Monday, April 18, 2011

At least one Victorian police officer is busted for being involved in serious crime each week

ROGUE police are being caught breaking the law at a rate of more than one a week. The breaches include serious crimes such as multiple assaults, sex attacks, thefts, threats to kill, firearms offences, burglary, stalking, child pornography and drug offences.

And four officers a week on average are caught failing to do their duty, with more than 2000 public complaints against police being proved in eight years.

Victorians also are paying a high price, with 373 suspended officers paid more than $15 million in the past decade. Almost one officer a month had assault complaints against them upheld in eight years to 2009.

Twenty-five serious and 56 minor assault complaints proven included officers striking, choking, kicking, manhandling, pushing and spitting at people.

Other substantiated complaints include hundreds of incidents of cops behaving badly - making threats, indecent behaviour, abuse, being aggressive, insulting, harassing and behaving improperly.

Chief Commissioner Simon Overland said it was "not OK" when police acted inappropriately. "We probably attract more complaints here in Victoria than just about any other jurisdictions in Australia," he said on 3AW today.

"There's an argument (to say), 'Is that a bad thing (or) is that a good thing?' "It could mean a number of things. It could actually mean we’re not as well behaved. It could actually mean people have more confidence in our systems here so they report more."

Mr Overland said officers who committed crimes were dealt with. "We charge them criminally and or we take discipline action," he said. He branded the complaints "customer service issues" not "criminality".

"They're people who behave rudely, duty failure, they haven’t done what they’re supposed to do or they’ve done it the wrong way so that’s about 50 per cent of the data you’re looking at," he said.

"Certainly that’s not good enough and we need to work to improve that. "Anything that does involve criminality is clearly not OK but we deal with it and that’s what the data shows."

The Police Association said officers caught breaking the law should be punished like any other criminals. "It is obviously a concern and no matter who it is whether they be a police officer or any other occupation if you break the law you deserve to be dealt with according to the law," Police Association Secretary Greg Davies told

Mr Davies said of the number of officers caught breaking the law were less than half a per cent of the total number of officers on the payroll. "Our members don’t want to be working with criminals, they don’t join the police force to do that they join the police force to lock up criminals," he said. "People convicted of criminal offences are almost inevitably dismissed from the police force."

Mr Davies said for minor offences officers might face an internal displinary process and be demoted or transferred.

Victoria Police has refused to release details of recent complaints under Freedom of Information laws or say how many complaints it receives.

The revelations have sparked fresh calls for a review of how police complaints are handled. "You're complaining to the very people you have a problem with. It's the fox watching the hen house," said Law Institute Victoria president Caroline Counsel.

"You can complain to the ombudsman, the Office of Police Integrity or the police (but) all investigations should be independent of the police."

Ms Counsel said the lack of full disclosure made the data impossible to interpret. "We're not getting a clear picture of what's going on," she said. "Are these the same rotten officers in the barrel committing these offences?"

The Victorian Ombudsman received 1000 complaints about Victoria Police in 2009-10, most of which were referred to the OPI. Of the 712 complaints against police received by the OPI in 2009-10, more than two-thirds (493) were referred back to police. Just 10 were investigated by the OPI, with 23 still under assessment and 268 complaints found to be outside the OPI's jurisdiction or "not warranting investigation".

The force said it encouraged complaints and had a history of disciplining members and laying criminal charges when appropriate. "If the OPI refers matters to the police for investigation and complainants are not satisfied with the outcome they can make further approaches to the OPI," a spokesman said.

The data was released to the Herald Sun by Victoria Police outside the FoI laws.


Qld. Cop stood down over alleged bashing

ANOTHER police officer has been stood down in Queensland for misconduct. The male senior constable is alleged to have assaulted someone during an investigation.

Police are yet to release any further details other than to advise he is in the Far Northern Region police district. The district covers a large area from Cardwell (between Cairns and Townsville) to the Torres Strait.

It is the latest blow to the Queensland Police Service after a furore erupted last month about the light-handed approach it takes to disciplining its own.

An independent panel of experts are currently analysing recommendations to improve the police discipline process. The recommendations sprang from a Crime and Misconduct Commission report late last year that recommended immediate improvements.

The CMC and Queensland Premier Anna Bligh have recently called for a more transparent disciplinary process. Both said public confidence in the police force was at stake.


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