National capital police operate beyond the law

Sharpe & police accountabilityThe police who rule over Australia’s national capital operate to their own laws in a closed, secretive manner, Dr Kristine Klugman says. They claim they are immune from the ACT Human Rights ACT and the Public Disclosure ACT, and they refuse to be responsive and communicative with the public and the media, the President of Civil Liberties Australia says.

Media release


11 April 2007

ACT Police should not be a law unto themselves

ACT Policing operates like an external power unwilling to abide by the laws and standards of the Territory, the president of Civil Liberties Australia, Dr Kristine Klugman, said today.

She was backing the call by ACT Citizen of the Year and Canberra Times editoratlarge, Jack Waterford, for an independent, external inquiry into the role, contract, operations and failure to communicate of the Territory’s contracted police force.

They must be brought into line, and forced to operate according to ACT laws, such as the Human Rights Act and the Public Disclosure Act at the very least, Dr Klugman said.

“CLA has been calling for more than two years for police reform, but it is not happening – the key is to open up the closed mentality that predominates throughout the force,” she said.

“They are a like a separate force, an occupying power, which has wormed its way into the heart of the ACT fabric, and become largely unaccountable to the government or people.

“They won’t reveal basic information to the public or the media, they won’t answer reasonable questions in a timely or open way, and they hold themselves out to be above the laws which apply to every other ACT citizen.”

For example, Dr Klugman said, ACT Policing believe they are above:

  • the ACT Human Rights Act;
  • the ACT Public Disclosure Act; and even
  • the federal requirement to have senior departmental personnel on AWAs.

“They are literally a law unto themselves,” she said.

“Police Minister Corbell – with the support of the Liberal Opposition and the Greens – should formally instruct ACT Policing that they must abide by all ACT laws.

“If they were obliged to report under the Public Disclosure Act, which binds the other ACT entities, any alleged corruption and similar wrongdoing would have to be made public.

“Instead, they can hide because they claim the Public Disclosure Act doesn’t apply to ACT Policing…just like they claim that the ACT Human Rights Act does not apply to them.

“This situation is an intolerable nonsense: you must have your police force governed and abiding by local laws as fundamental as those relating to human rights and corruption.

“The ACT Government must act to bring this outofcontrol police force into line.

“Longer term, there is a significant question mark over whether the Australian Federal Police should win the contract to supply police services to the ACT, or whether the contract should go to another police force,” Dr Klugman said.

.. cartoon with thanks to Ian Sharpe, CLA member, of the Canberra Times

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