Victorian Police Commander Stuart Bateson has defended his organisation’s policy of investigating itself amid robust discussions about culture within the force and officers’ attitudes towards ethnic communities.
His comments come in the wake of a joint ABC and The Age investigation into excessive use of force in a number of incidents, including one in which a Victorian police officer stomped on the back of a handcuffed African-Australian man who had robbed a pharmacy.
Appearing on the Q&A panel on Monday night, Commander Bateson Victoria Police’s existing oversight body, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission, was a “really good framework”.
“We don’t want to outsource our own integrity. So we want to make sure we’re re-investigating, and we have done successfully,” he said.
“Since 2010, which is the same time period for the six incidents investigated by the Age in recent weeks, 210 police have left the police force while under investigation. Twenty-six have been sacked. So we do have an accountability framework that works.”
But commercial litigator and community advocate Nyadol Nyuon said the idea of police investigating themselves failed to inspire confidence.
“Particularly when we have just had a high ranking member of the police force being publicly reported to have said some very racist things, including encouraging violence against African communities,” Ms Nyuon said.
“This is someone who was responsible for the complaints that were coming through, and at the same time one of the policemen was involved in the case and had a number of allegations made against him was referred to the same body.
“When we put them in a position of conflict where they have to investigate each other … I don’t think the result will necessarily be at least acceptable for other people to see a balance.”
Labor’s federal shadow minister for justice, who was also on the panel, said police culture was a key factor in determining whether a force could regulate itself.
“There’s a lot of international evidence on this question … what it tells us is if the incidents that are happening are abhorrent to the organisation’s culture, if they sit outside of what the ordinary police officer would think is normal, then police are really good at investigating themselves,” Ms O’Neil said.
“If it’s the culture of the organisation itself that’s the problem, then that’s the time where we start to look outside.”
Multiculturalism and crime hot topics
How immigrants are portrayed in the media, the difficulties faced by people born overseas and crime were recurring themes during the program, which also featured comments from panellists Minister for Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs Alan Tudge and veteran journalist Andrew Rule, co-author of the Underbelly true crime series.
They shared their views on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s claim Melburnians were afraid to dine out at night because of gang crime.
“I just find it frankly very distressing to hear politicians just throwing out these comments … Peter Dutton, come to Thomas Street for dinner, you’ll see hundreds of people on the street out there,” Ms O’Neil said.
Meanwhile Mr Rule said the fear was real, because everybody knew somebody who had been affected by gang violence.
“There are citizens of other places that were feeling the pinch a bit because there were car-jackings, home invasions and serious things that did for a while 18 months ago, a year ago, become the subject of conversation everywhere I went. And for good reason — because it was happening,” he said.
He said he too had a near miss with an attempted car-jacking.
Host for the evening Virginia Trioli conducted a quick poll of the Victorian audience, with only a few hands raised in agreement they were afraid to head out for dinner when Mr Dutton’s comments were made.
Meanwhile, an audience member’s question asking whether Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull or the Carlton Football team would have a worse 2018 drew a laugh from the crowd.
— ABC Q&A (@QandA) April 9, 2018