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Zachary Rolfe, the policeman cleared of the murder of Kumanjayi Walker, will be stood down from NT Police

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NT Police officer Zachary Rolfe to be retired following inquest into Kumanjayi Walker's death and systemic racism claims.
Zachary Rolfe, the policeman cleared of the murder of Kumanjayi Walker, will be stood down from NT Police

The Northern Territory Police have confirmed Zachary Rolfe will be stood down from the police force.

Rolfe was acquitted of the murder of 19-year-old Warlpiri-Luritja man Kumanjayi Walker, whom he shot while on duty in 2019.

NT Police Assistant Commissioner Bruce Porter told a coronial inquest into Walker’s death that Rolfe, who has been on personal leave, would be retired following a psychological assessment.

It comes as the coronial inquest has heard evidence of “systemic racism” within NT police.

Background

Kumanjayi Walker died of gunshot wounds on the floor of a cell at Yuendumu police station in 2019.

He had been shot several times by Rolfe after a scuffle in which he had stabbed Rolfe in the shoulder with scissors. Police were seeking his arrest after he left an alcohol rehabilitation facility to attend a family funeral.

Rolfe was found not guilty of murder or manslaughter after his lawyers argued he acted in self-defence.

Inquest

A coronial inquest into Walker’s death began last year. It is a legal proceeding but not a trial. Its purpose is to establish how Walker died and make findings on how similar deaths could be avoided. It has considered Rolfe’s conduct but has also examined broader concerns about NT police and sought to understand why Walker’s family was prevented from visiting him in the cell.

So far, the inquest has heard from a range of people including Walker’s family, police, and experts. Rolfe has taken legal action to avoid being compelled to testify.

Standing down

In a statement posted to a supporter Facebook page last month, Rolfe said NT police were trying to “medically retire me due to ‘mental health’,” calling the NT Police Commissioner a “coward” and claiming there had been “blatant and obvious” bias against him. He said he had been falsely portrayed as “a racist, violent cop” and claimed Walker had been trying to kill him.

Assistant Commissioner Porter confirmed at the inquest on Monday that Rolfe would be retired after a psychological assessment suggested “he had the inability to continue as a member of the police force”.

Systemic racism

The inquest has heard evidence of “systemic racism” towards First Nations people within NT Police.

On Monday, the inquest heard from Leanne Liddle, a former NT Australian of the Year and Arrernte woman with 30 years experience in the justice system. Liddle told the inquest that racism was deeply-rooted. She said she had “lost count” of examples of racism, giving one example where a Senior Sergeant told her the best way to reduce incarceration was for “you mob… to stop breeding for the next 10 to 15 years”.

Walker’s family

Walker’s family has vowed to “never stop fighting for justice” for Walker. The Yuendumu community have set up a tent outside the courthouse while the inquest takes place.

In a statement on the opening day of the inquest last September, Walker’s cousin Samara Fernandez Brown asked the coroner to “listen to our truth, not just what you want to hear… Feel the urgency that we feel to change the conditions of this country.”

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