The Queensland Police Service has seen the Queensland Audit Office’s performance audit on criminal justice data.
The QAO’s findings were tabled in Parliament on Wednesday and identify some procedures and processes that need to be updated.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said a detailed investigation into the finalisation of crime reports specifically on the Gold Coast was undertaken by the Ethical Standards Command and no systemic inappropriate behaviour was detected.
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There are three key themes with implications for the Queensland Police Service arising from the report.
- A lack of appropriate quality controls leading to incomplete and inaccurate records;
- Insufficient measures and controls relating to the finalisation of crime reports as ‘unfounded, withdrawn or bar to prosecution’; and
- A need for more effective integration of criminal justice data across justice entities.
The QAO also made three specific recommendations for the Queensland Police Service relating to offence standards and classification guidelines, data quality assurance processes and staff training.
Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the QPS supported the recommendations and work was already underway to address the issues that had been identified.
“As soon as the QPS became aware of the issues concerning the finalisation of crime reports in mid-January, we began a detailed and comprehensive audit of almost 60,000 records which had been classified as unfounded or withdrawn between 1 November 2015 and 26 January 2017,” Commissioner Stewart said.
Unfounded crime reports are not included in official crime statistics, as there is no evidence, or insufficient evidence, to indicate the incident actually occurred.
“On average we found that, 9.4% of the reports finalised in this manner had been incorrectly classified. However, expressed as a percentage of total occurrences for reportable offences during that period, the rate is very low at approximately 1.1%,” Commissioner Stewart said.
“All of the anomalies identified during that audit have been corrected.
“A number of measures have or are being put into place to validate the more problematic classifications of unfounded, withdrawn and bar to prosecution.
“For example, crime managers will be required to validate each of those classifications. In addition, the Ethical Standards Command have broadened their inspections regime to include sampling of finalised crime reports.
“Work has also begun on improvements to our governance and quality assurance systems aimed at improving crime reporting quality and accuracy.”
Other strategies to correct the issues identified include:
- A review of Policelink and QPRIME system documentation to clarify/simplify crime data collection and recording processes;
- Providing additional training and development to relevant personnel regarding the practical application of national standards; and
- Implementation of a revised quality assurance framework for the management of criminal justice data;
“Crime statistics are an important tool that the QPS uses in allocating resources, developing crime prevention strategies and ultimately in approaching government for funding. It is in our interests that they are accurate and reflective of the current crime rate in Queensland,” Commissioner Stewart said.
“To intentionally do otherwise would be counter-productive and goes against everything the Service stands for as an ethical and accountable law enforcement organisation.
LNP Shadow Police Minister Tim Mander also weighed in on the Auditor-General’s Report into Crime Statistics.
He said “I would like to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by both the QAO and QPS personnel throughout the Service in relation to this thorough and comprehensive review.”
Mr Mander said “it’s a great concern that Gold Coast policing is under the microscope, for all the wrong reasons”.
“Reports about victims being encouraged to withdraw complaints and specific under reporting issues on the Gold Coast also fundamentally erode confidence in the system – something which is unfair to the thousands of men and women in blue who have a difficult enough job as it is.
“The leadership of the QPS has some serious questions to answer.
“We want crime rates to reduce and community safety to improve, but fudging the figures isn’t the answer.
“Better police resources and better laws is the key to reducing crime, as the LNP showed with the introduction on our tough criminal gang laws in 2013.”
“People need to have confidence in a criminal justice system that when they report a crime to police, it will be investigated thoroughly and acted upon appropriately.
“Today’s Auditor-General report indicates that crime statistics could actually be far worse than what has been reported and they have been skyrocketing under Labor as it is.
“Police Minister Mark Ryan needs to come clean and indicate just how bad the crime situation really is.
“Labor also needs to explain why they haven’t established their independent crime statistics office, over two years after being elected to office.