The NSW Police Force is planning a sweeping overhaul of the way it manages and investigates domestic and family violence, after a report by the police watchdog found “significant gaps” in the force’s conduct.
The latest report by the NSW Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (LECC), released on Wednesday, investigates 222 complaints linked to police responses to domestic and family violence incidents made over a four-year period from July 2017 to July 2021.
Of those, 70 matters related to the involvement in incidents of 60 police officers, which resulted in 17 of them being charged with offences.
Of the 60 involved, 11 had been previously investigated for domestic and family violence – and, in some cases, more than once.
The Chief Commissioner of the LECC, Peter Johnson, said the “most concerning” issues the Commission saw were a failure by police to make a record of the reported incident, police not taking witness statements, and police not providing support to victims.
“Domestic and family violence is about 40 per cent of the work of the NSW Police Force,” Johnson said.
“Police attend 180,000 domestic and family violence incidents in NSW each year or about 500 incidents every day,” he said.
The review also found police training in this area was inadequate, and recommended providing mandatory training to all general duties officers on how to better respond to domestic and family violence.
This is one of 13 recommendations made in the report, with the aim of strengthening police procedures and the way NSW Police investigates complaints. The recommendations also included the need to improve record keeping practices about the removal of firearms, and making clear records every time police respond to a domestic or family violence incident.
The LECC said most of the investigations into officers revealed poor record keeping about the removal of firearms.
The Commission’s review also covered the police handling of conflict-of-interest issues. “We saw problems with the way in which police managed conflicts of interest when another police officer was said to be involved in the domestic or family violence,” Johnson said.
The NSW Police Force has met with the LECC to discuss the report and outlined significant reform which is to be undertaken in domestic and family violence prevention and response.
Police also responded directly to the LECC on the recommendations and suggestions which have been published throughout the report.
“The NSW Police Force is committed to continually improving the way we respond to and prevent domestic and family violence,” a NSW Police spokesperson said.
“In 2022, NSW Police established a Domestic and Family Violence Reform Project with a focus on prioritising the health and well-being of victims by targeting those who perpetuate violence.
“The project team has developed a suite of proposed strategies, which will complement the current strategies and policies, and are expected to roll these out over the next 12 to 18 months.”