Leaked audio reveals Queensland police staff in racist conversations, joking about violence to black people and protesters

Exclusive: Whistleblower’s recordings capture multiple offensive discussions between officers at Brisbane watch house

Audio recordings taken at the Brisbane city police watch house reveal officers joking about beating and burying black people, referring to Nigerians as “jigaboos”, and raising fears that Australia “will be fucking taken over”.

A series of tapes, leaked to Guardian Australia by a whistleblower, record several Queensland police service officers using racist slurs and offensive language while working in the holding cells.

The audio – which we have published below – features comments by several watch house officers (a non-policing role) and sworn police. It includes jokes about one officer’s desire to “skull drag” protesters, discussions of fears of “outbreeding” by Muslim immigrants, and, when speaking about African population growth, the comment “let’s just hope Ebola works”.

The recordings were submitted to the state’s commission of inquiry into police responses to domestic and family violence by a watch house officer, Steven Marshall.

Marshall, who gave Guardian Australia consent to publish his name, has worked at the Brisbane watch house for four years and was present during the conversations he recorded.

He says some conversations were about people of colour held at the watch house, including one black detainee being referred to as “a gorilla in the mist” and jokes made about a fellow officer that a female Indigenous detainee “won’t give you a fucking blowjob here”.


Marshall says he is speaking out after being left deeply disturbed by the racist remarks uttered casually in front of staff, and in some cases possibly detainees, in his workplace.

He says that he only complained internally about one of these recordings because he had previously complained about unrelated matters and had “exhausted all options over many years” to hold colleagues to account in relation to these, including lodging internal whistleblower complaints. He says that he felt repeated complaints through formal channels were never taken seriously, and that he had suffered alleged reprisals for speaking up.

Marshall told Guardian Australia that he had worked with “hundreds of good officers” but held serious concerns about the culture of the Brisbane city watch house that allowed some individual officers to use such violent, racist language.

The Queensland police service said in a written response to Guardian Australia the ethical standards command was conducting inquiries into the matter, and would immediately review any previous complaints.

“The QPS values culture and diversity – adverse language used towards the First Nations community is completely unacceptable.

“The QPS encourages any members who witness or experience inappropriate workplace behaviour to immediately come forward and report the matter internally.

“The QPS has implemented new oversight measures as part of an ongoing review into its local managerial resolution system and is committed to improving its response to inappropriate workplace behaviour.

“The QPS recognises the current commission of inquiry into domestic and family violence as an opportunity to learn from matters raised while strengthening and improving the organisation.”

The leaked recordings can be listened to below, along with corresponding transcripts.

Recording 1 – December 2019

A group of officers are chatting at the watch house charge counter.

Officer 1 (watch house officer): “You know it’s funny when you hear a really, really black fella speaking Italian, that fucking freaks me out.”

Officer 2 (sworn police officer): “Asians speaking Irish would be better.”

Officer 3 (watch house officer): “That would be wild.”

Officer 1: “Even in [phrase removed] there are fucking black fellas running around everywhere. I said to my cousins, ‘What the fuck?’ They wait outside fucking supermarkets and they’ll follow ya and they’ll fucking try and rob ya and I’m thinking … just get ’em and beat the fuck out of them and bury them. Just bury them. Mate, no one would know.”

Officer 3: “Where’s the fucking mafia when you need it?”

Officer 1: “They won’t get away with stealing … [inaudible]. I mean I’m talking real fucking Sudanese people. I’m thinking, hang on, you’re in a fucking another country mate.”

Unidentified speaker: “Apparently they’re overrunning Sicily as well.”

Officer 2: “They’re in Greece and everywhere else, mate.

Officer 3: “If they tried that back where they came from they’d get macheted to death.”

Officer 1: “[Inaudible] … and they’ll fucking get chopped up.”

Officer 2: “Well, this is the issue in the UK against immigration. They had to introduce knife laws because [inaudible] – gangs now go around beating people up. Africans go around stabbing people to death, and slicing them up. So, the British gangs had to up their game because they were getting beaten up and slashed by the other [inaudible].”

Officer 3: “Yeah, the tough British gangs were the underdogs.”

Officer 1: “It’s fucking wrong, man. I hate it when the minority go to another country and they fuck them over.”

Officer 2: “You wanna convert it to Islam and you wanna do all this shit. That’s how they’re fucking going to do it.”

Officer 3: “Yeah, outbreed.”

Officer 2: “Outbreeding. Outfucking. Even in Germany now they’re having separated pools. Young people with open arms, ‘Oh, let them all come in.’ Mate, it’s getting to the stage where I’m thinking Sweden, Denmark, or somewhere like that, it’s going to be an Islamic country soon.”

[Inaudible section]

Officer 1: “Australia’s pretty pissweak. We’ll be fucking taken over by [inaudible], we can get taken over by anyone, we don’t stand up for ourselves. A lot of the time no one stands up for this country.”

Officer 3: “Yeah I know, walking down the street and you smell curry. [Inaudible] … you can’t avoid them nowadays.”

The officers discuss population growth.

Officer 1: “I don’t understand. How do they breed in Africa? They’ve got all that poverty and fucking starvation and shit.”

Officer 3: “They do it by statistics. They have 12 children and one of them will survive.”

Officer 1: “I don’t know how they get the strength to fucking breed. They’ve got no water or food. How do they get through a pregnancy?”

Officer 3: “They’ve got no food. The women and children are starving.

Officer 1: “But the women get pregnant. How do they?”

Officer 3: “Not by choice.”

Officer 2: “Mate, they come first. The man comes first, the kids are second, the women third.”

Officer 3: “The women don’t get pregnant by choice. It’s [inaudible].”

Officer 1: “Oh well, better outcome, you don’t breed.”

Officer 2: “Let’s just hope Ebola works.”

The officers then discuss Japanese immigration policy.

Officer 3: “You can move to Japan and you can be Muslim but the Qur’an over there has to be written in Japanese so any federal Japanese officer can look at what you have, open it up and read the book.”

Officer 2: “And they also refuse to settle refugees, and they will not get citizenship.”

Officer 1: “Yeah, because Japan comes first. But Australia, fuck, just open – spread the cheeks and let them fuck us.”

Recording 2 - December 2019

Marshall and a watch house officer are standing together behind glass near isolation cells, which he says are used to hold some of the watch house’s most vulnerable and high-risk detainees. Marshall says he can be heard laughing as the recording cuts in; he says this was a shock reaction and that he didn’t find the subsequent comments amusing.

Officer: “The other day there were fucking Nigerians driving in front of us. Fucking hurry up, you fucking jigaboos. The kids in the back: ‘What’s a jigaboo?’ [laughs]. It just came out.”

Marshall says that later a First Nations woman is taken into a cell on the other side of the glass by another watch house officer, and the following exchange occurs.

Officer, to colleague: “She won’t fucking give you a blowjob here, she’s not going to give you one when she gets out. Stop trying.”

Officer [laughing], to Marshall: “What the fuck? He just fucking can’t help himself.”

Recording 3 – December 2019 (transcript only)

A sworn police officer and a watch house officer are chatting at the watch house charge counter, about awaiting charges for a man who’s been accused of breaching a domestic violence order.

Marshall then asks about a different detainee at the watch house, who he says was a person of colour, who had been taking a shower.

The watch house officer responds: “I went and looked in there, he looked like a gorilla in the mist, under that water constantly.”

An unknown officer laughs.

Recording 4 – June 2020

A sworn police officer is talking to a group of colleagues, including Marshall, at the charge counter about social media posts about protests, including Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion.

Police officer: “If they let me loose at a protest, it’d be very very bad. Because I’d be skull dragging them into the car. Because that, and that is my definition of policing. Keep. The. Peace. That’s it.

“And if you wanna have a peaceful protest that’s fine [inaudible]. Do not come out at peak hour when decent people are trying to go to work and stop them from going to work and going about their business. That’s fucking wrong and you can get back to where you came from.”

The officers discuss the decision to drop charges against the Brisbane Greens councillor, Jonathan Sri, after his arrest for allegedly failing to heed a police direction during a refugee rights protest.

Marshall: “Look what QPS just did on Jonathan Sri, the most anti-police … ”

Police officer: “They let him off. They’ve pulled the charges.”

Marshall: “How can you pull charges?”

“Mate, and I’ll tell you, now it was a direction from someone high up and I betcha … I’m surprised it wasn’t simply vetoed because I know the guy who arrested him and there is fucking no way he would’ve pulled those charges. It would have been pulled from above, and that’s happened to me once before.”

The officers discuss footage of Sri’s arrest.

Marshall: “The anti-police stuff that he does is just beyond … you just go through his actual councillor webpage … ”

Police officer: “He’s a piece of crap and a halfwit. Because take away the police and turn it into, you know, anarchy. He’s the first one they’re going to take everything from, because he’s weak and can’t defend himself.”

Recording 5 – June 2020

A group of officers are speaking near the charge counter about historical interactions between Captain James Cook and First Nations people. While the conversation does not include violent language or offensive terminology, it does reveal attitudes on race, including an officer’s criticism of the notion that “you’ve got to be embarrassed about being white”.

Officer 1: (watch house officer): “Have you read Cook’s report on the Aboriginals? Oh yeah he said they’re the worst people he’d ever encountered. Because he’d experienced the Māoris in New Zealand where you would give them combs and mirrors and cloth, and they would exchange stuff with you.”

Officer 2 (watch house officer): “They’re a bit more cultured.”

Officer 1: “But dealing with the Aboriginals, you’d put these things on the ground and they’d pick them up, look at them and just walk off. They’d leave all the stuff on the ground. They just didn’t want it.”

The officers discuss a book by Peter FitzSimons.

Officer 3 (police officer): “This is the other thing, even with these books you’ve got to be embarrassed about being white, apparently … and he’s going on about, you know, the Indigenous … were putting shit on fucking Cook’s crew because they didn’t understand wildfires and they didn’t understand the reef system and all that sort of stuff. And it’s like, hang on, this is a culture that built a fucking ship that sailed around the fucking world and mapped the entire world, I wouldn’t be putting shit on it. Just because he didn’t know how wildfires burnt?”

Unknown: “They got their way through the Great Barrier Reef in a wooden boat.”

Officer 3: “He ran into a reef that even modern-day fucking boats are running into now … because he didn’t understand how wildfires fucking burnt in a stranger’s country, you’re going to put shit on him?

“But that’s the way it’s gotta be now, we’ve got to be embarrassed about it.”

Officer 2: “We’re stupid, it’s the white man’s fault.”

Whistleblower says he is suffering PTSD

Marshall took part in the conversations but says he found comments by some of his colleagues seriously concerning. He told Guardian Australia that he reported one of the comments to the Queensland Human Rights Commission, which subsequently alerted the QPS.

Marshall claims he was told to withdraw the Human Rights Commission complaint by a superior.

He says he has suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and has put on 25kg as a result of workplace issues, about which he made formal complaints.

Marshall says he is worried police will now take action against him for going public. He says he believes – after attempting to raise matters via formal processes – that speaking out is the right thing to do.

A QPS spokesperson said: “All complaints made against police are treated with the utmost urgency and importance and are assessed and investigated accordingly.”

The Queensland inquiry into police responses to domestic violence has heard multiple stories about police engaging in racist behaviour, language and abuse, particularly directed towards First Nations people.

The police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, publicly apologised for those instances and acknowledged at the inquiry there were “areas of concern’, with regard to racism and misogyny.

But she did not accept that there were “widespread” cultural issues, out of a desire not to “tar all those people with the same brush”.

Many of those seeking reform to the QPS, including police officers who contributed to the inquiry, say that an environment where overt racism or misogyny occurs casually or unchecked – even if it is perpetrated by a minority – demonstrates the cultural problem.

A final report is due on Monday.


Eden Gillespie and Ben Smee

The GuardianTramp

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