Police discipline system
The QPS police discipline system is principally governed by the Police Service Administration Act 1990 and the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001, and supported by QPS internal policies.
The Ethical Standards Command (ESC) manages the internal discipline process within the QPS, and is responsible for promoting ethical behaviour and professional practice within the Service.
This system is currently being improved as a result of government acceptance of 56 of 57 recommendations provided by an independent review panel set up to consider recommendations in our December 2010 report Setting the standard: a review of current processes for the management of police discipline and misconduct matters. (PDF, 3.5 MB).
Read more about the review of the police discipline system.
A complaint about a police officer is an allegation or information about the improper or inappropriate conduct of the officer. Both the CMC and the QPS have a role in the management of these complaints, which is determined by the type of conduct in question.
Complaints can come to the attention of the QPS or the CMC via:
- direct communication from an individual
- a report from a member of the police service about the improper or inappropriate conduct of a police officer, which they have become aware of in the course of their duties
- other sources such as a media report.
Types of conduct
On receipt of a complaint, each agency first assesses the information and categorises it as:
- a client service complaint (e.g. ‘I had a break-in at my house and the police took five hours to arrive after I telephoned’)
- a breach of discipline (e.g. minor inappropriate use of internet or email)
Misconduct is further categorised as either:
- police misconduct (e.g. serious verbal abuse of a member of the public by a police officer)
- official misconduct (e.g. a police officer trafficking in drugs).
For further information see What is misconduct?
Assessment by the QPS
The QPS has sole responsibility for dealing with breaches of discipline and client service complaints. It is not required to notify us when it receives such a complaint, and can make its own decision on how to deal with it.
Complaints about misconduct are classified as either Category A or Category B.
Category A complaints are those that involve:
- alleged corruption or extortion by public officers or abuse of office
- an inappropriate association with a criminal and/or member of an outlaw motorcycle gang or other criminal group
- an attempt to pervert the course of justice, official corruption, perjury, or other offence
- unlawful wounding or grievous bodily harm
- offences relating to property where the value exceeds $5000
- an indictable offence (excluding bodily harm) carrying a maximum penalty of 7 years imprisonment or more
- offences under the Drugs Misuse Act 1986
- victimisation or injury or detriment to a witness
- failure to comply with the Police Service Administration Act
- an Indigenous complainant or alleged victim concerning assault in custody or failure to provide medical treatment while in custody
an incident involving a police officer resulting in death or injury which could amount to unlawful wounding or grievous bodily harm or destruction of or damage to property where the extent of the damage is likely to exceed $5000
- a matter that is, or is likely to, be the subject of significant media attention.
All other complaints are classified as Category B.
- must notify us of Category A complaints without delay, and take no other action, except to preserve life, property and evidence (unless otherwise instructed by us) until we have assessed the complaint
- can deal with Category B complaints immediately, but must provide us with a weekly schedule of information on them. We check their classification, notify them of any errors and reclassify these complaints as Category A if necessary
- must notify us of how it has dealt with all Category B complaints.
Assessment by the CMC
When we receive a complaint, we assess the information and decide whether it relates to alleged conduct which could constitute official misconduct, or police misconduct, taking into account:
- the principles set out in the Crime and Misconduct Act
- the circumstances of the case
- the primary responsibility of the Commissioner of Police for dealing with complaints about police misconduct
- our primary responsibility for dealing with complaints of official misconduct.
On this basis, we decide whether we will deal with the complaint ourselves, or refer the matter to the QPS to deal with, subject to our monitoring of how it does so. We may also decide to deal with a complaint in cooperation with the QPS.
Monitoring complaints management
We monitor the way the police service deals with misconduct by:
- issuing advisory guidelines for conducting misconduct investigations
- reviewing or auditing how the QPS has dealt with misconduct, in relation to either a particular complaint or a class of complaint; or
- assuming responsibility for and completing an investigation into misconduct already started by the QPS.
The QPS must give us reasonable help to review or audit an investigation, or to assume responsibility for one. If we do assume responsibility, the QPS must stop its investigation or any other action that might impede the new investigation, if we direct it to do so.
If the complaint is about official misconduct, we may also require the QPS to report to us about the investigation how and when directed to do so, and/or undertake further investigation into the official misconduct as directed.
Dealing with complaints
How the QPS deals with complaints
The Assistant Commissioner, ESC first considers all misconduct complaints to be dealt with by the QPS to determine which of the following responses is appropriate.
- No further action may be taken in relation to a complaint if:
- it is frivolous and vexatious
- it lacks substance or credibility
- dealing with it would be an unjustifiable use of resources, (e.g. if it is a repetition of previously unsubstantiated allegations without any fresh information)
- it is inextricably interwoven with charges laid against the complainant. (In these circumstances, further action may be appropriate after conclusion of court proceedings.)
- Managerial resolution may be appropriate if it is likely this will bring about identified improvements in the conduct in question.
- Desktop managerial resolution may be used for breaches of discipline that are minor and unlikely to be repeated, not part of an existing course of conduct, and resolvable by managerial resolution within a short period, generally two days.
- Internal investigation is the process used when managerial resolution is inappropriate.
To help decide which action is most appropriate, the Assistant Commissioner, ESC can request that preliminary inquiries be made.
How the CMC deals with complaints
If we decide it is appropriate for us to deal with a complaint about alleged misconduct, we conduct an investigation, as a result of which we may decide:
- to take no further action (e.g. because there is insufficient evidence to prove misconduct, or the evidence establishes that there is no misconduct)
- that the evidence supports an offence in relation to which criminal prosecution should be considered. In some cases, we will report on the investigation to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or other authority for them to consider if any prosecution proceedings should occur. In other cases, a police officer seconded to the CMC may commence proceedings against the subject police officer without first referring the matter to the DPP or other authority.
- that there are grounds for considering disciplinary action against the subject officer. If so, we may refer the matter to the QPS for action, or if it involves official misconduct, to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT).
The CMC may recommend to the QPS that it consider taking disciplinary proceedings either for police misconduct or official misconduct.
Seeking reviews by the QCAT
If we are dissatisfied with a QPS disciplinary decision, under certain circumstances, we can seek the review of this decision by the QCAT.
Read more about review of decisions by the QCAT.