News National CCTV footage shows officer assaulting disability pensioner inside police station

CCTV footage shows officer assaulting disability pensioner inside police station

An image from the CCTV footage shows police officer Michael Cooke assaulting Phil Dickson. Photo: Supplied
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Shocking video has emerged of a Victorian police officer assaulting a drunk man inside Geelong police station.

But the victim of the assault has claimed that more damning than his treatment was the subsequent handling of the matter by authorities.

It comes after a joint investigation by 7.30 and The Age, which revealed other cases of alleged police brutality.

Despite damning CCTV vision of the 2013 assault, senior police deemed Senior Constable Michael Cooke’s conduct was not serious enough for him to be dismissed.

The prosecution of Senior Constable Cooke also appears to have been badly handled, with police allegedly forgetting to tell the victim when the matter was going to court.

Slapped, thrown to the ground in police station

Phil Dickson was assaulted by a police officer at Geelong police station. Photo: ABC

On January 11, 2013, disability pensioner Phil Dickson was found by police sitting in his parked car outside a supermarket in regional Victoria with a blood alcohol reading of 0.27.

It was after he had recently separated from his wife.

Mr Dickson, then 62, was arrested for drink-driving offences and assaulting an officer and pleaded guilty to those charges.

From inside Geelong police station, CCTV footage that has never been made public before appears to show Mr Dickson being told to take off his belt, which causes his pants to fall down.

Mr Dickson throws his belt on the ground, then Senior Constable Cooke hits him on the head and throws him forcefully on the ground.

Mr Dickson suffered a serious head injury that required immediate hospitalisation.

“I thought I must have tripped,” Mr Dickson told 7.30.

“I had a break in that knuckle. I had a torn ligament in my shoulder.”

Medical records said Mr Dickson was intoxicated in his cell and was rowdy so had to be physically restrained, and hit his head.

But CCTV seems to tell a different story, with the assault taking place at the front of the police station.

Legal Aid asked for access to the CCTV vision due to the extent of Mr Dickson’s injuries. After he saw the vision, Mr Dickson made a complaint to Police Professional Standards, and more recently to IBAC, the anti-corruption commission.

Officer pleads guilty to common law assault

Senior Constable Cooke was charged and pleaded guilty in 2015 at Geelong Magistrates Court to common law assault.

No conviction was recorded.

Senior Constable Cooke’s conduct was deemed insufficient for him to be sacked, or even demoted.

He was suspended with pay for about 12 months.

Senior Constable Cooke was directed to behave and served another four years.

In a statement, a Victoria Police spokesperson said: “Make no mistake, this is not the manner in which we expect our officers to behave. We do not condone violence.

“That is why the incident was thoroughly investigated by Professional Standards Command and the officer was charged with the criminal offence of recklessly cause injury. All available information and evidence was heard in an open court.

“There is no doubt the CCTV footage was confronting and was considered by the hearing officer. However, Victoria Police must take into account a range of factors such as the court verdict, character references and relevant employment law when making a decision about an officer’s ongoing employment.

“The community should be assured that Victoria Police is committed to continually improving our internal processes for investigating complaints against its officers.”

Since the incident, Mr Dickson has been through drug and alcohol rehabilitation and now volunteers at a local charity shop.

“I could have been dead and I’m sure nobody would have asked, ‘Is there any CCTV footage about that?'” he said.

Watch this story tonight on 7.30.