The Equality is Not the Same action plan implemented by Victoria Police is in its final year.
The changes it has introduced have been welcomed by communities across Victoria.
New anti-racial profiling policies, training that introduces new police recruits to the concept of bias and the trials of stop and search receipting have been very important and have put Victoria Police at the forefront of tackling discrimination in Australia.
The benefits of the Equality is Not the Same action plan are already evident. The growing trust between police and communities, and significant steps toward modern, fair and impartial policing must continue so that Victoria remains a global leader as a cohesive multicultural, multilingual and multi-faith society.
The Equality is Not the Same process has seen Victoria Police recognise that heavy handed, blunt and discriminatory approaches undermine community trust and respect for police.
Police training at the Academy level now recognises how conscious and unconscious bias can impact upon everyday policing decisions such as when to stop a person or how much force to use when apprehending someone.
The Victoria Police Manual now defines racial profiling as “making policing decisions that are not based on objective or reasonable justification, but on stereotypical assumptions about race, colour, language, ethnicity, ancestry or religion”.
It states that such profiling is “a form of discrimination” and is illegal. It requires officers to consider under what law or authorisation they are acting when they stop someone.
Racial profiling still happens
But there is still a significant gap between the aspirations of Victoria Police to uphold the human rights of all Victorians regardless of race or ethnicity, and daily operational policing techniques, strategies and approaches.
The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same report (July 2015) claims racial discrimination by Victoria Police continues throughout Metropolitan Melbourne despite recent efforts to curb racial profiling. Co-authored by Daniel Haile-Michael and Maki Issa — the lead applicants in the 2013 Federal Court racial discrimination case against Victoria Police – the report explores the policing experiences of young men of African and refugee backgrounds from Flemington, Sunshine, Noble Park and Dandenong.
Mr Haile-Michael said that despite their own experiences, he and Mr Issa were shocked by the extent to which police inflicted serious assault, harassment and public ridicule on young African men, as well as by how widely accepted such practices were within their communities.[Herald Sun]
Despite the two years of the Equality is Not The Same action plan and the great work of the Priority Communities Division of Victoria Police, the cultural change required to see these changes endure will require ongoing commitment at every level of Victoria Police command.
There is still a long way to go. There are critical steps ahead towards a modern, professional police force that is trusted by and treats all Victorians with dignity and respect.
Four steps to end racial profiling
We believe that there are four clear steps to ensure all Victorian communities receive highly professional, human rights compliant and impartial policing:
Measuring the Problem: police stop data collection
Receipting going statewide
Rolling out anti-bias training
Legislative changes: a call for change
Letter to the Chief Commissioner
In June 2016, fourteen Victorian community associations, agencies and peaks, including the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC), the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV), The Federation of Community Legal Centres (FCLC) and the Victorian Council of Social Services (VCOSS) sent a letter to the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police Graham Ashton calling for the statewide rollout of stop and search receipting, introduction of police stop data collection and monitoring and anti-bias training to be provided throughout the service.
A copy of this letter is available here (PDF).
For a more detailed analysis of the Equality Report and the Action Plan, please also see FKCLC’s ‘Analysis of the “Equality is not the Same” and consultant reports’ (February 2014).
The 3-Year Action Plan
In December 2013, Victoria police launched a three year action plan to address community concerns about discriminatory policing after many years of relentless campaigning by community, legal and human rights groups.
“It’s the outcome of everything we’ve been fighting for, and it kind of justifies what we’ve fought for,” Maki Issa – ABC News (31/12/13)
Victoria Police released a report into the historic inquiry into racial profiling and launched a 3 year action plan to address community concerns about discriminatory policing and racial profiling.
For a detailed analysis of the original Equality Report and the Action Plan, see our ‘Analysis of the “Equality is not the Same” and consultant reports‘ (February 2014).
Equality is not the Same
The ‘Equality is not the Same’ report and two accompanying consultant reports are available on the Victoria Police website here and below.Equality is not the same… PDF
‘Victoria Police Contact Policy and Processes’ prepared by the Cultural and Indigenous Research Centre Australia (CIRCA) (November 2013) Victoria Police Field Contact Policy and Processes PDF
‘Learning to Engage: A review of Victoria Police cross-cultural training practises’ prepared by the Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing, Victoria University (December 2013) Learning to Engage PDF
The 6 month Inquiry in 2013, the result of a settlement as part of the Haile-Michael Federal race discrimination action, has resulted in some key community recommendations being adopted including Australia’s first trial of stop and search receipting, monitoring of who is being stopped by police, policy reforms concerning police field contacts, and substantial reform of cross-cultural training provided within Victoria Police.
The ‘Equality is not the same’ report includes recommendations to:
- Review and amend field contact policy to prevent racial profiling, including the revision of definitions for ‘reasonable suspicion’ and ‘high crime locations’, and the education of all police members on the revised policy and practices,
- Amend the Victoria Police Manual so it directs members to inform individuals of the reason why they were stopped, and to develop a trial of receipting which requires police members to document the details of each contact,
- Collect aggregated data on field contacts to monitor whether they are being applied disproportionately, and to develop processes for independent review of this data monitoring,
- Establish stakeholder advisory groups to provide advice and guidance to Victoria Police on the development of policy, processes, data collection requirements and community engagement initiatives,
- Review and evaluate training to ensure ongoing cross-cultural training for all serving officers, and
- Create education material with an understanding and recognition of unconscious bias and how it impacts on operational decision making.
Smart Justice for Young People provided a short statement on these outcomes.
The launch prompted another significant editorial from The Age which stated; “There are six people in particular who deserve lasting gratitude: the young African-Australian men who courageously and tirelessly sought justice for what they rightly saw as a threat to their basic rights.” We heartily agree.
Submissions to the Inquiry
Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, Arnold Bloch Leibler, Jeremy Rapke QC, Emrys Nekvapil and Phoebe Knowles provided the following substantial 132-page submission.FKCLC / Arnold Bloch Leibler Submission
The Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria’s submission was ‘made with a view to the specific concerns and needs Victorians of refugee and migrant background and members of culturally and linguistically diverse communities’.ECCV Submission
The Fitzroy Legal Service made a submission focussing on field contact reports and complaints procedures.Fitzroy Legal Service Submission
Human Rights Law Centre made a submission entitled ‘Human Rights in Police Stop and Search Practices’.Human Rights Law Centre Submission
Smart Justice for Young People made a submission entitled ‘Safeguards Against Discriminatory Policing’.SJfYP Submission
The Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-Operative Limited made a submission informed by their ‘long experience working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who have contact with the justice system’.Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Submission
The Victorian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission made a submission calling for a stop and search receipting pilot in an regional and metropolitan police region.VHREOC Submission
Victoria Police commitments to end racial profiling
This historic inquiry and community consultation is the result of a settlement between six courageous young men and Victoria Police as part of the Haile-Michael Federal race discrimination action.
Individuals, organisations and agencies affected by racially discriminatory policing made a total of 70 submissions to the consultation. Ten of these are available for viewing via the Victoria police website here.
FKCLC and law firm Arnold Bloch Liebler made a comprehensive 132-page submission that sets out the key strategies required for genuine change and compliance with human rights and is available here.
An overwhelming majority of the community submissions called for significant changes to current Victoria Police field contact practices and training programs. All of the submissions viewed by us have clearly recommended the introduction of stop and search receipting to support data collection and monitoring, as well as enhanced and targeted anti-racism and racial profiling training.
In discussing the inquiry, Chief Commissioner Ken Lay was quoted as saying, ‘This is almost a new start for us. Never before have the Victoria Police consulted so widely with the community about the way we engage’.
The Victoria Police inquiry into racial profiling and the resulting three year action plan represents a real hope for substantial reform and an end to racial profiling in Victoria. They are to be congratulated for having conducted such a rigorous inquiry within this short time frame.
Addressing racially discriminatory policing would substantially improve the way in which police work with newly arrived, immigrant and culturally diverse communities in Victoria, and see a rise in community confidence, trust and respect for Victoria Police.
What we think needs to happen
Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre has outlined in detail the steps we believe will adequately address the problem of racial profiling. A complete copy of these steps for Victoria Police, the State Government and the community is available here.
Racial profiling must be specifically trained against – otherwise implicit racial stereotyping will occur.
Policy must reflect the fact that racial profiling of any type is unlawful and contravenes basic human rights.
Furthermore, practise must ensure that any racial profiling be identified through statistical collection and a stop and search receipting system (such as the one implemented in the United Kingdom). Under this system, Victoria Police would be required to collect demographic data, develop procedures to respond when racial bias appears, and develop policies to discipline officers who engage in the practice.
Finally, to clearly end the practise, the stage is set for Victoria to take the lead and introduce specific anti racial profiling legislation. Legislation would also create an enforcement mechanism to ensure that police anti-profiling policies are being followed and victims of profiling are able to seek redress. Unless racial profiling by law enforcement agencies is specifically made unlawful, as it is in other countries, incidents such as those that prompted the Haile-Michael case will continue to occur.
We owe it to the courage and tenacity of the six young men involved in this case that will put an end to racial profiling once and for all.
Please contact the FKCLC or sign up to our e-news below for further information.