A senior Queensland police officer reportedly told a co-worker that police did not investigate the suspicious death of a domestic violence victim because she and her husband were a “pair of scumbags who live in a shit area in a shit house”, an inquiry has heard.
At the commission of inquiry into Queensland police responses to domestic violence on Wednesday, Mark Ainsworth, a consultant and former police officer, revealed a female officer recounted the story during a survey he undertook of 53 police officers across the state. Ainsworth was commissioned as a “contract investigator” by the inquiry to examine whether any cultural issues within Queensland police were affecting domestic violence investigations.
The inquiry heard the female sergeant was concerned about suspicious circumstances surrounding the woman’s death in 2019, including that the woman and her husband had several domestic and family violence orders in place during their relationship.
Ainsworth said the female officer told him that the district duty officer had dismissed her concerns, saying they would not be investigating the death of the victim, who was from a low socio-economic area.
“They’re a pair of scum bags who live in a shit area in a shit house and police wouldn’t be wasting their time on investigating the death,” she recalled being told.
Up to 98% of interviewees surveyed by Ainsworth said domestic violence training was inadequate and a “tick the box exercise”, with little face-to-face training.
The inquiry heard one officer surveyed said recruits were taught by senior colleagues “how to take shortcuts and avoid the frustrations of completing voluminous amounts of paperwork”.
They said within six months on the job, officers “learned how to manipulate aggrieved persons at DV matters in order to avoid doing DV orders”.
Other officers also reported a “lack of respect” towards victim-survivors, with “prettier” victims “given more attention from police than others”, Ainsworth said.
The inquiry heard officers surveyed reported that some officers would avoid responding to domestic violence incidents “at all costs” and some officers shutting “their eyes as much as they can” so they don’t have to deal with the evidence.
Other officers reported the difficulties police face when interacting with domestic violence services, particularly with locating emergency accommodation for victims, the inquiry heard.
Ainsworth said police told him one service suggested a woman sleep at the police station for the night and in another case, that a woman should sleep in her car.
The Queensland police service (QPS) said they are encouraging and supporting officers to give evidence to the commission of inquiry.
“QPS looks forward to continuing to work with the commission of inquiry and receiving its recommendations,” a spokesperson told Guardian Australia earlier this week.
Public hearings continue in Brisbane on Friday before moving to Mount Isa next week, with the inquiry set to hand down its final report in October.
In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, call the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or visit Women’s Aid. In the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines may be found via www.befrienders.org