Qld police culture probe at DV inquiry

·3-min read

Queensland police officers are fatigued and cannot sleep due to stress from responding to multiple domestic violence incidents during a shift, an assistant commissioner has told an inquiry.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd, who heads the Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Command, was testifying on Monday on the first day of public hearings as part of an inquiry into Queensland Police's responses to domestic and family violence.

The commission headed by Judge Deborah Richards will examine whether "cultural issues" within the Queensland Police Service negatively affect how they respond to domestic and family violence.

Counsel assisting Ruth O'Gorman asked Asst Comm Codd about a survey into the psychological impact responding to domestic and family violence was having on frontline officers.

It found a high proportion of officers expressed distrust towards the Queensland Police and cynicism towards some aggrieved persons, as well as poor job satisfaction causing them to want to transfer from general duties.

There was also a great deal of stress from attending domestic violence incidents particularly due to paperwork, red tape, pressure and criticism.

Asst Comm Codd said a link between stressed and unsatisfied officers and community members who are dissatisfied with police responses to domestic and family violence was likely.

There were various things he thought impacted on attitudes, beliefs and sometimes performance included the "sheer demand" of services.

"They (officers) tell me, nearly every time I speak to them, about feeling so fatigued," he said.

A senior constable from Logan - where 25,000 to 30,000 domestic violence cases could be reported a year - told him last week a single shift could involve going to five such incidents.

"At the end of the shift she'll go home at night and cannot sleep for worrying about whether she was able to provide as good a service as she wants to and whether she misses something," Asst Comm Codd said.

He agreed more needed to be done for officers reporting burn-out or post traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

Asst Comm Codd told the inquiry frontline officers spend an increasing amount of time responding to domestic violence and demand was likely to increase, especially with more knowledge about coercive control.

The role of police was significant, but the sheer volume of dealing with domestic violence was too big for just one agency and required other services.

Vulnerable Persons Unit head Sergeant Neil Gardner said capacity is a big issue.

Asked how officers would cope if demand increases, Sgt Gardner said officers would be close to burn-out - "I certainly am" - while fatigue and vicarious trauma are also concerns.

Sgt Gardner said their response to high risk domestic violence cases was time consuming as the best information came from seeing people.

"It's the face-to-face contact with a police officer at the time, to see nuances, to see the expression on their face, to see the circumstances they are living in, the fear in their eyes, that is the bit that gives you the information," he added.

During the first week of hearings current and retired police officers are testifying about the capability, capacity and structure of the service's response to domestic and family violence as well as their training.

The inquiry will also look at the experiences and observations of regional and Indigenous police officers, legal representatives and community support workers.

Hearings will be held in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Mount Isa.

The commission, which has a budget of $3.4 million, began work on May 30 and is expected to report by October 4.

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