|ARM||Accountability and resource model|
|CMS||IBAC’s case management system|
|DAU||Discipline Advisory Unit (Victoria Police)|
|DAT||Drug and alcohol test|
|DCN||Discipline charge notice|
|DHHS||Department of Health and Human Services|
|IBAC||Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission|
|IMG||Integrity Management Guide|
|Interpose||Victoria Police investigation, intelligence and registry management system|
|LEAP||Law Enforcement Assistance Program (a Victoria Police database)|
|MOU||Memorandum of understanding|
|OMCG||Outlaw motor cycle gang|
|OPP||Office of Public Prosecutions|
|PCU||Police Conduct Unit|
|PDA||Victoria Police professional development and assessment plan|
|PSC||Professional Standards Command (Victoria Police)|
|PSO||Protective services officer|
|Reportable Offence||An offence referred to in Schedule 4 of the Victoria Police Act|
|ROCSID||Register of Complaints, Serious Incidents and Discipline (a Victoria Police database)|
|SOPs||Standard operating procedures|
|VEOHRC||Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission|
|VPM||Victoria Police Manual|
|VPMG||Victoria Police Manual Guideline|
|VPMP||Victoria Police Manual Policy|
As part of our work to determine how effectively Victoria Police handles complaints against police officers, the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) audited a sample of investigations conducted by Professional Standards Command (PSC) during the 2015/16 financial year. This audit assessed whether PSC's complaint investigations were thorough and impartial and met the standards required for the handling of such serious allegations. IBAC identified that there are aspects of PSC's complaint handling processes that are concerning and require improvement.
The audit examined how effectively complaints involving more serious allegations of police misconduct or corruption concerning Victoria Police officers – warranting investigation by PSC – are investigated. IBAC audited 59 PSC investigations into a range of complaints about Victoria Police officers, including allegations of improper criminal associations, drug use or possession offences, sexual offences, handling stolen goods, threats to kill, interference in investigation, and misuse of information.
PSC is the central area within Victoria Police responsible for the organisation’s ethical health and integrity. It does this through a range of activities, including the intake and triaging of complaints made about Victoria Police, complaint investigations, strategic research, and development of intelligence-based responses to probity issues.
All complaints involving Victoria Police officers are assessed by PSC and classified according to the type and seriousness of allegations made. The majority of complaints received by Victoria Police are then referred to the Victoria Police regions, departments or commands for investigation. Only a small proportion of complaints – those involving allegations of serious misconduct or corruption – are investigated by PSC.
As part of the audit, IBAC examined relevant Victoria Police policies and conducted data analysis case studies. IBAC has made recommendations for Victoria Police to improve the way in which PSC investigates complaints. In October 2017 Victoria Police accepted these recommendations in principle. In April 2018 IBAC finalised the recommendations in this report following further consultations. IBAC will now monitor how Victoria Police implements these recommendations.
In addition to auditing how Victoria Police handles complaints, IBAC's independent oversight of Victoria Police also includes reviews of selected matters investigated by Victoria Police, to highlight any concerns at the individual as well as the system-wide level. IBAC also undertakes a range of other independent oversight activities.
These independent audits help Victoria Police build capacity to prevent corrupt conduct and police misconduct by identifying areas of improvement around complaint handling. IBAC’s audits also identify good practice that could be considered more broadly by Victoria Police. In doing so, these audits help build public confidence in the integrity of Victoria Police’s processes and in IBAC’s independent police oversight role.
1.1 Key findings
IBAC’s audit was undertaken to identify how PSC investigates serious complaints about Victoria Police officers, including allegations of serious misconduct and corruption. The audit identified areas for improvement across the areas examined in the audit, which have informed this report’s key findings and recommendations.
- Poor management of conflicts of interest: The vast majority of files audited (95 per cent) did not explicitly address potential or actual conflicts of interest between investigators and subject officers.
- Failure to consistently consult with the Office of Public Prosecutions: Auditors considered that Victoria Police did not consistently consult with the Office of Public Prosecutions in relation to reportable offences as required under section 127(2) of the Victoria Police Act 2013.
- Inadequate recommended actions: IBAC auditors disagreed with the action recommended by Victoria Police in 15 per cent of files. This included two matters where it appeared the Assistant Commissioner of PSC downgraded the recommended disciplinary action without clear reasons.
- Probity concerns: The audit also identified that some PSC investigators had complaint histories that raised issues of concern and could adversely affect confidence in the outcome of investigations and PSC’s reputation.
- Inappropriate file classification: The way complaint files are classified by PSC determines how they are managed. Issues were identified with the way in which the work file classification (known as a C1-0 file) is used, which appears to extend well beyond its stated purpose of undertaking preliminary inquiries. This included the use of the work file classification for complaints that contained, for example, allegations which should have been classified as a criminality off-duty (C3-3 file) or corruption (C3-4 file). The practice of reclassifying a matter as a work file after an investigation has been completed on the basis that the file contained ‘intelligence only’, was also considered inappropriate.
- Failure to recommend broader organisational improvements: PSC investigators identified a range of possible policy and procedural improvements in 27 per cent of files. However, no files formally recommended ‘action on any identified deficiency in Victoria Police premises, equipment, policies, practices or procedures’ as is recommended in the Victoria Police Manual. This is despite the fact that some of those recommendations made by police identify opportunities for broader application across the organisation.
Following IBAC’s audit of complaints investigated by PSC, IBAC recommends that Victoria Police:
- reviews the definition and use of the C1-0 work file classification, and formalises arrangements to notify IBAC of matters classified as work files1
- considers the checks undertaken and criteria applied when recruiting new PSC investigators as part of its review of probity issues
- ensures the Office of Public Prosecutions is consulted as soon as possible when Victoria Police forms a reasonable belief that a reportable offence has been committed, consistent with section 127(2) of the Victoria Police Act
- ensures advice provided by the PSC Discipline Advisory Unit and reasons for key decisions, including those of the Assistant Commissioner PSC, are clearly documented and attached to the investigation file
- ensures policy and procedural improvements identified by investigators are formally recorded as recommended action, and implements measures to share those learnings across the organisation.
IBAC also reiterates recommendations made in IBAC’s Audit of Victoria Police complaints handling systems at regional level (2016) and Audit of Victoria Police oversight files (2018) in relation to:
- requiring investigation plans to be completed and attached to complaint files, noting that this is particularly relevant for the serious and complex matters that PSC primarily handles
- requiring that the official conflict of interest form is completed for all investigation files, noting that PSC’s independence from other Victoria Police work areas does not negate the need to identify and manage an investigator’s actual, potential and/or perceived conflict of interest in relation to a specific matter
- reviewing the system of determinations to reduce and simplify determination categories, to help ensure clarity for investigators, complainants and subject officers
- providing investigators with guidance and training on the Victorian Charter of Human Rights to assist in identifying human rights that have been engaged by a complaint or incident.
Victoria Police has accepted IBAC’s recommendations and IBAC will monitor their implementation. IBAC acknowledges that Victoria Police is reviewing its complaint handling and discipline system as part of its response to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Independent review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, in Victoria Police. It is understood that this review should address some of the issues identified in this audit.
IBAC also acknowledges that Victoria Police has recently taken steps to improve the identification and management of conflicts of interest in complaint investigations, including through the introduction of a new form. IBAC continues to liaise with Victoria Police to improve impartiality in its complaint handling processes.
1.3 Audit methodology
The audit scope included all files classified as work files (C1-0) or corruption complaints (C3-4) as well as any other files that included an allegation of assault investigated and closed by PSC during the 2015/16 financial year. These file classifications and allegation types were selected to form IBAC’s sample in order to focus on the most serious complaints investigated by PSC. Broader issues relating to other complaint classifications have been highlighted in IBAC’s 2016 Audit of Victoria Police complaints handling systems at regional level and were not considered to warrant further examination in relation to PSC at this time.
Of the 221 files closed by PSC in 2015/16, 64 files fit (29 per cent) this criteria. Of these 64 files, 59 were audited.2 Hard copy files were audited and, where relevant, IBAC examined information stored on Victoria Police's Register of Complaints, Serious Incidents and Discipline (ROCSID) and Interpose, Victoria Police's investigation, intelligence and registry management system.
Figure 1 outlines the audited files by classification upon closure. Almost half of the sample were work files, a quarter were classified as corruption complaints files and the remainder (all involving assault allegations) were classified as complaints involving criminality not connected to duty, misconduct connected to duty or minor misconduct.
FIGURE 1: AUDITED FILES BY CLASSIFICATION ON CLOSURE
|File type||Classification||Number of files audited||Proportion of audit sample|
Allegations that need some preliminary inquiry and assessment by PSC before a full investigation can be conducted
Includes minor assault at time of arrest, infringement notice received on duty, lower level discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act, and lower level breaches of the Charter of Human Rights
Misconduct connected to duty
Includes serious assault, conduct punishable by imprisonment, alcohol or drug offences on duty, improper use of LEAP or other databases, higher level discrimination under the Equal Opportunity Act, and higher level breaches of the Charter of Human Rights
Criminality not connected to duty
Includes off-duty conduct punishable by imprisonment, off-duty alcohol or drug offences, criminal associations, and summons to court for any traffic matter
Includes encouraging others to neglect duty or to be improperly influenced in exercising any function, fabricating or falsifying evidence, using excessive force or other improper tactics to procure confession or conviction, improperly interfering with or subverting a prosecution, concealing misconduct by other officers, and engaging in serious criminal conduct
Each file was examined against an audit tool to assess the adequacy of PSC’s management of the complaint3 covering five broad areas:
- pre-investigation process including the process of identifying allegations, classifying and allocating complaints, notifying IBAC, identifying subject officers, identifying conflicts of interest, and preparing investigation reports
- investigation process with a focus on identifying and contacting relevant parties and evidence
- outcomes of the investigation including any findings, recommendations, human rights considerations, how the investigation was supervised and reviewed, and how outcome advice was communicated to complainants and subject officers
- timeliness of the investigation process
- record keeping.
IBAC’s Assessment and Review area reviews selected Victoria Police complaints based on similar criteria. Those reviews make specific recommendations to address issues that are identified in individual complaint investigations, some of which are handled by PSC. In comparison, this audit examines the adequacy of PSC’s complaint investigations more broadly.
1.3.1 Consultations with Victoria Police
IBAC formally advised the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police of its intention to conduct the audit. IBAC engaged with senior PSC officers to assist in determining the scope of the audit and ongoing assistance has been provided by PSC to provide access to files within the audit’s scope. The draft key findings were provided to Victoria Police, with a full draft of the report provided to the Deputy Commissioner Capability to confirm factual accuracy.
The sample drawn for this audit represents 27 per cent of the 221 files closed by PSC in 2015/16. The audit aimed to assess how the most serious complaints are handled by PSC. The sample was not drawn randomly and is not therefore representative of all file types investigated by PSC. Rather, the sample of 59 files includes all available C1-0 and C3-4 files and at least 10 per cent of the available C3-3, C3-2 and C2-1 files closed by PSC between 1 July 2015 and 30 June 2016 (selected on the basis that those files contained an ‘assault’ allegation).
Five IBAC officers undertook the auditing process. Controls were put in place to maximise consistency in the audit process. This included the use of guidance notes to provide context and clarification, and regular meetings of the audit team to discuss and resolve issues. However, it is acknowledged that the audit process relied upon the exercise of judgment by each audit officer.
1 In September 2017 Victoria Police started notifying IBAC by automated email whenever a C1-0 work file is created. This process should ensure IBAC is notified of all work files.
2 The remaining five files were unavailable at the time of the audit due to legal or disciplinary proceedings.
3 A copy of the audit tool is included as an appendix to this report.