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ABC News
ABC News
Lauren Roberts and Melissa Mackay

NT Police Association accuses government of 'political interference', calls for investigation into Zachary Rolfe's murder charge

NT Police Association president Paul McCue supported Zachary Rolfe throughout the trial. (ABC News: Peter Garnish)

The head of the NT's police union is calling for an independent investigation into the decision to charge Constable Zachary Rolfe with murder four days after the death of Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker.

NT Police Association president Paul McCue also accused Chief Minister Michael Gunner of "political interference" regarding the matter, which NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker has rejected.

On Friday, the NT opposition made similar calls, saying Mr Gunner must answer "serious questions" regarding the "appearance of political interference prior to charges being laid".

Mr Walker was shot three times during an attempted arrest in the remote Aboriginal community of Yuendumu in November 2019.

Constable Rolfe was arrested and charged four days after Mr Walker's death.

On Friday, Constable Rolfe was acquitted of murder, as well as two lesser charges, in a unanimous decision from a Northern Territory Supreme Court jury.

Constable Rolfe (middle) and Mr McCue (right) walk into the NT Supreme Court together. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Mr McCue said there was "never" enough evidence to charge the officer with murder.

"What we want to see is a thorough investigation into how this took place," he said.

"It is very rare that we see a police officer charged at the speed in which this took place.

"We are talking about the charge of murder — that is the most serious charge known to mankind — and we rushed and made a decision. Why?"

Mr McCue said it was a "mistake" and "unfair" for NT police officers to be required to investigate their own.

Allegations 'factually incorrect': Police Commissioner

Shortly after Mr Walker's death, Commissioner Chalker, Mr Gunner and NT Police Minister Nicole Manison travelled to Yuendumu to meet with the community.

The remote community of Yuendumu is home to about 800 people. (ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Mr McCue said Commissioner Chalker's decision to attend the community meeting was the "right one" but described Mr Gunner and Ms Manison's attendance as a "catastrophe".

In Yuendumu, Mr Gunner told the community "consequences will flow" following the shooting — a comment which the Chief Minister later said was taken out of context.

"The Chief Minister's comment that day, before an emotion-charged audience, was irresponsible if not clumsy, and one which let down the police and the community of Yuendumu," Mr McCue said.

"Political interference was alive."

In a statement, Commissioner Chalker said allegations of interference were "factually incorrect" and the investigation into Mr Walker's death was "normal".

"Such unfounded allegations are an affront to the critical independence of the Northern Territory police and the DPP and damage the trust and confidence in the criminal justice system which must be held by the community," he said.

"An investigation into the incident at Yuendumu began immediately. As a result a brief was provided to the Director of Public Prosecutions and consequently a charge was laid.

"The DPP, on further consideration of the brief, subsequently added a further two alternative charges."

Commissioner Chalker acknowledged it had been an "extremely difficult and distressing time" for police officers, Constable Rolfe and members of the community since Mr Walker's death.

He did not say whether the officer would return to work at the NT Police Force.

Mr Gunner said his 2019 comments "referred specifically and only to the upcoming coronial inquest into the death of Kumanjayi Walker".

"There has been deliberate and irresponsible misinterpretation of my words from that day," the Chief Minister said.

"Words have been deliberately taken out of context despite constant clarification.

"This has inflamed an already-tragic situation."

Mr McCue said in the two years since the shooting, many officers had left the force.

"Some have directly written to the NTPA (police union) to advise they have left due to the handling of this matter," he said.

Constable Zachary Rolfe has been found not guilty of all charges. (ABC News: Che Chorley)

Mr McCue said there would soon be an inquest into the incident which he hoped would "uncover more answers", but it should have taken place before any trial.

"[It is] a process which in our opinion ought to have occurred first, as is the case with other jurisdictions with police-involved shootings," he said.

'Very rare' to see Indigenous NT juror

Alice Springs-based criminal lawyer Russell Goldflam, who also sits on the Northern Territory Law Reform Committee, said Constable Rolfe's murder trial touched on several recent recommendations from the committee.

Mr Goldflam said one recommendation was regarding reforms to the NT Juries Act, including how juries were selected.

"We've got 86 per cent of prison population [that] are Indigenous people — about 25 per cent of the population of the Northern Territory Indigenous people," he said. 

"And yet it's very rare to see a jury, which after all is supposed to be a situation where one is tried by one's peers, that includes an Indigenous person."

Mr Goldflam said it was important a jury's decision was respected, and he did not believe the presence of more Indigenous jurors would have changed the outcome of Constable Rolfe's murder trial. 

A spokesperson for the Northern Territory Supreme Court said jurors were chosen at random from the electoral roll, which did not collect information about people's racial background.

"The Sheriff's Office does not record the ethnic background or Aboriginality of people summonsed to jury service or empanelled on juries," the spokesperson said.

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