Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll has confirmed that she initially rejected a request to testify in a state investigation into police culture and domestic violence.
WARNING: This story contains foul language that some readers may find offensive.
Most important points:
- An additional meeting day has been set for Commissioner Carroll to testify for the investigation
- The commissioner says she agreed to go after being asked if she needed a subpoena
- Commissioner Carroll acknowledged that staffing levels for the Police Domestic Violence Command “didn’t look good”
Public hearings before the Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police (QPS) responses to domestic and family violence were set to conclude on Tuesday. But earlier this week, the investigation confirmed that the commissioner would testify at an additional meeting today.
During the hearing, counsel assisting Ruth O’Gorman asked Commissioner Carroll to confirm that the Commission contacted her on August 4 through her attorneys and asked to testify, but she declined.
“That’s right,” said Commissioner Carroll.
Ms O’Gorman told the hearing that the committee contacted Commissioner Carroll again on Aug. 11, telling her that her presence was “mandatory” and asking if she needed a subpoena.
“I was happy to go,” Commissioner Carroll replied.
The Commission of Inquiry, led by Judge Deborah Richards, examines cultural issues within the QPS, as well as its ability, capacity and structure to respond to domestic and family violence (DFV).
Ms O’Gorman questioned Commissioner Carroll about decisions regarding resources and funding for the DFV and the Vulnerable Persons Command, which was set up in February last year following the murder of Doreen Langham on the Gold Coast.
“Internally and externally it was to really send a statement about its importance [responding to DFV]’ said Commissioner Carroll.
She said she was not seeking additional state funding to bolster the command’s capacity.
“It was funded with existing resources… the budget pressure was pretty extraordinary… last year I went well over what the budget requirement was.”
Commissioner Carroll was asked about staffing levels within the DFV and the Vulnerable Persons Command and admitted they were “inadequate”.
The investigation found that 38 permanent positions were assigned to QPS media and PR, but only 27 positions were assigned to the DFV and the Vulnerable Persons Command.
Ms O’Gorman asked Commissioner Carroll: “Do you think this sends an appropriate signal to the Queensland community about the seriousness with which the organization is pursuing strategic responses to domestic and family violence?”
Commissioner Carroll replied: “It doesn’t look good for the public to see that, that’s right.”
Commissioner Carroll said her focus was on increasing resources on the front lines.
“I think the community would know where to respond to domestic violence first, actually with our emergency responders and my priority was to put as many boots — so to speak — on the ground,” she said.
“And when the numbers become available, assign them to other priority areas.
“We Can Do Better” [with resourcing] but it’s an evolution,” she said.
Commissioner Carroll acknowledged evidence heard during the investigation and suggested there was a “widespread culture of misogyny, sexism and racism within the QPS”.
However, she said she “didn’t accept” that there were “entrenched or deep-seated cultural issues.”
“I accept that there are people in the organization who are not acting as expected and where we identify this, we take action,” she said.
Commissioner Carroll was also questioned about the results of a survey of Queensland police officers carried out for the investigation.
Up to 40 percent of respondents disagreed that senior officers were sending a positive message about the importance of eliminating domestic violence.
“I am in a way surprised and disappointed to see that,” said Commissioner Carroll.
“That figure is alarming because we’ve done an incredible amount of work at a high level… to prioritize this and make sure it’s communicated to our troops.”
Research reveals problems with police culture
More than 75 witnesses testified at hearings in Brisbane and regional Queensland, including serving and retired officers, domestic and family violence service providers, experts, First Nations peoples and victim survivors.
The investigation heard serious allegations of misogynistic behavior, policy and procedural errors, misidentification of victims and perpetrators, and police misconduct.
A QPS officer burst into tears when he heard detailed male colleagues often making derogatory comments about female survivors, such as “domestic violence is just foreplay” and “she’s too ugly to be raped.”
The investigation also learned that the police avoided or did not properly investigate domestic violence incidents, where “unconscious bias” was a major problem.
It was told of a case where a police officer allegedly failed to investigate the suspicious death of a DV victim because she and her husband were “a couple of assholes living in a sh*t area in a sh*t house”.
Several witnesses, including Queensland’s top officer in charge of DFV investigations, Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd, said the investigating officers were “DV fatigued” and reported high levels of burnout and mental health problems as they exceeded 40 percent of their time responding to DFV is important.
During the public hearings, a common theme was the need for thorough and ongoing personal training of the police.
In a statement, a QPS spokesperson said the Ethical Standards Command has “initiated an internal investigation into specific allegations raised as part of the investigation that have not been previously registered.”
“Officials are rightly expected to meet a high level of service and standards of conduct.
“We are committed to strengthening and improving our response to DFV cases to ensure the service supports all victims and holds perpetrators accountable,” the spokesperson said.
The research was a major recommendation from the Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce, which found that cultural issues “seem widespread” within the QPS.
It is due to issue its final report in October.