A New South Wales police officer has been placed on “restricted duties” and professional standards command is investigating after a video posted to social media showed the officer tripping an Indigenous teenager while arresting him, slamming the boy face-first on to bricks.
The arrest occurred about 5.30pm on Monday in the inner Sydney suburb of Surry Hills.
A family member said the 16-year-old had to be taken by ambulance to hospital to receive X-rays after the arrest.
One of the boy’s relatives posted in the video caption that the boy was with friends in a park less than 100 metres from his home when the police arrested him for what she said was “no reason at all”.
The police can be heard in the video talking to the group before the teenager was arrested.
The police officer said “open up your ears”, to which someone off-camera replied: “I don’t need to open my ears, I’ll crack you across the jaw, bro.”
The officer then began arresting the boy, using his leg to pull the teenager’s feet from under him while his arms were held behind his back, causing the teenager to slam face-first into the bricks and garden bed.
The boy could be heard groaning and whining in pain.
“He is in pain, bro, I’ve never heard that,” said one of the group in the video.
Another person off-camera shouted: “You just slammed him on the face!”
The relative said the boy had then been taken to the police station holding cells before being taken to St Vincent’s hospital.
The boy had sustained a bruised shoulder, cuts to his knee, face and elbow, and chipped teeth, she said.
The relative told Guardian Australia X-rays revealed no broken bones, but the bruising was serious enough that he had to return to the doctor on Tuesday morning.
NSW Police confirmed the professional standards command was investigating the incident and said the constable involved had been placed on restricted duties.
“About 5pm [Monday], officers were patrolling Ward Park, Surry Hills, when they spoke with a group of teenagers. It’s alleged a 17-year-old boy from the group threatened an officer, before being arrested and taken to Surry Hills Police Station,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“He was subsequently taken to St Vincent’s Hospital for observation before being released into the custody of family pending further inquiries … Senior officers have met with the community and local elders and will keep them appraised throughout the process.”
At a press conference on Tuesday assistant commissioner Mick Willing refused to say whether he believed the level of force used by the officer during the incident was appropriate, or to explain why the officer had not been formally stood down during the investigation.
Willing said he was “concerned” by the footage, but that he was “equally concerned about others who may use this footage to inflame it and turn it into something it’s not”.
“I’m concerned that people will use this video, this footage, to create it into something it’s not,” he said.
“We’re all well aware of what’s happening overseas but this is not the United States of America.
“We have very, very good relations with our local community and I’m concerned that people will pre-empt the outcome of this investigation and draw conclusions prior to that outcome.”
Asked why the group of boys had been stopped by officers, Willing said the officers had been “attending an unrelated job” when they had “come across” the group and “engaged them in conversation”.
Willing said he had watched the footage and was “absolutely” concerned by it, but refused to comment on whether he thought it was appropriate for the officer to use force against the teen.
“That’s what the investigation is about. It’s about trying to identify whether the use of force was necessary in the circumstances. Now obviously police officers can use force lawfully so this investigation has been initiated to look at the circumstances around that and get to the bottom of what’s happened,” he said.
Solicitors from Redfern Legal Centre called for the investigation to be overseen by police watchdog the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission.
“This type of policing is not only unacceptable but harmful and impacts community relationships and trust in the police,” said Samantha Lee, a solicitor focusing on police accountability at the centre.
“Redfern Legal Centre believes the young man should seek immediate legal advice and is offering to assist.”