Sandra’s Story: complaining about police in a small country town

Sandra’s Story

 

There are particular issues for people living in a rural or regional location who seek to make a complaint against a member(s) of a local police station.

The Loddon Campaspe and Goulburn Valley Community Legal Centres, based in Bendigo and Sheparton, have made a submission to the Parliamentary inquiry into the external oversight of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria.   The two rural legal centres draw attention to the experiences of Victorian’s who may be considered ‘marginalised’  by virtue of their living in regional, rural or remote parts of the state.

“Anonymity is… at risk in small communities – LCCLC has found clients are reluctant to complain because they feel they will be the objects of targeted treatment by local police. Client instructions often are “they know where I live, they will harass me if I complain”.

The submission highlights the following story.

Sandra (not her real name of course) was arrested and charged for drinking in public by members of her local police station in the small regional town in which she lives. She informed police that she was not drunk and that she suffered from a mental illness and was medicated for this.

Their observations of her behaviour, assessed as drunkenness, were actually side-effects of her medication. Despite her explanation, she was still charged. When being transported to the police station, Sandra was roughly treated and sustained bruising. During her interaction with police they made sexist and racist remarks. Sandra instructed that during interview, police referred to Sandra’s father, who had previously made a complaint about local police. She felt targeted. Sandra was not given water, was left in a cold cell in a wet dress and police refused to provide her their names.

Local police made an offer to the legal centre to withdraw the drunk in a public charge, but said the charge would proceed if Sandra intended to make a complaint about police conduct.

The legal centre lodged a formal complaint. IBAC’s involvement began in November 2013. Sandra’s complaint was referred back to the local police station for investigation by the same police officer that her father’s earlier Office of Police Integrity complaint pertained to, despite repeated requests by the legal centre highlighting the conflict.

IBAC resolved that most elements of her complaint were found either to be ‘unable to be determined’ or ‘not substantiated’ due to lack of material evidence and closed the complaint in late October 2015.

The complainant had provided material evidence, including photos of the injuries she sustained. Sandra was never contacted in the course of the investigation by police or by IBAC.

The Parlimentary IBAC Committee inquiry into the external oversight and investigation of police corruption and misconduct in Victoria will report no later than 30 June 2018.

Forty three submissions have been received by the Victorian parliamentary inquiry so far.   Of those publically available, 88% support calls for an independent body to investigate police misconduct in Victoria.

 

Special thanks to the

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The Loddon Campaspe and Goulbourn Valley Legal Centre’s submission can be found here (PDF).

 

For more information about Independent Investigations of police complaints in Victoria see: Independent Investigations

 

 

 

NEW Policy Briefing Paper 2017

Policy Briefing Paper 2017 covershot

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