MHDCD Project

7.4 The impact of complex needs on police contact and custody for Indigenous men

An honours thesis submitted in 2012 by Julian Trofimovs under the supervision of Assoc Prof  Leanne Dowse – “Indigenous Males with Intellectual Disability and Police Contact and Police Custody: At the Intersections” - drew on the MHDCD Dataset to investigate the impact of complex needs on police contact and custody for the Indigenous men. The intention of the thesis was to provide greater insight into the significant over-representation of Aboriginal men with complex support needs in police arrests to indicate ways in which this practice might be reduced significantly. Through an analysis of aggregate data concerning a cohort of Indigenous males with intellectual disability, this study identified four significant factors that alone or in combination appear to impact on the frequency with which these men experience police custody. These include: young age at first police contact, instability in early life, the problematic use of alcohol and drugs, and mobility across geographic areas. These factors were contextualised and exemplified in the lives of several individuals presented in the case studies in order to create a real life context for the study and its findings. Early recognition of disability was found to be imperative in addressing the rates of police contact and custody for this group. At a practical level the study concluded that recognition is best addressed at three levels: the school, the local community, and in police practice.

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