Queensland police investigated after sexist, racist and homophobic Facebook posts

Police commissioner Katarina Carroll says she has seen ‘defamatory’ posts about officers and MPs that ‘beggars belief’

The Queensland police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, has flagged a crackdown on police use of social media after the discovery of Facebook groups posting sexist, racist and homophobic material.

Guardian Australia has seen posts from multiple Facebook groups whose membership is restricted to police officers.

They include posts by Queensland officers suggesting women lie about domestic violence; posts claiming women are not capable of performing certain tasks; and comments that use homophobic and offensive terms.

On Monday, Carroll sent a circular to all serving officers announcing an internal investigation.

“I have become aware of inappropriate content on external social media pages linked to both current and former QPS members,” she said.

“The content brought to my attention is incredibly concerning, disappointing and definitely does not reflect the values of our organisation or the majority of our people. Due to the nature and content of the posts, I must investigate and take any action appropriate to cease the continued publication of this highly inappropriate and offensive material.

“As QPS members, there is a significant risk when posting information on personal social media platforms that it could be perceived or misconstrued as information from an official source and/or sanctioned by the QPS. We also have obligations to adhere to the code of conduct when using these platforms in a personal capacity.”

Carroll said the posts she had seen included comments about fellow officers and members of parliament which were “deeply concerning, nasty, defamatory, and quite frankly beggars belief”.

It is understood Carroll was prompted to act after seeing comments on one page for Queensland officers, Defend the Blue. Queensland officers also post regularly on other closed Facebook groups with a national police membership.

“There are many of you who are ‘passive’ members of these groups and I would ask you to reconsider your membership as your tacit support gives them a sense of legitimacy,” Carroll said.

“There are numerous instances where unprofessional social media comments have resulted in the suspension or dismissal from employment.

“One notable example relates to a senior member of an Australian law enforcement agency who was stood down and later resigned after using an alias on social media to make coarse and crude comments. This is a reminder to us all about the reputational harm which can be caused to the entire organisation by the actions of some individuals.”

Carroll said police were still revising their social media policy, which will “further highlight the risks” and outline expectations of police.

“We are a great organisation which works hard to maintain and enhance our reputation, unfortunately a small number of people can cause a significant amount of harm that can taint us all,” she said.

The Guardian has previously reported that one officer posted in a group seeking to collate complaints from colleagues about domestic violence legislation and the need to “remove the gender bias”.

In September last year, Guardian Australia approached police about a post by a Mackay-based police officer, who took to Facebook to vent his frustration about Queensland police banning officers from wearing the “thin blue line” patch, which has been linked to far-right groups.

The officer said: “So you can wear a patch celebrating two men having sex but can’t wear the TBL.”

Police have said they would investigate any complaint and are in the process of updating and strengthening their social media policy. A spokesperson said the post was “inappropriate” and did not reflect police values.

Recent controversy about police gender targets has also proved a lightning rod for these private pages, including comments sent to the Guardian by a serving officer, who described them as “seriously problematic”.

They include posts that suggest women and Indigenous people were hired or promoted beyond their capabilities, rather than on merit.

One post says: “I’ve saw (sic) some incompetent females get recruited and promoted to fill quotas that will impact the agency in years to come.”


Ben Smee

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Queensland human rights commissioner says police must watch for vigilante activity
Police have repeatedly warned against vigilantism but there are growing concerns that recent heightened debate might increase risk

Ben Smee

26, Feb, 2023 @2:00 PM

Article image
Queensland LNP candidate Jim Bellos apologises for offensive posts about female journalist
Bellos, a policeman, made the Facebook posts in 2017 in relation to an off-air exchange between two presenters

Ben Smee and Amy Remeikis

14, Jul, 2021 @5:30 PM

Article image
Victoria Police integrity boss ‘embarrassed’ by Facebook actions
Brett Guerin told to take leave after posting comments about police officials under the fake profile ‘Vernon Demerest’

Calla Wahlquist

23, Feb, 2018 @5:48 AM

Article image
Greens MP demands answers on racist and sexist Facebook posts by police
Jenny Leong is suing NSW police over a series of derogatory posts made or ‘liked’ by serving officers

Michael McGowan

19, Nov, 2018 @5:00 PM

Article image
Police officer who fined Brisbane Greens councillor Jonathan Sri regularly criticised him on Facebook
Exclusive: Queensland police will review fine issued by officer who pursued Sri for allegedly riding his bike through a yellow light

Ben Smee

07, Oct, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
Victoria police accused of using string of fake accounts to manage force’s Facebook
Police reviewing processes and governance of social media for investigative and operational reasons

Elle Hunt

17, Mar, 2017 @4:05 AM

Article image
Queensland police say alleged Brisbane double-murder being investigated as 'terrorism event'
Lawyer for Raghe Abdi, who was shot dead by police on Logan Motorway on Friday, says there is no evidence he was involved in terrorism

Ben Smee

18, Dec, 2020 @3:46 AM

Article image
Queensland police employee suspended after Aboriginal woman dies in custody
Sherry Fisher-Tilberoo, 49, was allegedly not checked for up to six hours before her body was discovered on 10 September

Ben Smee

21, Sep, 2020 @8:42 AM

Article image
Queensland to repeal police discipline system set up after Fitzgerald inquiry
Civil liberties experts sound alarm, saying ‘police have given us no reason to trust that they can investigate themselves impartially’

Ben Smee

12, Mar, 2019 @5:00 PM

Article image
‘Give yourself a hand’: Queensland Health encourages masturbation in cheeky social media post
Spokesperson says aim of message was to reduce stigma and normalise healthy conversations especially among young people

Donna Lu

04, Nov, 2021 @4:09 AM