Police Royal Commission

A royal commission is conducted into a public service when the community and the government begin to mistrust the way that service is being run. A royal commission was conducted into the Western Australian Police Service in an attempt to find any internal problems and then table a way of rectifying these problems. This assignment will discuss the implications of this royal commission, comparing these results to those of the earlier royal commissions done on the New South Wales and Queensland police services.

Furthermore this paper will outline what led to these implications, what effect they will have on the way the police service is run in Western Australia and how these results will change the structure and function of the Western Australian police service. A royal commission into a police service is mainly conducted as a means of determining if there has been any corrupt or criminal conduct by any officer over the time period being investigated. Previous royal commissions conducted in other states revealed a consistent pattern of corrupt and criminal officers, particularly detectives.

Human nature being what it is there is no reason to presume that the position in Western Australia over that period has been any different (Wood, 1997). The Fitzgerald commission in Queensland, the Wood commission in New South Wales and other inquiries into police services throughout the world have concluded that extensive corruption has taken place by officers who were regularly involved with high profile crimes like money laundering or drug dealing.

The evidence obtained by this royal commission has revealed the existence of similar practices by officers in the Western Australian Police Service since 1985 (Fitzgerald, 1989). This royal commission was established because of persistent public concern over several controversial outcomes of investigations by the Police and a rising public doubt over the integrity of the police service in this state. Therefore the approach of the commission has been multifaceted.

The initial response of the commission was that the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) was ineffective as it lacked the necessary powers needed to combat corruption and needed to be replaced. Since that was tabled the government has commenced a new anti corruption watchdog called the corruption and crime commission (Kennedy, 2004). The purpose of this royal commission was not to single out individual officers as this practice would be both time consuming and non-productive, the commission's main aim was to establish the facts and build a basis for reform.

Through the findings of the royal commission the police commissioner could then have formal disciplinary hearings and criminal charges laid on the officers named by the commission (Kennedy, 2004). The Western Australian police service does not compare favourably on a statistical comparison with the other states police services on issues of civilian support, gender equality, public confidence and other performance indicators. The consistently low ratings show that the police service in this state lags behind others in the areas of management standards and reform processes.

This state has the lowest number of serving female police officers in the country, but with a positive change in the culture within the community this problem will improve significantly over time (Kennedy, 2004). This royal commission has drawn on the results of the Wood recommendations to the New South Wales police service. As it would appear that the Wood royal Commission has set a benchmark for management and corruption prevention. This information has been invaluable to the results of this commission (Wood, 1997).

In all of its investigations the royal commission received evidence that a large majority of internal investigations were unsatisfactory. Since then improvements have been implemented in the way internal investigations are conducted, although there is still documented evidence of police officers who have received a large number of complaints but still work in the police service. The Wood inquiry in New South Wales was the first such inquiry that focused directly on police corruption. Although there had been commissions before Wood's this was the first to solely investigate police for criminal conduct and corruption.

This inquiry shows that the task of the Western Australian police service is no longer one of endeavouring to identify the causes of corruption and the theory of corruption prevention, but one of acknowledging the reality of the risk and devising a program of change management to better ensure the theory of corruption prevention becomes a fact (Wood, 1997). A number of recent inquiries have been conducted in recent years both in Australia and overseas. The conclusion reached was that there was consistent criminal and corrupt conduct within the police service.

The inquiries have uniformly identified the causes of corruption and have settled the principles by which police services can reform in order to form acceptable standards of corruption resistance (Kennedy, 2004). In Australia apart from the inquiries that are directly focused on corruption the police services have been involved in other investigations which were not directed at corruption but at the way the service was being managed and if procedures were being adhered to. These inquiries which differ from the current royal commission still resulted in reforms and improvement in the delivery of policing services (Kennedy, 2004).

The Fitzgerald inquiry is considered to be the beginning of inquiries into modern policing because since then in Western Australia and the rest of Australia a continual sequence of investigations has followed. The police service has been investigated more thoroughly than other community service due to the amount of power the community gives the police, in turn the police must be seen to using this power properly (Fitzgerald, 1989). The future of the Western Australian police service is encouraging as signs of willingness to perform and succeed in changing the services image are evident among officers.

This commission states that leadership will be critical as the police service attempts to adhere to the recommendations contained in the commissioner's report (Kennedy, 2004). The report discussed the lack of women officers in the Western Australian police service as a rather large problem. This being the case the results tabled showed that the police service was not the only job where gender bias was a problem. According to the report, attracting more women to the service is something that will take a lot of time and effort.

This change will have to come from the top and although the commissioner is promoting gender equality in the police a complete solution has not been established (Kennedy, 2004). The nature of changes to police methodologies should open up more career opportunities in the police for women. The role and function of the police in society has moved away from the traditional having a police officer on the beat, because as crime and criminals become more sophisticated so do the police who are trying to prevent these crimes.

This has implications for the recruitment and training process for the female officer (Kennedy, 2004). The requirement for police organisations to provide gender equality is apparent in terms of the potential benefits for the organisation. The police service acknowledges this and has put in place strategies that can best position the agency to satisfy gender equality requirements. There is a limit to the amount that the police service can improve unless there is significant broader cultural change within society (Kennedy, 2004).