Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission has delivered a stinging rebuke to the Queensland Police Service over the way it handled efforts to increase the number of female officers in the force during 2016 and 2017.
In a report tabled in the State Parliament yesterday (Wednesday), the commission said the practices being used at the time were “hidden by misleading information”, “spin” and that senior executives had “blindly accepted the spin”.
The report, titled ‘Investigation Arista: A report concerning the investigation into the Queensland Police Service’s 50/50 gender equity recruitment strategy’ details how what started as a nobly intended strategy was poorly communicated to frontline staff who were tasked with its implementation, and how discriminatory practices were implemented to achieve the goal.
“Discriminatory practices saw different standards applied to female and male applicants, with females selected in preference to male applicants who had performed to a higher standard across entry assessments,” the commission – known as the CCC – said in its report.
“The investigation shows around 2,000 male applicants were subject to discriminatory assessment practices which prevented them from progressing through the recruitment process over approximately an 18-month period from July 2016 to the end of 2017.”
Two hundred more male applicants would have succeeded
It added: “If the various discriminatory practices had not been implemented, the CCC estimates approximately 200 more meritorious male applicants would have been successful in their attempt to join the Queensland Police Service.”
According to the CCC’s report, the investigation also revealed a recurring pattern of misleading, deceptive and false reporting practices in relation to recruitment.
The commission noted that it had “obtained significant evidence that objectively shows some staff members in the Queensland Police Service Recruiting Section consistently used misleading and vague statements as well as deficient, inaccurate, misleading and false reporting to a range of people over an extended period of time”.
The CCC concluded there was insufficient evidence to support criminal action against any person arising out of this investigation.
But it has decided there is sufficient evidence to support taking disciplinary action against some of the people identified during the investigation.
Broader application to the entire Queensland public sector
CCC Chairperson, Alan MacSporran QC, said while the investigation focused on how the QPS 50/50 recruitment strategy was implemented, the lessons from this investigation have broader application to the entire Queensland public sector.
“This report is a lesson in organisational culture and corruption risks. It is about how messages from the executive leadership are communicated, understood, acted and reported on within an agency,” he said.
“It is also about how staff may know that there is something wrong, but have become accustomed to following their leader’s instructions rather than asking uncomfortable questions.
“Such a culture clearly opens up an organisation to risk, particularly the risk of corruption,” MacSporran warned.