THE scourge of the drug ice and Ballarat’s lower socio-economic status made the region one of the hardest to police, an anti-corruption commission hearing was told on Thursday.
One of Ballarat’s most senior officers, Inspector Bruce Thomas, suggested to the Independent Broad-Base Anti-corruption Commission these problems played a role in the high number of workplace claims and alleged complaints against Ballarat police officers.
During the hearing, Inspector Thomas was subjected to extensive questioning, focusing on processes implemented to deal with complaint allegations made against officers under his command.
He told the hearing data collated by the Ethical Standards Command was flawed, particularly when comparing the city to others such as Bendigo, Warrnambool and Horsham.
He said differing demographic issues, combined with the large number of cells at the Ballarat Police Station impacted on the statistics.
“I think we’re trying to compare apples with oranges,” he said.
“I don’t think they’re comparable stations.”
Inspector Thomas said further flaws in the statistics, including a number of complaint allegations at stations not under is command, complaints related to off-duty officers and conflicts in the workplace, also impacted on the statistics.
“There are 18 complaints that shouldn’t be attributable to the data,” he said.
“The data has to be broken down further, when we start breaking things down trends become apparent.
“This gives you more details to work on and stem to the root of things.”
But when asked by Assisting Counsel Jack Rush QC whether he sought to correct the data after receiving it, he said no.
The city’s top cop, Superintendent Andrew Allen made similar comments at Thursday’s hearing.
Superintendent Allen told the inquiry there had been a “dramatic reduction” in the number of complaints against Ballarat police officers in the last financial year.
He said the number of members complained about in the last year was 19, compared to 31 in 2014/15 and 24 in 2013/2014.
When questioned by Mr Rush whether this had been because an investigation had been announced, he said no.
Mr Rush went on to suggest to Superintendent Allen members at Ballarat Police Station were predominantly hands-on during arrests which lead to the number of workplace claims almost tripling the average.
“The explosion of the ice epidemic has caused police to be confronted by violence and aggressive individuals,” he told the inquiry.
He said an increase in mental health rates and domestic violent matters also impacted on the number of claims in which Mr Rush responded by suggesting Ballarat was not isolated from the rest of the state to the cultural issues.
Superintendent Allen will continue to give evidence at the final day of the hearing tomorrow.
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