31 May 2011

Australian police forces have been getting some bad press this month.

The Office of Police Integrity has been very critical of the process used by Victorian Police to collate crime statistics.  The Commissioner is embarrassed about data showing that each year up to 15,000 crimes in the State have been wrongly identified as  cleared or solved.  A system overhaul is inevitable.  Only slow progress is being made with the establishment of IBAC, the independent anti corruption body for all parts of the Victorian public sector which the Government had hoped to have operational by now.

In New South Wales the Police Integrity Commission released a 54 page report on Friday with recommendations for search warrant processes to overcome repeated allegations of police corruption.  More rigorous video recording of searches, note taking and other corruption prevention controls are thought necessary, although in 98 cases scrutinised, the Commission found good compliance with existing safeguards.

And in Queensland a review has found the Police complaints and misconduct system is dysfunctional and in need of a drastic overhaul.  The Premier said a review “starkly and bluntly describes a system much in need of reform” and came with 57 recommendations for change.  New, fair and transparent arrangements are needed to restore public confidence instead of the current “administratively burdensome, overly legalistic and adversarial process that is dishonoured by chronic delays, inconsistent and disproportionate outcomes”.

None of which can do much for the morale of police officers committed to the well being of their communities!

Police forces commonly are subject to oversight by separate integrity agencies from those that scrutinise other public services.  Increasingly however the move is to bring Police under the same ethics umbrella.  This is the model being developed for Victoria’s new IBAC.  In New Zealand Police are subject to the Cabinet Manual requirement that …”Employees in the state sector must act with a spirit of service to the community and meet high standards of integrity and conduct in everything they do. In particular, employees must be fair, impartial, responsible, and trustworthy”, although misconduct investigations fall within the mandate of the Independent Police Conduct Authority, not the State Services Commissioner.