The NSW police watchdog has been repeatedly denied access to rooms where officers are being interviewed about serious incidents, according to a new report, despite it being granted specific powers to do just that.
The Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC) allows investigators to observe police officers who are being questioned by superiors after critical incidents (police operations that has resulted in a death or serious injury), but noted in a report released on Monday afternoon that these powers are treated as “illusory.”
“In every critical incident investigation to date, involved police officers have refused to consent to the commission investigator being present or to remotely observe their interviews,” the report read, per Guardian Australia.
“This appears to be a consistent and state-wide position taken by police officers involved in critical incidents. The power to observe interviews of involved officers in critical incident investigations … appears to be an illusory power.”
To reiterate: the police have refused an investigator’s presence in every single critical incident to date.
The LECC received more than 4,700 complaints in the 12 months before June 2023, and during that time conducted 56 investigations and monitored 131 critical incidents.
The report said that the LECC couldn’t actually say why investigators were refused access, since “the act does not require that a reason be provided for refusal”. Probably something to consider, perhaps?
The report also revealed that over the past year, it investigated 84 claims of serious officer misconduct, and monitored another 45. From those, 32 involved someone having died.
It comes off the back of several cases of alleged misconduct in recent months involving NSW Police.
Earlier this month, government data revealed NSW Police officers have been subjected girls as young as 12 years old (potentially still in primary school) to “extremely invasive” and “traumatic” strip searches. The report found that strip searches of girls under the age of 17 years old have jumped 30 per cent between 2021-2022 and 2022-2023, despite experts suggesting strip searches result in nothing being found 60 per cent of the time.
In September, police shot Krista Katch with a taser, and she died after the injury. Her family said in a statement that they had “told the police in no uncertain terms that she was not well that day and she needed medical help”.
Another report in July found that NSW Police use force against Aboriginal people at vastly disproportionate rates. In 2021-2022, there were 13,161 instances of force used against First Nations people out of a total of 28,826. Meaning 45 per cent of incidents where force was used, it was against an Indigenous person — despite the fact that they make up only 3.4 per cent of Australia’s population.
That same month, NSW Police shot dead Jesse Deacon in Sydney, who was suffering from mental health issues. In an extremely tragic turn of events, the police had been called in the first place to perform a wellness check after the man’s neighbours reported concerns for his life.
In June, Steve Pampalian was shot dead by police. The police’s account of the instances before he died have been disputed. Police also claimed he had a criminal history — which his family says is false.
In May, NSW Police officers came under intense public scrutiny after a cop allegedly tasered Clare Nowland, a 95-year-old dementia patient who was 5’2″ tall and weighed just 43kg, twice. She died shortly after, and an officer was charged with recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault.
A NSW Police officer was also publicly slammed after he posed in a photo with a man who wore a t-shirt that had a homophobic slur written on it.
All of these incidents happened this year alone. And this is just NSW Police — if we wanted to discuss alleged misconduct from forces across Australia, the list would be even longer.