Thursday, August 23, 2012

Reform need for police behaving badly

TENSIONS between the state crimefighting bodies over how to discipline wayward police are bubbling again on the eve of the appointment of a new Police Commissioner.

The Newman Government has reopened Queensland Police Service's internal disciplinary review, scrapping recommendations from the previous government despite concern not enough is being done to improve bad behaviour.

It comes as the Crime and Misconduct Commission slams a decision by one of the candidates for commissioner, Deputy Commissioner Ross Barnett, for being too soft on the main culprit exposed during Operation Tesco - the investigation into criminal and improper activities involving Gold Coast police.

Other concerns have been raised by police afraid to dob in their colleagues because traditionally they're labelled "dogs", with one saying he feared for his life as a result.

CMC Assistant Commissioner Misconduct Warren Strange said progress had been made since Tesco but they were now waiting for the Government to decide how issues could be addressed.  "The new Government is now going to consider its direction on these issues," he said.

He said reform needed to be ongoing and expected the new commissioner to have a commitment to the higher standards of professional conduct, but didn't expect the two organisations to always get along.

"We are never going to agree on everything, we will have different views about issues at times, different views about particular cases and outcomes and actions that should result, but I think that's healthy," Mr Strange said.

Under the previous government reforms, QPS would be banned from investigating its own officers, investigation timeframes would be shorter and the CMC would have the power to change disciplinary decisions by the QPS if they deemed them too lenient.

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said he has already had positive discussions with the Government, the CMC and the police service hierarchy about a way forward.

"Neither the police, the CMC, nor the public have faith in the current police disciplinary system," he said.  "I believe we are on the cusp of achieving a better model."

Mr Leavers said the appointment of Commissioner Bob Atkinson's successor was crucial to ensure they maintained the momentum for change.

Almost half of complaints to the CMC are about police officers and in the 2011-12 financial year, 2305 involving more than 6000 allegations were received - a 5 per cent reduction on the year before.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey said the Government wanted to find "balance" to the discipline process.



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