Queensland police discipline system ‘failed’ officers sexually assaulted by colleagues, minister says

The Guardian [London, England]

October 12, 2022

By Eden Gillespie

Mark Ryan says he is appalled by ‘disgraceful’ evidence heard at inquiry and calls for changes to system

Queensland’s police minister has acknowledged that the force’s disciplinary system has “failed” officers subjected to sexual assaults by their police colleagues.

The commission of inquiry into police responses to domestic violence last week heard how officers who perpetrated sexual assault, sexually harassed junior female colleagues or made racist or misogynistic comments often faced little to no consequences for their behaviour.

In most cases officers were dealt with through local management resolution (LMR) – a remedial conversation with a supervisor, the inquiry heard.

The police minister, Mark Ryan, said on Wednesday he was “appalled” by evidence of officers harassing or abusing their colleagues.

“We’ve seen over the last couple of weeks with the commission of inquiry is that there is some quite appalling behaviour and there has been some instances where the system has failed victims, not only in the community but victims in the workplace,” he told reporters.

“I’m particularly appalled by that behaviour of police officers harassing or abusing their colleagues. I think that’s disgraceful and goes against everything I believe in around safe workplaces.

“Those people need to be called out and there needs to be consequences for that action.

“Victims need to know and have confidence in the system, that [the] discipline framework will support them but also their workplace will support them.”

The force’s current disciplinary system was introduced in 2019 with bipartisan support, despite concern from civil liberties experts about police investigating themselves.

The system encourages the use of “management strategies” rather than formal sanctions for police misconduct and misbehaviour.

Ryan said the inquiry had highlighted that the state’s police disciplinary system needed “adjustments” – particularly regarding LMRs.

“The evidence … has highlighted there are some shortcomings when it comes to ensuring that culture is where it needs to be,” Ryan said.Advertisement

“We want to listen to the commission of inquiry when it comes to any potential improvements on that … and to be honest, the commissioner’s already acting on that.”

The inquiry heard an officer who threatened to punch his female superior “in the cunt” for blocking his career advancement was managed through LMR.

Another officer found to have engaged in bullying conduct over 13 years and sent pornographic material to colleagues was also dealt with through LMR and later promoted.

Female officers spoke about their fear of coming forward with complaints, with multiple submissions revealing those who made such reports had been labelled “dogs” and “snitches”.

The inquiry heard that while some perpetrators had gone unpunished, one junior female police officer was disciplined for not reporting the sexual harassment she was subjected to by a supervisor.

The volume of evidence led Queensland’s police commissioner Katarina Carroll to admit that in many cases the application of LMRs was “completely inappropriate” and that the system was “broken”.

Queensland’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Friday she believed the majority of police did the right thing but acknowledged “deep-seated cultural issues” in the service.

“I [was] quite distressed hearing those … racist comments and they have no place in a modern Queensland,” she said.

The inquiry will hand down its final report to the state government next month.

The Queensland Police Service has been contacted for comment.