investigating colleagues and exhibiting bias against complainants.

Northern Ireland's former chief inspector of criminal justice Michael Maguire told the commission that change was needed in Victoria.

"This is an incredible opportunity to change the nature of police oversight in Victoria and this will benefit all citizens, particularly First Nations people because of the nature of their interactions with the police," Dr Maguire said.

Young Aboriginal people and Aboriginal men are six times as likely to be processed as alleged offenders than non-Aboriginal peers, and Aboriginal women are 11 times more likely to be processed than non-Aboriginal women, according to IBAC.

They are also subjected to police brutality at higher rates, a key finding being explored in this round of Yoorrook Justice Commission hearings.

More witnesses are expected to testify about police brutality when hearings continue on Wednesday.