Aboriginal advocates call for stronger police accountability system in NSW

Aboriginal advocates call for stronger police accountability system in NSW
Image: Aboriginal people are disproportionately targeted in strip searches and excessive use of force. Joel Carrett/AAP.

New data on complaints from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community about NSW Police has shown that officers are rarely being held to account over allegations of misconduct.

The analysis of complaints made between January 2021 and June 2022, published by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), that out of 245 complaints triaged by police, only 66 were investigated (28 per cent).

With the most common complaint being excessive force used by police, the majority of complaints were investigated by police themselves.

The report also found that NSW Police upheld only 18 per cent of allegations made against police by Aboriginal people, with recommended consequences including counselling, warning notices and disciplinary transfer.

“We welcome the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission’s commitment to transparency by releasing this data, but we are deeply concerned by what the data shows about police accountability mechanisms and how they are letting down Aboriginal people in NSW,” said Lauren Stefanou, Principal Solicitor  at the Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS), NSW/ACT.

“Robust and independent police oversight is critical to a functioning system. It’s also an important pathway towards repairing community-police relationships and Closing the Gap,” she continued.

Reiterating calls for greater police accountability, Stefanou added, “The fact that so few police officers who have committed misconduct face consequences for their actions is a deterrent to making complaints.”

“Police have a critical role to play in Closing the Gap and there must be stronger accountability for police who misuse their powers.”

In the aforementioned period, the independent police watchdog assessed 279 complaints, only investigating seven complaints directly and monitoring the NSW Police Force’s investigation of three.

According to the Aboriginal Legal Service, that so few complaints were received from or on behalf of Aboriginal people over 18 months shows that the complaints system must be made more accessible for Aboriginal communities.

Last year, it was found that police strip-searches of Indigenous people rose 35 per cent in the 12 months leading up to October 2023, and included 11 children.

“Aboriginal people, especially children and young people, are grossly overrepresented as targets of punitive police powers like strip searches and excessive use of force,” said Aboriginal Legal Services in a statement.

You May Also Like

Comments are closed.