Sunday, January 29, 2012

Federal police slow to deal with complaints about abuse of powers etc.

And undue weight is given to the police version of events -- standard procedure when cops investigate cops

THE Australian Federal Police is taking more than a year to address many serious complaints by the public and has ignored repeated calls to fix how it deals with such cases.

In two extreme matters complainants had to wait 1000 days for their problems to be resolved.

A report by the Commonwealth Ombudsman on complaints handling by the federal police also said the public had only a 7 per cent chance of having a complaint upheld, and even less if it related to physical force.

The most common complaint related to discourtesy. Other claims included excessive physical force and corruption.

The acting Ombudsman, Alison Larkins, said the complaints process "continues to deteriorate - particularly in relation to the most serious complaints". The issue had been raised in previous reviews. "But to date the measures the AFP has taken to address the issue have not proven to be effective," Ms Larkins said.

She did not make any formal recommendations in her report, which was tabled in Parliament just before Christmas. No complaint made about excessive physical force from 2007 to 2010 was upheld. But 60 per cent of complaints made internally, including where officers reported themselves, were upheld.

"We continue to see cases where an AFP member's version of events is preferred over that of the member of the public in circumstances where the record does not disclose substantive justification or where corroborating evidence has not been sought," Ms Larkins said.

The federal police aims to resolve minor complaints within 21 days and the most serious complaints within 180 days. But the Ombudsman found it reached this standard in only 6 per cent of cases. Ms Larkins examined 311 cases in which the complaints had still not been resolved after more than a year.

The police received 358 complaints from the public in 2010-11, according to its annual report.

A federal police spokeswoman said a new complaints handling system was in place. "The AFP does recognise that there have been excessive delays in finalising some complaints," she said.


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