Tuesday, April 03, 2007

No surprises

The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct is out, and it contains no surprises. The commission's terms of reference meant that it could not make rulings on specific cases, and so it was restricted into drawing conclusions of a general nature about police policies and procedures. but even with its hands tied in this manner, it is still pretty damning. The report finds that the police failed to deal adequately with complaints of sexual misconduct by officers over a number of years. Part of this is due to inadequete procedures (which have improved significantly over the years, but there are still problems), but a significant cause has been a toxic inernal culture within the police, with stereotyped views of complainants, scepticism about allegations against police, other officers turning a blind eye to serious criminal offending, and a "blue wall of silence" in the face of investigations. Again, this has improved over time, but there's also some evidence that this culture is still extant, particularly in the official police submission on complaints: that policing by its nature is

likely to give rise to larger numbers of complaints, and in particular larger numbers of meritless complaints.

So, even the modern police has a default attitude that complaints just make it up to cause them trouble.

There's more there: the police have no formal code of conduct, no formal professional standards barring sexual exploitation of their trusted public position, and an outdated and clunky internal disciplinary mechanism. That will all be changed, but the most significant change we are likely to see as a result of this inquiry is an improved Police Complaints Authority able to properly supervise police rather than merely rubberstamp their abuses. And that I think will be well worth it.


I'm a little confused: a quick skim of the recommendations show that the Police Complaints Authority will be strengthened and there is even mention of Independent Complaints Authority laws to be enacted. Does this mean a truly independent complaints authority will be established? But I'm assuming that if this were the case, it would have received more attention from our media.
Sure, a strengthened and better resourced PCA has to be better than what we have. Because what we have now is more than merely a 'rubber stamp' of non-investigations; the current PCA encourages continued abuses by stifling the only official means of appeal in a shroud of bureaucracy and secrecy. Only a truly independent investigative body can effectively police the police - an organisation that by its very nature and purpose engenders an 'us and them' mentaility that naturally seeks to protect its own. By not providing an effective balance to its power, we've allowed it to run amok.
I've witnessed its often petty, but sometimes deadly abuses off and on for the last 25 years. I don't believe its culture has changed appreciably in that time. Why should it? Just like Joe public, the police will not change its behaviour without the real threat of being caught and held accountable for its misdeeds.

Posted by Anonymous : 4/03/2007 08:18:00 PM

"no formal professional standards barring sexual exploitation of their trusted public position"

The establishment of a Code of Conduct for Police will also go a long way toward setting clear guidelines, as to what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.

Its all very well to say - "Oh but that group sex etc is not criminal behaviour" - but it was with people there were supposed to be dealing with and protecting! Consensual or not! Just as its quite unacceptable for a Doctor or other professional to have sexual relations with a patient. So it should be for a police officer. End of story.

The other side of the matter is - what is being done about all the past misbehaviour that Dame Margaret uncovered? Not much if we are to understand the Police Commissioner!


Posted by Anonymous : 4/03/2007 08:22:00 PM

Macro: The establishment of a Code of Conduct for Police will also go a long way toward setting clear guidelines, as to what is and what is not acceptable behaviour.

Yes - and I'm looking forward to it. Still, you have to wonder why it has taken them this long to get around to it.

As for the group sex, it was definitely a gross violation of professional standards in Rickards' case - but it seems to be rather less so in the most recent allegations. There, it just seems to be a bunch of police officers who also happened to be swingers. Kinky, but fundamentally none of their employers' business.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/03/2007 11:39:00 PM

A doctor only has a thousand or so patients. A cop has a whole district as potential "customers" - it's a bit harsh to ban all nookie with any of them. Especially if he's sole charge in a one horse town somewhere.

It's an area where it's hard to make rules - I think it comes down to the fact that the fuzz should be expected to behave in a sensible, mature manner on and off duty - if they can't cut this then there are lots of other jobs.

(Part of the problem is that we are over policed. If we had less cops, then we could be more selective about hiring them).

Posted by Rich : 4/04/2007 09:37:00 AM

Look I'm not canning group sex or any other "kinky" sex for that matter by a member of the police or by any person for that matter. That's people do in their bedrooms is their own personal business with CONSENTING partners.
What IS WRONG is where a police officer uses his or her position to have any intimate relations with a member of the public with whom he or she is in contact with in their task as a police officer. The majority of these women came to the notice of the police after being separately abused in other circumstances.

Anyone is potentially a patient for any doctor. Its quite clear where the Code would lie. If this person is known to you in your capacity of Policing then they are off limits as far as intimate relationships go. For the time being. I'm not sure how long a person must cease to be a patient of a particular doctor before any relationship outside of the medical one is considered appropriate. But I would think that a similar time frame would be reasonable.


Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2007 12:50:00 PM

Does this mean we'll get a an independent PCA? Probably not - just a couple of band-aids on a system that needs major overhaul.

Posted by JonL : 4/04/2007 12:54:00 PM

Macro: What IS WRONG is where a police officer uses his or her position to have any intimate relations with a member of the public with whom he or she is in contact with in their task as a police officer.

Absolutely, and this is why I'm looking forward to the police being subject to a proper code of conduct.

I'm just a little concerned abotu the intrusion into areas that are not a violation of professional standards - though it seems to be the Sunday tabloids leading a witchhunt there for salacious headlines.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/04/2007 01:03:00 PM

I think that the length of time taken by the Police to begin even to think about a Code of Conduct is caused by at least two factors:

Firstly the majority of the Police set for themselves a very high standard of behaviour. I believe this from my own dealings with police both socially and professionally; and despite the lack of discipline displayed by some members of the force. There was in their mind an unwritten Code of Conduct.

Secondly, not withstanding my above comment, there is and has been a pervading attitudinal stance of "Things are OK as they are!" and that has lead to a resistance to change - Even today we have Greg O'Connor of the Police Association saying things like - well this report shows that everything's ok and we can get back to where we were blah blah blah!!!" I don't think that even the Commissioner has got his head completely around the enormity of the problem.


Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2007 01:09:00 PM

Yes I agree! The Sunday tabloids along with organised religion have a lot to answer for.

On the other hand (reading between the lines) the recent article in the Sunday News did highlight a problem for the women who do find themselves in these situations; and that is the one of creeping domination by the the man/men and less and less acceptance by the woman. It seems to hark back to that case in Britan which lead to the now much used "Rapist Charter" whereby the males who were involved were aquitted on the grounds that they had reason to believe that the complainant gave her consent. "Mary" of the Sunday News saga, I believe, found herself heading down that same path and decided she needed to get out of the relationship. It highlights the difficulty of deciding just what is "good fun" between consenting adults and what is abuse. So it would be very dangeous ground for a police officer to get themselves involved in too much of this unless they were completely confident in what they were doing - and the people involved were NOT known to them in the course of their duties.


Posted by Anonymous : 4/04/2007 01:26:00 PM

Organized religion?

I didn't see any rabbis, vicar or mullahs publishing the swinging naughty boys sexcapades. If perhaps the police officers in question had listened to their organized religion of choice and kept their Mr Todger with just the missus they wouldn't have been in this mess.

Don't be blaming a bit of old time morality on religion, you'll find it in society with or without the bells and smells.

Posted by Muerk : 4/05/2007 01:02:00 PM