Changing the “canteen culture” in the Queensland Police Service that fails to condemn racist, homophobic and sexist comments will take money and commitment, an inquiry has been told.
As the commission of inquiry into the Queensland Police responses to domestic and family violence wraps up the fourth week of evidence, an international social justice campaigner has voiced reservations about what will ultimately be achieved.
Dr David Singh has worked on several high-profile racial justice campaigns, including a brutal UK murder that captured international headlines.
Stephen Lawrence was just 18 when he was stabbed to death in southeast London by a gang of white youths in an unprovoked attack in 1993.
Charges against five white youths were dropped due to “lack of evidence” and it would be almost two decades before two of his killers were finally brought to justice.
The crime and the investigation and inquiry that followed exposed the institutional racism of London’s Metropolitan Police.
However, Dr Singh said despite inquiries and reviews that followed, there had been negligible impact
“We’ve had certainly here in Queensland (Police) Facebook groups where racist, homophobic and sexist comments are traded freely without censure,” Dr Singh said.
“There is a particular canteen culture where this training simply doesn’t permeate more or kind of advance police understanding in any sustained way.
“I would question the value of training overall, having been personally involved in co-designing training for the largest police force in the world.”
Dr Singh feared any initiatives would be met with a mixed response by police and without a long-term commitment to funding change and training, a cultural shift could be difficult to sustain.
“Inquiries, such as this, and many others, often introduce at their conclusion a raft of recommendations,” Dr Singh stated.
“They often are unevenly applied and implemented, and those that are implemented rarely exist beyond two or three years because there’s not been sustainable funding for their continuance.
“Initiatives such as training that encompass race and gender are normally the first to go in any cost-cutting exercise, they are rarely ring-fenced in any kind of austerity push on the part of local councils and NGO sectors.”
Assistant commissioner Cheryl Scanlon of the Ethical Standards Command, the unit charged with police disciplinary matters, was questioned about serving officers accused of domestic violence.
The senior officer was forced to concede that one servicing officer with an extensive history of domestic violence had been appointed to train junior officers.
While officer B admitted to using police restraint techniques on his wife during an argument, police instead took out a protection order against his wife.
The same officer also repeatedly used internal police systems to access information about his wife after the couple separated. He also did this with previous partners.
The officer tracked her vehicles and tried to locate her when she and her children were staying in a domestic violence shelter.
Convicted of computer hacking in 2020, officer B was also disciplined for accessing pornography while on shift and continues to serve as a police officer.
“It was after this disciplinary action for the domestic and family violence matters that he was transferred to another position. His role that he was transferred to at that point in time is as a sergeant acting as a district education training officer,” the hearing was told.
Judge Deborah Richards is heading the independent commission created in response to Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce recommendations.
The inquiry moved to Mt Isa for week five with the commission to report to the Queensland government by October 4.