Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Public trust hit by spate of rogue police officers

Only a nong would trust the Qld. wallopers anyway

DISCIPLINARY problems among Gold Coast police and declining public trust have been exposed in internal briefings obtained by The Courier-Mail.

Thirty Gold Coast officers were subject to internal disciplinary hearings in 2010-11 as part of a crackdown that followed a rise in complaints.

One officer was dismissed after being investigated for "stealing from a social club". Eight others, probed for a range of more serious offences including fraud, perjury, supplying drugs, sexual misconduct with a witness and forgery, resigned.

A further four officers were stood down and two suspended. Five of the matters were dealt with by the courts.

Twelve other officers were fined, demoted or reprimanded for discipline breaches, including using a police vehicle to buy alcohol and falsifying rosters, according to documents obtained under the Right To Information laws.

The Crime and Misconduct Commission's widely publicised Operation Tesco corruption probe into Gold Coast police in June mentioned just three unnamed officers.

The investigations came amid a rising trend in complaints about Gold Coast officers, who since 2007 have attracted complaints at twice the rate as the QPS as a whole.

The Courier-Mail revealed in August that more than 20 QPS officers had quit in the previous 18 months, after being investigated over serious incidents, from corruption and favouritism to sexual misconduct and inappropriate behaviour.

Revelations of misconduct appear to have eroded public trust in police. Surveys conducted for the QPS show that statewide in 2010-11, seven out of 10 people agreed with the proposition "most police are honest", down from eight out of 10 in 2007-08. Only six out of 10 people surveyed on the Gold Coast agreed.

A Queensland Police Union spokesman said public perceptions of police were no different to those for other public servants, including politicians. "There's no doubt that in all areas of public service there is increasing cynicism," he said.

Gold Coast district chief Supt Paul Ziebarth told top brass earlier this year that assaults and use of excessive force by officers were continuing concerns but there had been a drop in complaints. Supt Ziebarth said a "lack of practical discipline investigation skills" was holding up reports on bad behaviour so he planned more training.

Ethical Standards Command identified nine officers as being "at risk" and they were given counselling and performance management. One constable was transferred away from a "high risk" location.

Complaints substantiated against police in the Gold Coast district more than doubled, from less than one in every 20 complaints in the second half of 2009 to more than one in 10 a year later.


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