Victoria’s anti-corruption watchdog has called for immediate action at Ballarat police station after officers were caught on security footage stripping an off-duty policewoman, who had been arrested, before kicking and stomping on her.
The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission said police should consider charges over the January 2015 incident, just one example of excessive force at the Ballarat station outlined in a report tabled in state parliament on Thursday.
Harrowing CCTV footage showed former police officer Yvonne Berry handcuffed, stripped of her underwear, stomped on, and kicked by police in a Ballarat cell.
IBAC made four recommendations, including human rights training for officers and said the government should consider decriminalising public drunkenness, bringing it into line with every state but Queensland.
The inquiry released damning findings, including significant missed opportunities to deal with ongoing, systemic issues at the police station.
Complaints against Ballarat police officers are three times higher than similar sized stations across the state, the inquiry found.
The investigation also exposed serious deficiencies in the way this particular incident was handled, as well as concerns about the duty of care afforded to other vulnerable people at the police station.
IBAC Commissioner Mr Stephen O’Bryan QC said IBAC’s Operation Ross exposed the concerning casual disregard and “alarming mistreatment of a vulnerable woman” in Ballarat police custody.
He said it revealed broader systemic issues and missed opportunities by Victoria Police to address patterns of misconduct at the station.
The investigation found serious shortcomings in Victoria Police policies and practices, including oversight regarding promotions, interventions when an officer has multiple complaints, and compliance with the strip search policy and the Charter of Human Rights.
A female police officer also previously told an anti-corruption inquiry she kicked a 51-year-old fellow officer while the woman lay face down and handcuffed in a Ballarat cell but says it wasn't done 'in a malicious way' .
“It is unfortunate the issues raised by complaints and evident in Victoria Police’s own data and reports, appear to have been not been recognised and addressed in a timely and targeted manner by Victoria Police,” Mr O’Bryan said.
“Police perform a vital function serving the community and the law to ensure a safe, secure and orderly society.”
“The community rightly expects police officers to perform their duties and exercise their significant powers fairly, impartially and in accordance with the law.
Unfortunately, Operation Ross found instances where this did not occur.”
Victoria police have been contacted for comment.
More to come.
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