Women in uniform: CCC says police academy cheated to get more female recruits

The Crime and Corruption Commission has initiated disciplinary action against staff in the Queensland Police Service recruiting section over a reverse discrimination scandal.

May 12, 2021, updated May 12, 2021
New constables are sworn into service in this 2020 photo.  (Photo: Queensland Police News)

New constables are sworn into service in this 2020 photo. (Photo: Queensland Police News)

In a report tabled in State Parliament today, the CCC outlined how a 50 per cent gender equity target was miscommunicated to staff who then actively discriminated against would-be male recruits in an effort to succeed.

The CCC held closed-door hearings and took statements to examine recruitment practices between December 2015 and October 2018. It found women were selected in preference to men who had performed to a higher standard across entry assessments.

According to the CCC, around 2000 men were discriminated against over an 18-month period, putting a cloud over approximately 200 women who joined the force ahead of “more meritorious male applicants”. Six women were accepted into the academy despite not meeting the required standards.

At the CCC’s direction, the QPS has suspended two staff as part of an internal disciplinary process, and confirmed another identified as part of the investigation has since left the service.

The Crime and Corruption Commission could not determine whether this letter from then commissioner Ian Stewart was a direction or simply advice on an aspirational target.

CCC chairman Alan MacSporran said the investigation should serve as a broader warning to the government to avoid breaking the rules to meet such targets.

“While admirable in its intention, the strategy was a challenging one for the QPS within the realities of their recruiting environment and there was ambiguity about whether the then Commissioner (Ian Stewart) had directed staff to ensure 50 per cent of recruits were female, or whether this was an ‘aspirational’ target with a recognition that it may not be met,” MacSporran said in a statement.

“The evidence clearly shows that staff and management in the QPS Recruiting Section knew that discriminatory practices were used to achieve the 50 per cent female recruitment target.

“The evidence supports the conclusion that the managers and staff of the QPS Recruiting Section provided misleading and deceptive information and answers on a number of occasions to a variety of audiences, including to the QPS executives over an extended period.

“Among the executive, no one appears to have given any serious thought to — or asked any critical questions about — a strategy that would affect the whole organisation for years to come.”

Some staff involved claimed they were following a direction from the then commissioner that made their actions lawful. The CCC found that “those in higher positions within the QPS hierarchy thought the letter stated an aspirational target, while those lower in ranks thought it to be a direction and something that must be achieved”.

The CCC also found evidence that the Police Minister, Mark Ryan, was frequently misled in briefing notes.

In a submission to the CCC, Stewart’s lawyer denied any conspiracy to orchestrate or overlook wrong-doing by staff.

“My client does accept that there can be learnings from the policy and its implementation but does not accept there was a failure in leadership nor did he at any time allow an unacceptable risk to the QPS, the applicants or the community,” the lawyer wrote.

“As the Commissioner of Police, creating aspirational goals for staff to achieve lawfully, is fundamental to the optimal performance of a contemporary law enforcement organisation that prides itself on always striving for world’s best practise. Accepting that sometimes those aspirations are not achieved is a logical necessity. However, this should never be a reason to stop striving.”

Stewart’s lawyer said it was also unfair to suggest 200 women recruits were under a cloud without assessing their performance as police officers.

MacSporran and current Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, the first woman to hold the role, are due to address the media this afternoon.

In a statement, Carroll said the alleged conduct was “completely disappointing” and she wanted to reassure the public that it did not reflect QPS standards. She has ordered a review of recruitment practices to improve transparency and prevent any recurrence.

Carroll said that while the CCC report identified six women who did not meet the initial minimum standards to enter the academy, each graduated with the require standards to become a police officer.


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