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Police, Fire and Emergency Management – Abacus

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 9 June 2022

Tags: Police

Dr WOODRUFF - I have some questions in relation to the Integrity Commission's 21 November review of the Tasmania Police Abacus policy. I note overall that the review was complimentary of the system and that's very positive. There are a couple of matters in the report that I'd like to get some more details on.

For the people who aren't aware of Abacus, it started in March 2018 and it's about a comprehensive structure for police accountability designed around the reality that police are required to make discretionary decisions about rules and laws and how they apply them daily. It's about ensuring there is accountability for decisions that are made.

My question is, the report notes that the time frames to deal with complaints - which are to be 14 days for level 1 matters; 70 days for level 2 matters; and 6 months for level 3 matters - are counted from the date of registration of the matter, not the date that the matter was received. The Integrity Commission also notes that not all matters are registered in a timely manner.

This could appear to be loophole in the key performance indicator that provides some wriggle room in terms of reporting time frames. Can you please tell me what the rationale is for it to be from registration not receipt?

Mrs PETRUSMA - I will allow the commissioner to answer that question more fully. The Integrity Commission in its formal review of Abacus did say that timeliness in managing matters has continued to improve and that in nearly all cases there was adequate and appropriate contact with police officers and complainants, and that Tasmania Police adequately and appropriately investigated nearly all aspects of files in most cases. Findings and outcomes were adequate and appropriate. I will allow the commissioner to add further comments.

Comm HINE - Former deputy commissioner Tilyard oversaw the review of Abacus and now it comes under Deputy Commissioner Adams and I will hand over to her in a minute. It was a very big piece of work to make sure that we are being open and transparent in dealing with these issues in an appropriate way. It was good that the Integrity Commission reviewed it and we did it in conjunction with them. In relation to that register and receipt, sometimes that can be complex when dealing with those people who come forward. I will get the Deputy Commissioner to expand on those issues because that office has the responsibility for professional standards.

Dep Comm ADAMS - We take the review from the Integrity Commission, we welcome that, and it is part of us ensuring that we have robust and accountable processes in place in how we manage our complaints. The receipt and registering, we have had conversations and we are more than open to the Integrity Commission's recommendation in relation into how we actually register the complaints.

One of the issues, if a complaint is actually registered but it relates to behaviour two to three years ago it may not be captured in our reporting and recognise the work and the effort of the investigation in that current year. That is one of the reasons that we have maintained a registered complaint and numbers as opposed to when they were actually received.

As I said, notwithstanding the fact that the Integrity Commission want us to look at that, we are open to working with them to ensure there is transparency regarding the times that complaints come in and if there needs to be a change we are more than happy to review it.

In relation to the time frames that you have given for the level 3 complaints allowing the six-month time frame, that is an important period of time because a number of those matters actually relate to criminal misconduct and that involves the DPP. We like to have independence in our decision-making regarding any charges or actions that we might take against a police officer if it involves criminal misconduct. We have a very good working relationship with the Director of Public Prosecutions where our files are reviewed by him and he provides independent advice in regard to whether there is charging or not. We need to ensure that we have an appropriate time period for that review process to be undertaken. Also, these investigations are more complex than the level 1s and the level 2s.

Dr WOODRUFF - What is the average time between, average and maybe outliers, between a received and a registered complaint? Are we talking hours, days, weeks, months?

Dep Comm ADAMS - Some can be within 24 hours but we have some where a complainant will come forward and want to report behaviour from two years prior. There are some challenges in relation to that. We do have historic complaints against police that we investigate. That is the nuance around a registered complaint compared to when the actual behaviour actually occurred.

Dr WOODRUFF - Sorry, to misunderstand. I thought a received complaint would be, even though an event might have happened two years prior, it was received when the person made the complaint despite the fact the event might have been in the past. The date of receipt is the date that you first have the complaint and then when you register it is a second process.

Dep Comm ADAMS - No, the way in which we manage it is the same. If it is received on a particular day that is the date that it is registered.

Dr WOODRUFF - What is the difference between registration and receipt then in the way that the Integrity Commission is talking about it?

Dep Comm ADAMS - As I understand it, it is more about when the behaviour or the conduct occurred.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. Can you talk about the fact that none of the assessed level 1 complaints were dealt with within14 days? That was the time frame they were meant to be dealt with and three of them took 18 to 24 days but two of them took 50 to 73 days. Can you explain what you are doing to improve those investigation times? What was the situation with those very long outstanding ones?

Dep Comm ADAMS - I cannot talk specifically about the matters that are referred to in the report. I can make some general comments. The level 1 matters are matters that are dealt with by a managerial resolution and they can relate to customer service related issues where a complaint may be made and a complainant is expecting to be provided feedback or a resolution within a certain period of time and we may not have met the standards or expectations of the complainant.

In some of those instances, delays have occurred from not being able to progress and speak to the officers involved due to leave or a number of factors. We pride ourselves on being responsive in the way in which we manage our complaints. We promote transparency and accountability and we are very responsive to the Integrity Commission's advice and observations of the way in which we manage our complaints. We have taken on board the feedback. We have audit processes in place to regularly check and monitor whether we are adhering to those standards. As I said, we have accepted the recommendations from the Integrity Commission.