This Mardi Gras, many of us have been embracing the overall theme of fearlessness by publicly celebrating our sexuality, gender identity and the hard fought changes to the legal system over decades that have enabled us to experience equality before the law.
But the NSW Police Force who are charged with upholding and protecting those rights have not been so fearless when facing up to public accountability when things go wrong.
This may be experienced as over or under policing, not having your complaint taken seriously, unlawful searches, or experiencing misconduct including unlawful assault by police.
Yet the only remedy one has to such instances of misconduct by police is to complain to the police themselves.
The statistics are not easily publicly accessible, but we know that in 2010-11, for example, there were 5,516 complaints made regarding police misconduct in NSW.
Yet when alleged misconduct occurs there is very little ability to hold police to account in a transparent and fair process. This is due to the simple fact that we do not have a body that independently investigates and publicly reports on allegations of police misconduct in NSW.
I know the contours of this situation through academic research by others, but I also know it through personal experience after my treatment by police in the Mardi Gras of 2013 at which I was kicked, punched and charged with assault by police only to have the charges against me dismissed over a year later.
A number of other allegations of police misconduct also occurred at the Mardi Gras that year. The only process through which to get an independent review of police misconduct is by taking civil action in the courts – a process which individualises a systemic problem and places the financial risk upon victims to rectify poor governance decisions.
This situation is not the fault of the police. They must work within the system that has been created by politicians. And this lack of transparency and accountability is a political choice, as well as a failure to meet international best practice guidelines, international human rights law and principles of fair process.
The political choice to compromise police by requiring them to investigate their own does a disservice to those police officers that serve the community well and undermines community trust and confidence in policing.
It has been eighteen years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody recommended establishing independent bodies to investigate allegations of police misconduct.
It has been six years since Community Legal Centres NSW recommended to government that a body be established to investigate complaints against police that is independent of police.
It has been almost two years since the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommended that Australian jurisdictions bring our systems into line with the human rights instruments we have signed, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and ensure allegations of police misconduct are investigated by a body independent of police.
Yet we still do not have independent investigations of police behaviour in NSW.
This Mardi Gras I decided to take the Mardi Gras theme seriously and be fearless in pressing for human rights as a guiding principle in politics.
It is why I am standing for election in the NSW state election. As a progressive independent running for a seat in the Legislative Council I have taken to advocacy on the twin platforms of a human rights Act for NSW, and police accountability.
I am calling upon all members of the LGBTIQ+ community and our allies to act for your rights this election by demanding from whichever politician you are going to vote for, that they support a human rights act for NSW and an independent police oversight process.
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