This year, I have been privy to some incredibly concerning conduct within the Queensland Police Service, particularly within the Ethical Standards Command. Not only does the behaviour (in my view) constitute offences of abuse of power and misconduct in public office (ss.92 & 92A Criminal Code Act 1899), but I would go as far as saying it also constitutes ‘corrupt conduct’ as defined in s.15 of the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001.
It has been so concerning that I felt the need to put it out there ‘in the interests of accountability and transparency’. I mean, if I don’t do it, it sure as hell isn’t going to be made public by the QPS! It seems it is only made public when it’s a more junior frontline officer involved. I apologise in advance for a long post, but it can’t be avoided.
I want to discuss the QPS Ethical Standards Command (ESC) – the unit supposed to be stamping out the very conduct they are currently accused of themselves. They are expected to act ethically and with integrity and impartiality. I’m certainly not labelling all ESC investigators as being involved in misconduct, as I’m sure many of them act with the utmost integrity and do the right thing. In fact I know investigators there who do their jobs for the right reasons, and do it fairly and without malice. But it only takes one or two ‘bad apples’ who, by their conduct and the apparent acceptance of that conduct by their supervisors, gives the whole section a bad name.
The conduct I refer to is victimisation and reprisal, and setting out to ‘brick’ officers for minor matters whilst overlooking allegations of serious misconduct against members of QPS management and ESC officers themselves.
Example 1: An ESC investigator (‘Officer A’) who clearly has a vendetta against an officer (‘Officer B’), goes out of his way to beef up as many complaints as possible. During the course of the investigation, it is alleged that ESC Officer A’s own conduct constitutes offences of victimisation, improper disclosure of information, and misconduct in public office. So much ‘work’ has gone into targeting Officer B over extremely minor matters, whilst failing to investigate any complaints made by Officer B about others. The allegations made by Officer B were far more serious than those Officer B was being investigated by ESC for, and with far more corroborating evidence.
Due to a number of matters including the above, a complaint was made to the CCC about ESC Officer A. The CCC decided after sitting on the matter for approximately 5 months, that the matter is not for them to deal with. CCC sends the matter back to ESC, so that an investigator can lean over into the next office cubicle and investigate their colleague for offences that, if proven could result in serious charges and dismissal. Does anyone else see anything wrong with this?
Sometime after, ESC Officer A is heard discussing the matter with others outside the section and threatens to ‘go harder’ on Officer B for calling him out on his bullying tactics and abuse of power.
I emailed the Assistant Commissioner of ESC expressing my concerns, and requested that ESC Investigator A be removed from the investigation, as well as affording the complainant officer B the appropriate protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act. Protection was eventually afforded, however…..
Soon afterwards I am contacted by another ESC investigator (ESC Officer C) who now has carriage of the complaint against his colleague (ESC Officer A) from the same office. I have massive issues with this arrangement and can’t see how this can be seen to be impartial and transparent. ESC Officer C also advised me that ESC Officer A would no longer be interviewing Officer B, and that he would now be conducting the outstanding disciplinary interview with Officer B on ESC Officer A’s behalf. Despite the subject ESC investigator (A) no longer conducting the disciplinary interview with Officer B, ESC Officer A will still have carriage of the investigation once the interview has been conducted on his behalf by his colleague. This is being permitted even though it is known by way of a new 466 that he has threatened to seek reprisal against Officer B. How is this allowed? And given that the new ESC investigator is now the subject ESC officer’s corroborator, shouldn’t that further preclude him from investigating his colleague? Apparently not.
I sent another email to the investigating officer and cc’d it to the Assistant Commissioner of ESC. I expressed that it is completely unacceptable for the subject ESC investigator to still have carriage of the complaint against Officer B in the circumstances, and that an independent investigator should be investigating the subject ESC officer. After all, they should be doing their best to at least make it look like they are being impartial and accountable. Crickets.
Example 2: The same subject ESC officer (Officer A) is the currently the subject of another QP466 complaint lodged by an Assistant Commissioner for an act of reprisal. ESC Officer A has initiated disciplinary action against an officer who was afforded immunity from disciplinary action under the Public Interest Disclosure Act. I have viewed evidence from the officer who is facing disciplinary action, and had previously spoken to ESC Officer A himself. From the information I have had available to me, I now have no doubt that the officer has been subjected to an act of reprisal by ESC Officer A.
Regarding that matter, the officer who is subject of the reprisal had their WorkCover claim accepted based on the said reprisal. It was accepted by WorkCover, and also by the Regulator after the QPS sought to have the decision reviewed. The QPS are now appealing the decision in the QIRC. Work Health and Safety Queensland have also been appraised of the matter and have also identified that the actions of the ESC investigator have caused a risk to psychological health and safety. Everyone seems to be able to see what has occurred here except the QPS?? It appears to me that the QPS are trying to do everything possible to protect the brand and ensure their ESC investigator isn’t held accountable.
The ESC investigator seeking reprisals and abusing his power is not stood down, and retains carriage of investigations against officers he has been seeking reprisal against. Additionally, that same ESC officer emailed me and told me to ‘delete him from my contacts’. Due to the timing and content of his email, it appeared that he had been made aware that I have provided a witness statement in support of one of the officers he has hunted, and/or that I had reported that he was threatening further reprisal.
I’m not sure why he would know that, when at that time it was my understanding that he had not yet been interviewed or had allegations put to him. This is another reason why the integrity of the investigation is attracting scrutiny.
Example 3: Another ESC officer interviewing a subject member who he has previously worked with and has a known dislike for. The subject member had become the target of others in his station after defending his partner who had reported misconduct. The officer’s partner was bullied out of the job through acts of reprisal, and eventually so was the subject officer I refer to. During his disciplinary interview with ESC over an alleged common assault, the subject officer raised concerns that the ESC officer had a dislike for him, and that they had previously worked together. This was overlooked and the disciplinary interview continued. The officer was arrested and charged through his own Watchhouse in front of his peers, and placed on bail conditions. In ordinary circumstances an NTA would have been appropriate, if any charges were to be preferred at all. I have viewed an email from an Acting Inspector to another officer in that station, stating that this particular ESC investigator had ‘really done us a favour by taking on this job, so we need to make sure all this is squared away properly for him’. How does an ESC investigator do an Inspector a ‘favour’ by conducting what is supposed to be an impartial and unbiased investigation?
The officers who were bullied out have made complaints at every level. QPS has failed to even take some of the complaints, and others have been written off without even speaking to witnesses.
Example 4: The same ESC investigator from example 3 appears to have previous for doing ‘favours’ for Inspectors. Another officer had been subjected to ongoing bullying by an Inspector over a period of time. Protracted bullying commenced after the officer approached the Inspector with concerns about a number of matters, including a relatively serious matter the Inspector had knowledge of but failed to act upon. Part of the bullying levelled against the officer included standing him down for allegedly failing to investigate an unrelated matter. This appears to be an excessive course of action particularly when we can see that ESC themselves, and the QPS as an organisation quite often fail to investigate complaints made by officers about misconduct.
A number of bullying events ensued at the hands of the Inspector, and eventually the officer was also charged with a number of Weapons Act offences by the ESC officer. Remember that this is the same ESC officer from Example 3 who has form for handing out a good old fashioned bricking. From the information I have, it appears to have been a disproportionate response to the matters. The ESC officer is also reported to have been drinking with the Inspector the night before he charged the subject officer. It appears that the matter was blown way out of proportion, just as with the matter described in example 3.
In fact, the matter was so out of proportion with a substantial number of charges being discontinued due to the QPS having ‘no evidence to offer’. I mean, really? These ESC investigators are supposed to be qualified and experienced in conducting investigations, yet how often do you hear of charges being thrown out? Unfortunately this is not before the charges have caused a significant detriment to the officer on the receiving end.
The officer who was charged has made complaints about conduct towards himself and also towards a member of his family by the said Inspector. No action was taken and witnesses were not even spoken to. I’m not sure what anyone else sees here, but I see a blatant case of double standards and an officer being fitted up by ESC officers who are influenced by Commissioned Officers who have a dislike for someone. On one hand an officer is stood down for ‘failing to investigate’, yet ESC officers and the QPS in general can be selective as to what they choose to investigate.
Conclusion: Whilst the community has an expectation that police will act lawfully and with integrity, that expectation also extends to the hierarchy. The community is being let down in this regard, not only by the actions of some members of the hierarchy, but also by the organisation’s failure to take complaints against the hierarchy seriously . I suggest that this is because they all have so much dirt on one another from ‘way back when..’ that they are also too scared to act on complaints against their colleagues in case their own skeletons get let out of the closet.
As well as the above examples, another example is an officer recently dismissed over less than $700.00 of unauthorised purchases made on a social club key card. In contrast, a commissioned officer in the Northern Region allegedly steals/misappropriates approximately $25,000.00 from a children’s charity, and is given a reprimand and remains employed.
The same Assistant Commissioner investigated both matters, although it was the CCC who made the decision to dismiss the officer during a QCAT hearing. In further contrast, another complaint has been made regarding substantial monies missing from another social club, and to the best of my knowledge there has been no penalty against the officers accused of being responsible. The accused officers are associated with officers at commissioned rank.
I’m being absolutely inundated with complaints from officers who have been subjected to reprisals after reporting misconduct – even those who have been afforded protection under the Public Interest Disclosure Act. Then there are those who would rather let misconduct flourish around them rather than to stand up against wrongdoing, forgetting that one day they may want witnesses to come forward when they are subjected to blatant bullying and misconduct themselves. The entire culture and system is broken.
These matters are just a snippet of what I’ve seen, and they make the pre-Fitzgerald era look like kindergarten. It is clear that there are a number of cases whereby the disciplinary system is being abused by officers wanting to bully others out of the job. It is not being used for it’s purpose of ensuring accountability and to uphold public confidence in the QPS. If it was, then the same standards would apply to everyone, and complaints against members of management would be taken seriously. Sadly this is not the case, and it’s no wonder that officers feel that reporting matters is often pointless. Unfortunately though, they need to realise that they are allowing poor culture and poor conduct to continue by not reporting it.
It’s no wonder officers are laughing in the face of the Our People Matter Strategy, when their health and wellbeing is substantially jeopardised by such conduct and a failure to take their complaints seriously. As long as this conduct is allowed to continue by the hierarchy, no health and wellbeing strategy will serve it’s purpose. What needs to change is the integrity of those members of management and the ESC who do the wrong thing.