Purge on police sexual misconduct

One policeman is sacked or quits every month as part of a high-level sexual misconduct purge after a damning investigation found a chronic level of gender discrimination within Victoria Police.

The revelation comes as the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission releases on Monday results of a comprehensive audit into how police have moved to fix the deep-seated problems it revealed in its December 2015 report into sexual discrimination, harassment and predatory behaviour in policing.

Assistant Police Commissioner Luke Cornelius said tthe force:

  • Had failed to reach the target of 50 per cent female recruits and would launch a new advertising campaign to try to achieve balance.
  • Was reviewing recruit medical and fitness requirements that discriminated against women.
  • Investigated 184 complaints of sexual misconduct, including rape, against police (about 100 have been resolved and about 80 are active).
  • Had compensated some victims whose careers were damaged by being placed in discriminatory and unsafe workplaces with refunded leave allocations and back pay.
  • Found 26 police had quit or been sacked after being accused of serious sexual misconduct. Most, he said, chose to resign while under investigation in a move Mr Cornelius described as "beating the posse".

But more than 18 months after it was first recommended, a promised Redress and Restorative Scheme has yet to be launched.

"My hope was we would have established this entity by now," Mr Cornelius said.

Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said, "It is imperative the scheme is established. It needs to happen".

Under the latest proposal, the scheme would be run by an independent tribunal under the Justice Department and would be authorised to award compensation capped at $50,000.

With police expecting "several thousand" applications from serving and former police, the potential payout could exceed $50 million.

Mr Cornelius said that while there had been substantial improvement in the past 18 months there were some "dinosaurs" who refused to change.

But he was encouraged that police were now quick to "call out" unacceptable actions or statements made by officers including at "senior executive" levels.

In the latest report, Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton made it clear any resistance to the reform program would not be tolerated.

"The fact that some within our ranks continue to harm their colleagues is appalling," he said.

"I want everyone to know that these behaviours will not be tolerated. Perpetrators will be identified and held to account.

"A little more than 18 months ago, I committed Victoria Police to the most significant cultural reform in our history. I did this because the evidence was overwhelming - Victoria Police was not a safe place for its employees.

"Furthermore, we knew that if we continued to discriminate against women and our LGBTI employees and allow abuse to occur in our own workplace, we could never be a credible voice for change or stand up for them in our community. I saw this work as critical."

Rights commissioner Ms Hilton commended police for substantial cultural change achieved but added, "There is still significant work to be done across all 20 recommendations and there is still resistance to some of this work.

"They have been prepared to take this on head on and there has been a tremendous commitment from day one," Ms Hilton said.

But she said, "There are still people who are behaving inappropriately."

The initial 2015 report found an entrenched culture of "everyday sexism", coupled with a high tolerance for sexual harassment had left many current and former police employees "harmed, sidelined and deeply disillusioned".

This story Purge on police sexual misconduct first appeared on The Age.