Police officer who fined Brisbane Greens councillor Jonathan Sri regularly criticised him on Facebook

Exclusive: Queensland police will review fine issued by officer who pursued Sri for allegedly riding his bike through a yellow light

The Queensland police service says it will conduct a “full review” into a fine issued to prominent Brisbane Greens councillor Jonathan Sri, after it emerged the police officer involved had regularly criticised Sri in social media posts.

On 26 January, Senior Constable Chris Borg used “emergency lights and sirens” to pursue Sri for allegedly riding his bicycle through a yellow light at South Brisbane.

The officer said in his report he did not identify Sri until after pulling him over.

For about 18 months before that date, a Facebook account in Borg’s name made dozens of comments criticising Sri, calling on him to resign from the council, and antagonising his supporters.

Borg called the councillor a “dishonest grub”and joked that he would have a “bonfire party” with Sri’s election yard signs.

A month before issuing the fine, the officer responded on Facebook to Sri’s comments about police treatment of a homeless man, saying: “Now I am pissed at your very dishonest use of words.”

Sri, who has been an outspoken critic of the police, said he would challenge the fine in court later this month on the basis it was not safe for him to have stopped at the light.

Inflammatory comments

The police report, written by Borg, says he observed “a male riding a bicycle” along Vulture Street in South Brisbane.

Sri had been attending an Invasion Day rally and was cycling home when he was stopped.

“This male was wearing a blue pushbike helmet, dark coloured T-shirt, tan shorts and had a blue milk crate on the rear of the bike and was later identified as the defendant in this matter,” the report says.

“The traffic lights have been yellow for approximately four seconds before the defendant has proceeded through the intersection on to Stanley Street.

“Police have activated their emergency lights and sirens and attempted to intercept the defendant.”

The alleged traffic infringement was captured on police dashcam.

Sign up to receive an email with the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning

In a video of the encounter taken by Sri, Borg makes reference to Sri’s job as a councillor and his advocacy for cycling safety. The officer says: “If I need to I’ll contact the lord mayor … the council to give me your number.”

When Sri asks for his first name, Borg says: “You don’t need my first name. [It’s] Senior Constable Borg.”

Sri told Guardian Australia that after being given a charge sheet listing the officer’s full name, he recalled that a Facebook user named Chris Borg had regularly made comments on his page.

“You are not the victim of a smear campaign on this issue, you are the dishonest grub,” Borg wrote in November 2019, in relation to a post by Sri in which he apologised for making a hoax voicemail call to a state MP.

On another post, in which Sri condemned Israel’s “violent suppression of the Palestinian people”, the police officer wrote: “The Greens do love a terrorist organisation.”

In a separate post on Sri’s page, the officer says to another person commenting: “Maybe your mother should have swallowed you.”

Borg subsequently changed his Facebook account name to “John Smith”.

In June, the “John Smith” account posted on Facebook about “my wonderful beautiful girlfriend” and tagged a woman whose own profile includes several pictures of herself with Borg.

Many of the comments about Sri – initially made under Borg’s own name – remained online until this week.

Guardian Australia has seen other posts by the account, made in a private police Facebook group, discussing Queensland police policy with colleagues.

Guardian Australia approached Borg for comment on Monday afternoon. By Tuesday, the “John Smith” account had been deleted.

Queensland police officers in Brisbane.
Queensland police officers in Brisbane. The police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, has been cracking down on officers’ questionable activity on social media in recent months. Photograph: Dave Hunt/AAP

‘A significant risk’

Police said in a statement they had not received a complaint about the officer’s conduct, but they would look into the matter.

“The QPS ... will conduct a full review into the matter,” the statement said.

The police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, has been cracking down on officers’ activity on social media in recent months. In June, after launching an investigation into complaints about posts by police, Carroll issued a stern warning about the potential consequences for social media activity.

“As QPS members, there is a significant risk when posting information on personal social media platforms that it could be perceived or misconstrued as information from an official source and/or sanctioned by the QPS,” Carroll wrote to officers.

“We also have obligations to adhere to the code of conduct when using these platforms in a personal capacity.

“Further to this, the QPS holds a position of trust and a high level of standing in the community. Unprofessional conduct in any form erodes confidence and diminishes our reputation with the community, across government and other partner agencies.

“There are numerous instances where unprofessional social media comments have resulted in the suspension or dismissal from employment. One notable example relates to a senior member of an Australian law enforcement agency who was stood down and later resigned after using an alias on social media to make coarse and crude comments.

“This is a reminder to us all about the repetitional harm which can be caused to the entire organisation by the actions of some individuals.”

Sri argued at the scene that cyclists were at risk of “being rear ended by someone” if they stopped at a yellow light at the usually busy intersection. He said he would argue in court that, because of the specific circumstances, it was not safe to stop.

Police said they had yet to decide whether to proceed with the court case.

“The traffic infringement notice is currently before court where a brief of evidence is being completed. A decision (on whether to proceed with the court case) will be made following assessment of this evidence.”


Ben Smee

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Former Greens councillor demands apology as Queensland police again drop charges
Jonathan Sriranganathan claims his being arrested at protests was ‘partly a result of racism’

Eden Gillespie

25, Apr, 2023 @3:00 PM

Article image
‘He’s broken the mould of what a politician should look like’: the Brisbane councillor who reshaped the Greens
Colleagues praise the unorthodox Jonathan Sriranganathan as a trailblazer. Now, after the party picked up seats in state and federal parliaments, he’s moving on

Joe Hinchliffe

01, Apr, 2023 @8:00 PM

Article image
Greens to run Oxford-educated lawyer against Peter Dutton
Australian Lawyers for Human Rights former national president Benedict Coyne to run in seat of Dickson

Ben Smee

07, Aug, 2018 @1:07 AM

Article image
Greens senator Andrew Bartlett to step down at next election
Larissa Waters’ replacement says he wants to run for Queensland lower house, leaving her the favourite in selection race

Amy Remeikis

08, Feb, 2018 @10:13 PM

Article image
'Adani is a vote changer': Greens muscle in on Queensland's marginal seats
As the party home in on three electorates, they say a Greens MP could play a pivotal role in a hung parliament where One Nation has leached away major-party votes

Joshua Robertson

09, Nov, 2017 @11:28 PM

Article image
Larissa Waters faces tough internal challenge for Greens spot in Senate
Race between former senator and activist Ben Pennings reveals divide between Queensland members who support established candidate and those who want a more radical one

Amy Remeikis

05, Jan, 2018 @12:56 AM

Article image
Australian Greens hail ‘best result ever’ with dramatic gains in lower house and Senate
Leader Adam Bandt celebrates ‘massive mandate’ and says Greens are willing to talk to Anthony Albanese if Labor fails to win majority government

Caitlin Cassidy and Joe Hinchliffe

21, May, 2022 @2:03 PM

Article image
How knocking on 90,000 doors delivered Queensland Labor heartland to the Greens
Analysis: the party’s stunning election result – likely winning three seats in Brisbane – built on a years-long grassroots strategy

Ben Smee

22, May, 2022 @5:37 PM

Article image
Marriage equality and the Queensland election: yes campaign amplifies Greens threat to Labor
An electorate filled with celebrations is a sight to gladden Jackie Trad’s heart, but the campaign had unexpected consequences in her South Brisbane seat

Amy Remeikis

19, Nov, 2017 @11:29 PM

Article image
With signs of floodwater still visible, the LNP’s hold on Brisbane may be in doubt
Though floodwaters are front of mind for many voters the city’s demographic mix means no single party is assured of electoral victory

Ben Smee

09, May, 2022 @1:07 AM