Cop cleared over mask ‘choking’ incident
A Victorian police officer who was filmed grabbing a woman around the neck after approaching her for not wearing a face mask earlier this year will face no disciplinary action.
Footage of the arrest, which occurred in August during Melbourne's tough stage four lockdown, went viral on social media and fuelled unease at the state's heavy-handed enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.
The woman was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting police, and the officer was also placed under internal investigation over the incident.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed to news.com.au that the matter was now closed after an "internal debrief".
"Professional Standards Command Police Conduct Unit was notified following an arrest in Collingwood on August 12, 2020," she said.
"The matter was referred to local police for investigation and an internal debrief has been conducted in relation to the matter. No further action will be taken."
The 21-year-old woman was in the inner-city suburb with a male friend when she was approached by two officers on Wellington Street.
Under Victoria's mandatory face mask rules introduced in July, police can issue on-the-spot fines of $200 to those not wearing a face covering without a legitimate reason.
In a video filmed from a nearby balcony, the officers were seen approaching the woman. Moments later, the male officer was seen grabbing her by the throat.
He dragged her several metres down the street and pushed her against a wall as she screamed, "You're choking me!"
As she continued to struggle and verbally abuse the officers, the woman lashed out, kicking the female officer in the stomach.
Her friend, who was also filming the incident, could be heard berating the officers and telling them she had a medical exemption for not wearing the mask.
The male officer then wrestled the woman to the ground and sat on top of her as backup arrived.
"You're f**ked in the head!" she yelled. "What have I done? What have I done wrong?"
The boyfriend continued to berate the officer. "You're choking her," he said.
"There's a man on a girl and you choked her. For what? For a mask? For not having a mask? Look how pathetic you are! Are you serious? Just for not having a mask? You grabbed her! You didn't ask her any questions, you d**khead, you just grabbed her!"
After around 10 minutes she was taken away in a police van.
"All because she wasn't wearing a mask!" the woman filming from the balcony laughed in disbelief.
At the time, Victoria Police said officers made the decision to arrest the woman after she "failed to provide her name and address".
"She also did not state she had an exemption for not wearing a face covering," the statement said.
"She then became physically aggressive and kicked a female officer to the upper body. The woman continued to resist arrest and had to be taken to ground before being arrested."
The woman was not fined for failing to wear a mask "because she later told police she had an exemption".
Speaking to 7 News the following day, the woman admitted that she gave the officer the finger when he first asked why she didn't have a mask.
But her friend argued the reaction was excessive.
"The way that they came up to us all intimidating is itself enough," he told 7 News.
"They're meant to make us feel protected, right? We don't feel protected."
He said he understood that "everyone's got to wear their mask", but "some people have exemptions".
The woman appeared in Collingwood's Neighbourhood Justice Centre - part of the Melbourne Magistrates' Court specialist division - on November 11 and is listed for further mention in March.
Attempts to contact her for comment have been unsuccessful.
She was interviewed by a local podcast shortly after the incident, but the episode was removed after two days.
"(The) victim of the police attack in Melbourne … has requested we take down the episode due to legal reasons," the hosts wrote.
Not long after the Collingwood incident, the arrest of a pregnant woman in her pyjamas at her Ballarat home for promoting an anti-lockdown protest on Facebook made international headlines.
Zoe Buhler surfaced again last month with an anti-vaccination rant, saying she didn't want anyone who was "stupid enough to actually get" a COVID-19 vaccine "anywhere near me or my children".
"Sorry but I need to put my children's wellbeing first!" the 28-year-old wrote on Facebook.
Originally published as Cop cleared over mask 'choking' incident