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IG Report: U.S. Park Police used excessive force against Australian journalists

The Department of Interior's Inspector General has found U.S. Park Service Police used excessive force against two Australian journalists as they covered a 2020 protest in Washington, D.C. against the police murder of George Floyd. U.S. Correspondent for Seven News Australia Amelia Brace (R) testifies during a House hearing on the incident. Pool photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
1 of 4 | The Department of Interior's Inspector General has found U.S. Park Service Police used excessive force against two Australian journalists as they covered a 2020 protest in Washington, D.C. against the police murder of George Floyd. U.S. Correspondent for Seven News Australia Amelia Brace (R) testifies during a House hearing on the incident. Pool photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- The Department of Interior Inspector General has found that U.S. Park Police used excessive force against two Australian journalists as protesters were dispersed in Washington D.C.'s Lafayette Park on June 1, 2020.

The Inspector General report said that one of the officers, referred to as "Officer 2" used excessive force when striking a reporter with a baton. It determined that the other officer, referred to as "Officer 1" did not use excessive force when striking a second journalist with a shield but didn't meet the standards for "minimum force" when pushing the journalist's camera.

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Then-Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for the investigation into the Park Police response.

The journalists, 7News correspondent Amelia Brace and photojournalist Tim Meyers were covering protests over the police killing of George Floyd just before then-President Donald Trump walked across the street to pose for a photo opportunity at St. John's Episcopal Church.

The report said that Officer 2's actions violated the Park Police's excessive force policy as the journalist was running away in accordance with officers' orders to leave the area and that "an objectively reasonable officer" would not have viewed the reporter as a threat.

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"The policy does not permit an officer to use his baton to strike a retreating individual who is following officers' orders to leave the area, an individual who no longer poses a threat to the officer or others, and where no situation authorizing the use of a baton strike otherwise exists," the IG report said.

Officer 1 said the reporter appeared to be "purposely concealed, hiding, waiting for us to come to his position, like an ambush" which the officer said indicated the reporter was following orders from officers to retreat and instead was there "to do harm to me or somebody else."

It found the shield strike, therefore, "did not exceed the minimum level of reasonable force necessary to control the situation based on the facts and circumstances confronting him at the time."

The IG came do a different conclusion on the officer's decision to push the camera, stating it "did not appear to be the minimum level of reasonable force" needed to get the officer to leave the area.

It noted, however, that USPP does not clearly define what the "minimum level of reasonable force is."

Gregory Monahan, the acting Park Police Chief at the time, defended the officers, alleging that protesters were throwing bricks and frozen water bottles while pepper spray and smoke canisters were used by police.

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