Commission of Inquiry into Queensland police culture and responses to domestic violence report delivered
A report into Queensland Police’s responses to domestic violence found that a ‘failure of leadership’ allowed cultural issues within the service to escalate ‘unchecked’ for years.
- The Board of Inquiry heard evidence of racist and sexist behavior among officers, including senior officials.
- The commissioner found that cultural issues within the service ‘prevent domestic and family violence from being policed’
- Deputy Police Commissioner Steve Gollschewski named special coordinator to lead recommended reforms
However, Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government is backing Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll.
“To bring about reform and cultural change, [it] needs a strong woman and that strong woman is Commissioner Katarina Carroll,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“Cabinet approved the commissioner today.”
Judge Deborah Richards led the Queensland Police Service (QPS) Inquiry into Domestic and Family Violence Responses, which heard evidence of racist and sexist behavior among officers, including senior officials.
In her foreword, Justice Richards said the commission had found “extensive evidence that there are cultural issues within the Queensland Police Service which inhibit policing of domestic and family violence”.
“There is evidence that there is a lack of understanding of the dynamics and power imbalance within domestic violence relationships,” she said.
“There is evidence of a significant lack of resources which leads to reactive and sometimes short-lived reforms and, on the front line, confusion about performance expectations.
“Despite initial protests … the commission found clear evidence of a culture where attitudes of misogyny, sexism and racism are allowed to be expressed, and sometimes practiced, largely unchecked,” a- she said in the report.
“Where complaints about such treatment are brushed aside or dealt with in the most minor way and those who complain are those who are shunned and punished.
“It is hardly surprising that these attitudes are then reflected in the way the police officers who hold them respond to victim-survivors.
“It is a failure of the leadership of the organization that this situation could continue for many years without control.”
The report made several findings, including:
- Sexism, misogyny and racism are a significant issue within the SPQ and that the service has not always dealt with such behaviors appropriately
- The SPQ has failed the people who suffered as a result of the conduct, failed to meet its human rights obligations to those people, and failed its members as a whole
- Negative attitudes towards women were prevalent within the service and impacted the ability of the SPQ to consistently respond well to domestic and family violence
- Racism manifested in discriminatory behavior towards First Nations employees, staff from other cultural backgrounds and members of the community
- The SPQ has failed to consistently provide a culturally safe workplace for First Nations employees.
Commissioner Carroll said the report was “a very, very difficult read” which presented many examples where “we should have done better for our community and for our own people”.
“I recognize these issues and how they have affected the way we interact with the most vulnerable people in our community.
“To those who have experienced this, I am deeply sorry.”
Commissioner Carroll said she intended to stay on as chief and had spoken with the prime minister.
Kerry Carrington, an adjunct professor at the University of Sunshine Coast who is an expert on domestic violence policing, told ABC Radio Brisbane it was ‘grossly unfair that the first female commissioner should be asked to take on the responsibility of decades of racism and misogyny in the police force”.
“I also think it is really unfair that the Minister of Police [Mark Ryan]who really should take responsibility for it, gets away with it,” she said.
Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski has been appointed special coordinator to lead the recommended police reforms.
Commissioner Carroll said Julie McKay, head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, will also help the police department implement the reforms with a task force.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said 98 per cent of police are ‘doing the right thing every day’ and there is no room in the service for racism, sexism and misogyny.
He said the report was a wake-up call for Commissioner Carroll, who needed to “pull up her socks” and “regain the trust of the police” and focus on preventing and solving crime in the state.
“A pervasive culture of fear and silence”
The findings come after a five-month investigation heard from dozens of witnesses and received more than 820 submissions, including 365 from current or former police officers.
He heard allegations of sexism, misogyny and racism from police officers, as well as cases of sexual harassment, rape and intimidation in the ranks, with those found responsible receiving little or no punishment.
The report revealed that there was a view that the service’s senior management lacked “integrity” and that there was a “pervasive culture of fear and silence in the organisation”.
“The commission also learned that there is a strong perception among QPS members that its senior leadership lacks integrity,” the report said, noting that this contributed to declining morale.
“Furthermore…there is a pervasive culture of fear and silence in the organization, for which management is ultimately responsible, which inhibits officers from talking about cultural issues and changes that need to be made to improve responses. QPS to domestic and family issues. violence.”
The report makes 78 recommendations
Justice Richard’s report, titled A Call for Change, contained a total of 78 recommendations to improve the way police respond to calls for domestic violence and increase resources.
The report recommended that the state government establish a Police Integrity Unit as an independent and separate unit from the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) to deal with complaints against the police and that it be created within the next 18 months.
The report says the unit must, at a minimum, be led by a senior officer who is a civilian, provide whistleblower protections, include identified positions for First Nation personnel in the intake, and include civilian investigators.
Recommendations also included that within six months, QPS engage an external expert to advise on the development and implementation of procedures designed to raise awareness of sexual harassment, including how to identify and report it, and the consequences. for all QPS members.
He also recommended that the QPS develop a program within six months where any QPS member who files a complaint of conduct resulting from sexism, misogyny or racism is assigned a peer support office with the consent of the affected party to support the member throughout the complaint process.
“Leading reforms at the national level”
The state government has earmarked $100 million to invest in a series of “national reforms” and initiatives to improve police responses to domestic and family violence.
It includes the deployment of:
- 300 domestic violence support workers in Queensland police stations
- 30 additional domestic violence liaison officers
- 30 other cultural liaison officers
- 10 additional specialized police prosecutors for the Circuit Court
- The appointment of a special coordinator for police reform
Ms Palaszczuk said the investigation had “highlighted some dark areas in the QPS” which had sparked “a case for change”.
“This is an opportunity to do better and we will,” she said.
Ms Palaszczuk said there were “deep-seated cultural issues” among some QPS members.
“Throughout the report, there are examples of women relating to their treatment in relation to the domestic and family violence response, to how members of the police department spoke to them.
“Of course, there’s a huge response from commissioners in terms of a change case and that change needs to happen across the police department.”
The state government backed all the recommendations in what Ms Palaszczuk described as “cutting-edge reforms”.