Victoria’s police chief apologises to ‘all women’ following claims of sexual harassment within the force

The apology comes after a conduct audit found a police taskforce tackling predatory behaviours within the force had opened 184 cases in the last 18 months.

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“I again formally apologise to all women in Victoria Police who have or are continuing to experience harm, sexual harrassment or other discrimination in the workforce,” Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said.

The apology came as the Equal Opportunity and Human Right Commissioner handed down findings into the progress made across the 19,000 strong workforce in the last 18 months.

An audit of conduct within Victoria’s police force found:

Up to 100 cases of alleged sexual discrimination and harassment within the ranks of the organisation were still under investigation, the victims were predominately women and LGBTI people. The offences range from disciplinary action to rape.Nine officers have been charged leading to four convictions. Another four cases were still before the courts and one officer had been acquitted.26 officers had left the force since 2015 – of these three were sacked while others resigned or took pensions while under investigation.17 officers had opted to leave the force rather than face disciplinary hearings.Taskforce Salus, which is investigating predatory behaviour by police officers, has opened 184 investigations since December 2015.About 240 incidents have been investigated since January 2015, most involving male perpetrators.

“Women continue to face harassment discrimination and this impacts not just the women who suffer it or their families their colleagues but the organisation as a whole,” Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Commissioner Kristen Hilton said.

Commissioner Hilton did note that progress had been made within the force since 2015.

“The last 18-months of work demonstrates a willingness, a proper endeavour to change structure, policies and attitudes,” she said.

The Victoria Police audit lists 20 recommendations including better officer training and improved workplace flexibility.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton has apologised to the force following the audit findings. SBS News

Senior leaders within the force are also to be held accountable across a broad range of behaviours, including; “lower level” sexism, discriminatory attitudes and disrespectful behaviours.

Of the 184 incidents investigated by police Taskforce Salus, at least 80 harassment investigations were ongoing.

These ranged from discriminatory behaviour to sexual assault and rape allegations.

Despite the apology and a clear indication that there is a lot more work to do, the police commissioner is optimistic that the force can change and improve their reputation.

“We’ve put our hand up we’re seeking the best advice as to how we can get better and there’s very few organisations that can say that,” he said.

Victoria Police will undergo a third audit next year. 

For more information on the findings click here.

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