Gay rights groups have united to push for an independent body to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL), Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, ACON and the Inner City Legal Centre have formulated a petition calling on state Parliament to pass legislation creating a “well-resourced complaints body with strong investigatory powers over police actions”.
“Such a body is required to restore confidence in NSW Police conduct, and to ensure that complaints are investigated independently, fairly and honestly. The current system, in which police investigate the majority of complaints, gives rise to community concerns about transparency and conflict of interests,” the petition says.
The petition must collect at least 10,000 handwritten signatures in order to be presented to state Parliament and force a debate on the issue.
GLRL co-convenor Justin Koonin said police oversight of police complaints doesn’t achieve the optimum outcome and that the proposed reform would boost community confidence in police.
“This is an issue that goes beyond the LGBTI community – it’s concerned many people for many years. An independent system to investigate complaints against police would increase confidence not only within our community but more broadly,” Koonin said.
Independent Sydney state MP Alex Greenwich said he would be prepared to lodge the petition to Parliament and expected support from the Greens, the Labor opposition and members of the Coalition government.
“This kind of reform would not only benefit the police, but also the LGBTI community and other minority groups like Indigenous Australians. I think only good can come of this – anything that increases transparency and accountability is something I’ll welcome,” Greenwich said.
Queensland established an independent body for police complaints, the Criminal Justice Commission (CJC), following the Fitzgerald Inquiry into widespread police and political corruption in the late 1980s. In 2002 the CJC was superseded by the Crime and Misconduct Commission, which has the power to assume responsibility for police misconduct investigations.
The petition comes in response to multiple allegations of police brutality and wrongful arrest over the Mardi Gras weekend in March. Police announced internal investigations into the arrests of 18-year-old Jamie Jackson and 32-year-old Bryn Hutchison shortly after footage of Jackson’s arrest went viral online.