Half of Victoria’s police officers worry they’ll be out of a job or face “personal repercussions” if they dob in corruption, new research shows.
Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) said a survey of 1200 officers and employees showed only 38 per cent thought meaningful action would be taken if they reported corruption and only 20 per cent felt they would be protected from victimisation.
IBAC head Alistair Maclean said the results were concerning, given that sworn police officers have taken an oath to uphold the law and are legally obliged to report corruption and misconduct.
“Police can never turn a blind eye to corruption or misconduct,” Mr Maclean said.
“Unfortunately, several IBAC investigations have exposed instances of police misconduct.
This research shows there is a clear opportunity for Victoria Police to improve the level of confidence its employees have to report suspected misconduct, and to ensure they know about the protections available for those who report.”
In the survey, officers said they had asked themselves if reporting corruption would be career ending.
“There is fear of retribution. Whilst Victoria Police is a large employer, it is also very small,” one said.
“I have come across corruption and reported it. I was ostracised and bullied for doing so,” another reported.
Others had positive responses, with one writing: “I am very confident that if I were ever to become aware of any corruption and reported t, I would be supported and appropriate action/s would be taken.”
Survey respondents reported they are confident they can identify corrupt behaviours and that there is a “strong personal commitment to the values of integrity and honesty”.
Most agreed the force shares these values.
Respondents believed there were opportunities for corruption and misconduct to occur, including conflict of interest, abuse of discretion, perverting the course of justice and bribery.
The most common corruption identified was misuse of confidential information.
Victoria Police assistant commissioner Stephen Leane said tackling corruption was a cultural battle.
“In my previous life I was the assistant commissioner for professional standards and I think whistleblowing and corruption is a challenge right across our communities,” he said.
“We’ve been on a campaign of improving the culture for decades.”
The force says it encourages members to report questionable behaviour and offers protection to those who do.
“We acknowledge that some employees have responded with concern of the personal cost or repercussions of reporting corrupt behaviours,” it said in a statement.
“Victoria Police will continue to respond appropriately to reported corruption or misconduct and protect our people from detrimental action.”
Police Minister Lisa Neville said Victoria Police has done a lot of work to support a culture of high ethical standards.
“If anyone within Victoria Police witnesses corrupt or concerning behaviour, they should come forward. And they will receive protection and support within the organisation,” she said in a statement.