Female Cops Allege Horrific Workplace Sexual Harassment And Misogyny In Queensland Police Force

One submission claimed there were "references by male police officers to an area where female detectives sat as “c*nt corner".

queensland police

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Unpublished submissions to a state inquiry into problems with Queensland police culture have detailed alleged sexual harassment, misogynistic behaviour, and issues with the handling of domestic violence situations, according to a new report from The Guardian.

Earlier this year, the Queensland Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce recommended an inquiry into the Queensland Police Service (QPS) be undertaken after it found “widespread culture issues”, specifically relating to domestic and family violence. 

The $3.4 million inquiry was announced back in May, with Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk asserting it would “ensure all women feel confident they’re being listened to

“I want to acknowledge the dedicated work of all officers in the Queensland Police Service who help women and children escape violence every day. We know this increasingly makes up a large portion of their workload,” said Palaszczuk.

“However, the issues raised by survivors with the Taskforce require further investigation to ensure all women feel confident they’re being listened to.”

In addition to the fact that domestic violence has more than doubled in the state in the last decade, there is a concerning increase in the amount of Queensland Police officers that stand accused of domestic violence.

Queensland Police Slammed In Domestic Violence Response Report

The Women’s Safety and Justice Taskforce recommended an inquiry into Queensland Police off the back of the Hear Her Voice report, which outlined the concerns from victims who claim they had unsatisfactory responses when they sought help for domestic violence from police officers.

“Hundreds of victims have told the Taskforce — in submissions and at almost every consultation we undertook — that they were not believed, their experiences were minimised or they were even turned away by police officers when seeking help to keep themselves safe from domestic violence and hold the perpetrators accountable,” said Chair of the Taskforce Margaret McMurdo. “Victims reported vast inconsistencies in the response they received from the police, at times feeling supported only to be later let down by an unhelpful response to their need for safety.”

According to Chief Superintendent Virginal Nelson of the Queensland Ethical Standards Command, there has been a “concerning increase” in the number of domestic violence complaints against members of the Queensland Police.

In 2020, 23 officers were accused, with only two being actually charged, and an additional 29 were accused in 2021 — only six of which were charged. However, it’s worth noting that this figure only represents those who made official complaints.

According to Queensland Women’s Legal Service director Julie Sarkozi, victims are generally less likely to report domestic violence by police because they’re experiencing “coercive control on steroids”.

“It’s like they’re experiencing coercive control on steroids,” Sarkozi told the ABC. “Coercive control is a set of behaviours designed to intimidate, terrify and isolate someone. But if you’ve got the resources of the state to leverage in order to do that … you can say to someone, ‘It doesn’t matter where you go, I’ll find you. I’ve got police stations all over this state that can locate you and tell me where you are, and who will believe me, because I have the credibility of this uniform’.”

There’s A Lack Of Domestic Violence Training

According to the inquest into the horrific murder of Hannah Clarke, a lack of adequate domestic violence training for Queensland Police is a huge problem in the state.

The inquest, which was closed by deputy state coroner Jane Bentley last week, concluded that while further action from police would’ve done very little to stop her killer from “executing his murderous plans”, police failed to recognise the “extreme risk” to her safety.

“He was not charged and put on bail for the breach of the domestic violence order and the assault occasioning bodily harm,” said Bentley, noting that the police “missed opportunities” to hold her killer accountable.

Additionally, the inquest found that police officers in the state have not received enough training to adequately handle domestic violence cases. “There has been inadequate training provided to police officers considering that DV accounts for up to half of all their work,” added Bentley.

The claims of inadequate training are supported by unpublished submissions to the taskforce’s current inquiry seen by The Guardian, which allege police doubt victims and avoid handling domestic violence cases.

According to The Guardian report, one male officer questioned whether a victim was raped, or simply wanted a “free pap smear”, while others allegedly tried to deter women from making complaints by showing “unappealing if not terrifying” court footage of similar cases.

Other allegations include officers reportedly trying to convince domestic violence victims they were mentally ill and offering unwanted anti-abortion information to victims.

In some cases, officers have even been accused of performing “diversionary tasks” to avoid attending urgent domestic violence calls.

Submissions Into The Inquiry Have Also Found Huge Cultural Issues Within The Force

In addition to damning allegations regarding the handling of domestic violence cases, submissions seen by The Guardian paint a grim picture of the internal working environment for women in the QPS.

Anonymous sources told The Guardian that misogyny and sexual harassment run rife within the Queensland Police Force, with female officers not being valued, heard or having equal access to opportunities. Submissions provided to also detailed allegations, including:

  • A male officer making comments about a female investigator that she was “a good operator until her arse got fat” and other detectives being judged based on their appearance
  • Male officers claiming a new inclusion and diversity initiative encouraging anonymous complaints had been set up “just because you chicks don’t like getting grabbed on the arse anymore.”
  • A male commissioned officer complaining about a female subordinate being on leave suffering post-natal depression, saying “not only do I have to put up with having women in my office I have to manage this crap.”

One submission also alleged that male police officers referred to an area where female detectives work as the “cunt corner.”

Women working in the QPS also allege they have been judged on their appearance and also witnessed promotion panels “ignoring or making derogatory comments about female applications.”

While additional training may help police handle domestic violence callouts in a more professional manner, training will do very little to fix the allegations of systemic sexual harassment and misogyny in the force.

Queensland Police Claim They’re Committed To Supporting Victims

Queensland Police told The Guardian that the force is committed to supporting victims but is not in a place to comment on submissions being made to the inquiry at this time. “The QPS understands the COI [commission of inquiry] will receive various submissions detailing experiences with officers and we welcome the opportunity to learn and improve from these contributions wherever we can,” a spokesperson told The Guardian. “We are encouraging and supporting current and former QPS officers in contributing to the COI.

“As the submissions are being made directly to the COI, the QPS is not in a position to comment on specific matters raised at this time.”

Junkee has reached out to the Queensland Police Service for comment.