The Independent Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police Service responses to domestic and family violence is in my view the most important external review of the Qld Police, since the 1991 Fitzgerald Inquiry into Police Corruption.
My responses in brief to the terms of reference (TOR) appear below:
TOR 1. whether there are any cultural issues within the Queensland Police Service that negatively affect police investigations of DFV
Policing was historically a male only profession, and continues to be a male dominated profession where masculine culture exerts a pervasive influence over everyday police work. The masculine culture of policing has adverse consequences for how police typically respond to gender-based violence. The masculine culture of policing leans toward ‘himpathy’, taking sides with men, who are nearly always the perpetrators of DFV. This makes law enforcement officers either not well skilled or adequately equipped to respond appropriately to survivors of gender violence, who are mainly women. In Queensland, extensive evidence of cultural issues within the QPS that negatively affect police investigations of DFV, can be drawn from Coronial Inquests, Death Reviews, former Inquires, and scholarly research.
TOR 2. if there are any cultural issues, whether they have contributed to the overrepresentation of First Nations people in the criminal justice system
Less than 2 percent of officers in Qld are from First Nations backgrounds. A particularly vexed issue in First Nations communities is the police response to DFV. In Qld, and indeed across all Australian jurisdictions, the police response to domestic violence has had its most adverse impacts on First Nations People and their communities (Langton et al. 2020). Those consequences include the removal of children from Indigenous women experiencing DFV, arrest and imprisonment of victims, and even deaths in custody. First Nations women are five times more likely to be victims of domestic family violence, 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of that violence and twice as likely to be killed as the result of domestic homicide compared to non-Indigenous women (AIHW, 2019, p. 6). Due to the historical role of police as instruments of colonisation, dispossession, forced removal to missions, and the removal of Aboriginal children from their families, First Nations women are not likely to seek their help (Langton et al, 2020:31). There is a dire need for systemic changes to police culture, training and recruitment that address these historical issues of racialized policing (Dywer, Scott and Staines, 2021, p. 208).
TOR 3. the capability, capacity and structure of the Queensland Police Service to respond to DFV, and the adequacy of the current conduct and complaints handling processes against police officers.
A great deal needs to be done to enhance the capability, capacity and structure of the Queensland Police Service to respond to DFV. This section outlines how a gender responsive police model for responding to DFV has enhanced the police response in other countries.
Given the serious on-going shortcomings of traditional policing responses to DFV, as born out by a large body of research, and Qld DFV Death Reviews referred to in this submission, the case for trialing specialist DFV police stations in Qld is strong. It offers a structural solution to a structural problem. It’s a win win for everyone, police, victims, the criminal justice system, and most importantly for women, their families and communities. In sum, specialist police stations offer an integrated victim centric response from a multi-disciplinary team of police, social workers, counsellors and lawyers, in a one stop shop, a model proven to reduce the risk of lethal domestic violence. In turn, this leads to earlier reporting to police, increased satisfaction with police responses, and enhancements in women’s safety. There is considerable evidence also, that both the DFV and Police workforces in Australian jurisdictions are supportive of their establishment (Carrington et al 2020; 2022).
Finally the submission set out the principles of how a trial of specialist police stations designed to receive the survivors of domestic and sexual violence could enhance the capacity of the QPS to better respond to DFV in Qld.
If you want to read the full submission, contact me for a pdf copy.