A bill to establish a single oversight body to investigate police complaints is a welcome step forward, but it fails to address the key failing in the present system with police continuing to investigate police in the most serious cases.
The Greens will move amendments to the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission Bill so that critical incident investigations, where a member of the public or police suffers serious injury or death in the course of a police operation, are investigated by the LECC and not police.
Of the 62 critical incident investigations undertaken by police from 1 January 2013 to 24 August 2015 only 2 adverse findings were made and there were zero disciplinary actions taken against involved officers. Critical incident cases include the death of Adam Salter, Roberto Curti and the Lindt Siege.
Greens NSW MP and Police Spokesperson David Shoebridge said:
“The Greens have been saying for years that we need a single, well-resourced police oversight body, but that must come with an end to the conflict of interest where police investigate police.
“Getting rid of unnecessary complexity in police oversight is good for the general public and police. Too often in the past turf wars between the police, the Ombudsman, the PIC and the Coroner’s office have seen investigations stretch out for years at enormous cost and with little result.
“This is a case of one step forward, one step back, with a the Baird government baulking at the most important reform that would remove the conflict of interest when police officers investigate themselves.
“When it comes to critical incidents this oversight body will largely be reviewing internal police investigations, rather than doing the investigations themselves. We’re repeating the mistakes of the past.
“This is almost an intentional limit on the powers of this oversight body, and is a surrender of the public interest to the special interests of the Police Association.
“The ongoing Lindt siege investigation shows the limitations of police investigating police. In that case relatively junior officers were unable to ask key questions of the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner or obtain police records from them such as text messages.
“When a member of the public, or a grieving family, is demanding answers about a death or serious injury during police operations that answer needs to be coming from someone totally independent of police.
“We need integrity and independence in our police oversight system so that the public have confidence that their concerns will b fairly, and impartially, considered.
“It is well within the capacity of the government to ensure that the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission has the resources, skills and specialist police knowledge to undertake the job of holding the police to account,” Mr Shoebridge said.