The video that left The Project panel and audience in stunned silence.

As six Victorian Police officers beat and doused disabled pensioner John with capsicum spray, The Project panel and audience watched on in silence.

Airing the CCTV footage first released in an investigation by The Age’s Nick McKenzie without commentary, the show’s co-hosts Carrie Bickmore, Hamish Madonald, Peter Helliar and Steve Price wanted Australia to make up their own minds about how the police behaved that day in September last year.

According to The Age, John’s psychologist had been worried about his mental health because he was ‘coming down’ from prescription medication. So she called the police and asked that they check on him.

What proceeded was several minutes of footage caught on a security camera John installed after being burgled, showing the man cuffed and beaten while having abuse hurled at him, and then sprayed at close range with a high-pressure hose.

When the video finished, everyone in the room was lost for words, struggling to comprehend the events that could’ve led up to such a horrible incident happening in the first place.

The audience was shocked into silence.

“I’ve been all day listening to this. Our police do extraordinary job,” Price said of the hard-to-watch footage. “They go into dangerous situations where they put their own lives add risk on a daily basis. The side commentary there and the fact they almost seemed like they wanted to humiliate this guy and hurt him, there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.


“If it wasn’t for that CCTV footage we’d never have seen this.”

Bickmore added, “I feel there’s a whole part missing. They’re attending because of mental illness, but then the humiliation… it feels like there’s something missing in the whole thing.”

“[The video shows ] a whole series of choices that are so obviously wrong and a human with long-term mental health issues at the centre of it,” Macdonald also said.

Victoria Police hadn’t seen the footage before it was released today. In a press conference, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius said he wants John to know he was concerned by what the footage depicted and is pleased an investigation into the matter has commenced.

The Project also spoke to John’s lawyer Jeremy King, who said the situation has been very distressing for him.

“John, considering the circumstances, is doing very well. He’s a brave man. He’s been through a lot… he’s soldiering on,” he said.

In his opinion, the police officers’ initial contact with John – speaking to him at his door and trying to de-escalate the situation – was in accordance with police protocol. But from the time he opened the door, that protocol went out the window.

“He was tackled to the ground, handcuffed, [capsicum] sprayed, hit with a baton… sprayed at such close range, having a knee on the neck,” he said.

“In terms of the after care for [capsicum] spray, the way it’s supposed to work is it should be administered with a bottle or a bucket… there was a watering can nearby by they chose not to use that and instead use a high-pressure garden hose. That’s certainly not in accordance with protocol, and it’s certainly not protocol to bring out your mobile phone and to film it for your own amusement.”

As of yet, none of the six police officers involved have been stood down. Victoria Police say an investigation is underway.

On Mamamia Out Loud, we discuss mental health in the public eye and why James Packer’s decision to step away for his mental health is so important.