Police lockups in poor state

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Reports of police kicking an Aboriginal boy in the head to wake him up and stripping indigenous women to "calm them down" were aired in a damning assessment of regional lockups tabled in Parliament yesterday.

The Legislative Assembly's community development and justice committee found some of WA's 125 lockups, with an average age of 45, to be "old, dirty and unfit for use".

Many did not comply with recommendations of the 1991 royal commission report into Aboriginal deaths in custody, the committee found in the first official review of those recommendations for at least 10 years.

Committee chairwoman Margaret Quirk said though institutional inertia was responsible for some recommendations remaining unfulfilled, the committee was also presented with "examples of systemic racism leading to unequal outcomes before the law".

The Aboriginal Legal Service WA's South Hedland office reported one juvenile being awoken "when he was kicked in the head by a police officer".

"The Deaths in Custody Watch Committee WA told of how Aboriginal women in Kalgoorlie were frequently stripped because the police claimed that it 'calmed them down'," the report said.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan told the committee he was unaware of any instruction to carry out such a practice.

Ms Quirk told Parliament holding cells throughout WA were generally safe but notable exceptions included Collie and Halls Creek, which, according to an ALSWA lawyer, was "stifling hot" in summer.

"Two clients - an adult and a juvenile, both with health problems - stayed in what looked like an outdoor cage with concrete floors and dirty mattresses on the ground," Ms Quirk quoted the lawyer as saying.

"Of even greater concern, ALSWA's Kununurra office advises that staff have observed hanging points in police cells in Kununurra and Halls Creek."

WA Police Union president George Tilbury welcomed the report's recommendations of around-the-clock medical presence at Perth Watch House and broadly supported better and widespread cultural awareness training.

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