Wide-ranging probe of police practice needed

THE EDITOR: The Coalition Against Domestic Violence welcomes the probe of the Police Complaints Authority into the conduct of the Police Service in relation to the reports of violence made by Abigail Chapman at the La Brea Police Station. And we also note the suspension of three police officers pending an investigation into their response to the report made by Chapman.

These are important steps towards accountability and justice for the families and victims of the La Brea massacre. However, we also recommend that this inquiry includes all domestic murders in the recent past. Several of these murders were also preceded by reports to the police and/or applications for protection orders.

Media reports suggest that police officers in La Brea asked Chapman to get a medical certificate, presumably as an input into their investigation of her complaint. It would appear that pending this medical certificate, no immediate action was taken. If this is the case, this is precisely the complaint we hear from some domestic violence victims who do not understand why the police do not arrest, especially if they are obviously injured and/or if they have been threatened with a violent crime.

We call on the Police Complaints Authority and the Commissioner of Police to widen the scope of their investigations so that the outcomes will be the basis for ensuring a just, fair and effective response by State agencies for victims and perpetrators.

We consider that the investigations must be comprehensive and go beyond looking only into the conduct of individual officers. The investigations should give guidance on whether we need to move towards mandatory arrests and charging of people who commit crimes in the domestic setting and whether we should expand police powers to allow them to grant emergency protection orders. The investigation should also lead to clear protocols to police on what is required in assisting victims of domestic violence.

We also call for a whole-of-Government review of how domestic violence is addressed. This should be done immediately as an input into the finalisation of the national strategy to end gender-based violence and sexual assaults.

The coalition’s members stand ready to support this wider investigation, including through sharing our information and analysis gained from over 30 years of supporting victims of domestic violence.

Unsafe families lead to insecure communities.



"Wide-ranging probe of police practice needed"

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