How will the Queensland Police Service improve its response to domestic and family violence after an inquiry condemns ‘failure of leadership’?
A damning report into Queensland police responses to domestic and family violence has delivered a toll for the organization.
From highlighting issues of misogyny and racism to exposing leadership failures, the commission’s 400-page report, which made 78 recommendations, has been called a ‘disturbing’ read by the prime minister from Queensland.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:
“Imperfect” promotion system
The report says a “leadership failure” has allowed a culture of sexism, misogyny and racism within the Queensland Police Service (QPS) to continue largely “unchecked” for many years.
“Much of the problem with the persistence of sexism and misogyny within the QPS rests with the organization’s senior leaders who set the ethical tone for the organization,” the report said.
He said Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll and other senior leaders had not “spoken or called out” the conduct of two senior officers who made “glib comments” at executive conferences “within days or the weeks following the incidents”.
“When the QPS fails to speak out against the sexism exhibited by its top leadership, negative attitudes toward women can flourish, including among junior officers.”
Both officers were dealt with by “local management resolution”, with one subsequently promoted to chief superintendent.
The Board of Inquiry report said it showed the promotion system was “flawed” and bad behavior was “not a barrier to promotion in the QPS”.
“Commissioner [Carroll] could have shown strong leadership by promoting the following person and publicly opposing the recommendation,” the report said.
During hearings into the inquest, Commissioner Carroll said it was ‘probably an understatement’ to say she was upset and appalled by both incidents, and that one of the officers ‘challenged’ the wording , but had “remorse”.
The report found there were “strong perceptions” among QPS members that “management lacks integrity” and was ultimately responsible for a culture of fear and silence.
Racism in the ranks
Racism is a “significant problem” within the QPS, according to the report.
Examples of racist language and attitudes towards police officers and the public included “stupid black c****”, “we should just napalm Aurukun” and “bring out the shiny black glosses for NAIDOC so we can take photos for the workplace,” it said.
The report notes that in August 2020, a group of officers who identify as First Nations people and people of color met with the police commissioner and other senior leaders to discuss their experiences of racism within organisation.
Their experience spans decades.
The following month, protesters demonstrated after the death of an Indigenous woman in custody.
Commissioner Carroll told the media at the time that she was upset that some protesters called the organization racist, saying “we are not racist in any way”.
The Board of Inquiry’s report said that while this was “a complex situation to manage”, Commissioner Carroll’s comments would likely have caused distress to the officers she had met with the previous month and might have dissuaded them from speaking out again.
“The commissioner let down the people she met, and the organization as a whole, when she said the QPS was ‘in no way racist’,” the report said.
“Words and actions of organizational leaders who fail to recognize and acknowledge racism in the organization inhibit change.”
The report says another problem is a “lack of organizational response to complaints of racism”.
One of the case studies involved an off-duty senior First Nations officer who was near her home at night when a police car pulled up and accused her of entering breaking into cars and homes.
“She did not disclose that she was a police officer. The woman felt harassed and racially profiled. She did not see anyone else being arrested by the police.”
“She raised the issue with her officer in charge who said the officers were just doing their job and she should forget about it. This matter was reported to the Ethics Standards Command, who determined that the allegations could not not be substantiated.”
The investigation found that the SPQ “has not always provided a culturally safe workplace for First Nations employees.”
He recommended that, within six months, the SPQ establish an additional complaints code to explicitly capture complaints involving allegations of racism.
Gaps in the response to family violence
The report found that QPS responses to domestic and family violence issues do not consistently meet community expectations.
The Board of Inquiry found that many victim-survivors were not believed when they attempted to report domestic and family violence to the police and could be blamed by officers for the violence they reported.
The commission highlighted a concerning practice by some officers – recording victim-survivors on body-worn camera footage indicating that they did not want to pursue criminal charges at the time of the crisis and before the start of a survey.
“This has serious implications for the sufficiency of evidence subsequently gathered by police and reduces the likelihood that victim-survivors will be able to pursue criminal charges at a later date,” the report said.
He noted that many victim-survivors told the commission about police’s apparent failures to open domestic violence investigations or gather evidence, seek protective orders or pursue criminal charges.
“Police reluctance to seek protection orders appears to be driven by several factors, including a poor understanding of the law and the dynamics of domestic and family violence, as well as cultural issues within the QPS,” notes the report.
The report says that QPS leadership “has failed to implement effective long-term improvements” and that “improving police responses will require improving fundamental cultural issues.”
“Change in this regard will be difficult due to the culture of fear and silence that prevents members from speaking out on these issues and the changes that need to be made.
“QPS management is responsible for this culture of fear and silence, but it is so entrenched that it will be difficult to change it.”
The report’s recommendations include improving domestic and family violence training, as well as developing and implementing a mechanism to measure the demand for domestic and family violence and the effectiveness of community responses. police.
Cultural aversion and burnout
The report pointed out that QPS members suffered from exhaustion and fatigue due to calls for domestic violence.
“The result is a cultural aversion within the QPS to domestic and family violence issues, resulting in QPS members’ reluctance to respond to calls for service related to domestic and family violence or to respond to requests for assistance. at station counters,” the report said. .
The commission noted that police find the paperwork burden associated with domestic violence cases overwhelming.
Four recommendations aim to improve this, including that within 12 months, QPS establish a joint committee to address burnout and strengthen the psychological health and well-being of the organization, based on evidence.
What now for Commissioner Carroll?
Commissioner Carroll said she intended to remain in the top job and was the best person to oversee the implementation of the commission’s 78 recommendations.
“I am 100% committed to completing this reform,” she said.
“I am the person who will enact the reforms and change what you read in the report.”
She announced that Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski has been appointed special coordinator to lead recommended police reforms.
Commissioner Carroll was sworn in as Queensland’s first female Commissioner of Police in 2019. Previously, she was head of Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk was repeatedly asked at a press conference if Commissioner Carroll was fit to lead the service after the scathing findings on leadership in the Commission’s final report.
Ms Palaszczuk said Commissioner Carroll had her full support, with her position also endorsed by cabinet.
Commissioner Carroll said Julie McKay, head of diversity, inclusion and wellbeing at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and a special team will support the QPS in implementing the reforms.