The Queensland Police Service will be restructured to stamp out a widespread culture of sexism, racism and misogyny, after a report said it wasn’t “just a few bad apples”.
The state government has promised to enact 77 recommendations in the report, handed down on Monday after a three-month Commission of Inquiry.
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Judge Deborah Richards’ report found that sexism, racism and misogyny are a “significant problem” in the QPS.
Officers’ values, attitudes and biases are impacting domestic violence policing, and failing victims, police and the community, she wrote.
“Victim-survivors are turned away from stations and misidentified as perpetrators,” said her report.
“Police avoid domestic and family violence-related calls for service and do not undertake investigations to the expected standard.”
“The current response is not working – for victim-survivors, their children, or police. These issues are not isolated. There are not just a few bad apples.”
Judge Richards’ has recommended more training for police, more officers and resources for DV policing, more liaison officers for DV, First Nations and LGBTI+ communities, and a number of independent police watchdogs.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the report “ripped the bandaid off”, and she’s promised to enact all Judge Richards’ 77 recommendations.
“These will be nation-leading reforms … the commission of inquiry has put a spotlight on some dark places in the QPS, and … identified cultural issues going back decades,” she told reporters.
Culture of fear
Judge Richards found that sexism, misogyny and racism are also significant problems for people working within the QPS as well.
Bullying, harrassment and abuse in the force is underreported, the report said, due to a culture of fear and silence among victims and witnesses.
Judge Richards found the complaints system is biased toward officers being investigated and doesn’t protect against serious misconduct or have community confidence.
“In this way, the conduct and complaints system is unfairly biased towards the officer facing investigation,” the report said.
“A disciplinary system where police investigate police, who are sometimes friends and workmates, simply does not result in a fair system.”
Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll acknowledged instances where the disciplinary system had “not been effective”, also apologising for “examples where we should have done better”.
“I will not accept bad behaviour or stand by those who do not meet the standard expected of them,” she said.
“We have already made changes within our (disciplinary) system to ensure we can hold members accountable for their actions.
“The report is a very difficult read and presents many examples where we should have done better for our community and our own people.
“I acknowledge these issues and how they have affected the way we interact with the most vulnerable people in our community. For those who have experienced this, I am deeply sorry.
“There have been some examples of racism, misogyny and sexist behaviour which is not acceptable in our community – and even less acceptable from our police. Our police are our community, but we will rightly be held to a higher standard.”
Judge Richards recommended a new independent Police Integrity Unit be established within the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission to probe all complaints about police
A special domestic violence victims’ commissioner should be appointed to review victims’ complaints, the report said.
“Police are the gatekeepers to the justice system, and their response can reduce or prevent future violence for victim-survivors and their children, hold perpetrators to account and, at times, save lives,” the report said.
“If their response is performed poorly, it can embolden the perpetrator and drive the victim-survivor further away from help.
“It is essential that organisational structures are in place so officers can respond effectively to domestic and family violence, and that strong, independent systems are established to address any harmful cultural issues in the Queensland Police Service.”
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