Police commissioner Chris Dawson has described the fatal shooting of a Yamatji woman by an officer — who has been cleared of her murder — as “one of the most difficult chapters in the history between Aboriginal people in Western Australia and the WA Police Force”.
Mr Dawson’s comments came shortly after a Supreme Court jury today found the 29-year-old policeman, whose name is suppressed, not guilty of murdering the woman, known as JC for cultural reasons, when he fired a bullet into her stomach in Geraldton in 2019.
The officer was the first in almost 100 years to be charged with murder in WA.
“This tragedy is one of the most difficult chapters in the history between Aboriginal people in Western Australia and the WA Police Force,” Mr Dawson said.
“This is a tragic case and today’s court outcome will be felt deeply throughout the broader community, including Aboriginal people and indeed, Western Australian police officers.”
Mr Dawson said his “thoughts are with all the people involved in this case”.
“I’m sorry that JC lost her life,” Mr Dawson said.
“And once again, I extend my condolences to her family. I will also be speaking with the police officer who has been acquitted and his family.
“Everyone involved has been deeply affected.
“A young Aboriginal woman has died and a serving police officer police officer has faced trial over her death.
“Today, that young officer was found innocent of the charge of murder.”
Mr Dawson said “frankly, there are no winners in this case”.
“This case demonstrates that all members of our community are subject to the same judicial process,” he said.
The top cop also said he was “aware that emotions are running high”.
He said police had been working closely with JC’s family and that plans were in place in case there was community unrest but he hoped, and expected, that those involved would remain calm.
“I appeal to leaders in our community, to lead by example,” he said. “This is a time to respect the decision that the jury has come to in this matter, and for all people to remain calm.”
Asked if the officer would return to the force, Mr Dawson said he would speak with the officer, who has been stood down from the force for the past two years while awaiting trial and “we will make an assessment”.
Mr Dawson said the case was “a most unusual occurrence where a police officer has been charged with murder”.
“And what it also though does demonstrate is that policing is a tough job, but in this instance, we have had to deal with this matter as we do with every case,” he said.
“We have to deal with the evidence that gets put before us, and put before the court, and everyone is equal under the law. So I’m confident that we’ve got the right training in place to ensure that we do as much as possible to keep the community safe.”
Mr Dawson said he now expected a coronial inquest would be held into JC’s death.