Confronting footage of an off-duty South Australian police officer stoning a wombat to death has sparked outrage, but there are claims he is within his rights to do it.
Senior Community Constable, Waylon Johncock, was filmed laughing while pegging rocks at a wombat in the state’s Eyre Peninsula.
The video shows Mr Johncock and another man following a wombat in a 4WD along a dirt road.
The car stops and Mr Johncock, who was off-duty at the time, gets out and starts following the animal on foot with rocks in his hand.
He gives the thumbs up before pelting the wombat with rocks.
The driver starts laughing as the animal tries to run away, with the cop continuing to hurl large stones.
“Go on, you’ve got him, you’ve got him,” the second man says.
“Hit him, hit him, kill him.”
He throws another rock, hitting the wombat in the head and causing it to topple over.
Mr Johncock raises his arms in triumph and smiles at the camera as the animal struggles on the ground
“You killed him!” the driver says.
“First bloke I’ve ever seen kill a wombat on foot, bro.”
The video drew widespread outrage after being shared to the Wombat Awareness Organisation Facebook page, but an Aboriginal elder has hit back, saying Mr Johncock was within his rights to kill the animal in this way.
Mr Johncock is indigenous and under the Native Title Act 1993, Aboriginal people are allowed to maintain ancient customs like hunting local wildlife.
Wirangu-Kokatha elder Jack Johncock, told the ABC, that using rocks to kill a wombat is one of the traditional hunting methods used by local Aboriginal people.
“It’s easy for people to sit back and judge people,” he said.
“For the people of the west coast of South Australia, the wombat is a big part of their diet and they’ll get wombat any way they can.”
After sharing the video online, Brigitte Stevens from the Wombat Awareness Organisation, created a Change.org petition calling for the men in the video to be investigated under the Animal Welfare Act.
“Police, off-duty or not, should be held to high standards. Celebrating an act of animal cruelty in this way is unacceptable. Wombats are beautiful, gentle creatures and do not deserve such cruel torment,” the petition reads.
More than 130,000 people have signed the petition, but elder Jack Johncock says it shows how little people know about these traditions.
“Don’t they think they’ve done enough changes in this country to take away all our rights and customs?” he said.
“What do they want us to do, eat McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried and get fat like everyone else in the country?”
Yesterday Police Commissioner Grant Stevens confirmed the man in the video was a police officer and condemned his actions.
“I find the actions portrayed in the footage to be totally abhorrent and unacceptable,” he said.
“I am aware of the community outrage regarding this matter. I want to reassure everybody that the actions in the video do not align with the values and behaviours I expect from my employees, nor does it align with community standards.
“Numerous employees of South Australia Police have also expressed to me that they, too, find the footage detestable and not consistent with their values.”
Waylon Johncock has worked for the SA Police for 10 years and is a Senior Community Constable in the remote Nullabor region.
He has previously been praised for his work helping non-indigenous officers better understand and communicate with those in the Indigenous community.
PETA spokesperson, Emily Rice, said Mr Johncock should lose his job and go to jail over the incident.
“A police officer who smiles as he pelts a living, feeling being to death should not only be struck off the force but also be locked up,” she said.
“This man shows a worrying state of mind and clearly can’t be trusted to protect others. “What’s more, research into criminology and psychology shows that people who commit acts of violence against animals are likely to continue abusing others and are indiscriminate about their victims, making them a danger to the entire community.
“We must treat all acts of violence with the seriousness that they deserve. Otherwise, we risk endangering the lives of both animals and humans.”
South Australia Police is investigating the incident.