Almost half of Victoria Police employees worry they would suffer personal repercussions for reporting internal corruption, research released by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission has found.
The statistics paint a picture of a workforce willing to report corrupt activity, but with little trust that management will look after whistleblowers.
IBAC CEO Alistair Maclean finds it concerning that police may put off reporting corruption out of a fear of repercussions given that sworn police officers are legally obliged to report corruption or police misconduct.
“Police can never turn a blind eye to corruption or misconduct. The community rightly expects every police officer to perform their duties and exercise their significant powers fairly, impartially and in accordance with the law,” Maclean stated.
“Unfortunately, several IBAC investigations have exposed instances of police misconduct. This research shows there is a clear opportunity for Victoria Police to improve the level of confidence its employees have to report suspected misconduct, and to ensure they know about the protections available for those who report under the protected disclosure regime.”
The survey found that only 20% of respondents felt confident they would be protected from victimisation if they reported corruption, and just 38% believed that meaningful action would be taken if they reported corruption.
And yet around one-third said they would still report corruption if their own safety or employment was threatened.
Support is strong among Victoria Police employees for corruption prevention and education activities, and respondents were confident they could identify corruption risks and related behaviour.
Only 8% of respondents agreed that corruption was a problem in their workplace, compared to 15% of respondents working in state government.
A strong majority of respondents believed there were opportunities in Victoria Police for corruption and misconduct to occur, including conflicts of interest, abuse of discretion, perverting the course of justice and bribery.
The most commonly identified corruption or misconduct risk was misuse of information, with 89% stating there was potential for it and 20% stating they had observed it.
More than half of respondents suspected conflicts of interest had occurred in Victoria Police (58%) and almost one-third said they had observed them.
Clear safeguards are provided for people to make whistleblower complaints under the Victorian protected disclosure regime. Protected disclosure measures can include protection from defamation and other detrimental action, including protection from harassment or intimidation taken in reprisal for making a protected disclosure.
Responses to the survey were received from 1172 Victoria Police employees, approximately 6% of the agency’s workforce. Of those who responded, 80% were sworn police officers.
The survey is part of broader research by IBAC examining perceptions of corruption among state government, local government and Victoria Police employees, as well as the wider community.