A Queensland watchouse officer has been suspended pending the outcome of an investigation after the custody death of an Indigenous woman.
Assistant Police Commissioner Brian Codd says the female assistant faces allegations of failure of duty and the performance of regular physical checks of prisoners.
Sherry Tilberoo, 49, was found dead in the Brisbane watchhouse about 6am on September 10.
She had been remanded in custody after appearing in Brisbane Magistrates Court on drug and property offences on September 7 and was waiting for a transfer to a correctional facility.
Mr Codd on Monday said hourly physical checks at the cell door would have been completed under normal protocols but Ms Tilberoo’s last known movement was about midnight on September 10.
“There is a period of somewhere between five and six hours we’re talking about where the issue around the appropriate combination of viewing what’s occurring in cells from CCTV footage is married up with protocols around the physical checking that happens in cells,” he told reporters.
“That’s the matter that is under particular scrutiny.”
An indepdenent investigation into Ms Tilberoo’s death was launched by the ethical standards command and interim advice then resulted in police suspending the watchhouse officer from duty pending the outcome.
“QPS would traditionally wait for coronial findings before implementing changes but has taken immediate steps on this occasion due to seriousness of this issue,” Mr Codd said.
“This is a rare event. (There has) never been a death in the Brisbane watchhouse facility.”
The officer has not been in the workplace since the incident and has now officially been removed from operational duty.
Mr Codd added that the advice of the coroner is that Ms Tilberoo died of natural causes and a health assessment at the watchhouse did not identify her as someone with an immediate or urgent health concern.
He said a senior superintendent had been appointed to the role of state custody officer and would conduct a review of watchhouse processes.
Ms Tilberoo’s death resulted in Black Lives Matter protests in Brisbane’s CBD.
Protesters painted their hands red, chanting “blood on your hands” at officers as what looked like handprints were smeared on the walls of the police headquarters and on waiting vehicles.
People also rallied outside the Roma Street police headquarters, chanting “let them go” as officers handcuffed a protester and put them in the back of a paddy wagon.
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