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Monitoring arrests

If anyone is arrested at the action, the Legal Support Team should be carefully taking notes of their arrest and monitoring their location and well being at all times. It is vital that everybody is accounted for.

Download Arrestee Tracking Sheet on this site at Support team resouces.

On the ground Legal Observers should feel comfortable approaching people being arrested or arrested by police. Take down their details. Ask whether they are underage, a non-Australian citizen, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander or whether they have any particular medical/custody needs. Confirm whether arrestees have been subjected to physical or verbal violence or harassment from the police (if possible).

In protest situations where it is likely that a large number of people may be arrested be prepared for this and find an appropriate way to manage this information. Large white boards to record details of arrestees and where they have been taken, which layers are seeing them and if they have been released is a good idea especially because it means everyone in the legal Support Office will have access to an overview of the arrest situation. Similarly, setting up a spreadsheet or a database is useful, as it allows you to systematically record this information, search fields and will be useful as an ongoing record of arrests which can be updated with new information as you support arrestees through the court process.

Legal Support should repeatedly contact the police to monitor the situation, until the person is released.

If a lawyer is available to do this monitoring police are sometimes more cautious, but any Legal Support person can effectively monitor the arrestee.

Preferably, the lawyer should attend the police station, so that any “interview” with the arrested person can also be monitored. However a lawyer’s phone contact with police on behalf of the arrested person is also valuable, and any police refusal to allow a lawyer access to their client may be used in evidence later on.

Let police know the arrested person has friends and Legal Support who will constantly monitor that person’s situation (even if this may irritate police) until the person is released.

This contact will make police more careful in several ways: more careful about violence in the cells, more careful about concocting evidence, and more anxious to get rid of their embarrassing prisoner.

Case study:

On Friday 21 October 2011 police moved to violently and brutally evict approximately 200 people in City Square as part of Occupy Melbourne. Over the course of the day the Legal Observers sought to monitor and record police violence and track arrests. As over 90 people were arrested over the course of the day, some immediately released and other retained in custody for hours, and most released without charge, tracking, monitoring all these arrests became impossible for the legal support team. While always attempting to have details of arrestees, the Legal Observers focused on knowing to which police station people were being taken so that lawyers could subsequently ring or attend those stations to make sure that everyone taken into custody was also released before evening.

Over the following weeks the Legal Support Team sought to identify who had been arrested, especially given there were serious (and at the time of writing of this manual still unresolved) questions around the legality of the arrests. Also, the Legal Support Team was concerned that many people who had been arrested had also been exposed to and experienced police violence.

Therefore, the Legal Support Team circulated the following request on OM websites and social media, in order to facilitate a ‘retrospective’ tracking of arrests on the day.

Arrests or police violence

People should write a detailed statement about exactly what happened while it's still fresh in their minds.

Include the following where possible:

  • Times
  • What happened in chronological order
  • Where you were
  • What direction you were approached from
  • What police officers were wearing
  • Where you were taken
  • What police said before/after any incidents
  • When/whether you were told you were under arrest
  • Whether you were allowed to call a lawyer or a friend
  • How long you were held for
  • Whether you have seen a doctor
  • Whether you tweeted/updated facebook when you got home
  • Whether there were any witnesses or video footage taken
  • Trawl through the online newspapers, flikr and youtube for footage of yourself being arrested or assaulted
  • Email all of this to us with your NAME in the subject line. Include your phone number and date of birth