Queensland police inquiry hears allegations of recruits being taught racism, officers being raped

State’s police commissioner reveals she too suffered sexual assault and harassment early in her career

Queensland police recruits were taught racist attitudes at the state’s academy, including comments about Indigenous people that “you can smell them before you see them”, recordings obtained by an inquiry have revealed.

The “distressing” evidence given to the inquiry into Queensland police service (QPS) responses to domestic violence included revelations the police service failed to discipline officers in cases where they were found to have racially abused colleagues, or made racist remarks.

It emerged during the third day of testimony from the state’s police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, who also gave emotional evidence about sexual assault and harassment suffered during the early stages of her career in the QPS.

After a series of horrendous stories about the alleged treatment of women, including allegations of female officers being raped by colleagues, on Thursday attention turned towards racist attitudes within the force.

The inquiry heard about comments made by police officers referring to First Nations people as “black cunts”, “stupid cunts”, “dumb cunts”, “smelly cunts” and “lazy cunts”, and that one officer spoke of an Indigenous community in far north Queensland and said “we should just napalm Aurukun”.

Another officer called an Indigenous colleague a “smelly old dugong”. The officer was never punished.

The counsel assisting the inquiry, Ruth O’Gorman, revealed that a sergeant teaching a class of academy recruits had been recorded saying of Indigenous people that “you can smell them before you see them”.

She told the inquiry that another senior officer, in charge of supervising police liaison officers (who are charged with outreach to culturally diverse communities), told a cohort they would “still be driving taxis” if it weren’t for the QPS. He was not disciplined.

Earlier, the inquiry heard the QPS was handed a dossier from a group of senior female officers in 2018 that detailed their alleged experiences of abuse and a “boys club” culture in which they said sexual assaults and rape were minimised.

The QPS responded to the revelations by female police officers by setting up a specialist unit to investigate bullying and harassment.

But the inquiry heard that the unit – Juniper – was decommissioned two years later, due to a belief it was a “toothless tiger” because it doled out weak punishments and failed to hold abusive male officers to account.

One woman who contributed to the dossier gave permission for her story to be mentioned by the inquiry. It alleged that she knew of five women who were raped while working for the QPS.

It also included claims she was raped, and that officers responded by subjecting her to further slurs.

One allegedly told her it “must have been a dumb, ugly cunt who would rape you”.

Another allegedly responded: “They’re all fucked in the head, these bitches.”

The woman said on one occasion she was told to lock herself in a car because interstate detectives had bought cartons of beer. The woman said when she woke up several men were licking dew off the windows and trying to get inside the car.

She also said she’d been called “frigid” for not “putting out for the boys” and knew of another officer who had been raped by someone who had a sexually transmitted infection.

Earlier, Carroll told the inquiry about her own experiences.

“I was attacked by a sexual predator on my first day of training. He took me to a forest and I took my seatbelt off and started going back to the station. My station protected me,” she said.

“I had another senior officer who kept pinching me on the ass. Again the men in that station protected me.”

The inquiry has heard QPS have routinely dealt with predatory, racist and sexist cops through local managerial resolution – an “educational” approach intended to deal with one-off behaviour.

Carroll admitted on Wednesday that local managerial resolution should have not been applied to deal with serial offenders or those demonstrating extremely offensive and discriminatory behaviour.

One junior female officer was disciplined for not reporting the sexual harassment she was subjected to by her supervisor when she first joined the service, the inquiry heard.

Carroll told the inquiry it was “wrong” for the woman to be reprimanded.

The inquiry will hand its final report to the state government on 14 November.

  • In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org


Ben Smee and Eden Gillespie

The GuardianTramp

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