The West Australian coroner has recommended police officers’ powers to detain people be curtailed, following the death of an Indigenous woman at a Kimberley Police Station in 2012.
Balgo artist Maureen Mandijarra was arrested at Male Oval in Broome on the night of November 29.
Officers said she was heavily intoxicated at the time.
Police said they intended to detain her overnight, allowing her to “sleep it off”, however they were unaware of her fragile health.
She was found unresponsive in the lockup at Broome Police station the next morning, with attempts to revive her unsuccessful.
The inquest by coroner Ros Fogliani focused on the quality of Ms Mandijarra’s care and supervision whilst in police custody.
As part of her findings, Ms Fogliani recommended Parliament consider abolishing the ability of police officers to detain someone for street drinking, or make it a last resort.
She also recommended compulsory health assessments be conducted by a nurse or at a hospital on an individual before they are detained.
A post-mortem examination failed to determine the exact cause of death, however possible causes included staph infection and septicaemia — alcohol abuse and diabetes were also noted as contributing factors.
Ms Mandijarra’s death prompted a raft of changes to the Broome custodial system, including a 24/7 dedicated custodial officer, an increase in the frequency of cell checks, and assessment of high-risk detainees.
In her findings, Ms Fogliani observed the life of 44-year-old Ms Mandijarra had not always been marred by alcohol abuse, however during the course of her life she encountered insurmountable loss and sadness, entering a “cycle of despair” which she could not extricate herself.
The WA Government has been contacted for comment.