Today, the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) tabled a report in State Parliament following its investigation into historical recruitment strategies of the Queensland Police Service (QPS) aimed at addressing the comparatively low numbers of females within the Service.
The report titled, Investigation Arista: A report concerning the investigation into the Queensland Police Service’s 50/50 gender equity recruitment strategy details how what started as a nobly intended strategy was poorly communicated to front line staff who were tasked with its implementation and discriminatory practices were implemented to achieve its goal. Those practices were hidden by misleading information and spin and senior executives blindly accepted the spin and did not enquire further.
The CCC was notified of allegations by the QPS in November 2019 and commenced a corruption investigation in January 2020. As the CCC’s investigation evolved, the alleged conduct fell into two main categories:
- The QPS’s use of discriminatory recruitment practices to achieve the 50% gender equity target; and
- The deceptive reporting practices used mainly by staff in the QPS Recruiting Section.
The CCC concluded there was insufficient evidence to support criminal action against any person arising out of this investigation. The CCC has decided there is sufficient evidence to support taking disciplinary action against some of the persons of interest identified during the investigation.
The CCC’s investigation, which involved interviewing 43 people, examining 10 people in hearings and considering a range of submissions, revealed ample evidence to support the conclusion that in striving to achieve a 50% female recruitment target during the period December 2015 to around October 2018, the QPS engaged in discriminatory recruitment practices.
The discriminatory practices saw different standards applied to female and male applicants, with females selected in preference to male applicants who had performed to a higher standard across entry assessments. The investigation shows around 2,000 male applicants were subject to discriminatory assessment practices which prevented them from progressing through the recruitment process over approximately an 18-month period from July 2016 to the end of 2017. If the various discriminatory practices had not been implemented, the CCC estimates approximately 200 more meritorious male applicants would have been successful in their attempt to join the QPS.
The investigation also revealed a recurring pattern of misleading, deceptive and false reporting practices in relation to recruitment. The CCC obtained significant evidence that objectively shows some staff members in the QPS Recruiting Section consistently used misleading and vague statements as well as deficient, inaccurate, misleading and false reporting to a range of people over an extended period of time.
CCC Chairperson, Alan MacSporran QC, said while the investigation focused on how the QPS 50/50 recruitment strategy was implemented, the lessons from this investigation have broader application to the entire Queensland public sector.
“This report is a lesson in organisational culture and corruption risks. It is about how messages from the executive leadership are communicated, understood, acted and reported on within an agency. It is also about how staff may know that there is something wrong, but have become accustomed to following their leader’s instructions rather than asking uncomfortable questions. Such a culture clearly opens up an organisation to risk, particularly the risk of corruption,” Mr MacSporran said.
“While admirable in its intention, the strategy was a challenging one for the QPS within the realities of their recruiting environment and there was ambiguity about whether the then Commissioner had directed staff to ensure 50% of recruits were female, or whether this was an “aspirational” target with a recognition that it may not be met.
“The evidence clearly shows that staff and management in the QPS Recruiting Section knew that discriminatory practices were used to achieve the 50% female recruitment target. The evidence supports the conclusion that the managers and staff of the QPS Recruiting Section provided misleading and deceptive information and answers on a number of occasions to a variety of audiences, including to the QPS executives over an extended period. Among the executive, no one appears to have given any serious thought to — or asked any critical questions about — a strategy that would affect the whole organisation for years to come.”
“This report is important for the public sector because this type of conduct could happen in any agency. I encourage all public sector executives and Queensland’s public servants to read the report, and especially consider the larger questions this report poses about organisational integrity.”
It is important to note it is not the role of the CCC to assess the merits of the strategy of the QPS to strive to achieve gender equity in recruitment. That was a policy decision of the QPS and began as an attempt to assist in achieving the whole of Queensland Government gender equity strategy announced in 2015. It is beyond the CCC’s role to comment on the validity or otherwise of the QPS’s policy decision.
The CCC has made numerous procedural recommendations to the QPS to ensure the discriminatory practices are not continuing and to take other remedial steps. The current Commissioner of Police has provided the CCC with updates on the Police Recruiting Implementation Plan that was developed to address the recommendations made by the CCC.
The CCC is satisfied with the work being conducted to address the recommendations.
A copy of the report titled, Investigation Arista: A report concerning the investigation into the Queensland Police Service’s 50/50 gender equity recruitment strategy is available on the CCC’s website.
The CCC Chairperson and Commissioner of Police will hold a joint media conference at 2:00pm on 12 May 2021 to discuss the investigation and outcomes.
Media conference details below:
PLEASE NOTE - Physical distancing measures apply at the CCC. Please limit the number of journalists/camera operators from each media outlet. Consider sharing vision.
Where: CCC – Level 2, 515 St Pauls Terrace, Fortitude Valley
When: 12 May 2021 at 2:00pm. Media are asked to arrive from 1:40pm to allow sufficient time for sign-in and COVID-19 procedures. Please bring identification showing you are a member of the media.
Who: Alan MacSporran QC, CCC Chairperson and Commissioner of Police, Katarina Carroll APM
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