Saturday, May 1, 2010

Queensland police spend millions investigating each other

Long overdue. It shows how big the backlog is. Let's hope they do get rid of the goons eventually. Faint hope, I suppose

THE Queensland Police Service is spending more money investigating its own officers than on vital crime-fighting operations amid claims it has become addicted to "navel-gazing".

The budget for Professional Standards and Ethical Practice, which has blown out from $151 million to $260 million in the past five years, now accounts for nearly one-fifth of the entire police budget.

In contrast, the service spent less than $1 million on 27 undercover operations last year.

The ballooning ethical standards budget comes as the QPS battles rising complaints about police conduct.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said a "ridiculous amount of time" was being spent investigating police in Queensland. "The QPS is now more interested in navel-gazing and accountability overkill than the core business of catching crooks," he said.

The ethical standards budget represents 17 per cent of the total QPS budget – not far behind traffic operations which command about 20 per cent of overall expenditure. A total of $5 million has been budgeted for phone intercepts this year, the Taser rollout will cost $14 million, and $1.5 million was set aside for Operation Merit in Fortitude Valley which targeted alcohol-fuelled violence.

Last year 2760 complaints were lodged about the conduct of Queensland's 10,200 police, up from 2267 the previous year and 2104 the year before that. Of those complaints, the Ethical Standards Command is investigating close to 200 matters, some of which have dragged on for several years.

Almost 30 police are now suspended or have been stood down while their alleged indiscretions are examined, including five officers who stripped naked and ran through traffic during a bucks party last September and who now await disciplinary action.

Professional Standards and Ethical Practice has been identified as the top priority for the QPS in the 2010-11 operational plan – replacing the prevention and detection of crime.

Australian Council of Civil Liberties president Terry O'Gorman questioned how effectively the large budget was being used given the "unacceptable delays" in investigations. "While there are some conscientious and competent police in the Ethical Standards Command, the model is broken as evidenced by the fact the Palm Island (death in custody) complaint is five years-plus," Mr O'Gorman said. "They still can't complete an investigation on the simple premise that (Sgt Chris Hurley) was investigated by his mates."

He said the QPS needed to return to the immediate post-Fitzgerald report model of complaints against police being investigated independently.

Mr Leavers said officers were unable to give their best to their community when they were stood down. "It is the community that suffers when police officers are unable to perform normal duties whilst under investigation," he said.

Chief researcher with the Centre for Excellence in Policing at Griffith University Tim Prenzler said only 3 per cent of matters involving police were investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. "It's not really enough for an agency that claims to be an independent corruption body."