The Future Fellowship research being undertaken by BOb’s Associate Professor Leanne Weber has informed a submission made with Professor Jude McCulloch to the Inquiry into the External Oversight of Police Corruption and Misconduct in Victoria. 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.
Leanne 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 in which police essentially investigate themselves, 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.
Two youth organisations based in the greater Dandenong area – YSAS and Youthlinks – collaborated on the submission, and were named as key sources of information about the impact of bad policing practices on young people. This reflects the value of community partnerships in increasing the impact of social research.
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 Public Safety 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.