An explosive inquiry into police responses to domestic and family violence in Australia has thrown further damning light over the misconduct of Queensland’s state police service, which has been rocked by allegations of rampant sexism in recent weeks.
A serving Queensland police officer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, broke down in tears on Wednesday as he told the commission that he had heard colleagues make offensive remarks about victims who were sexually assaulted in intimate relationships, including that they were “too ugly to be raped.”
He recalled hearing colleagues say that “domestic violence is just foreplay” and “I can see why he does it to her—if I was in his position I'd do that,” as well as officers describing rape as “surprise sex” and suggesting that survivors “deserved to be raped.”
The officer further noted that female colleagues had been called “bitches,” “fucking sluts,” “mole,” and “Cunty McCunt Face” behind their backs.
These shocking revelations follow similar allegations that were brought to light after Guardian Australia last week published several submissions made to the inquiry by female police officers. These included accounts of a male officer questioning “is this a real rape or is she looking for a free pap smear?”; officers questioning the validity of a domestic violence complaint involving two colleagues because it was the second allegation and “you’d think she’d learn the first time”; and male police officers referring to an area where female detectives sat as “cunt corner.”
The inquiry, which commenced on May 30 and is ongoing, follows a December report by the Women's Safety and Justice Taskforce (WSJT) that identified “widespread cultural issues” within the Queensland Police force. It’s aiming to investigate how much these issues have influenced responses to domestic violence, as well as the current police complaints procedure, which often ends up being a case of officers investigating officers.
In December, Queensland Police Union (QPU) president Ian Leavers smeared the WSJT report that led to the inquiry, labelling it “just another woke report to slam police at every opportunity.”
He later claimed that his view on the matter had changed, however, after giving evidence at an inquest into the death of Hannah Clarke. In February 2020, Clarke, 31, died along with her three children—aged 3, 4, and 6—after her estranged husband Rowan Baxter, who had a history of domestic violence, allegedly poured petrol inside their car and set it alight before stabbing himself and dying nearby.
In the course of that inquest, the deputy state coroner found that police “missed opportunities” to hold Baxter accountable, noting that: “He was not charged and put on bail for the breach of the domestic violence order and the assault occasioning bodily harm.”
Following the inquest, Leavers said: “We have now formed the view that the inquiry will present a real opportunity to continue to push for genuine reforms that the QPU has been seeking for some time.”
The inquiry is expected to hand down its final report in October. That report will make recommendations about how to address any identified issues, especially those relating to culture within the police force. It is up to the government whether to implement such recommendations.
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