Designing a better system
Modern community expectations (and our human rights obligations) demand that investigations of complaints against police be conducted by a body which meets these five benchmarks:
1. Independent of the Police—hierarchically, practically, culturally and politically;
2. Capable of conducting an adequate investigation;
4. Open to public scrutiny; and
5. Victim-centred, and enables the victim to participate in the investigation
The global trend is toward models that meet these five requirements. It has been achieved elsewhere. In Canada, Northern Ireland and elsewhere civilian investigation service can investigate all complaints against police professionally, promptly and independently.
More detail is available in the Policy Briefing Paper.
Shouldn’t police own their own integrity system?
The independent investigation of complaints against police in no way removes Victoria Police’s responsibility for providing its extensive recruitment, training and professional development programs and the multitude of ways supervisors monitor and manage practice issues.
To illustrate, an airline company retains total responsibility for the recruitment, training, professional development and professional standards of its pilots and staff, despite the presence of independent air crash investigation bodies. A hospital maintains responsibility to ensure its medical staff is as competent and professional as possible despite the independent Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and medical boards adjudication of complaints.
Under the proposed independent complaints model, which would assess and have capacity to investigate all critical incidents and all allegations it assesses as ‘serious’, Victoria Police would maintain control over its existing Management Intervention Model (MIM) – a process for police managers to respond to lower-level misconduct issues using a combination of verbal guidance, action plans and managerial notices.
Independent investigations would likely result in vastly improved policy, internal culture, training and operational practices that will enhance both police and public safety.
Read more here.
Sign this petition to tell the Victoria Government that Victorians deserve the independent and effective investigation of all complaints against the police:
What’s wrong with the current system?
An avalanche of news stories from people who have experienced police abuse provide a shocking glimpse into the failings of Victoria’s police complaints system.
Clients of Robinson Gill Lawyers, the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service, Fitzroy Legal Service and Flemington & Kensington Community Legal Centre have revealed the failings of a system where police investigate police, after disturbing incidents including:
- One person left too terrified to complain after being beaten, abused, pepper-sprayed and filmed by six police who attended a mental health call-out
- A young education employee, Jessie Scarlett-Rhodes, who was handcuffed and hurled headfirst into a divvy van, causing head injuries and a fractured nose. She was then charged by police after she made a complaint, and had her complaint dismissed following a police internal investigation.
- One person being repeatedly punched, hit with a baton and stomped on by police after his arrest. His excessive force complaint was dismissed following a police investigation.
In Australia police are rarely prosecuted or disciplined for the death assault or ill-treatment of a member of the public. This is because the current system of accountability is not working.
An analysis of police complaint substantiation rates indicates that less than 10% of all complaints to police are ever substantiated, and less than 4% of all assault complaints. However, when courts are given the chance to assess allegations of police mistreatment, they consistently find those allegations have substance, despite being dismissed by the police complaint system.
Is IBAC working?
IBAC is not currently capable of holding police to account for misconduct. In part, this is due to a lack of resources and investigative powers; they simply cannot investigate more cases with current staff levels. But it is also underpinned by an attitude—that a person accused of serious professional misconduct can be investigated by their own colleagues—that is completely at odds with public opinion, international human rights standards, police accountability research and the global trend away from oversight-only bodies.
The new IBAC commissioner Robert Redlich QC has stated that, with current powers and legislation IBAC can’t adequately investigate police misconduct. IBAC investigators have no powers to search or arrest, leading to some cases falling through the cracks.
New anti-corruption boss warns IBAC too shackled to investigate police properly, Farrah Tomazin, The Age, 20 May, 2018
IBAC ‘concerned’ with Victoria Police handling of serious incidents, Anthony Dowsley, Herald Sun,
“THE state’s anti-corruption watchdog has identified weaknesses in how Victoria Police handles incidents involving its officers that result in deaths or serious injuries to the public….”
Victoria Police ‘deficiencies’ found in IBAC report on internal reviews, Zalika Rizmal and Charlotte King, ABC News, March 27, 2018
“Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog says there are “concerning deficiencies” in the way Victoria Police reviews serious incidents, including those that kill or injure members of the public….”
Corruption watchdog to probe disgraced integrity cop’s actions on racism complaints, Tammy Mills & Cameron Houston, The Age,
“Victoria’s corruption watchdog has widened its investigation into online trolling by disgraced assistant commissioner Brett Guerin to review the former police ethics boss’ actions on racism complaints….