Australia's crooked cops

Two recent reports below

Victorian police force is corrupt: ex-judge

VICTORIA'S police force is riddled with "deep-seated and continuing corruption" that will only be flushed out by a powerful and wide-ranging royal commission. Don Stewart, one of the nation's most respected judicial figures, says Victoria Police and the Bracks Labor Government oppose a royal commission because they do not want the extent of corruption within the force made public. "They know that it would reveal what they don't want revealed," says the former Supreme Court judge and founding head of Australia's first national crime agency.

Dismissing arguments that dirty police are already being driven out of the force through the courts, he says the recent convictions of senior Victorian officers on corruption charges are "the tip of the iceberg". "The arrest of some corrupt police only proves that corruption is deep-seated and continuing," Mr Stewart says in a book to be published in March.

The Australian revealed on Monday that the Office of Police Integrity - an offshoot of the Ombudsman's office - was launching an investigation into possible links between corrupt police and organised crime, including allegations that corrupt officers had protected underworld figures.

Mr Stewart - who conducted three royal commissions, including one into drug trafficking that led to the establishment of the National Crime Authority, which he then headed from 1984-89 - said cleansing Victoria Police was a "herculean" task. "Only a wide-ranging royal commission will do it," he told The Australian. His criticisms are expected to reignite debate about whether the Victorian Government has done enough to tackle police corruption. The state Government rejected growing pressure for a royal commission in 2004, opting instead to set up the Office of Police Integrity, which it claimed would be a de facto standing royal commission. The OPI has since been criticised for failing to do enough to tackle corruption.

Mr Stewart is one of the most senior legal figures in Australia to warn that Victoria has failed to address police corruption. In 2005, former royal commissioner and former ASIO head Edward Woodward said corruption in the state was at its highest level ever. In his book Recollections of an Unreasonable Man: From the Beat to the Bench, to be published by ABC Books, Mr Stewart, 78, challenges public claims by Victoria's Chief Police Commissioner, Christine Nixon, and the state Government that recent corruption trials were proof that "the Victorian police are upright, honest and true". "I take the opposite view," he says. "Why the Victoria Police don't want, and the Victorian Government will not have, an independent wide-ranging judicial inquiry into police corruption, such as was had in Queensland and NSW, is obvious. They know that it would reveal what they don't want revealed." Mr Stewart says that, while head of the NCA, he met opposition from many members of Victoria Police, whom he describes as "bad as any". He says he had to terminate the secondments to the NCA of a number of state-based police because of concerns over their conduct.

The Victorian Government, Victoria Police and OPI all last night rejected Mr Stewart's call for a royal commission. A government spokesman said the OPI was independent and had the powers of a royal commission. "Over 100 charges have been laid against former and serving members, resulting from work undertaken by the OPI and Victoria Police Ethical Standards Department," the spokesman said. A Victoria Police spokesman said: "Justice Stewart is entitled to his opinion, however, Victoria Police has a proven track record in not only identifying corruption but also successfully investigating and prosecuting corrupt officers."

An OPI spokesman said the debate about whether Victoria needed a royal commission into police corruption had "moved on". The OPI had a range of powers, including coercive powers to force witnesses to answer questions, telephone tapping powers and the ability to hold public or private hearings. But unlike a short-lived royal commission, it was an ongoing body, the spokesman said.

Victoria Police was criticised by one of its own corruption investigators in October for failing to investigate adequately up to 24 allegedly corrupt officers in the force. Mr Stewart declined to comment on the effectiveness of the OPI, but held up the NSW Police Integrity Commission as an "excellent model" for fighting police corruption.


More police corruption in NSW -- and still little prospect of reform

It comes as no surprise that an independent report has found that “serial sexual harassers” in NSW Police have been allowed to continue their activities under a “culture of protection”. The reality is that NSW Police has been repeatedly it has a problem with sexual harassment, yet has failed to fix the problem. Will it be any different this time around? If history is anything to go on, no it won’t.

The report by sexual discrimination law expert Christine Ronalds, SC, handed over yesterday says serial harassers had previously escaped punishment in the force. “Failure to act on information related to sexual harassment and known harassers occurs too often, with a range of excuses offered to protect the harasser. As a consequence, the harasser is not stopped,” it says. And Ms Ronalds told reporters: “There has been a culture of police officers protecting other police officers. That culture needs to change so that those who are the harassers are not being protected and the victims are the ones who are provided the protection and a safe working environment.”

Now let’s turn back the clock:

1988: A survey of female police officers in NSW finds that all 168 respondents said they had experienced sexual harassment. Only nine per cent said they had reported it.

1995: A survey of 1,500 NSW female police officers finds 80% had experienced `uninvited teasing, jokes, remarks or questions of sexual nature’; 64% had `received or been shown offensive or pornographic literature’; 60% had been the victim of `uninvited sexually suggestive looks or gestures’; 56% had been the victim of `uninvited and deliberate touching, stroking or pinching’; and 48% had been the victim of `uninvited pressure for dates’. Only 17 per cent reported what had happened.

1996: Then NSW Assistant Commissioner (now Victorian Chief Commissioner) Christine Nixon tells a conference on women in the police that she is startled by the level of sexual harassment in police forces and says mechanisms needed to be found to deal with the problem.

2002: A inquiry into sexual misconduct at the NSW Police College at Goulburn finds 23 officers had sex with current or former students. Misconduct included having sex while on duty, providing a favoured student with exam questions and demanding a sexual favour in return for passing a student.

2005: NSW Police Superintendent Mark Szalajko tells a policing conference: “Sex discrimination and sexual harassment are significant issues for the NSWP. Policies implemented by the NSWP will have had little impact on the frequency of incidents of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.” He says one of the reasons for not reporting sexual harassment was the “code of silence” culture within the force.

2006: The NSW Ombudsman releases a report showing there had been 18 complaints of sexual misconduct since 2003 at the NSW Police Academy. The report revealed entrenched attitudes within the force and cast doubts on its preparedness to take sexual misconduct seriously, saying action against offending officers “in many cases has been too little, too late”.

That last report prompted Chief Commissioner Ken Moroney to appoint Ms Ronalds to investigate further. Her report makes 79 recommendations, which Commissioner Moroney says will be considered. It’s something we’ve heard before.

You can read the full Ronalds report here as a PDF.



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