The Queensland Police Statement of Ethics states that duties are to be carried out ‘without fear or favour‘. In other words, even if a friend, family member or associate is breaking the law, or suspected of breaking the law, police are duty bound to act. The current QPrime restrictions and charges being levelled at officers substantially contradicts those obligations.
It’s recently been brought to my attention that the QPS is going to start doing ‘random’ QPrime audits. My initial thought is, where are they finding the resources to do this when ‘real’ internal complaints for serious matters already take years to finalise (if not unjustifiably written off)? My second thought is that this will be just another way the QPS can use the disciplinary system to target their employees.
We all know that Commissioned Officers won’t be audited, and nor will those who’ve done the wrong thing get caught out anyway. It’s common knowledge that Commissioned Officers wanting to conduct checks simply stick a post-it note under a junior officer’s nose and ask them to run a check. The young officer has no idea why, they just obey their senior officer.
Don’t get me wrong, if officers are looking up someone to partake in unlawful activities or with some other malicious intent, then they deserve to cop the rough end of a pineapple. People who do stupid things like look up celebrities or an ex-partner for personal gain get no sympathy from me. But if police are suspicious of someone and look them up, they should be supported in doing so. That’s how crooks get caught. Let’s face it – Police are trained to be curious and to be suspicious. If they weren’t, they’d pay no attention to that dodgy unregistered car with a couple of shady characters inside who are casing out a servo late at night.
And police are also duty bound 24/7. They are expected to still uphold the law even when off duty if the need arises. That would ordinarily mean that if the officer’s neighbour has more cars coming and going than the local IKEA during the Boxing Day sales, and strange fumes emanating from their property, they would be running a few checks, doing an Intel submission, and police would probably end up busting a drug syndicate. Not any more. Police are too scared to run checks because there is every chance they will be hung out to dry for doing so.
Really, who cares if it’s your neighbour – if they are up to no good, the greater community expects that the police officer next door will act upon it. This ridiculous ‘computer hacking’ charge being levelled against officers does nothing but deter officers from acting upon suspicious activity that they observe. The result is a less productive police service, and the community being largely let down. Moreover, charging officers with criminal offences does nothing but create a police service full of officers with a criminal record for something that could be more appropriately handled through the internal discipline system. It reflects poorly on the service and gives the impression that a large portion of our hardworking police are crooks.
I’m confident that most officers under investigation have simply searched someone they believe to be right for unlawful activity, or searched addresses in areas they were moving into. In fact it used to be actively encouraged to ensure officer safety and to facilitate law enforcement. Believe it or not, police are kind of expected to uphold the law, and to maintain officer safety.
Officers are also expected to declare any criminal associates in accordance with the Declarable Associations Policy. Fair enough. But with the online dating world flourishing with the likes of Tinder, Plenty of Fish, Brenda, Grinder (and who knows what else), how on earth are coppers supposed to know who they are getting involved with if their is no risk management system in place to facilitate checks. I’m not suggesting people should be checking their one-night stands, but if they meet someone and begin dating, in order to prevent being targeted for failing to declare an associate, there should be some way of finding out whether they are in fact someone who needs to be declared. The QPS cannot expect officers to declare associates when there is no risk management system in place to assist the officer in determining whether someone is in fact a declarable associate.
There should be a section dedicated to managing the risks of ‘computer hacking’ and/or officers failing to declare associates by having a system in place where officers can ensure that their safety or integrity are not jeopardised. Instead, what the QPS has done is gone from encouraging curiosity and encouraging certain checks, to changing the rules overnight and then hunting officers down.
Perhaps a commissioned officer should be authorised to run a check for an officer, so the officer can ensure that their integrity is not jeopardised. Similarly, officers should be able to request a search of nearby properties when purchasing or renting a home. How can officer safety be maximised if the officer could unknowingly be moving in next door to the Sergeant at Arms of the Hells Angels? Police are not able to clock off and forget about being a copper while they attend a party with their pot-smoking neighbours. Police have a much higher level of accountability and responsibility, and are expected to maintain their integrity 100% of the time. As such, provisions should be made by way of risk management processes so that officers don’t become unnecessarily exposed to scrutiny and potential criminal charges. The QPS cannot expect officers to declare associates when there is no risk management system in place to assist the officer in determining whether someone is in fact a declarable associate (ie; checks).
Here’s a hot tip – how about officers start requesting threat assessments to be conducted on their prospective addresses and partners? I bet that cuts out this nonsense of bricking officers with computer hacking charges or misconduct for failing to declare associates.
I wonder where they find the time to pinch coppers for computer hacking, when genuine and serious offences are reported against members only to be written off or delayed for years? I recently saw a Commissioned Officer get written out of 13 allegations without even the complainant officer (main witness) being interviewed! Out of 13 allegations, 2 went into the abyss, and it was done and dusted in less than 12 weeks. The outcome letter (authored by the subject officer’s direct supervisor) provided details of the PPM should the complainant officer have any questions. When the officer made enquiries with the PPM and ESC, they refused to provide any details including simple details such as who the investigating officer was. The complainant/victim was told to complete a RTI application to obtain those details. Transparency at its best.
But the poor old frontline officer gets loaded up for checking a dodgy character who just happens to be a neighbour or other associate. If you find yourself the subject of a computer hacking charge that you’re not right for, don’t cop it on the chin – fight it!