Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Proposal to reform slack Qld. police disciplinary practices

A BLUEPRINT to dramatically change the way police discipline police has been released. Police watchdog the Crime and Misconduct Commission released its long-awaited report in the internal disciplinary process this morning. It has senior politicians, high-ranking police, bureaucrats and unions in a spin over whether they support the wide-ranging calls for reform.

The CMC made 11 recommendations to improve the disciplinary process which has been regularly attacked by rank-and-file officers as too long and confusing. It has also been attacked on several occasions as a mechanism to cover-up police brutality and mistakes against innocent citizens.

"Among the CMC’s recommendations is for the QPS to elevate complaints management to core business and, in doing so, ensure that its Ethical Standards Command (ESC), responsible for dealing with complaints against police, is adequately resourced," said CMC assistant commissioner of misconduct Warren Strange.

The thrust of many of the proposals is to quicken the whole disciplinary process from investigation to punishment, or acquittal.

If adopted by the State Government, legislation would be amended to force the Police Commissioner, currently Bob Atkinson, to report directly to the CMC on disciplinary investigations. It would also give the Commissioner powers to sack an officer is he loses confidence in his or her performance or conduct.

The CMC was scathing of the current police practice to suspend sanctions that it imposes on officers deemed guilty of misconduct. It called for sanctions to be enforced immediately, not suspended.

Policies would also be re-written to make the definition of "misconduct" consistent at all levels. It said a good disciplinary process was based on the principles of simplicity, effectiveness, transparency and strength.

Move-On Powers

The CMC also released a separate report calling for police on patrol to soften their approach to people in public places. "We have made 11 recommendations, including restricting the use of move-on powers to behaviour," said CMC deputy director of research Dr Rebecca Denning. "This means that the powers can no longer be used against a person for merely being present in a public space.

"The CMC’s review raises concerns about the lack of emphasis on the use of informal conflict resolution methods, such as persuasion and mediation. "The focus of police should be on ensuring the least punitive policing options are selected to match the conduct, with arrest the last resort," Dr Denning said.

The report suggested the homeless and indigenous people were more "at risk" of receiving a harsher interpretation of move-on powers than others. Move-on powers were introduced in 1997, but were not uniform across the state until 2006.


Queensland police officer to be re-tried for assault

A police officer who used capsicum spray on a man before repeatedly hitting him with his baton will be re-tried for assault.

The Court of Appeal in Brisbane this week sent Michael O'Sullivan's case back to the District Court for further hearing after a successful application by the Crime and Misconduct Commission.

Mr O'Sullivan was originally found guilty of common assault in late 2008, over the incident in Brisbane the previous year. The summary trial heard Mr O'Sullivan used capsicum spray on a man and then hit him three times with his baton. The force was deemed to be excessive.

Mr O'Sullivan was fined $700 but no conviction was recorded. He appealed against the verdict, and was awarded an acquittal.

However the CMC has now successfully fought to have the matter sent back for another trial.


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