A report released today by Victoria’s anti-corruption and independent police oversight body has highlighted concerning patterns and deficiencies in Victoria Police’s handling of police complaints by Aboriginal people, particularly children and young people.
IBAC’s report, Victoria Police handling of complaints made by Aboriginal people, examines Victoria Police’s handling of a sample of 41 complaints made by Aboriginal people and its oversight of 13 serious incidents involving an Aboriginal person.
The report identified police use of force as the most frequent complaint by Aboriginal people, and that a significant number of the complaints and serious incidents involved Aboriginal children and young people. It also found very few complaints were determined by Victoria Police to be substantiated. In addition, a large proportion of the complaint files contained indications of bias or a lack of impartiality.
Concerns with the Victoria Police complaint handling systems and processes were also identified in the report, including how Aboriginal status was recorded, a failure to keep the complainant updated on the process of the investigation, and conflicts of interest being poorly identified and managed.
IBAC Commissioner, the Honourable Robert Redlich AM, QC, said the findings indicate systemic failures within Victoria Police’s complaints handling processes, and that these failures are longstanding, with previous IBAC reports identifying similar issues in complaints handling.
“Police misconduct and the investigation of complaints against police are issues that concern all Victorians, but they have particular significance for Aboriginal1people who come into contact with police at a much higher rate than non-Aboriginal people. Despite this, Aboriginal people make very few complaints about police.
“IBAC recognises how challenging it can be to make a complaint about suspected corruption or police misconduct. There may be social, economic, or cultural barriers to speaking up and IBAC understands that making a complaint may be a difficult or confronting experience.
“Ensuring such complaints and serious incidents are investigated thoroughly and fairly is one way to help build trust in Victoria Police,” Commissioner Redlich said.
IBAC’s report makes 10 recommendations for Victoria Police including the establishment of a dedicated process for handling complaints by Aboriginal people, addressing concerns regarding how police engage with Aboriginal children and young people in the context of arrests, interviews and management in police custody, and addressing serious and ongoing issues for managing conflicts of interest.
“IBAC has already made a number of recommendations for improvement and is committed to working with Victoria Police to implement recommendations for reform,” Commissioner Redlich said.
The findings and recommendations from the audit will also be used by IBAC to guide improvements in the way it handles complaints made by Aboriginal people and to provide better support to Aboriginal people during the complaints process.
These actions will form part of IBAC’s Focus Communities Strategy, which aims to improve how IBAC interacts with Victorians who are vulnerable or marginalised and may face particular risks around corruption and police misconduct.
To report police misconduct or public sector corruption now visit www.ibac.vic.gov.au or call 1300 735 135.