Friday, September 10, 2010

Queensland Police under siege as complaints skyrocket

The rot starts at the top with a culture of coverup at all costs. Top cop Atkinson needs to be removed -- and his Deputy too

COMPLAINTS against police are up by almost a quarter in the past year with an average of eight officers a day being accused of offences ranging from sexual misconduct to assault. In the 12 months to June 30, 3011 complaints were received by the Ethical Standards Command compared with 2443 last year.

More than one in four of those complaints related to police behaviour that was allegedly "disgraceful, improper or unbecoming of an officer", while more than 600 complaints accused police of assault. There were more than 20 complaints of sexual misconduct, 60 of misappropriation or theft and more than 10 traffic offence matters.

About one in four complaints were made by police themselves against fellow officers, with the remainder lodged by members of the public or referred to police by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

A Queensland Police Service spokeswoman said "extensive media coverage" of the QPS may have contributed to the higher levels of complaints. "The QPS takes all complaints seriously and is constantly monitoring the number and nature of complaints received," she said. "The service is also continuing to review and examine all aspects of the increase in reported complaints to identify the primary contributing factors."

Complaints referred by police to the CMC as well as those made directly to the anti-corruption body jumped 23 per cent to 2529 in 2009-10. "Of those complaints against police, the CMC assessed 2518 matters, referring 2280 to the QPS to deal with subject to monitoring by the CMC," said a commission spokeswoman.

The mountain of alleged offences has created a huge backlog of work for the police Ethical Standards Command with 1145 investigations open on March 31. Of those, 14 were more than two years old and another 74 more than 12 months old.

State Opposition Leader John-Paul Langbroek said the figures showed why the police discipline process needed to be overhauled. "Complaints against police shouldn't be taking more than a year to be resolved and police shouldn't be off-duty for months on end waiting for an investigation to be finalised," Mr Langbroek said. "If action is necessary it should be taken and taken quickly."

Police Minister Neil Roberts said only 3.6 per cent of complaints made in 2009 were substantiated. "Police interact with members of the public on a daily basis and it's important to remember that the majority of these interactions occur in a very emotive environment."

Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers said he had discussed ways to streamline the police complaints process with QPS senior management and the CMC but as yet no reforms had been undertaken.


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