Monash Criminology Researchers call for independent and responsive oversight of Victoria Police

Professor Jude McCulloch and Associate Professor Leanne Weber have made a submission to the Inquiry into the External Oversight of Police Corruption and Misconduct in Victoria calling for fundamental changes to police training and complaints mechanisms.  The Inquiry’s terms of reference invited commentary on current complaint handling arrangements, best practice models, implementation strategies and experiences of marginalised Victorians in contact with police.

Professor McCulloch’s contribution applied a human rights lens to the complaint handling mechanisms in Victoria, concluding that current arrangements are inadequate to ensure fair and effective policing.  Professor McCulloch supported her arguments with documentary evidence from UN Human Rights Committee decisions, coronial inquests and civil actions against police, arguing that policing that breaches human rights should be considered a failure, whatever the short-term crime control achievements might be. 

Associate Professor Weber drew on her Future Fellowship research into the impacts of public policing among multi-cultural youth, reporting observations from youth workers in Melbourne’s southern suburbs about ongoing experiences of aggressive policing, racial vilification and inappropriate use of police powers and equipment. Youth workers also expressed disenchantment with the existing complaints mechanisms in Victoria, and spoke about a widespread tendency for police to divide populations stereotypically into ‘cleanskins’ and ‘criminals’ which detracted from efforts by young offenders to turn their lives around.

The authors proposed a three-pronged approach to the oversight of police including an independent and responsive complaints system that is compliant with human rights standards; strategies for systemic reform that apply relevant academic research and take seriously the potential harm from uncritical use of risk-based policing methods; and the establishment of local structures to promote dialogue and resolve ongoing problems before they become complaints. A rethink of the training for Protective Services Officers was also recommended, in view of the key front-line role they play and the level of concern expressed by youth workers about their modus operandi.

The full submission can be read here, and will be available on the Inquiry website in the near future.