The Australian and Aboriginal flags flew on Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Australian and Aboriginal flags flew on Sydney Harbour Bridge AFP / Wendell TEODORO

Northern Territory Police Commissioner Michael Murphy told the inquest into Kumanjayi Walker's death that when claims of racism within the police were originally surfaced in August 2023 he did not look into them.

Discriminatory texts and insults, as well as the Territory Response Group (TRG) issuing of discriminatory certifications, were among the disturbing examples of the racist culture that the investigation into the NT Police Force has uncovered.

Former constable Zachary Rolfe had previously informed the inquest about the certificates. Rolfe had fatally shot Walker, a Warlpiri-Luritja man, in November 2019. He was acquitted of all charges, and had gone on to deny he ever acted in a racist manner.

During the inquest on Wednesday, Murphy acknowledged that he had misled the public by telling journalists that he was unaware of these awards in February 2024. Murphy's conduct, according to Peggy Dwyer, the coroner's counsel, amounted to "gaslighting" the Aboriginal community and exacerbated the force's already pervasive discriminatory problems, The Guardian reported.

Under increasing public pressure, Murphy said he was too "busy" to immediately respond to the accusations at the time and that he ought to have assigned the probe to someone else, as per ABC.

Dwyer also made the argument that Murphy could have "other people underneath you that you could delegate to."

"I didn't treat it with the seriousness I should have," Murphy said, during the inquest. "I accept that was misleading to the public."

"Those who use racist language in private may be influenced to behave in a racist manner," he continued. "I cannot eliminate that racism wasn't part of...actions by police in all types of operations."

In addition, he acknowledged that his earlier claims that there was no racism in the force were untrue. Even as he claimed to be taking action against racism in the organization, Murphy was open about how much work was remaining to address the systemic problems of prejudice.