Aboriginal Journalist Who Reports On Racial Profiling Racially Profiled On The Way To Work

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It’s not the first time this year an Aboriginal journalist at SBS has had an unpleasant run in with police. Max Chalmers reports.

An Aboriginal journalist who was searched and forced to empty his bag at a Sydney train station this morning says he was racially profiled by police, who confused him with a person of interest.

Danny Teece-Johnson, a video journalist for SBS’s National Indigenous Television (NITV) news program, was on his way to work when an officer put a hand on his shoulder and asked if he could have “a quick chat”.

When 40-year old Teece-Johnson asked why, he was told the officers were looking for someone ‘who fits your description’ and that he would have to accompany them to a small room within the station to be searched for drugs.

Despite having just walked passed a drug sniffer dog without a problem, Teece-Johnson was taken into a small room and asked to empty his pockets and then his bag.

“I was randomly pulled out. I mean, come on, if I was a white guy in a suit do you think I would have been randomly pulled out and searched for drugs,” he told New Matilda.

Racial profiling is an issue Teece-Johnson is keenly aware of, having covered the subject and its impact on Aboriginal, African, and Muslim Australians. He’s previously filed stories on the Northern Territory’s deeply controversial paperless arrest laws, as well as anti-alcohol policing tactics that have been broadly criticised for enabling racial profiling.

Teece-Johnson, a Gomeroi man from Moree and a prominent journalist in the Aboriginal community, said the police initially tried to intimidate him and had been “staunch”. When the search was over they asked him where he was going.

NITV journalist Danny Teece-Johnson.
NITV journalist Danny Teece-Johnson.

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“I said, ‘I’m a journalist with SBS, I’m on my way to work’ and their faces just dropped. I said, ‘I didn’t have much of a story today but now I do’.”

Suddenly the officers lightened up.

“While I’m laughing now, for a minute there I did feel like a drug dealer and a loser. And I was thinking God, my people go through this every day,” Teece-Johnson said. He intends to publish an editorial on the incident and canvass the views of other Aboriginal people who have had similar experiences.

The incident is not the first sour encounter between an Aboriginal journalist at NITV and police this year.

In October an internal investigation by the AFP found an officer breached the agency’s code of behaviour while intimidating reporter Myles Morgan at a Frontier Wars memorial march he was covering in Canberra. Morgan, a political reporter, was confronted by two officers after refusing to hand over his camera.

“What are you shaking for Myles,” one of the officers asked, as he threatened the journalist could be charged with misusing Commonwealth property.

After sharing his experience on Facebook this morning Teece-Johnson received scores of messages of support, with friends coming forward to reflect on their own encounters.

“I think most Aboriginals have been racially profiled at one point in their lives especially if you own a car,” one friend wrote.

With the SBS journalist now preparing to hand his editorial directly to Redfern Local Area command, he’ll be hoping it’s the last time the reporter has to become the story.

Redfern Local Area Command member Inspector Crisafulli told New Matilda he was not personally aware of the incident but encouraged Teece-Johnson to make a statement to the station.

“We do not racially profile in this command,” Crisafulli said. “We conduct regular drug dog operations at the stations and we’re very careful that the people that we do search and stop, that we’re justified in that exercise of power.”

“If he was searched for his race and no other reason he does have a legitimate complaint. Certainly that is not a practice that is encouraged here in this command.”

Note: this story was updated at 15:29 to include the comments of Inspector Crisafulli.

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Max Chalmers

Max Chalmers is a former New Matilda journalist and editorial staff member. His main areas of interest are asylum seekers, higher education and politics.

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