The death of an Aboriginal woman in police custody in Broome has led to changes in local custodial procedures, a coronial inquest in Broome has heard.
Balgo artist Ms Mandijarra, 44, was found dead in the police lock-up early on November 30, 2012.
She had been arrested the night before for drinking on Broome's Male Oval with friends.
The inquest in Broome is exploring, among other things, what welfare checks were conducted on Ms Mandijarra in custody and whether they were adequate.
Police on duty that night were unaware she had diabetes and although she was acting erratically, abusively and in an intoxicated manner, there was nothing which prompted them to think she was unwell, the inquest heard.
The inquest heard police were busy and understaffed in 2012 and, on the night she was in custody, two supervising officers failed to perform frequent enough checks on her cell.
The officers complied with a statewide policing policy, but not a stricter Broome policy, which required officers to check on high-risk people in custody, such as Ms Mandijarra, more often, the court heard.
In March 2013, Senior Sergeant Brendon Barwick took over as officer-in-charge of the Broome Police Station.
He described Broome at the time as a "high-risk area" and said officers "were doing the very best they could given the [staffing] circumstances".
Today, Senior Sergeant Barwick told State Coroner Ros Fogliani that following Ms Mandijarra's death, his officers continued to be too busy to comply with the requirements of the Broome lock-up manual.
Due to staffing levels, he estimated officers were only able to comply with the requirements 80 per cent of the time.
In August 2014, a new lock-up policy came into effect in Western Australia.
Senior Sergeant Barwick said although Broome did not receive extra staff at that point, he tweaked the roster to ensure an officer was on duty 24/7 solely to look after people in custody.
He said that allowed officers in Broome to comply with cell check requirements "wherever possible".
WA Government deploys extra police to Broome
In November 2015, the State Government deployed an extra 15 police officers to Broome, eight of whom have begun working and a further five of whom were granted transfers to Broome this week.
Senior Sergeant Barwick told the court the extra numbers have allowed for a "dedicated custodial officer" to be rostered on 24/7.
He said people in police custody are now checked on in person at least every 20 minutes for their first hour in custody, and at least once an hour thereafter.
He said "high-risk" people were monitored in person continually for their first 30 minutes in custody, and every 10 minutes thereafter.
Senior Sergeant Barwick told the inquest 80–90 per cent of the people brought into the Broome police lock-up would be classified "high-risk", like Ms Mandijarra was.
Various changes have been made to the custodial system in Broome since 2012, including:
· the station has a 24/7 dedicated custodial officer in charge of the lock-up
· a defibrillator has been fitted to the Broome lock-up
· the police custody computer system has been enhanced, modifying the way police are warned about the risk level of individual prisoners and the way police are reminded to check on people in custody
· the cell check reminder system is monitored by three officers at all times
· an additional timer (described as being like one used on a netball court) is set to alert officers each 10 minutes to check on high-risk prisoners
· new officers receive cultural awareness training specific to Broome
· Aboriginal Relations Officers are required to meet and greet with prisoners in the lock-up every morning.
Although a definite cause of death for Ms Mandijarra was never found, the court heard she had infections consistent with that of a diabetic woman, and possible causes of death included septicaemia or a staph infection.
The inquest was set down for a week, but is due to conclude hearing evidence today.
Findings are not expected to be handed down until later this year.
From ABC News Online.